Minneapolis — Now that, Virginia, is the way to close out a season. And quiet those critics, too.
Led by De'Andre Hunter and his NBA-ready game, the Virginia Cavaliers turned themselves into national champions Monday night, holding off a tenacious, ferocious Texas Tech team for an 85-77 overtime win — a scintillating victory 388 days after a crushing setback that might have sunk a lesser team for years.
But Virginia was better than that.
A season after becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed in the NCAA men's basketball tournament — the one thing that had never happened in a tournament where anything can — the Cavaliers watched a 10-point lead turn into a 3-point deficit before Hunter came to the rescue. The sophomore made the game-tying 3 point shot with 12 seconds left in regulation, then made another with just over two minutes left in the extra period to give the Cavs the lead for good.
- Complete coverage of the NCAA Tournament from CBS Sports
- Virginia completes epic journey from last year's ugly exit to win its first title
"Surreal," Hunter called it. "It's a goal we started out with at the beginning of the season. We knew we were going to bounce back from last year. We achieved our dreams."
He helped the Cavs bring home the first NCAA title for a program with a colorful, star-crossed and, now, very winning history. The title tilt involved two teams that had never played in a championship game.
The NCAA marked Virginia's remarkable climb from historic upset to top of the men's college basketball world:
All of Virginia's 34 wins leading to this year's final and each of its mere three losses were punctuated by the reminder that only the end result would serve as the ultimate report card on whether the Cavs could truly shed the baggage of last year.
And what a ride this year's tournament was.
A 1 seed once again, they fell behind by 14 early to 16th-seeded Gardner-Webb in this year's opening round, and a nightmare seemed to be unfolding. But this time, they overcame it. Then, they beat Purdue in the Elite Eight when the game looked lost, and did the same against Auburn on Saturday — getting bailed out by a foul call and Kyle Guy's three free throws with 0.6 seconds left.
"I told them, I just want a chance at a title fight one day," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "That's all I want. ... You're never alone in the hills and the valleys we faced in the last year."
Bennett soaked in a post-game basketball ritual for champs:
President Trump tweeted his best wishes:
CBSSports.com's Kyle Boone and Chip Patterson wrote, "This national championship is the kind of thing that forever changes a college basketball program and its coach. Winning begets winning in this sport, and it took Virginia hitting the lowest of the lows last March before it could reach the highest peak."
And the new champs strutted their stuff on Twitter:
Students on Virginia's campus in Charlottesville raced outside to soak in the moments together:
Even the Empire State Building chimed in, lighting its top in the new champs' colors:
As for the Red Raiders (31-7) -- the team full of overlooked grinders refused to quit.
They fell behind by 10 twice in this game - seemingly too much in a match-up between two legendary defenses that allowed way more than the projected total of 118 points - but just kept coming back.
"In terms of my guys, I've never been more proud," Red Raiders coach Chris Beard said. "This is real life. We'll bounce back."