Key

Virginia guard Braxton Key dunks the ball in overtime in the NCAA national championship game in April in Minneapolis.

Braxton Key’s senior season at Virginia was cut short by the cancellation of the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.

The spread of the coronavirus impacted sports across the nation, including UVa men’s basketball’s national title defense.

Key’s career at UVa, which began last season after he transferred to Virginia from Alabama, appears over after two eventful seasons. He finished his UVa career with 481 points and 399 rebounds. The senior added position versatility by acting as both a small forward and power forward at times for the Cavaliers. He excelled on both ends of the floor, finishing his two-year UVa career with 68 steals and 37 blocks.

“His experience, his physicality, his competitiveness have been so helpful,” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said before UVa’s final two games of the season. “I’m so glad how it worked out with the transfer situation.”

Let’s look at the five best moments and performances of Braxton Key’s UVa career.

5. 19 points and eight rebounds in a 51-44 win over Clemson

Earlier this season, Key set a UVa career-high with four made 3-pointers. He finished with 19 points in eight rebounds in a game that saw Virginia only score 51 points. He accounted for 37.3% of the Cavaliers’ points in the victory over the Tigers.

Most impressively, Key knocked down four of his six shots from behind the arc. The performance came after Key had struggled with shooting. After a 2-of-16 performance against Wake Forest, Key shared that he came to John Paul Jones Arena to put up shots outside of practice. His girlfriend came to the arena and rebounded for him.

“She was rebounding for me and she was like, ‘How much longer?’ and I’m like, ‘Until I can make enough,’” Key said.

The extra practice session paid off a few days later, when Key scored 19 points in the victory against the Tigers.

4. 4-for-4 in NCAA Tournament win over Oklahoma

Arguably the most easily forgotten game of UVa’s NCAA Tournament run in 2019 was the 63-51 win over Oklahoma in the second round. Key starred in the 12-point victory.

He tied Mamadi Diakite for the team lead with nine rebounds. He also added nine points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting. He played 21 minutes in the game, and he was extremely efficient with his limited time on the floor. Key also added a block and a steal to go with a pair of assists.

3. 20 points in win over Florida State

In Key’s junior season, he scored a career-high 20 points in a win against the Seminoles. With Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter struggling from the field, Key stepped up in a big way. Only two UVa players scored more than six points in the victory, and Key was one of them. Kyle Guy added 21.

The win, which came in last season’s ACC opener, moved the Cavaliers to a perfect 13-0 on the season.

2. The dunk to punctuate the national title game

With an 81-75 lead over Texas Tech and 17 seconds left in overtime, UVa ran an inbounds play. Ty Jerome found a streaking Braxton Key, who found himself all alone for a fast-break dunk. He slammed it home with two hands to help Virginia finish off its final win of the season.

“Say goodnight,” CBS broadcaster Bill Raftery said as Key went up for the slam.

It was a play that will live on in Virginia basketball lore.

1. Blocked shot in title game

After De’Andre Hunter’s clutch 3-pointer tied the national championship game at 68, Texas Tech still had a chance in the final seconds to hit a game-winning shot. The final shot of regulation was a jump shot that was blocked by Key.

While there’s no guarantee the shot would have fallen, it was a massive play by Key to ensure the Cavaliers an overtime period. His legacy will be remembered most by those iconic plays in the national title game.

“In a big situation on the biggest stage, bright lights, he was so good with his rebounding, defense, making key plays,” Bennett said. “I think of that, him being such a catalyst in us being able to win a championship last year.”

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