It was the “play of the century,” Ty Jerome said, and many who were inside the KFC Yum! Center on March 30 would probably agree.
The circumstances seemed impenetrable. Virginia’s season was likely finished, observers noted, barring a miracle. Purdue led the Cavaliers 70-68 with 5.9 seconds remaining, and Jerome was stationed at the foul line. A Final Four berth was on the line.
Then Jerome missed short, and forward Mamadi Diakite tipped the ball high over the scrum of white and black jerseys. Guard Kihei Clark took off. He found the ball, turned and slung a one-armed pass across the court back to Diakite, whose shot beat the clock and fell in.
“I don’t know how to talk about it,” Diakite said after the Cavaliers’ eventual 80-75 overtime win that clinched the program’s first Final Four berth since 1984. “It was unbelievable.”
Virginia fans will likely think back to that win — and that play — when the Cavaliers play the Boilermakers in the 2019 ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 4 in West Lafayette, Indiana.
The rematch will take place without some of the starring players from the March Madness classic. Carsen Edwards, Purdue's star guard who scored 42 points against Virginia, is in the 2019 NBA Draft pool. So are Cavaliers guards Kyle Guy, De’Andre Hunter and Jerome.
Diakite also declared for the draft but decided to pull his name from the pool and return to UVa for his final season of college eligibility.
The redshirt senior will return to Grounds with renewed buzz and likely be one of the team’s leaders in 2019-20. He’s one of three returning rotation players, along with Clark and guard/forward Braxton Key.
The trio will aim to guide an otherwise young and inexperienced group in its bid to repeat as NCAA Tournament champion. Coach Tony Bennett’s team kicks off the season on the road Nov. 6 against conference rival Syracuse.
Here is a complete list of this year’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge games.
Monday, Dec. 2
Clemson at Minnesota
Miami at Illinois
Tuesday, Dec. 3
Northwestern at Boston College
Duke at Michigan State
Florida State at Indiana
Michigan at Louisville
Rutgers at Pitt
Iowa at Syracuse
Wednesday, Dec. 4
Nebraska at Georgia Tech
Ohio State at North Carolina
Wisconsin at N.C. State
Notre Dame at Maryland
Virginia at Purdue
Wake Forest at Penn State