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Virginia takes another step toward the elusive Final Four

LOUISVILLE, KY. – On a night when both Gene Keady and Ralph Sampson were in the building, Purdue and Virginia each had the opportunity to add another long chapter to their respective program stories.

Purdue blew an 18-point advantage over Tennessee in the second half, but Carsen Edwards hit two free throws 1.7 seconds before the end to extend the game. The Boilermakers scored a 99-94 victory in the extra session.

Virginia had a similarly strong finish and held Oregon without field goal for the final 5:43 on the way to a 53-49 victory.

Now Both programs have the opportunity on Saturday night to reach the Final Four for the first time in over 30 years. Purdue was the last in the national semi-final in 1

980 and Virginia reached it in 1984.

Kyle Guy celebrates as Virginia moves forward on Thursday. AP Photo / Michael Conroy

For Virginia, there is a stark contrast to his NCAA tournament performance of a year ago, when the Cavaliers made history by becoming the first 1-seed to lose a 16-seed. Throughout the season, Tony Bennett has not shied away from what happened and instead opted for a learning experience. Forty minutes after the ultimate redemption story, Bennett does the same.

"Last year was an amazing year, you know, and then we came to the NCAA tournament, and that was so hard," Bennett said. "And I knew that this would be an important year for all of us, in our lives, whatever it brought, and we had to have some kind of band together and needed each other to go through it, and to that point, like them Did it – in the regular season and then in the NCAA tournament to come and be in this place when we were 14 and fight and keep advancing, the stuff will stay with these guys, so very grateful and you know you just want an opportunity and here we are. "

Purdue has not been in this phase since 2000, but Virginia is back on the cusp. The Cavaliers were in this position in 2016 as the 1-seed under Bennett, but were baffled by the 10-seed Syracuse and Jim Boeheim.

The Thursday night game ended around 12:30 am local time, it's a short turnaround for Virginia to face Purdue on Saturday night – especially considering that Bennett is not a single substitute for the last 15:20 of the competition. All five starters have played at least 36 minutes.

"We've been preparing for it during the regular season," junior watchman Ty Jerome said. "The coach said he looked at the schedule when he first came out and saw three games from Saturday to Monday, he was upset first, and at the beginning of March he was happy because he was preparing us for this difficult team Another hard team, so we've been preparing for the season all season, and the ACC has prepared us very well for this moment. "



Virginia pulls the ball in front of Kyle Guy finds a wide-open De & Andre Hunter for the layup to take the Cavaliers into the lead.

The NCAA tournament has continued testing for Virginia as the Cavaliers have not made it easy. In the first round, they followed the 14-second set by Gardner-Webb by 14 points, before they introduced a victory in the second half. Later, Oregon trailed 5:43 after three points after Louis King had buried a 3-pointer to limit an 11-3. Run by the ducks.

But the Cavaliers closed the remainder of the game and brought Oregon only four free throws over the final 5:43.

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"We're in March and it's a 40-minute turf, as Coach always tells us," Junior Guard said Kyle Guy. "So it helps that we try to stay calm under pressure and try to perform and make stops, no matter how high the game is or how hectic the game is, it will always be in our advantage and we assume to try to keep this in every game. "

Saturday will be the ultimate test of Virginia's mental toughness. Will Virginia really be able to free herself from last year's 16-over-1 demons? whether the Cavaliers can bring Bennett over the hump and into the Final Four; and whether one of the best programs in college basketball in the last six years can shape the sport.

And on the other side will be Purdue and his own Final Four drought, led by a head coach in Matt Painter, has just won his first Sweet 16 game in five attempts.

History – and a trip to Minneapolis – is on the line.

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