Virginia’s 80-75 overtime win against Purdue on Saturday was not lacking for highlights or heartbreak. To avoid getting lost in the weeds of 3-pointers, questionable calls, and desperate drives, let’s focus on one specific moment of one specific play, for it managed to rewrite the conclusion of an already great game. Without Mamadi Diakite’s miraculous, game-tying buzzer-beater at the end of regulation, Purdue, and not Virginia, would be heading to the Final Four. The junior forward drained his touch-shot—his only field goal of the second half—to send the game to overtime, but the pass that set up Diakite is what makes the play an all-timer.
Ty Jerome front-rimmed his second free throw, and the rebound was knocked all the way into the backcourt. Freshman point guard Kihei Clark retrieved the errant ball and, with precious seconds slipping away, he fired a pass right into Diakite’s hands. Watching the play, it seemed as if the only option would have been a full-court heave, but the chronological plane upon which Clark exists must be different than our own. His patient-yet-somehow-hurried pass was perfect. It was the play of the game, and Virginia achieved its first Final Four berth since 1984 because of it.
Things always get forgotten in the aftermath of a great contest, but, hopefully, the performance of Purdue’s Carsen Edwards won’t be lost in the postgame fog. His 42 points were 35 more than the second-highest scoring Boilermaker, and Edwards’ absurd shot-making was the story of the game until Diakite’s buzzer-beater.
The two players shared a moment before the start of overtime to chuckle at their achievements. It was pretty neat.
There were hundreds of things to love about this Elite Eight game, but Clark’s time-defying assist was the one that wound up mattering the most.