Jack Salt and Virginia University Cavaliers have made history after advancing to the NCAA Championship game, defeating Auburn 63-62 in a dramatic semi-final.
Virginia have made the championship game for the first time and Salt has made a little bit of New Zealand sporting history for himself.
Salt had become only the second Kiwi after Kirk Penney (Wisconsin in 1999-2000 season) to play at the NCAA Men’s Division I Tournament Final Four but the victory means he now becomes the first New Zealander to play in a National Championship game (Tuesday 1.20pm NZT).
The Cavs had led by double figures late in the second half but needed three made free-throws from Kyle Guy with 0.6 of a second to play after the sophomore guard was fouled attempting a triple from the corner, to clinch the victory.
Auburn enjoyed a 14-0 run to lead 61-57 with 17 seconds to go. Guy hit an off balance three with 7.4 to play – Virginia fouled quickly to send Auburn to the line where it hit one from two to lead 62-60.
Following an Auburn foul the resulting in-bounds pass found Guy who launched the potential game winning three-point attempt. The shot hit the ring and bounced away but he was clearly fouled in attempting the shot and appeared to have ice in his veins as he sunk all three resulting freebies.
Salt had a relatively quiet afternoon pulling down a couple of rebounds in 9 minutes of action. That will matter little as he now prepares, with his teammates, for the biggest game in their relatively short careers, for many of the players the biggest game they will ever play in. Virginia will take on Texas Tech in the final after they beat Michigan State 61-51 in the other semi-final.
One incredible statistic for Kiwis to get their heads around was that the crowd at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis was just under 72,000 – not bad for a game of college basketball. Expect there to be as many for the final on Tuesday.