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Elite 8 hero on Virginia’s Final Four run: ‘It’s a brotherhood thing’

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – APRIL 04: Mamadi Diakite #25 of the Virginia Cavaliers speaks to the media in the locker room prior to the 2019 NCAA Tournament Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 4, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS — Less than a week after his last-second basket saved the University of Virginia’s season, junior forward Mamadi Diakite reflected on his team’s good fortune.

“It’s a blessing to be here,” Diakite said the Friday before the Final Four. “Not many teams get to be here, so I feel really blessed to be in this spot, and hopefully we get to the final.”

Virginia would not likely be in the Final Four had Diakite not tapped back a missed free throw in the Cavaliers Elite Eight game against Purdue. When 5’9″ teammate Kihei Clark chased down the loose ball and fired it back to the 6’9″ Diakite, he sank a buzzer beater to send the game into overtime.

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY – MARCH 30: Mamadi Diakite #25 of the Virginia Cavaliers celebrates with teammates after making a game-tying shot over Matt Haarms #32 of the Purdue Boilermakers to extend the game to overtime as time expires in the second half of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 30, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Virginia won the extra session and advanced to the Final Four.

“It’s teamwork,” he said. “Everyone just does such a good job at what they’re assigned to do, that everything just connects at the end. Kihei was able to find me and I was able to make the shot, and that gave us another chance to go into overtime and battle again.”

It’s been a year-long battle for Virginia. A battle to bounce back from last year’s disappointing loss to #16-seed UMBC in the opening round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

“I feel like that helped us a lot to get better. We learned how to do everything together and trust each other, he said. “It’s a brotherhood thing. So here we are now.”

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