No. 7 Virginia Stays Unbeaten With 58-46 Win Over UMass

By Scott Ratcliffe

Virginia senior forward Braxton Key led all scorers with 16 points, sophomore guard Kihei Clark added 14, and the Cavaliers remained unbeaten with a 58-46 win over Massachusetts Saturday in the Air Force Reserve Tip-Off Tournament semifinals in Uncasville, Conn.

With the victory, the Wahoos advance to Sunday’s 1 p.m. championship game at Mohegan Sun Arena against the Arizona State/St. John’s winner, a chance for their seventh holiday tournament title in a row. UVA has now won a nation-best 30 straight games in the month of November, and has won 15 consecutive in-season tournament contests.

Key, Clark and junior big man Jay Huff paced the Wahoos (5-0, 1-0 ACC) in the early going, as leading scorer Mamadi Diakite sat most of the opening half with two quick fouls. The UVA defense held the Minutemen in check for much of the second half after UMass (5-1) closed the first half strong and got within three points on a Carl Pierre basket just after the halftime break. UMass misfired on a few 3-pointers that would’ve tied the game shortly thereafter.

Huff delivered a jam for his personal highlight reel, escaping triple-team coverage by keeping his pivot foot planted and patiently taking a dribble to throw one down with 13:48 remaining to give the ‘Hoos a 37-29 edge. Diakite sank his first basket of the day with a baseline jumper before freshman Casey Morsell pump-faked a three and got the roll from the free-throw line to push the Wahoo lead back to double digits, 41-31, with 11:35 to go.

The Minutemen missed 13 of their first 15 shots in the second half, including its first nine 3-point tries, until Pierre finally got one to fall from beyond the arc with just over three minutes left to cut the Cavalier lead to 51-38.

The Minutemen’s leading scorer, freshman guard T.J. Weeks, sank two more triples to make it a nine-point game, 53-44, with 1:26 to go, but Clark delivered the final dagger with a blind, behind-the-back tip pass off of a mad scramble for a loose ball, finding a streaking Key who dunked it home on a wide-open fast break with 29 ticks left.

On the afternoon, Virginia shot 42 percent (22 for 52) and struggled again from 3-point territory (2 of 14 for 14 percent), but made good on 12 of 14 attempts from the charity stripe, including 11 of 13 after halftime. The ‘Hoos outrebounded UMass, 40-26, and came away with seven steals. Each side turned the ball over 11 times on the day.

The Cavaliers got their first six points of the contest from Key before Woldetensae followed with five of his own. Clark delivered a beautiful no-look assist to Huff for the first of two dunks to cap an early 11-2 run that gave the ‘Hoos a 15-6 lead at the first media timeout. Huff scored two more baskets to push the lead to 10 midway through the half.

Key hit his first five shots of the day to give the offense a boost with Diakite on the bench. Morsell knocked down his second triple of the season to give the Cavaliers their biggest lead, 29-13, with 3½ minutes left in the half before an 11-0 UMass run cut it to five at the break. Minutemen freshman forward Tre Mitchell scored the final six points of the spurt to get his team back in it. Mitchell was held scoreless for the rest of the day (0 for 2 FG).

Pierre led UMass with 14 points, while Weeks added 12 and Mitchell had 10. UMass finished the game shooting just 30 percent from the floor (15 for 50) and 19 percent (5 for 26) from downtown.

Key’s 16 points — on 7-of-11 shooting — were a season high, as the Alabama transfer added seven boards and a team-high three steals. Clark had six assists and five rebounds, and was a perfect 8 of 8 from the free-throw line for another solid all-around performance. Huff finished with 10 points (8 in the opening half) on 5-for-8 shooting, while hauling in a game-high eight rebounds and the team’s only blocked shot on the day. Diakite scored a season-low 4 points on 2-of-5 shooting in just 22 minutes, but also grabbed eight boards.

Woldetensae also set a UVA career high with 9 points, while Morsell continued to struggle with his shot (2 for 9, 1 for 4 3-pt), but scored 5 on the day, the most in his young college career.

Team Notes

  • UVA has started 5-0 for the fourth straight season
  • The Cavaliers will play Arizona State in the Air Force Reserve Tip Off championship game tomorrow at 1 p.m.
  • UVA has captured six straight November tournament championships (Emerald Coast Classic, Charleston Classic, Barclays Center Classic, Corpus Christi Challenge, NIT Season Tip-Off and Battle 4 Atlantis)
  • UVA is 137-36 (.792) in non-conference action under Tony Bennett
  • UVA limited its fourth opponent to 30 percent or less field goal shooting (UMass – 30%)
  • UVA is 4-0 when holding opponents to fewer than 50 points ( 91-2 all-time under Bennett)
  • UVA outrebounded its fifth opponent, owning a 40-26 advantage vs. UMass

Series Notes

  • Virginia is 3-0 all-time against UMass with all three wins coming at neutral sites

Player Notes

  • Double-figure scorers: Braxton Key (16), Kihei Clark (14), Jay Huff (10)
  • Key had season highs in points (16) and steals (3)
  • Mamadi Diakite was held to a season-low four points (all in the second half
  • Huff and Diakite each had eight rebounds to lead UVA
  • Casey Morsell had a season-high six rebounds
  • Kody Stattmann missed his second consecutive game with an illness

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