Tale Of The Tape: No. 7 Virginia vs. Arizona State

Virginia will be attempting to win its seventh consecutive November basketball tournament this afternoon when the No. 7 Cavaliers take on Arizona State in the Air Force Reserve Hall of Fame Tip-Off championship game in Uncasville, Conn.

UVA has started 5-0 for the fourth straight season after topping UMass, 58-46, in Saturday’s game played at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Meanwhile, Arizona State advanced to the finals with an 80-67 win over St. John’s. The Cavaliers, defending national champions, have won a nation-best 30 games in a row in the month of November. UVA’s last loss in November came four years ago (Nov. 16, 2015) at George Washington.

With leading scorer Mamadi Diakite sitting the majority of the first half Saturday with foul trouble, fellow senior Braxton Key picked up the slack, setting a season high with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting as the ‘Hoos got past UMass.

Coach Tony Bennett said he challenged his players at the half after UMass finished the opening stanza with 11 straight points to get within five, and placed an emphasis on how to stop the Minutemen’s heralded freshman forward, Tre Mitchell. Mitchell scored the last six Minutemen points of the half in the final two minutes. He did not score again (0 for 3 in the second half).

Bennett said the strategy against Mitchell to open the game was, “Let’s just see what he can do,” before the Cavaliers decided to go to the post-trap, a strategy Bennett’s teams have used successfully over the years in slowing down opposing big men in the lane.

Arizona State, now 3-1 on the season, trailed St. John’s 40-31 at the half before junior point guard Remy Martin heated up for the Sun Devils. ASU used a 20-6 run early in the second half, fueled by Martin scoring 13 consecutive points to take control of the game. Martin finished the game with 19 points.

St. John’s opened the game on a 15-2 run, but the Sun Devils answered with their own 18-5 spurt to knot the score at 20-all with 7:22 remaining in the first half. The Red Storm used another 13-4 run to take a nine point lead into the break.

But ASU went to Martin in the second half and he didn’t disappoint. Coach Bobby Hurley’s Sun Devils shot 60 percent over the final 20 minutes to advance to Sunday’s match against Virginia.

Martin and fellow backcourt mate Rob Edwards, which had led ASU in scoring in the first three games of the season, struggled in the first half, which explained why the Sun Devils trailed at halftime. They had only six combined points at the break and were only 2 of 12 from the floor, including 0 for 5 from beyond the arc.

That didn’t last long, however, as Martin scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half, pushing the Sun Devils ahead as they outscored the Red Storm, 49-27, after the break.

ASU opened its season in China, first with an exhibition game, then an 81-71 loss to Colorado to open the season (also in China), before returning to the States and reeling off wins over Central Connecticut (90-49) and Rider (92-56) prior to this weekend’s tournament. The Sun Devils are the most athletic team that Virginia has faced so far this season.

The Wahoos will return home for Wednesday afternoon’s matchup with Maine at John Paul Jones Arena (4 p.m., ACC Network).

NOTE: Cavalier sophomore guard Kody Stattmann missed his second straight game Saturday. Bennett said they decided to leave Stattmann in Charlottesville so that he could get treatment for a virus and get rest.

Tale Of The Tape

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