The No. 7 Virginia Cavaliers are moving on to the championship game of the Air Force Reserve Hall of Fame Tip-Off after taking down UMass, 58-46. Virginia improved to 5-0 (1-0 ACC) on the season with the win and handed the Minutemen their first loss of the season.
Braxton Key was fantastic in the victory, scoring 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 38 minutes of action. With Mamadi Diakite playing just two minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, Key stepped up on both sides of the ball. Jay Huff added 10 points and eight rebounds.
Kihei Clark finished with 14 points and six assists, some of which were extremely highlight reel worthy, and added five rebounds in the win. He went a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line.
As a team, Virginia shot 42% from the field, but went 2-for-14 (14%) from three. The Cavaliers finished with 11 turnovers, but nabbed seven steals.
UMass entered the game shooting 43% from beyond the arc, good for No. 9 in the country per KenPom. The Minutemen went just 5-for-26 (19%) against the Cavaliers as the Hoos limited UMass offensively. Carl Pierre led the Minutemen with 14 points, followed by Tre Mitchell with 10 points.
Key got the first three buckets for the Cavaliers, and Virginia jumped out to an early 9-4 lead after Woldetensae connected on a three. Another bucket from Woldetensae — this one a two — was followed by four straight scores from Huff as the Hoos built 10-point lead with just over nine minutes left in the first half.
The Minutemen scored twice to cut the lead to six, but Key went on another personal mini-run as he scored the next five points for the Cavaliers. A jumper from Clark and a three from Morsell would give the Hoos a 16-point lead.
UMass ended the first half on an 11-0 run after the Cavaliers built a 29-13 advantage with 3:34 to play. Virginia shot 46% from the field and 22% (2-for-9) from three in the first half, led by Key’s 11 points. Huff added eight points and four rebounds, while Morsell had three points, three assists, and four rebounds over the first 20 minutes.
Virginia did a nice job dealing with UMass’s press, easily finding outlet passes. The Hoos did have five first half turnovers, with one coming on a Clark offensive foul and another on a shot clock violation.
The Minutemen had struggles beyond the arc (2-for-10) and shot 36% from the field. Mitchell went 5-for-10 from the field for 10 points, including the last three buckets of the half to cut into Virginia’s lead. UMass had five turnovers in the first half, and both teams scored 16 points in the paint.
UMass pulled with three to open the second half, but Clark drove the lane off of a Diakite screen for an easy layup. Two free throws made it a 31-28 game before Morsell stepped out of bounds to give the ball back to the Minutemen. Another Clark layup pushed the advantage to five as UMass hit a shooting lull.
Woldetensae connected on a toe-on-the-line two to make it a seven-point game with 15:12 remaining in the game. UMass made one free throw, and Huff played keep away from three Minutemen on an offensive rebound before flushing the ball home for a dunk.
Diakite’s first bucket came with 12:27 left in the game and gave Virginia a 39-31 lead. Morsell’s second basket of the game gave the Hoos a 10-point advantage. Four straight free throws from Clark (the latter two of which came on a technical foul called on UMass’ head coach) made it a 45-31 game with just under nine minutes to play.
The Minutemen went 14:23 between field goals in the second half as the Virginia defense clamped down and built a 49-35 lead as the clock ticked through four. UMass heated up beyond the arc with three late threes to pull back within single digits with 1:26 remaining. Woldetensae hit two from the free throw line, but Clark was called for his fourth foul and UMass answered to make it 55-46.
Key made one-of-two at the line with 43 seconds left, and Clark corralled a wacky rebound before finding Key win an over the head pass that led to a fast break dunk. Virginia would rebound one more UMass miss before burning the remaining 20 seconds off the clock for the win.
Virginia will face the winner of St. John’s/Arizona state on Sunday.