For the seventh straight year, the Virginia Cavaliers are November tournament champs as the Hoos took down Arizona State 48-45 in the championship game of the Air Force Reserve Tip-Off tournament. Virginia improved to 6-0 (1-0 ACC) on the season, and ASU fell to 3-2. First year Casey Morsell was a revelation for Virginia with a career-high 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting. Morsell added two steals and two rebounds in the game.
Mamadi Diakite started slowly, but finished with 15 points, three rebounds, two blocks, and a steal. Diakite and Morsell combined for 18 of Virginia’s 22 second half points on a day where Kihei Clark (2-for-10) and Braxton Key (1-for-7) struggled offensively.
The offense was the big question mark coming into the season for the Cavaliers, and Virginia struggled against Arizona State. Virginia shot 37% from the field and 31% from three and turned the ball over 13 times.
Virginia’s defense was once again the story, keeping the Cavaliers in the game long enough for Diakite and Morsell to come alive. Arizona State came into the game scoring an average of 83.3 points per game, and the Hoos held them 40 points under that mark. Remy Martin led the Sun Devils with 21 points, but had just one layup in the last 13+ minutes of game play.
After allowing ASU to open the second half with a 14-0 run that lasted the first 6:28, Virginia only gave up 10 points over the final 13:32 of the game. The Sun Devils shot 40% from the field and 26% from three, turning the ball over 15 times.
Diakite, who played just two minutes in the first half against UMass due to foul trouble, kicked things off with a three from deep. After a layup from Martin, Virginia scored seven straight on buckets from Morsell and Clark and another three from Diakite.
Back-to-back threes from Arizona State made it a 10-8 Virginia advantage before Huff scored five straight points for the Hoos. Virginia pushed the lead to 10 points twice over the course of the first half as Morsell got good looks at the basket.
Once again, Virginia struggled to close out a half as Arizona State scored five points in 28 seconds to cut the Cavalier lead from 10 to five points. Virginia held the Sun Devils without a field goal for a 5:04 stretch over the first half before getting three buckets in the final 1:19 of the half.
Morsell led the Hoos in the first half with 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting (his only misses coming from beyond the arc). As a team, Virginia shot 46% from the field and 44% from three in the first half. The Hoos turned the ball over eight times, leading to nine points for Arizona State.
Martin put up 11 points for the Sun Devils in the first half as the Hoos held ASU to their lowest point total in a half of the season. ASU shot 32% from the field and 33% from three as a team, and held a 12-0 advantage in fast break points.
The Sun Devils opened the scoring in the second half, cutting Virginia’s lead to three with a shot from Romello White. After a Key miss on the other end, Martin tied the game at 26 with his second made three of the game. ASU pushed the lead to five with another layup and another three from Martin as the Sun Devils couldn’t miss in the second half.
ASU’s scoring run would balloon to 19-0 (spanning halftime) as the Sun Devils built a 35-26 lead with 13:32 to play. Key finally put some points on the board as ASU was called for a goal tend with 13:09 remaining in the second half.
Two free throws from Morsell cut Virginia’s deficit to six, but a turnaround bank shot from Jalen Graham with four seconds left on the shot clock made it 38-30, Arizona State. Diakite got his first two of the game on a long two as the shot clock expired, bringing the Virginia fans in the arena to life.
The two teams traded missed threes before Clark cut the Sun Devil lead to four with a layup in the lane. Virginia had an opportunity to make a bigger dent in ASU’s advantage, but Huff was called for a charge. Virginia’s defense forced a turnover, and Diakite pushed the Cavaliers’ scoring run to 6-0 to make it 38-36 with 8:20 to play.
Diakite tied the game at 38 with 5:48 to play with a pair of free throws as both teams went cold from the field. One made free throw from ASU put the Sun Devils back up by a slim one-point margin, but Morsell gave the Hoos a 40-39 lead from the charity stripe with 4:05 left on the clock.
The refs called basket interference on the Hoos, giving Arizona State a bucket and the lead once again. Once again stepping up in the clutch, Diakite took contact in the lane and converted the bucket and free throw to put the Hoos up 43-41 with 3:21 left.
Virginia’s defense amped up the pressure, forcing an errant pass from White that went into the hands of his coach, Bobby Hurley, on the sidelines. Diakite got a hand on a shot from Martin, but the refs called another goal tend, tying the game at 43.
Morsell’s first field goal of the second half gave Virginia the advantage once again, but a bucket in transition tied things up again as the clock ticked through 1:30. Virginia got a huge bucket from Morsell on the next possession as the first year canned his first three of the game to put the Hoos up 48-45 with just under a minute left.
Martin tried to get a three off to tie things for ASU, but Diakite came up with a block. Morsell grabbed the rebound, burning the clock down to 15 seconds before barely missing a three. ASU would take a timeout with 11 seconds left to draw up one final play, but the Virginia defense was outstanding as they forced a missed three with 0.2 seconds on the clock.
Next up, Virginia hosts Maine for a pre-Thanksgiving afternoon game on Wednesday at 4pm.