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No. 7 men’s basketball beats Massachusetts 58-46

Cavaliers move on to the Air Force Reserve Hall of Fame Tip-Off final

<p>Senior guard Braxton Key had a season-high 16 points to go along with 7 rebounds.</p>

Senior guard Braxton Key had a season-high 16 points to go along with 7 rebounds.

No. 7 Virginia won the Air Force Reserve Hall of Fame Tip-Off semifinal against Massachusetts Saturday afternoon, 58-46. Despite the fight of the Minutemen (5-1, 0-0 Atlantic-10), the Cavaliers (5-0, 1-0 ACC) held their fourth opponent to under 50 points en route to another decisive victory.

Virginia slowly built up a ten-point lead in the first eleven minutes of the game. The Cavaliers held a 19-9 lead as both teams tried to gain their footing. Fourteen of Virginia’s first 19 points came from veteran players — senior guard Braxton Key and junior forward Jay Huff.

After two quick baskets by the Minutemen, Massachusetts looked to threaten the Cavaliers’ lead. However, they missed their next five shots. Virginia went on a 10-0 run, sparked by a layup by Key and finished through contact.

Key continued his stellar afternoon with another layup, and sophomore guard Kihei Clark joined in on the scoring with a long two-pointer. After going 1-for-17 from the three-point line in the first four games, freshman guard Casey Morsell hit a three-pointer to make it 29-13 with 3:34 left in the half.

However, the Minutemen weren’t going away. Massachusetts junior guard Carl Pierre sank a three-pointer to cut Virginia’s lead to 11 points. Freshman forward Tre Mitchell — the 2018 Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year — then took matters into his own hands, scoring six straight points to send the Minutemen into half-time down just 29-24. 

Both teams struggled from the perimeter in the first half, as Massachusetts shot 36 percent and Virginia shot 46 percent from the field. Both teams were held to under 25 percent shooting from three.

After a sloppy start for both teams in the second half, Massachusetts started the scoring off with a Pierre jumper. The Minutemen would cut Virginia’s lead to as little as three points, but that would be the closest they would get to the Cavaliers.

Virginia embarked on a 10-3 run to close out the first nine minutes of the second half, with quick drives and excellent play in the paint. After two minutes of missed shots and turnovers on both sides, the Cavaliers continued to pick apart the Massachusetts defense, extending their lead to 47-33 off of a huge alley-oop by senior forward Mamadi Diakite.

With under five minutes left, the Minutemen started to take quick three-pointers in an attempt to cut Virginia’s lead and made three of their five total threes. Nevertheless, the Cavaliers held strong and sank their free-throws, eventually defeating Massachusetts 58-46.

Overall, both squads had a cold afternoon offensively, with Virginia shooting 42 percent on field goals and just 14 percent from three. The Minutemen similarly struggled, shooting just 30 percent from the field and 19 percent from the three-point line. One of the difference-makers for the Cavaliers was rebounding, as they had 40 rebounds to Massachusetts’ 26.

There were some offensive bright spots, as Key tallied 16 points on 64 percent shooting, and Huff had 10 points on 63 percent shooting. Virginia’s defense was also outstanding, forcing the Minutemen into contested jumpers and holding the dynamic Mitchell scoreless in the second half.

Virginia now faces Arizona State in the final of Air Force Reserve Hall of Fame Tip-Off Sunday. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. and will be broadcast live on ESPN or ESPN2.