Anthony Gill leads Virginia to the 75-53 win over Liberty on Saturday. Full game story below.
Gill's 19 Points Lift UVa past SMU
Virginia (6-1) will face the winner of Missouri State and Texas A&M in the final on Saturday, while SMU will face the loser.
Gill scored 12 points down the stretch to lead the Cavaliers to a 7-point lead with 5:05 remaining.
SMU responded though on several baskets inside the paint, the last a Yanick Moreira lay-in on a nice feed from Markus Kennedy. Moreira was fouled by Joe Harris on the play, and the made free throw drew the lead to 74-73.
Keith Frazier stole the ball from Virginia as they tried to kill the clock, but Moreira was called for travelling with 2.0 seconds remaining. On the following in-bounds play, Harris was fouled and made both ensuing free throws to seal the victory.
Both teams shot over 45 percent from the floor, and Virginia was an impressive 71.4 percent (10 of 14) from beyond the arc. Evan Nolte was 3 of 4 from the 3-point area and finished with 12 points for the Cavs.
Kennedy finished with 14 points and Nic Moore added 17 for the Mustangs.
It was the first meeting between the two teams. UVa is now 49-19 against non-conference opponents during the Tony Bennett era.
In reaching the tournament finals, Virginia defeated Liberty (75-53) and Hampton (69-40) in the first and second rounds. SMU defeated Arkansas Pine-Bluff (87-61) and Sam Houston State (72-53) to face the Cavaliers.
The teams played to a halftime tie at 30, with neither team taking more than a six point lead in the frame. Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes hit consecutive 3-pointers to give the Cavaliers an early 10-4 lead, but SMU tied it up two minutes later, and the squads traded baskets until intermission with neither taking a significant advantage.
The second half played out much like the first. Both teams got into foul trouble early in the half, each in the double-bonus before the 10-minute mark. Mustang freshman forward Ben Moore picked up three fouls in a 2:02 span, and once coach Larry Brown brought him over to the bench, Virginia found a spark, going on a 7-0 run including a 3-point jumper by Perrantes, and a jumper and two free throws by Gill.
Moore came back in quickly thereafter, but Gill backed him in without much resistance because of the foul problems and sank a jumper and drew a foul. The ensuing made free throw put the Cavs up by five.
Gill then caught the Mustangs interior defense napping on a loose ball and hit a short jumper and another free throw. He later knocked down an uncontested 6-footer to give Virginia a 7-point lead with 5:05 remaining.
That's when SMU toughened in the paint, getting buckets by Cannen Cunningham and Kennedy, before Moreira brought the lead down to one with a dunk, layup and free throw.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett called a timeout with 1:11 to settle his troops. On the next possession, Akil Mitchell took the ball at the top of the key and slashed his way to the basket for a reverse layup to give Virginia a 3-point lead again.
But SMU came back with a layup by Kennedy, and with Virginia owning a 5-second difference on the shot clock, they tried to work as much time as possible. But Keith Frazier was able to flick the ball away from Brogdon and get the ball back into the frontcourt, where SMU called time with 4.8 seconds left.
The in-bound play went to center Moreira, and after several spins, the big man was called for traveling with 2.0 seconds left.
Virginia in-bounded to Joe Harris, who was immediately fouled by Nic Moore. Harris, who finished with 15 points, hit both free throws to give the Cavs a 3-point lead with 1.7 seconds remaining. Moreira fumbled the long in-bounds pass and Virginia recovered to seal the victory.
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