The defending champion Virginia Cavaliers (6-0), ranked #7 in the nation, won their first six games of the season with their stifling defense. Virginia recently defeated the Arizona State Sun Devils (3-2) to win the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip Off Championship at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Virginia Close Games
Arizona State forward, Jalen Graham and Virginia forward, Mamadi Diakite (25) fight for the ball during the Hall of Fame Tip Off at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Image: AP)

The 48-45 win marked six straight victories to start the season, but Virginia is only 2-4 against the spread this season, and have gone 0-4 ATS over their last four games.

Virginia continues to remain undefeated, but they’re winning close games instead of blowing out teams. Tony Bennet preaches defense first, and Virginia leads the nation allowing opponents to score only 42.7 points per game.

Big W Over Bobby Hurley’s Sun Devils

Casey Morsell, a 6-foot-3 freshman guard, played his best all-around game to date for Virginia in the finale of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip Off. Morsell scored 19 points, including knocking down a clutch three-pointer to put Virginia ahead for good over Arizona State.

“Casey really came of age,” said UVA coach Tony Bennett. “He made some tough shots.”

Morsell became the first freshman to start at Virginia since 2012. He’s only averaging 5.2 points. He had 12 total points in five games coming into the ASU game.

Arizona State fell behind early, only to storm back with a 19-0 run to seize the lead at the start of the second half. Virginia hunkered down and regained the lead. Arizona State couldn’t engineer a comeback against Virginia’s relentless defense, but they came close.

“To go toe-to-toe with a team that is bringing guys back, that just won a national championship, that is undefeated, seventh in the country, it’s a positive,” said Arizona State’s Hurley. “It shows that we’re a legitimate team, that we’ve got players that can compete at the highest level.”

Arizona State is an up-and-coming team in the Pac-12. Hurley’s team played inconsistent ball last season, but got hot at the right time to secure a play-in game in the March Madness tournament. Arizona State is aspiring to claim an at-large bid, and to doing some damage in a weak Pac-12 conference this season.

Stifling D

The Cavs kicked off the season with a 48-34 victory over Syracuse. It was a classic, low-scoring Virginia game, with the Cavs contesting every shot and not giving an inch during the entire 40 minutes of game time.

Virginia held local rival James Madison to only 34 points in a 21-point blowout. That would be the last game they’d cover all season after starting out 2-0 straight up, and 2-0 ATS.

In a battle of smart kids, Ivy League’s Columbia lost to Virginia 60-42. UVA won an easy contest, but failed to throttle Columbia like oddsmakers initially projected.

Last week, undefeated Vermont came to Charlottesville for a tough game. The Catamounts from the America East were a +14 road dog and held their own. Vermont kept the game close, but Virginia could never pull away to a comfortable lead. Vermont (4-1) lost by six and impressed everyone by holding their own against an ACC squad, and the national champions.

Virginia struggled against UMass, who saw their perfect season spoiled by the Cavs. The defense clinched another game for Virginia, but the eight-point victory was a lot closer than Cavs’ fans would have liked.

Virginia plays Maine (2-3) on Wednesday, which will be Virginia’s only game in the next 10 days. Their big game against #6 North Carolina to tip off the ACC regular season will take place in two weeks.

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