Sixth-ranked Virginia fights off tough Arizona State, wins 48-45

uva basketballSomehow, Virginia was able to overcome a 19-0 Arizona State run. Actually, we have an identity on the somehow: Casey Morsell.

The freshman had 19 points, including a tie-breaking three with 1:02 to go, as the ‘Hoos rallied from eight down in the second half to win, 48-45, in the championship game of the Air Force Reserve Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament on Sunday.

For perspective, the freshman had scored a total of 12 points on 5-of-36 shooting in UVA’s first five games.

But you knew that the four-star recruit would come around on the offensive end, and even as he struggled with his shot, he was still earning big minutes – 28.4 minutes per game, including a season-high 38 in Saturday’s 58-46 win over UMass.

And then, finally, the breakthrough we’d been waiting for.

Morsell was 5-for-7 from the field in the first half as the ‘Hoos (6-0) led by as many as 10, but Arizona State closed the first half on a 5-0 run to go into the break down 26-21.

The Sun Devils (3-2) would then score the first 14 points of the second half, holding Virginia scoreless for 6:51 as they built a 35-26 lead.

A Braxton Key layup broke the lid on the rim, sorta – it was actually a basket awarded on a goaltend, but still.

The key sequence of the game involved a couple of buckets from Mamadi Diakite, who hit a jumper that just beat the shot-clock buzzer at the 10:56 mark to get the score to 38-32.

Then, after a Kihei Clark layup, Diakite made a tough bucket in the lane off an assist from Clark, fighting through three Arizona State defenders for a two that made it 38-36.

A pair of Diakite free throws tied the game at 38 with 5:48 left, and then it was back to Morsell.

A pair of free throws from the freshman put Virginia on top, 40-39, with 4:05 to go.

A Diakite and-one with 3:21 to go put UVA back ahead, following a Romello White layup.

After a Remy Martin layup tied the score at 43, Morsell hit a 14-foot jumper with 2:12 to go to get the Cavaliers back on top.

A Rob Edwards layup tied it back up at the 1:26 mark, ahead of the Morsell three that put Virginia on top to stay.

Morsell finished 7-of-12 from the floor, 1-of-5 from three and 4-of-4 from the line in 38 minutes.

Diakite had 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting in 36 minutes.

Clark struggled against Martin, a former AAU teammate, finishing with five points on 2-of-10 shooting, two assists and three turnovers in 38 minutes.

Braxton Key had two points and a game-high eight rebounds in 38 minutes.

Story by Chris Graham

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