Morsell Breaks Out Of Slump, Leads ‘Hoos To Victory Over ASU

By Scott Ratcliffe

Virginia first-year guard Casey Morsell busted out of his early-season shooting slump with a vengeance Sunday afternoon. The 6-foot-3 freshman sank the go-ahead 3-pointer with just over a minute to play, and scored a team-high — and career-best — 19 points, as the seventh-ranked Cavaliers (6-0, 1-0 ACC) stayed unbeaten with a 48-45 comeback win over Arizona State to win the Air Force Reserve Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Uncasville, Conn.

It’s the seventh straight season in which Tony Bennett’s team has hoisted a holiday tournament championship trophy in the month of November.

The Wahoos erased a nine-point deficit and closed the afternoon on a 22-10 run over the final 13½ minutes, winning their 31st consecutive game in the calendar month.

Trailing by five at the break, the Sun Devils (3-2) were scorching hot out of the locker room and scored the first 14 points of the second half as the ‘Hoos went cold, and it looked like trouble for Bennett’s bunch, down 35-26 with 13:32 to play.

UVA began to chip away, using a 12-3 spurt to tie the game at 38-all on a pair of Mamadi Diakite free throws with 5:48 on the clock, setting up a nail-biting, back-and-forth finish.

Morsell sank two freebies to put the Cavaliers on top, 40-39, with just over four minutes remaining, but a Virginia goaltend (Romello White basket) gave ASU the lead back at the final media timeout.

Diakite completed a three-point play out of the break to make it 43-41, but was whistled for another goaltending call to knot it back up with 2:35 left.

Morsell swished a pull-up elbow jumper on the ensuing trip to swing the lead and momentum back to the Cavaliers’ side, but ASU’s Rob Edwards scored off of a Virginia turnover to make it 45-apiece with 1:26 to play.

With time winding down, Diakite drew a defender in close before kicking it out to an open Morsell, who buried the long 3 to put his team ahead to stay.

Diakite swatted Edwards’ ensuing potentially-tying 3-point attempt with 45 ticks left, but Bobby Hurley’s Sun Devils got it back after a Morsell miss in the final 20 seconds.

Hurley called a timeout with 11.8 seconds left to set up a play, and everyone in the building figured the ball would wind up in the hands of leading scorer Remy Martin, who had scored nearly half of ASU’s points on the day (21). However, Edwards got the rock and let one go from beyond the arc, but the ‘Hoos applied heavy defensive pressure and Edwards’ shot fell short and out of bounds, and the Cavaliers escaped with the victory.

Morsell, who came into the contest averaging just 2.4 points over his first five collegiate contests, looked confident and determined from the opening tip-off. He knocked down a fadeaway j from the baseline in the opening minutes of the game and then caught fire in the closing minutes of the first half.

He scored on a sweet reverse lay-in and added another strong take before slamming one home with authority to give the ‘Hoos a 24-14 advantage with two minutes left in the half.

Morsell wasn’t done, scoring one more time with just over a minute until halftime before Martin scored five straight in the final 30 seconds to cut the UVA lead to 26-21 at the break.

Add the 14-0 ASU run out of the half, and Virginia surrendered 19 straight Sun Devil points to bridge the first and second halves over a span of about seven minutes of game action. Fortunately for Wahoo fans, Morsell and Diakite led the comeback charge and kept the defending national champs perfect on the season.

Morsell made good on 7 of his 12 shots on the day, none bigger than the eventual game winner. Diakite added 15 and was the only other Wahoo in double figures.

Jay Huff scored 5 points, making both of his only two shot attempts in 25 minutes off the bench. Kihei Clark (4 points) and Braxton Key (2) struggled offensively, combining to shoot just 3 for 17 from the field, as the team shot 36.7 percent (18 for 49) on the day, and 5 for 16 (31 percent) from long range.

The ‘Hoos were a perfect 7 of 7 from the charity stripe and won the battle of the boards, 31-26, while committing 13 turnovers on the afternoon (only five after halftime).

For ASU, Martin (21 points), Edwards (10) and White (10) scored all but four of the Devils’ points as the team shot 40.5 percent on the day (17 of 42) and 26 percent from downtown (5 for 19).

Virginia returns to John Paul Jones Arena Wednesday afternoon for a 4 p.m. tip against Maine to close out the month and will then have a week to prepare for a rematch with Purdue on the road as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 4.

Team Notes

  • UVA has started 6-0 for the fourth straight season
  • The Cavaliers have captured seven straight November tournament championships (Emerald Coast Classic, Charleston Classic, Barclays Center Classic, Corpus Christi Challenge, NIT Season Tip-Off, Battle 4 Atlantis and Air Force Reserve Tip Off Tournament)
  • UVA is 5-0 when holding opponents to fewer than 50 points (92-2 all-time under Bennett)
  • UVA outrebounded its fifth opponent, owning a 31-26 advantage vs. Arizona State
  • UVA forced two shot clock violations
  • ASU went on a 19-0 run spanning halftime to gain its first lead at 35-26
  • UVA had a scoreless drought of 9:43, including 6:50 to start the second half
  • UVA went on 8-0 run, holding ASU scoreless for 7:04 in second half

Player Notes

  • Double-figure scorers: Casey Morsell (19), Mamadi Diakite (15)
  • Morsell and Diakite were named to the Air Force Reserve Tip Off All-Tournament Team
  • Morsell had a career-high 19 points
  • Braxton Key had a game-high eight rebounds
  • Walk-on Chase Coleman made his first career 3-pointer
  • Kody Stattmann missed his third consecutive game with an illness

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