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Virginia rallies in second half, but falls short to NC State, 53-51

Morsell shines with nine points in loss.

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, a valiant comeback effort from Virginia came up short as the Cavaliers rallied in the second half against NC State before losing 53-51. Virginia trailed by as many as 11 in the second half, but couldn’t close the door on the Wolfpack despite rattling off a 15-0 run and causing a 10+ minute scoring drought for NC State.

In Virginia’s losses to South Carolina, Boston College, Syracuse, and Florida State, the Hoos were behind in the second half, came back, and failed to finish the game. Virginia is now 12-6 (4-4 ACC) with the loss, while NC State improves to 14-5 (5-3 ACC). This is State’s first win at John Paul Jones Arena (nine games).

First year Casey Morsell was a bright spot for the Hoos, scoring nine points, grabbing five rebounds, and notching a steal and block. Defensively, he was stellar, especially in Virginia’s comeback in the second half.

Kihei Clark led Virginia with 10 points on 3-for-9 shooting.

Virginia shot 36% from the field and 25% from three, but turned the ball over 10 times, leading to 12 points for NC State.

Huff picked up where he left off against Georgia Tech as he kissed a floater off the glass to put the Hoos up by a bucket early. Funderburk responded at the rim despite pressure from Key, tying things up. A blocked shot and a turnover led to two easy run outs and lead for NC State before Key followed his own miss for a put-back to make it 6-4.

The Wolfpack doubled up the Hoos thanks to two free throws from Funderburk, but Diakite cut the deficit back to two with a take at the rim. Clark got a high-arcing layup to go to tie things up once again, and solid defense from Casey Morsell led to a missed three by State.

NC State re-took a three-point lead thanks to another fast break and one made free throw, and Virginia couldn’t get anything going as the turnover bug returned. Key closed the gap to one point with a tough take in the lane, and made two free throws to put Virginia ahead 12-11 with 11:38 to play in the first half.

Funderburk showed his strength as he backed down Huff in the block, but Diakite splashed through a three from the corner to give Virginia a two-point lead. Good awareness from Johnson led to a wide-open dunk for Funderburk, and Beverly gave the Wolfpack a three-point lead after Diakite fouled him beyond the arc.

Huff returned the favor on Funderburk with a back-down in the post with a one-handed jam to finish, accompanying the play with a primal scream. A gritty rebound from Woldetensae gave the Hoos possession, and Morsell was able to finish at the rim to put Virginia up 19-18. One free throw from Huff tied things at 20, but Bryce finished a fantastic shot over outstanding defense from Morsell.

Morsell swished home a long two, but were unable to re-take the lead after coming up with a defensive stop. Funderburk made it 24-22 with a basket through contact, but couldn’t convert the free throw. Another acrobatic layup from Key knotted things again, but an unlucky break from Stattmann saw a layup roll off the rim. Johnson gave State the advantage on its next trip down the court, and Funderburk got another to go to give the Wolfpack a four-point lead.

A block from Morsell led to a fast break bucket for Stattman, pulling Virginia back within two once again. Virginia’s defense stood tall on the final possession of the half, sending the two teams into the break with NC State leading 28-26.

Funderburk led the Wolfpack with 12 first half points, shooting a perfect 5-for-5 from the field. As a team, NC State shot 41% from the field and went 0-for-7 from three. The Wolfpack turned it over just once, and got five fast break points on the Hoos.

Virginia shot 42% from the field and 25% from three (1-for-4) in the first half. Key led the Hoos with eight points and seven rebounds.

Huff started the second half with a block, but a missed three from Clark led to a made three from Bryce and a five-point lead for State. Virginia got a much-needed three from Huff, but Daniels responded with one of his own as the Wolfpack seemingly shook off the three-point issues from the first half.

A take in the lane from Clark cut the deficit to three, but Funderburk responded with his sixth make of the game. After a bad turnover in the paint from Diakite, the springy forward seemingly climbed a ladder to block back-to-back attempts from the Wolfpack. NC State built a 39-31 lead with 15:23 to play as they shot 4-for-9 from the field to start the half.

State pulled away with a 14-5 run to open the second half as Virginia saw shot after shot rim out and the Wolfpack connected on three threes in that span.

Caffaro came into the game and promptly ended a 6:37 scoring drought, and Clark took one to the rim to cut the deficit to 42-35 with just over 10 minutes remaining. Diakite made it a five-point game with two free throws, bringing the crowd to life.

Another big defensive stand gave Virginia the ball back, and Morsell connected on a fadeaway two to bring the Hoos within three with 7:23 to play. A double technical on Caffaro and Funderburk gave the latter his fourth foul after Caffaro seemingly retaliated with a shove after Funderburk pulled on his bandaged hand. Funderburk was called for his fifth foul on the next possession, and Virginia kept chipping away at NC State’s lead.

Virginia rattled off a 13-0 run, capped off by a brilliant three from Morsell. Caffaro pushed the lead to four and extended the run as the clock passed through 4:30. Hellems ended a 10:10 scoring drought for State with a big three, cutting Virginia’s lead to 46-45 and ending the 15-0 run.

A free throw form Diakite put Virginia up by two, but Johnson got a three to fall to give State the lead back. Virginia was unable to answer, and a put-back from Hellems gave the Wolfpack a 50-47 lead with 1:28 to play.

Fouling and free throws gave NC State a 53-51 lead with seven seconds remaining, and Morsell’s would-be game-winner clanged off the front of the rim as the buzzer sounded.

Next up, Virginia heads to Wake Forest on Sunday.