CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Virginia overcame a slow start Monday night in its home opener to defeat Fairfield 54-45 in the first round of the NIT Season Tip-Off. Virginia advances to Tuesday night's game against the winner of Delaware and Pennsylvania, which took place later Monday night. Fairfield will take on the loser of that contest at 4:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Virginia (1-1) was led by junior Joe Harris with 15 points, 11 of which came in the second half. Junior forward Akil Mitchell had 11 points and eight rebounds, while freshman forward Evan Nolte pitched in 11 points off the bench, making four of his six shots. The Cavaliers clamped down defensively in the second half. Fairfield (1-1) shot 52.2 percent in the opening half but managed to make just five of its 25 shots in the second half. Fairfield was led by freshman forward Josip Mikulich's 13 points and seven rebounds. Preseason All-MAAC selection Derek Needham had 10 points, while point guard Desmond Wade also had 10. The Cavaliers took their first lead of the game with 17:03 to play when Harris hit a turn-around jumper in the lane to put Virginia ahead 33-32. That lead lasted all of 25 seconds as Needham hit a three-pointer on Fairfield's next possession. Virginia took the lead for good on a Harris jumper with 15:45 to go. Fairfield led Virginia 30-28 at halftime and never trailed in the opening half. Mikulic led Fairfield with nine points in the first half, making all three of his three-point attempts. As a team, the Stags shot 6-of-11 from three. Needham had seven points and four assists in the opening period. Virginia was held without a field goal for the first 7:42. The Cavaliers finally broke through when center Mike Tobey got a lay-up off an assist from forward Mitchell with 12:18 to go in the half. The Stags led 30-24 late in the half, but Virginia closed on a quick 4-0 run in the final five seconds. Mitchell got a lay-up with five seconds to go, and Nolte stole the inbounds pass from Josip and laid it in at the buzzer to cut the deficit to two. Notes: Virginia again played without point guard Jontel Evans and shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon. Evans and Brogdon, both projected starters, are out with foot injuries. . .This is the third all-time meeting between the schools. Virginia won the first two games, the last one an 84-52 win on Feb. 13, 1991.
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