By HANK KURZ Jr., AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) -- Joe Harris scored nine of his 15 points in the opening minutes of the second half Monday night and Virginia rallied to beat Fairfield 54-45 in the NIT Season Tip-off.
Akil Mitchell had 12 points and Evan Nolte added 11 for the Cavaliers (1-1), who will play in the second round Tuesday night.
Josip Mikulic scored 13 points and Derek Needham and Desmond Wade had 10 each for Fairfield (1-1). The Stags scored only 15 points in the second half, making just 5 of 24 shots. In the first half, they were 12 for 23 with six 3-pointers, including three in as many tries by the 7-foot Mikulic.
Harris scored nine of the Cavaliers' first 11 points in the second half, including a 15-foot jumper with 17 minutes left that gave them their first lead at 33-32.
Virginia stretched its margin to 42-37 as the Stags went 5 minutes without a point, but Desmond Wade made a pair of free throws for Fairfield and Colin Nickerson followed several Cavaliers' misses with a layup at the other end, making it a one-point game with 8:45 to go. Fairfield added just two field goals the rest of the way.
Virginia was playing its second game without starting point guard and team captain Jontel Evans and backup point guard Malcolm Brogdon, both of whom are recovering from surgeries. Coach Tony Bennett used several players at the point, but Harris was in charge in the closing moments.
He fed Mitchell for a basket with 4:08 to play that gave Virginia a 51-45 lead, and after neither team scored for more than a minute, Harris' 10-foot jumper stretched the lead to eight and the Cavaliers were never challenged again.
It took awhile, but Leonard Fournette finally looked like the player we all knew he could be. On Saturday against Ole Miss, Fournette rushed for 284 yards and three touchdowns in just 16 carries. It's too bad it won't matter in terms of the Heisman race.
Heading into this season Fournette was a player to watch given how he started the 2015 season. He faded after a poor performance against Alabama, but his talent cannot be denied. Fournette's 2016 season has been a struggle, but on Saturday he finally broke through.
After Saturday's performance, Fournette is actually getting some love from experts in terms of the Heisman race (like here and here). With all due respect to Fournette, who is absolutely remarkable, this is completely ridiculous.
SEE THE UPDATED HEISMAN HOPEFUL'S GALLERY HERE
Fournette has been hampered by injuries this season and has missed three games as a result. That right there virtually knocks him out of the running. Add in the fact that LSU is only playing 11 games this season because the South Alabama game was canceled, that means his Heisman resume will be only eight games, nine at the most if LSU somehow reaches the SEC Championship game. Whatever Fournette does for the rest of the season, it's going to be hard for him to prove he is more deserving of the Heisman than any of the other contenders who have been great for 12+ games.
Plus, it's not as if Fournette has been unreal in every game he has played this year. Before the Ole Miss game, Fournette was averaging just under 130 rushing yards per game. That's not bad, but it's not all that Heisman worthy either.
So no, Fournette is not among the Heisman hopefuls this week despite his monster performance. Enjoy it LSU fans, it was a phenomenal game, but it was not enough to put him back in Heisman contention.
If Fournette is out, who's in? Find out in this week's Heisman Hopefuls gallery.
No longer among the ranks of the unbeatens, Ohio State’s playoff chances certainly took a hit Saturday with their loss to Penn State.
But let’s not start digging their grave just yet.
Michigan now sits atop the Big Ten East standings, but they still have to finish the season with the big game against the Buckeyes. And it’s at Ohio State.
SEE THE UPDATED COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF PROJECTIONS HERE
The truth is, if the Buckeyes win out, they still will win the Big Ten East and will have a chance to play (likely) either Nebraska or Wisconsin for the conference championship.
Will the committee really leave a one-loss Big Ten champion out of the playoff? Perhaps, if either Baylor or West Virginia remain undefeated, but if the winner of the Big 12 has at least one loss, it’s hard to see how either team would get in over Ohio State.
Again, assuming they win out, the Buckeyes will have beaten Oklahoma in Norman, Wisconsin in Madison, Nebraska, Michigan and the Big Ten West winner. Neither Baylor or West Virginia can match that resume.
So let’s not declare Ohio State’s playoff hopes done just yet. Their biggest challenge is likely rival Michigan, and the Wolverines have to travel to Columbus. That’s a very tough place to play, especially if you’re wearing maize and blue.
Will the Buckeyes ultimately reach the playoff despite their loss to Penn State? Who else will join them? Found out here in this week’s updated College Football Playoff projections.