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.