Hauser had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting and nine rebounds, narrowly missing a fourth consecutive double-double. Huff matched a career high with 18 points and five rebounds to spark the Cavaliers to their fourth straight victory, keeping them one of two unbeaten schools in conference play.
“There was some good, solid defense in the first half, good ball movement,” Cavaliers Coach Tony Bennett said. “I was really excited to see Casey come back. I said to him, I go, ‘Practice? Practice is overrated. You had a 10-day break.’ I thought he was really good.“
Morsell’s career-high 15 points helped the Cavaliers (8-2, 4-0) extend their winning streak in the series to six and improve to 11-0 vs. Notre Dame in the regular season dating from 1980-81. They also moved to 7-0 against the Fighting Irish in Charlottesville and improved to 5-0 at home this season.
The win marked the fourth time since Bennett took over 12 years ago that five players scored in double figures for Virginia. Two of those instances occurred in the past three games.
“We’ve had numerous guys that can have great games,” said Huff, who went 4 for 8 from beyond the arc. “One game I might score 18, the next game I might score four, but as long as we have the balance, then it’s not a problem. Different guys step up in different roles in different games. That’s part of the beauty of our team.”
The outcome became all but certain early in the second half when Virginia opened a 57-33 lead on the heels of 15-4 surge that included a dunk from Huff and consecutive three-pointers from Morsell and Kihei Clark, who had six assists and just one turnover.
Notre Dame (3-8, 0-5) pushed back briefly to draw within 68-58 with 5:08 to play, but the Cavaliers scored seven straight capped by freshman guard Reece Beekman’s fast-break dunk. Beekman gained possession when he stole the ball on a poor pass by Trey Wertz.
Beekman, Clark and Morsell also combined to shackle two of the Fighting Irish’s top three scorers, Prentiss Hubb and Dane Goodwin. Hubb (Gonzaga) entered averaging 14.2 points, second on Notre Dame, but finished with nine, and Goodwin had just two on 1-for-8 shooting. He had been averaging 13.2 points.
“I was fresh. My shoulder felt good,” Morsell said, referring to an ailment that had been bothering him earlier this season. “I just came out there really relaxed and confident and ready to play.”
In sweeping the regular season series, Virginia held Notre Dame to 5 for 22 from behind the arc, including missing its first dozen attempts. The Fighting Irish went 10 for 42 (23.8 percent) from three-point range this season against the 2019 national champions.
They came into the game shooting 37.7 percent, leading the conference in that category.
After two games without several players and assistant coaches, the Cavaliers moved closer to fielding a complete roster with Morsell in the lineup. The sophomore guard missed two games while in contact tracing quarantine after Virginia reported one of its staff members tested positive Jan. 1.
Joining Morsell back on the bench were assistant coaches Jason Williford, Brad Sodeberg and Orlando Vandross. All three had missed the past two games while in contact tracing protocol, although Sodeberg and Vandross traveled with the team to its last game.
“It was tough,” Morsell said of not being able to play. “I kind of had to watch the games just like everyone else, had to watch on TV. You see things differently, especially when it’s through television. You see things could have gone differently in different situations.”
Morsell entered for the first time since Dec. 30, also against Notre Dame, with 14:55 left in the first half. Several minutes later, the Washington Post first-team All-Met from St. John’s collected a pass deep in the left corner and swished a three-pointer.
Morsell, whose most important contributions have been as a stout on-ball defender, added another jumper in the closing stages of the first half to expand the lead to 35-23, and Hauser closed the scoring with a contested jumper to give the Cavaliers a 37-25 cushion at the break.
Morsell went 3 for 3 on three-pointers, with his final basket from behind the arc bumping Virginia’s lead to 52-33 with 13:45 remaining in the second half. He shot 6 for 7 overall with four rebounds in 24 minutes.
“Coming off a 10-day quarantine, that’s really impressive, him having the game that he did,” Huff said. “He looked really comfortable, and he’s had a couple of good days of practice, but it’s still after 10 days like that, I would have at least felt a little bit not nervous, but it would just be weird coming back to play in a game.”