A storyline for night’s basketball game between Virginia and visiting North Carolina State was obvious as soon as the player introductions.
Boos rung out with the announcement of the Wolfpack’s Casey Morsell, who transferred to N.C. State after beginning his career at UVa.
Speaking of beginnings, Morsell scored eight of the Wolfpack’s first nine points Tuesday and finished with 18 points. He was 4-of-9 on 3-pointers and his State teammates were a combined 4-for-18 on 3-point attempts as UVa prevailed 63-50.
Virginia settled the score after suffering a 77-63 loss to N.C. State last year in Raleigh, where Morsell had 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds for the ‘Pack.
The boos eventually settled down Tuesday and UVa coach Tony Bennett stopped to speak to Morsell and his parents as the teams headed off the court at the end of the game.
“He definitely gets the best out of his players,” Morsell told WRAL radio before Tuesday’s game. “I have nothing but great things to say about coach Bennett and his staff.”
Morsell’s 18 points Tuesday were his high against an ACC opponent.
“As I said on my radio show the other night, I wish Casey never would have transferred,” Bennett said after Tuesday’s game. “I went to him and I shook his parents’ hands [afterwards]. He’s a fine young man.
“I guess it wasn’t meant to be. I wish it would’ve [worked]. He’s really playing good ball. He’s a key for that team. I wish him nothing but the best and I’m proud of the way he’s developed. You can’t hold grudges too long in this profession.
“When he left, I was hurt because I thought he was really going to be a good player for us, but I respect anyone’s wishes. You’ve got to want to be here and you can’t twist people’s arm. It’s worked out well for him and it’s worked out well for us.”
The feeling was mutual.
When Morsell was a freshman at Virginia in 2020-21, he started the opening game of the season but fellow freshman Reece Beekman was getting those minutes by the end of the year.
After losing 11 of their last 12 games in 2021-22, the Wolfpack was 19-5 overall and 9-4 in the ACC going into Tuesday night’s game.
Eighth-ranked Virginia is 18-4 and 10-3 heading into a 4 p.m. Saturday tipoff with unranked Duke (17-7, 8-5).