Virginia Beat: Freshmen Have Their Day In Court

Last week in this space I wrote about the inconsistency that has marred UVA’s season, which would seem to be the result of the team’s overall inexperience.  This week, if I might twist a famous phrase, I come not to bury the freshmen, but to praise them.  UVA’s two contests of last week, both of them double-digit wins of relative ease, were both powered by the Cavaliers’ outstanding freshman class.

Both games saw a different freshman lead the team in scoring, and set a personal season high in the process.  Against Virginia Tech, UVA’s scoring leader Joe Harris was his usual self, but his day was overshadowed by Evan Nolte, who led the team in scoring with 18 points.  Two blocked shots and four steals capped his very efficient day, one which also saw him garner just one personal foul.  He wasn’t the only one of his classmates to have a great game; Justin Anderson and Mike Tobey came off the bench and provided just as much of a boost as the starters, if not more.  Anderson’s six assists were tied for a game high with point guard Jontel Evans – not bad for a small forward – and Anderson also had three steals of his own.   Tobey couldn’t have been more efficient, shooting 5-for-5 for ten points of his own.  As a whole, the freshman class scored 42 points and contributed 10 assists and 7 steals, up against just two turnovers and three personal fouls combined.  UVA’s win over VT was among their most efficient offensive outputs of the season (in terms of points per possession) and it was really the freshman that had the largest hand in it.

The Hoos had to take the floor two days later, this time at home against Boston College; a perfect opportunity for that inconsistency dragon to rear its ugly head.  BC, though 1-4 in ACC play going into the game, had given all of its opponents a difficult time, and wasn’t fazed when the Hoos raced out to an 8-0 lead to start the game.  The Eagles punched back, but UVA’s freshmen took over again.  Nolte was limited to only 11 minutes of playing time thanks to foul trouble, but in that limited time he shot 4-for-5 for 9 points and threw in a blocked shot for good measure.  Tobey also blocked a shot and hit some clutch buckets that put a stop to any thoughts of a Boston College run.  But it was really Anderson’s day.  16 points on 7-for-9 shooting was good enough to tie with Akil Mitchell for the game lead, and he needed only nine shots and one trip to the free-throw line to get there.  It’s one thing to score a lot of points; it’s even more important to do it without wasting shots and opportunities.

On Tuesday, Tobey continued the trend.  The other freshmen had off days, as is bound to happen, but Tobey carried the freshman banner again with 13 points, 7 boards, two blocks and a steal in just 20 minutes off the bench, helping UVA to an upset win over 19th-ranked NC State.  Tobey’s emergence, in fact, has been a prime reason for UVA’s latest win streak; in the past four games, all UVA wins, Tobey is shooting 16-for-24 for a .667 shooting percentage.

The really exciting thing is that ordinarily, we’d say something like, “they gave us a glimpse of their potential.”  We’re past that point, though.  A glimpse is what a freshman gives you in six minutes of garbage time at the end of blowing out Wofford.  What we got this week is proof that this freshman class can – as freshmen, mind you – lead the Hoos to wins over real live ACC opponents.  Real live ranked ACC opponents.  And isn’t that the main goal?  No doubt at some point the inconsistency will return, but this week, UVA fans got proof that it’s the present that’s exciting, let alone the future.


Brendan’s bio: I’m just this guy … this ordinary Virginia graduate and fan who woke up one day realizing his opinions on everything UVA could no longer be contained in one space. Thus was born From Old Virginia, a labor of love where you can find obsessive opinionating on Virginia football, basketball, lacrosse, baseball, and whatever else when the mood strikes. And if that’s still not enough for you, go to the Twitster and follow @MaizeNBlueWahoo for the dumb stuff that pops into my head when I’m watching the Hoos.

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