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Not a youth movement, but U.Va. freshmen lead way

CHARLOTTESVILLE

To analyze Tony Bennett's substitution pattern, one might think Virginia's coach had an eye on the future.

No chance of that.

Bennett went to his freshman-laden bench early and the youngsters made a huge contribution Sunday as Virginia beat St. John's 68-50 in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.

With starter Justin Anderson leading the way with his career-high 18 points, four U.Va. freshmen combined to score 48.

"The freshmen were the ones that helped us," Bennett said. "If it was playing all the upperclassmen and none of the first-years, or if it was playing all of the first- years, whoever is helping us the most is playing."

Virginia, one of four No. 1 seeds, will host Iowa (23-12) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The winner goes to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

U.Va. improved to 20-1 at John Paul Jones Arena, including 19 victories in a row since a 59-53 loss to Delaware on Nov. 13.

With his team trailing 8-4, Bennett inserted freshmen Teven Jones, Mike Tobey and Evan Nolte.

Jones immediately made a 3-pointer, Tobey made two layups and the Cavaliers took a 9-8 lead they would not surrender.

"I thought the first-years really gave us a lift and that was pivotal," Bennett said. "They shot it well, made good decisions, got to the line. They really pushed this thing through for us."

Later in the half, Bennett turned to a fourth freshman reserve, Taylor Barnette, a 6-foot-3 guard. Over a 90-second span, Barnette scored eight points, including back-to-back 3-pointers.

He had 13 points in 13 minutes and Tobey had 10 points in 15, but the showpiece of the group continued to be Anderson, who added four assists and three blocked shots.

"We've got an opportunity to keep playing basketball so why not take it," said Anderson, who had 15 points Tuesday night in a 67-56 victory over Norfolk State.

U.Va. has relied on veterans Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell for most of the season, but Harris, a first-team All-ACC selection, experienced some of the shooting issues that have plagued him in recent games.

He was 2-of-7 from the field, didn't make a 3-pointer, and finished with seven points after scoring in double figures the previous 14 games. Mitchell had 11 points and five rebounds but had five turnovers for the second game in a row.

The Cavaliers' lone senior starter, point guard Jontel Evans, missed all four of his free throws. Anderson came to the rescue, making 9 of 10.

"As he continues to mature and be sound, he's just going to get better and better," Bennett said. "He's unafraid and he makes plays in different ways."

Posted to: College Basketball Sports

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Oops

Totally missed the bag on this team. I gave them up for dead, just didn't feel these guys could pull it back together this year. Quite a performance, maybe they can get to the Garden next week - what a moral victory that would be after how the regular season ended. Playing pretty dawgone good ball at the right time.

good ball

I watched UVA this year and knew they had potential, and hoped they would get into the NCAA so they could shock some teams. When they were on, they were awesome. Their wins against the big teams showed what they could do. Unfortunately, their inconsistency during the season hurt their chances.

Bodes Well

The St Johns game certainly bodes well for the Cavalier's future. The freshmen performed well under pressure and should be a solid nucleus. Evans' play as the point guard has been a disappointment. I am glad to see Tevin get some quality playing time. He will be the PG next year and shows lots of promise. Evans' inability to shoot from the perimeter restricts the offense and allows the opponents to load up against Harris and Mitchell. Tobey has already added a lot and should be a big help next year. I am disappointed in this year's team because they were so inconsistent and showed no intensity against less talented teams when a couple of wins against softies would have made all the difference. The NIT invite may be a blessing in disguise.

What?

For crying out loud ODU beat them...

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