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Sunday, March 10, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE —These were the moments he missed during all those days he was sick in bed: crowd standing, game in the balance, big shot needed.
Mike Tobey rediscovered those moments Sunday — and flourished in them.
His short floater with 5.4 seconds left sent the game to overtime, then his tip-in in the extra period gave Virginia the lead for good in a 61-58 victory over Maryland that the Cavaliers absolutely had to have.
Who says senior night has to be all about veterans? Sunday wound up being a breakthrough outing for a 6-foot-11 freshman who sat out five games with mononucleosis.
“I told him, ‘You laid in bed for two weeks. You’d better give us something,’ ” UVa coach Tony Bennett said with a smile.
Tobey actually gave the Cavs quite a bit Thursday, too, scoring 12 points in 17 minutes against Florida State. That was the first time Tobey had really felt himself on the court since the illness, which cost him much of February.
“I wasn’t really allowed to do anything,” said Tobey, who did attend classes during his recovery. “I was trying to sneak in getting up some shots, but I don’t want [the training staff] to be mad at me, so I really just laid low for about two weeks.”
He came back against Georgia Tech on Feb. 24 and scored seven points before playing sparingly in the Duke and Boston College games. The FSU performance was encouraging, but it didn’t prevent the Cavaliers from suffering their second straight one-possession loss.
Sunday looked like it might be another one. After a listless first half that saw them fall behind by 17 points, the Cavs rallied but still trailed the Terps 54-52 with 6.9 seconds remaining.
Back-to-back timeouts gave UVa the chance to draw up an inbounds play. Tobey was to be the third option for Justin Anderson, who was putting the ball back in play from near midcourt.
The lob to Akil Mitchell was covered. One option down.
Joe Harris was double-teamed. Two options down.
Cue the long pass to the freshman in the post.
“We practice that pass literally every single day,” said Anderson, who delivered it flawlessly. “Mike had great hands on that play and went and up and finished it so strong and tough. … That’s what we needed.”
They needed more Tobey in overtime, as the game was still tied with less than two minutes to play. Mitchell missed a layup, but Tobey was there in traffic to tip it up and in. UVa never trailed again.
“As he gets that tenacious mentality and adds strength, it’s going to be enjoyable to watch him progress,” Bennett said. “We need him.”
Tobey was one of the few Virginia players to provide any offense in the first half, scoring six points in nine minutes on 3-of-5 shooting. He also had a block that helped key Virginia’s comeback near the end of regulation.
He finished with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, marking the first time this season he’s scored in double figures in back-to-back games.
“I guess my legs are probably more alive than a couple of the other freshmen,” Tobey said. “They always talk about the freshman wall, and I kind of feel like I got a little vacation in the middle of the season. It’s not what I wanted, but I’ll take it for what it is.”
So will the UVa fans, who embraced Tobey early this season as he showed considerable promise. His Facebook and Twitter accounts filled up with questions from fans wanting to know when he’d come back from his illness.
One problem: Tobey himself didn’t know .
“I wasn’t able to give them any help with that,” he said, chuckling.
But he could dream a little, envisioning nights unfolding much like this one did.
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