Marial Shayok comes up big for UVA: Hope to see this Shayok again, soon
You hoped for Shayok, Virginia’s third-leading scorer, at 8.6 points per game, that the effort in what was effectively extended garbage time could lead to something more, but you had to wonder.
After all, Shayok had scored just four points total in his previous four games, on 2-of-11 shooting, in just 41 minutes of playing time.
For a guy who had scored in double digits 13 times this season, it had seemed before the second half of the Notre Dame loss that Shayok had played his way out of meaningfulness this season.
The good news for UVA fans was that the second-half effort against the Irish was a sign of life from Shayok, at exactly the right time.
Shayok was the difference-maker in Virginia’s 76-71 first-round NCAA Tournament win over UNC-Wilmington on Thursday, scoring a career-high 23 on 8-of-14 shooting.
The junior came up big in the most crucial moment of the Cavs’ season. Down 26-11 with 7:25 to go, Virginia started to get back into the game on a London Perrantes three and a Devon Hall tip, sandwiched around a pair of Devontae Cacok free throws.
Then it was Super Marial Time.
Shayok scored on a driving layup with 5:34 to go to cut the deficit to 10, converted a pair of free throws with 4:33 to go to make it an eight-point game, then hit a three with 4:07 left that got the ‘Hoos to within five.
After a Ty Jerome three, a Shayok short jumper with 2:08 to go got Virginia within one, and a Darius Thompson layup with 49 seconds left put UVA up a point at the half.
Shayok had nine points in the 19-3 run, then hit two of the biggest shots of UVA’s season, to this point, anyway, in the second half. The first, a three on a nice assist from Kyle Guy, with 6:19 to go, came after a 7-0 UNC-Wilmington run had cut a 10-point Cavs’ lead to three.
The second, with Virginia up 73-71 inside of 30 seconds to go, came on a drive from the top of the key to the left of the lane. Shayok banked in a running five-foot jumper with 26 seconds left, and two seconds on the shot clock, to push the UVA lead to four, and it would not get closer thereafter.
Even including the 10-point outburst against Notre Dame last week, Shayok had gone for a total of 22 points in his last six games, dating back to the overtime loss to Miami back on Feb. 20.
The Shayok who hit for 23 Thursday is the Shayok that hit for double-digits in a stretch of seven of eight ACC games earlier in the season, which included wins over NCAA Tournament teams Notre Dame and Wake Forest and a buzzer-beating tip-in loss to overall #1 seed Villanova.
That Shayok, and the one that hit big on Thursday, is the one that makes Virginia infinitely more dangerous offensively, taking the pressure off Perrantes and Guy, making Thompson and Devon Hall that much more effective.
Virginia fans hope to see more of that Shayok, and this one.
Column by Chris Graham