Tobey had 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor and pulled down six rebounds to help lead UVA to a 77-66 win over the Irish.
It was the second straight nice effort from Tobey, who had 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting in 19 minutes in Virginia’s 71-58 win over Oakland on Wednesday.
This after getting a total of 40 minutes over UVA’s previous four, scoring six points on 3-of-9 shooting with seven rebounds over the span.
Freshman Jarred Reuter was starting to push Tobey, the 2015 ACC Sixth Man of the Year, for minutes, playing a key role in Virginia’s 63-62 overtime win over Cal on Dec. 22, scoring 11 points in 16 minutes off the bench on a night when Tobey was a non-factor – scoring two points and not recording a rebound in seven minutes.
“When he’s aggressive and plays with a motor, he’s great, and that’s what we need from him to make a good run in March,” said Virginia senior guard Malcolm Brogdon, who had a game-high 24 points on Saturday.
The soft-spoken Tobey, for his part, talked around several questions from reporters after the game trying to get at what has been different for him the past two outings.
“It is just a confidence booster for myself just being able to go in there and play well,” Tobey said. “My teammates have been supportive throughout, so it is definitely a confidence booster.”
Coach Tony Bennett has been trying to coax these kinds of efforts out of Tobey on a more consistent basis.
“I thought he gave us a great lift and then carried it on,” said Bennett, who began the season with Tobey starting alongside Anthony Gill in the frontcourt, before going to Jack Salt and finally settling on Isaiah Wilkins, who played 33 minutes in Saturday’s win, as the complement to AG in the post.
Tobey clearly adds another dimension with his elite offensive skills. He is shooting 58.9 percent from the field and 75 percent from the free-throw line.
Add those numbers to Gill’s – AG is shooting 59.5 percent from the floor and 76.9 percent from the stripe – and Virginia can be damn near unbeatable when both are on their game, as they have been the past two times out.
“Mike has had two really good games back-to-back, and that’s what we’re going to need from him throughout the season,” Gill said. “He’s a great player and has soft touch around the rim and he takes up a lot of space on defense. When his mind is right, I think that he can be a really effective player for this team and help this team go to the next level that we need to go to.”
The key with Tobey has always been what he can do defensively. He doesn’t have to be a difference-maker, with Gill and Wilkins playing shutdown defense, the case in point there being what Gill was able to do to Notre Dame center Zach Auguste, who was averaging 14.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game coming in, and had one point and two rebounds on Saturday.
As long as Tobey can at least hold his own when he’s on the defensive end, he has a chance to do damage on the offensive end.
“We need his size and his length,” Bennett said. “He can get discouraged at times, but he works hard, and it’s good to see what he’s doing, and we will continue to need it for sure.”
– Story by Chris Graham