O, Marial: UVA freshman Shayok comes up big late in win over Pitt

shayokUVA freshman Marial Shayok had seemed to hit the freshman wall, going scoreless in his last six games dating back to the win over Georgia Tech on Jan. 22.

The 6’6” guard had six points in 21 minutes off the bench in Virginia’s 61-49 win over Pitt on Monday, and hit a back-breaking three with 4:15 to go to put Virginia up 11.

Pitt would get no closer than seven the rest of the way.

The performance was a big confidence boost for Shayok personally, and for his teammates.

“They want me to be aggressive. They know when I play with confidence and am positive I play well. Today I tried to play hard, play aggressive and play in the moment,” Shayok said.

UVA could use more of that confident play from Shayok with Justin Anderson out of the lineup at least for the next couple of weeks as he recovers from a broken finger suffered on Feb. 7 against Louisville.

Junior Evan Nolte has been getting the starts for Anderson of late, but Nolte has yet to get into any kind of flow offensively. Monday, Nolte was 0-for-6 from the field in 28 minutes, and played just 10 minutes in the second half as Shayok stole some of his minutes with his effective play.

Shayok played 14 minutes in the second half, and had a +13 rating overall in his 21 minutes on the floor, tied for tops on the team with starting guard London Perrantes.

UVA coach Tony Bennett had praise for both Shayok and Nolte after the game, saying Shayok “really played and battled. He had a big three, and made some good stops,” and that Nolte “really defended well.”

“My message was to trust your system, trust your team, and trust your shot, and he did that tonight,” Bennett said. “He shot with confidence even if he wasn’t making them. His smarts and defensive positioning and length were very helpful.”

Reading between the lines, don’t be surprised to see Nolte get the start against Florida State on Sunday, but don’t be surprised, either, to see Shayok steal more minutes, and sooner, if Nolte is ineffective.

– Column by Chris Graham

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