With Darion Atkins missing four of the last five games due to a stress reaction in his shin, the last thing Virginia needed in advance of tonight’s home game against Clemson was another front court injury.
But that’s what Tony Bennett will have to deal with, as the school announced on Thursday afternoon that freshman forward/center Mike Tobey is out indefinitely due to a case of mononucleosis.
Entering Thursday the 6-11 Tobey averaged 6.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, shooting 53.2% from the field. The freshman suffered a broken nose back in December but did not miss any game action.
In the eight games before playing just nine minutes in the Cavaliers’ loss at Georgia Tech on Sunday, Tobey averaged 17.6 minutes per game.
With Tobey and Atkins both out of the lineup this places even more pressure on Akil Mitchell, who is currently averaging 12.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Clemson features forwards Devin Booker and Milton Jennings, who combined for 36 points and 20 rebounds in Clemson’s 59-44 win over Virginia on January 12.
Tobey finished that game with six points on 3-of-9 shooting but began to show signs of improvement in the games since, most notably scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds in Virginia’s 58-55 win over NC State.
At 15-6 (5-3 ACC) on the season Tony Bennett’s team has a solid record, but with some of the bad losses on their resume (most notably Old Dominion) Virginia needs to go on a run down the stretch if they’re to ultimately reach the NCAA tournament.
If Virginia is to make a run at an NCAA bid they’ll need to give Mitchell some help on the glass. Virginia’s second-best rebounder is leading scorer Joe Harris, who is grabbing an average of four caroms per game and freshman wing Justin Anderson is averaging 3.0 rebounds per contest.
The Cavaliers do a good job of dictating tempo, with the 63 possessions played in their ACC opener against North Carolina being the highest they’ve played in conference play. But in slower games a rebounding problem can become even more costly, making it imperative that other Cavaliers step up.