By the time he noticed Evan Nolte had released the ball, Virginia men's basketball coach Tony Bennett didn't have an opportunity to protest. Of course, it's not as if Bennett would've gotten in Nolte's ear about taking the deep 3-pointer he took in the second half Sunday night against North Carolina.
Like all of the scholarship freshmen on U.Va.'s roster, Nolte has to learn on the fly, and the results have been positive thus far. Oh, and much to the relief of his coach, Nolte nailed that NBA-range 3-pointer, which contributed to U.Va. claiming a 61-52 win against UNC.
"I think I was looking down, luckily," said Bennett, whose team gets its first Atlantic Coast Conference road test this season 9 p.m. Wednesday at Wake Forest (7-6, 0-1 ACC). "I kind of looked down, and I heard the crowd go, 'Whoa.'
"It was deep. Just make it, right?"
While U.Va. gets its first conference road trip, Virginia Tech (9-5, 0-1) returns home Wednesday evening trying to bounce back against Boston College (8-6, 0-1) after the Hokies were crushed Saturday 94-71 at Maryland.
If U.Va. (11-3, 1-0) hopes to be a surprise team in the ACC, Bennett realizes he'll have to continue giving the green light to his best shooters — no matter how inexperienced the shooter. Depth and injury concerns require him to rely on the young guys.
Nolte, who has made 47.4 percent (18 of 38) of his 3-pointers this season, is one of five scholarship freshmen on U.Va.'s roster playing at least 12 minutes per game. Teven Jones is leading the freshmen with an average of 23 minutes per game.
Jones started nine of the first 11 games he played in while filling in much of the time for Bethel High graduate point guard Jontel Evans, who returned for the UNC win after missing more than a month to continue healing a right foot that was surgically repaired in October due to a stress fracture.
Nolte, Jones, forward Mike Tobey and guards Justin Anderson and Taylor Barnette are freshmen that are averaging 25 of U.Va.'s 64.5 points per game. Nolte is pacing the freshmen with 6.8 points per game, which is fourth on the team.
"They've gotten tremendous experience and they've been thrown into the fire because they've had to (play), and that's helped," said Bennett, who also has had to lean on young players with sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon redshirting this season due to a foot injury. "Whether it's been Teven Jones or Evan Nolte, Taylor Barnette, Mike Tobey and Justin Anderson … that's five freshmen right there that have played at different time and given us valuable minutes and will continue to."
Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik, whose team is last in the ACC in field-goal percentage defense (43.8) and rebounding margin (minus-1.3 per game), understands the concept of needing to get freshmen involved.
Wake Forest forward Travis McKie (15.1 points per game) and guard C.J. Harris (14.6 points per game) are both among the top 10 scorers in the conference, but Bzdelik has to surround those experienced players with a roster that includes nine freshmen, including seven on scholarship.
He's using a rotation of freshman point guards in Codi Miller-McIntyre and Madison Jones, which may explain why Wake Forest is also last in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.7 assists for every turnover).
"They're learning," Bzdelik said.
"The defense starts with them and the kind of ball pressure they put on people. They need to improve their decision-making. … There's a lot on their plate, but they're both talented young men and very smart."