According to Virginia's Jontel Evans, the original plan was to ease the senior point guard back into the Cavaliers' rotation Sunday night against North Carolina.
"Coach Bennett told me, 'I'm going to play you for three or four minutes, here or there.' And I think he just forgot about it in the second half, and just let me go," Evans said with a smile following Sunday's game, a 61-52 win over the Tar Heels in the ACC opener for both schools.
Sunday's game was just the fifth appearance for Evans this season, who's been working to come back from a preseason stress fracture in his right foot that required surgery. He was in and out of the lineup for much of the Cavaliers' non-conference schedule, and hadn't played since the team's win at home against Tennessee on December 5.
On Sunday, Evans came off the bench to score eight points in 21 minutes, with six assists and three turnovers.
"He came out a little rusty; our timing was off," junior forward Akil Mitchell said. "But once he got settled in, I think you can really see the difference that he can make."
Evans admitted it was important to him to be back for Sunday's game against North Carolina, a team that beat Virginia by three points last year at John Paul Jones Arena. Sunday marked the first-ever Virginia win against the Tar Heels at John Paul Jones.
"It was just great to be out there with the guys," Evans said. "I miss battling with them, and they welcomed me back and we got a great win."
Virginia improved to 11-3 on the season with Sunday's win. The Cavaliers continue ACC play with a pair of road games this week -- at Wake Forest on Wednesday, followed by a Saturday visit to Clemson.
And Mitchell says Virginia's a stronger opponent when Evans is part of the team's regular rotation.
"Like I've been saying all season, he brings that senior leadership at the point guard position that we need.," he said. "Running the team, and getting into the paint. Defending. Doing what he does best."
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