Amandine Toi had waited a long time for this night.
The French guard arrived at Virginia two years ago only to see her first two college seasons end before they ever started due to knee injuries.
On Tuesday night, Toi, sporting a large brace on her surgically repaired right knee, was in the starting lineup as she made her long-awaited debut.
It didn’t take her long to make an impact.
The redshirt freshman sank a 3-pointer less than a minute into the game for her first career points as a Cavalier.
“I was just ready to be out there,” Toi said. “…I was prepared. I didn’t hesitate to take [the first 3-pointer] because I practice to make those shots. I was happy to make it but I knew that I was ready to make it.”
The next time down the floor, Toi fired a nice pass to Lisa Jablonowski, who finished with a bucket as she was fouled, then hit the free throw to complete the three-point play. It was the start of a memorable night for Toi, who finished with 11 points and six assists as the Cavaliers cruised to an 84-60 win over Bucknell at John Paul Jones Arena.
“With Amandine, [it was] really, really good to see her get through a full game, her first full, countable game in a really, really long time,” Virginia coach Tina Thompson said. “We have had some really, really tough days just kind of mentally making sure that she was ok and had the opportunity to kind of have this moment.
“It’s been a really, really long time coming.”
There were some moments of rust for Toi, who finished with seven turnovers in her 34 minutes of action, but all in all, she was happy with her collegiate debut.
“I feel good physically,” Toi said. “I was not that tired or out of shape, so I think that was a good thing. I think sometimes I am all over the place because I can not control myself but I think with time I will get through my turnovers and just control myself and take my time.”
Toi was one of six players that made their Virginia debuts on Tuesday night. With senior guard Dominique Toussaint not playing due to an unspecified violation of team rules, three players seeing their first game action at UVa were in the starting lineup.
In addition to Toi, true freshman Dylan Horton and Purdue transfer Dani Lawson started for the Cavaliers. Horton finished with four points, two rebounds and one assist, while Lawson grabbed four rebounds. Carole Miller, an ESPN Top 100 recruit from Northern Virginia, was strong off the bench, tallying nine points, four rebounds and four assists.
“I thought that they did very well,” Thompson said of the first-year players. “They kind of showed exactly what we thought about them when we went to get them. We knew that the first-years coming in this season were going to have to play a lot, so they were going to have to have a level of toughness and they were going to have to come in with no fear and that’s the players that they were in high school.
“I think they did exactly that.”
While the newcomers got their first taste of live game action, Virginia’s veterans led the way with big nights.
Jocelyn Willoughby began her senior season on a high note, finishing with a career-high 31 points to go along with 11 rebounds, while Jablonowski, who also is a senior, tallied 16 points and five rebounds.
“My mentality is just different this year,” Willoughby said. “This is my fourth year, so [I am] just making sure I am leaving it all out on the court.”
The Cavaliers head to California this weekend for a two-game road swing that will include matchups with USC and Cal State Northridge. It will be a homecoming for Thompson, who grew up in Southern California and starred at USC before a storied professional playing career.
“I think it’s going to be great. …I am looking forward to being able to wear flip-flops,” Thompson said with a smile. “I’m really excited to show them my hometown and where I grew up and just the things that mean a lot to me and just kind of helped me to be in the position I am in now. And we are also going to have a little fun. I think we are going to smile a lot because you always do that when sunshine is in your face.”