- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 8, 2015

Justin Anderson winced when Virginia’s head athletic trainer, Ethan Saliba, fussed with the bandages on the two outside fingers of his left hand Saturday night. Anderson was on the bench for the second half of Virginia’s brutish defensive fight with the Louisville Cardinals because of a fractured finger.

The school announced late Saturday night that Anderson, the third-ranked Cavaliers’ second-leading scorer, would have surgery on his left, and shooting, hand Sunday. He’s expected to miss four to six weeks. Virginia would not provide an update Sunday on Anderson’s surgery, saying only that coach Tony Bennett will address the injury during a teleconference with ACC coaches on Monday.

If Anderson is back in a month, that means he could be available for the rematch against Louisville on March 7 in Kentucky. The Cavaliers beat the Cardinals, 52-47, Saturday night. The ACC tournament starts three days later, March 10, and runs to March 14. The earliest the Cavaliers would have an NCAA Tournament game is March 19, which would be the back end of the four-to-six-week projection.

Anderson averages 13.4 points per game for Virginia. The junior’s play this season has pushed him up NBA draft boards a year after he was named ACC sixth man of the year. His surge coincides with that of the Cavaliers, who improved to 21-1 with the victory.

Saturday, the Cavaliers replaced Anderson with 6-foot-8 junior Evan Nolte. He started the second half and played 16 minutes after playing just eight in the first half.

“I went with Evan first off the bench,” Bennett said. “I’ve been going with Marial [Shayok] as the first guard, but there was a good matchup with [Wayne] Blackshear for Evan. I thought that in this setting and in this game, experience and his smarts could come in big. Then the fact that he knocks down a 3-pointer when we were 2-of-14 for threes was big for us. He did a good job defensively and his smarts were there.”

Bennett was pleased in particular with Nolte when he chose not to do something. As Bennett alluded to, Nolte had made one of the few 3-pointers on the day, despite shooting just 21.6 percent from behind the 3-point line this season. Nolte was open again with just more than a minute remaining in the game, but turned down the three-point attempt. Eventually, Darion Atkins hit a jump hook.

“The crowd was like, ‘Shoot,’” Bennett said. “But if you look at time and score and possession … and that’s the experience I was talking about and the neck-up stuff that you need a guy to think about.”

Nolte is not the only candidate to replace Anderson. The freshman Shayok was used more than Nolte prior to Anderson’s injury, though his minutes plummeted last week during a burly stretch of games against No. 4 Duke, No. 13 North Carolina and the ninth-ranked Cardinals. He played seven, eight and four minutes, respectively, in those games.

Virginia has been touted for its depth and lack of reliance on a single player. Hanging on in the second half against Louisville without Anderson reinforced that line of thought.

“I think it shows how mature and well rounded our team is, and it shows that we are really a team,” point guard Malcolm Brogdon said. “It’s not just one person, its not just two guys; everybody contributes and everybody plays their role to the fullest so that we can be successful.”

Whomever replaces Anderson on an interim basis will be taking the floor against a softer part of Virginia’s schedule. Only one ranked team, Louisville, is left to play during the regular season. Four of the eight remaining games are at home. Two of the eight are against Wake Forest, which is 3-8 in ACC play, and only Louisville and Syracuse have conference records above .500 among Virginia’s final seven opponents.

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