A Rusty Justin Anderson Returns for Virginia

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 12th, 2015

ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2015 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

After 20 minutes of play in Thursday’s ACC Tournament quarterfinal game against Florida State, Virginia was on pace to accomplish exactly what it wanted. As the tournament’s top seed, the Cavaliers looked sharp in cruising to a commanding 17-point lead. It had the look of a game that the Cavaliers would control comfortably the rest of the way, enabling head coach Tony Bennett to use his bench to keep the starters fresh for the rest of the weekend. Bennett played his reserves a lot –nine different Cavaliers played double-figure minutes — but it wasn’t necessarily by choice. Taking advantage of foul trouble that forced several Virginia starters to the bench, Florida State threatened to come back in the first 10 minutes after the intermission before the Cavaliers finally pulled away to win, 58-44.

Virginia will need a healthy and productive Justin Anderson to make a deep NCAA Tournament run. (USA Today Images)

Virginia will need a healthy and productive Justin Anderson to make a deep NCAA Tournament run. (USA Today Images)

Junior wing Justin Anderson made his return to the lineup exactly one week after undergoing an appendectomy. It was also his first action since fracturing a finger in a Cavaliers’ home win over Louisville back on February 7. Coming off the bench, Anderson only attempted two shots and didn’t score in his 12 minutes of play. Late in the first half, the Virginia faithful got another scare as Anderson fell hard to the floor in a collision at the rim, but he wasn’t seriously hurt and later returned. After the game, Bennett was asked about Anderson’s performance:

Yeah, I mean, he hasn’t played for 32 days he’s been out. So I was so thankful that he could be out there. It should have been a week before, we thought, if everything went well. I told him we’re going to use you some short stints and see what you can do. Of course he looked rusty, of course, he’s going to have certain things. But my hope is next time he’s out there, he’s better, and you just kind of have to go through that. When he got upended and fell, I was concerned for a second, but he said he landed on his back side so he was okay. But that’s a month, and so hopefully we can get more and he can continue to get sharper. That’s why it was a good win for us.

It will be interesting to see how much Anderson plays in Friday’s semifinal game against North Carolina and if he can be more productive than he was today. If Anderson’s still not ready, Tony Bennett may go with Evan Nolte, who hit 3-of-4 three-pointers and scored 11 points. Most NCAA Tournament bracketology experts seem to think that the Cavaliers will still be a #1 seed even if they don’t win the ACC Tournament, so Bennett may have to balance winning in Greensboro versus getting Anderson enough minutes to shake off the rust. Virginia certainly has a good enough defense to compete with just about anyone in college basketball, but the Cavaliers need Anderson’s dynamic combination of athletic slashes and sharp-shooting from distance to score enough to beat the most elite teams. The only way to get to that point is for Anderson to work through his adjustment period as soon as possible, which means playing heavy minutes as soon as he’s able. Virginia’s Final Four hopes may depend on it.

Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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