Film Session: Breaking down what Virginia is missing without Justin Anderson

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source: Getty Images
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Virginia has played three games — and a half against Louisville — since Justin Anderson went down with a broken bone on his left hand, and if anything has become clear over the course of those 140 minutes, it’s that the Cavaliers are not the same team without their All-American.

The biggest impact comes on the offensive end of the floor, where Anderson’s absence is truly felt.

In wins over N.C. State, Wake Forest and Pitt — none of whom rank higher than 110th in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom — Virginia has scored 173 points in 174 possessions, a far cry from the offense that had spent the majority of the season ranked in the top ten in offensive efficiency.

The change isn’t simply a result of Anderson’s 48.4 percent three-point shooting — by far the best on Virginia’s roster — not being on the floor, although that plays a major role. Defenses had to be aware of where Anderson was on the offensive end of the floor at all times. Anderson’s presence kept teams honest when Virginia threw the ball into the post and helped them create space for drivers and cutters.

The guy that has taken over Anderson’s minutes has been junior wing Evan Nolte. In the last four games, Nolte has averaged 26.5 minutes. In the four games prior to Anderson’s injury, Nolte played a total of 16 minutes. He’s shooting 22.9 percent from three on the season, and while he’s 4-for-13 from three since Anderson went down, those 13 threes were all really good looks:

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As you can see, Virginia’s opponents were not exactly scared of leaving Nolte all alone on the perimeter. That’s a problem, because offensively, Nolte isn’t much more than a spot-up shooter. In 2015, Nolte has taken all of three shots from inside the arc and gotten to the line just twice, missing both. Anderson did much of his damage as a spot-up shooter, but he’s more well-rounded. He could come off of a screen and hit a jumper or curl to the rim. He could beat a close-out with a pump-fake and a straight-line drive. He could finish above the rim in transition or in traffic in half court sets. Virginia generally drops their three perimeter players back to prevent against fast breaks, but Anderson was still able to pick up some second chance points from time to time.

Anderson was an ideal fit in the role that Tony Bennett needed him to play, and Nolte is just not ready to fill that void.

But offense is not the only area where Virginia took a hit with Anderson out.

Nolte is nowhere near the defender that Anderson is either. The good news for Virginia is that the Pack-Line defense they play is designed to over-help on the defensive end, covering up some of Nolte’s defensive issues. But that doesn’t change the fact that Virginia’s best perimeter defender is no longer in the lineup, and that chink in the armor is a weak spot opponents can attack.

For example, Nolte not only gets beaten on a cut to the middle of the lane by Sheldon Jeter here, Jeter is able to elevate over him in the paint:

But here’s the most important part of this: none of it actually matters, as long as Anderson is healthy and back in the lineup come NCAA tournament time.

Virginia has done enough this season that they should be able to survive two more losses, whether they come during the regular season or in the ACC tournament, and still wind up with a No. 1 seed. Even if they lose more than two games — say, at Syracuse, at Louisville and in the ACC semifinals — they’re still looking at a situation where they are, at worst, ACC regular season co-champions with road wins at VCU, Maryland, Notre Dame and North Carolina.

And if it’s clear that Anderson is coming back, the selection committee will have to keep in mind that the Cavs were without their best player during the worst stretch of their season.

Virginia doesn’t need Justin Anderson to win the ACC or to get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

But they are not the same team without him, and if the Cavs are going to make a run in March, they need him healthy by the time the NCAA tournament starts.

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.

No. 12 Iowa State holds on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76

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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes matched his season high with 23 points as No. 12 Iowa State held on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76 on Tuesday night.

The Cyclones (15-4, 6-2 Big 12) moved into a three-way tie atop the conference standings with the Wildcats and Texas.

Gabe Kalscheur added 19 points for Iowa State. Osun Osunniyi finished with 16.

Markquis Nowell led Kansas State (17-3, 6-2) with 23 points.

A 3-pointer from Holmes gave Iowa State a 59-49 advantage with 8:12 remaining. Kansas State responded with a 10-1 run to trim the margin to 60-59.

Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer steadied the Cyclones and pushed the lead back to 63-59 with five minutes left.

Free throws by Osunniyi, Grill and Holmes sealed the victory in the final 24 seconds.

The first half featured eight lead changes and ended with Kansas State up 33-31.

A 3-pointer by Kalscheur ignited an early 9-0 run for the Cyclones and helped them build a 19-14 lead. Iowa State made just one of nine 3-point tries in the first 20 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State was trying to extend its best start to a season since 1961-62.

Iowa State improved to 11-0 at home. The Cyclones have not lost back-to-back games this season.

UP NEXT

Kansas State hosts Florida on Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Iowa State travels to Missouri on Saturday.

Georgetown snaps 29-game conference losing streak

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WASHINGTON – Primo Spears scored 21 points and Georgetown snapped a 29-game conference losing streak with an 81-76 victory over DePaul on Tuesday night.

Georgetown (6-15, 1-9) won its first Big East game since March 13, 2021, ending the longest skid in the history of the conference. The Hoyas also ended a 10-game losing streak this season.

Spears also contributed six assists for the Hoyas. Akok Akok scored 12 points and added six rebounds and four blocks and Brandon Murray recorded 12 points.

Umoja Gibson led the Blue Demons (9-12, 3-7) in scoring, finishing with 24 points, four assists and three steals. Javan Johnson added 13 points.

Spears scored nine points in the first half and Georgetown went into the break trailing 37-36. Georgetown used a 10-0 run in the second half to build a 12-point lead at 75-63 with 1:39 remaining.

Nance scores 21 as North Carolina survives Syracuse, 72-68

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Pete Nance scored 21 points, capped by a dunk with 19 seconds left that put North Carolina in front for good as the Tar Heels pulled out a hard-fought, 72-68 battle with Syracuse on Tuesday night.

Joe Girard hit from beyond the arc to put Syracuse up, 68-66 with 1:28 left, but after Nance hit the first of two free throws to get North Carolina within one, he missed the second free throw and in the scramble to gather in the rebound, the ball caromed toward the end line and Girard dove to save it. Instead, he flicked the ball right to Nance, who dunked for the lead.

Judah Mintz tried to drive the lane for a go-ahead layup but was called for an offensive foul that was upgraded to a flagrant foul. North Carolina took possession and Caleb Love converted three straight free throws to put the game away.

Armando Bacot scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds with four assists for North Carolina (15-6, 7-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Love finished with 15 points and five assists.

Girard hit 4 of 9 from beyond the arc and finished with 18 points to lead Syracuse (13-8, 6-4). Mintz scored 17 points and had three steals and Chris Bell hit 3 of 5 from deep and finished with 15 points.

North Carolina has a week off before playing host to Pitt on Feb. 1. Syracuse plays at Virginia Tech on Saturday.

Green Bay fires Will Ryan after 11th straight loss

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay fired Will Ryan three days after the Phoenix suffered their 11th consecutive loss.

Ryan, the son of former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, posted a 15-61 record in 2 1/2 seasons. Freddie Owens, who had been an assistant coach on Ryan’s staff, will be interim head coach for the rest of the season.

“UW-Green Bay is committed to continuing its legacy as an outstanding Division I athletics program in the future, and Phoenix men’s basketball needs to help lead the way as we work to elevate all of our programs and be a shining light for this region and beyond,” athletic director Josh Moon said in a news release announcing the move.

Moon thanked Ryan and his family for their contributions to the program and said that “we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Stadium first reported Ryan’s firing.

Green Bay dropped to 2-19 overall and 1-9 in the Horizon League with a 72-38 home loss to Robert Morris.

Ryan was hired by Green Bay after going 14-13 in his lone season as the head coach at Division II program Wheeling (West Virginia). Green Bay went 8-17 in Ryan’s debut season and finished 5-25 last year.

Ryan had taken over for Linc Darner, who went 92-80 and posted a winning record in four of his five seasons.