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Justin Anderson-less Virginia searching for new identity

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Virginia's identity under coach Tony Bennett has been all about balance, but the injury to Justin Anderson has tipped the scale.

The Cavaliers proved good enough to pull out a 51-47 win over NC State on Wednesday. But to stay atop the ACC standings and in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, their offense needs to be re-calibrated.

Virginia ranks 12th in adjusted offense and is one of only four teams with both an offense and defense ranked in the top 15 according to KenPom.com. But against the Wolfpack, the Cavs scored only .911 points per possession. It's not quite a panic call, but Bennett knows they can't expect to be a top seed scoring at that rate.

"To kind of struggle along and have to grind it out and make enough plays validates that, hey look you can do this, but we've got to do it a little better," Bennett said.

Virginia has a favorable stretch to finish out the month. Four of its next five games are at home and none of its opponents have a winning league record. It won't be until the Cavs close the season at Syracuse and at Louisville in March that they face a team above .500 in the ACC.

By that time, point guard London Perrantes says he believes they'll have it figured out. He equated their offensive without Anderson -- at least their first game after his injury -- to playing in the preseason.

"Playing with different guys now we just have got to get our fluidity together and just get used to playing with each other," Perrantes said. "[Anderson] was a big part of our team minutes wise, scoring wise, doing everything for us."

Anderson, their second leading scorer at 13.4 points, suffered a fractured finger in the win over Louisville on Feb. 7 and is out for 4-to-6 weeks. Offensively, they'll miss his 3-point shooting and ability to get to the rim.

Neither has been a strength of Evan Nolte, Anderson's replacement in the starting lineup, this season. Nolte entered the game against NC State shooting 21 percent (8-of-37) from beyond the arc.

Nolte relies more on picks to get him free than Anderson and is not someone who can generally create off the dribble. But he did when it mattered late against the Wolfpack with a drive and dish to Anthony Gill to complete a three-point play.

Nolte is one of several different faces the Cavs plan on seeing more of and in different roles along with Devon Hall and Marial Shayok. Hall, a redshirt freshman, played 12 minutes against the Pack -- he previously had only logged double-digit minutes once in ACC play.

Shayok may have come out a little too aggressive. He missed three straight shots in the first half -- in attempts that didn't come within the flow of the offense -- and played only four minutes the second half.

"As a freshman you have ups and downs and it's hard to get a rhythm sometimes, he might be caught in one of those states," said guard Malcolm Brogdon. "At the same time, we need him to be aggressive, we need him to take shots."

They'll collectively need to take and make shots, but in doing so, the Cavs identity may need to be tweaked.

Perrantes averages only 5.6 points and has scored double figures only twice all season -- 26 against Miami and 15 against North Carolina. He scored all seven of his points against the Pack in the first half -- Virginia had only 19 total.

"I've got to look for my shot more," Perrantes said. "I'm usually looking to get others involved, but now I have to do what I can to help us win. If I need to shoot more I'll do it."

The Cavs might also look to their frontcourt for more production.

Virginia ranked ninth in the ACC in offensive rebound percentage according to KenPom.com, but grabbed 15 against the Wolfpack and scored 13 second chance points. In the low-scoring games the Cavs have found themselves in lately, that's a huge advantage.

"Losing Justin is tough for us, but I think we made a good adjustment especially in the second half we kind of realized what we had to do," said center Mike Tobey.

Tobey was 4-of-10 shooting for 11 points and had nine rebounds. He has had 10 attempts only one other time this season and he hadn't scored in double figures since getting 11 against the Pack in their first meeting on Jan. 7.

Gill tied a season-high with six offensive rebounds and had 11 overall. He's not ready to call UVa an inside team yet.

"We'll just have to find a different way to do things," Gill said. "Our game changes, but our system stays the same so I think we just are finding different ways to score without him on the court."