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Postgame: UVA coach Tony Bennett, Jack Salt on loss to Florida

virginia uvaUVA coach Tony Bennett and center Jack Salt talk with reporters after the Cavs’ loss to Florida in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.


THE MODERATOR: We’ll have Coach Bennett make an opening statement.

TONY BENNETT: First, Florida played a terrific game. You saw a really good defensive team play against a team that was really struggling offensively. But you can see why they’re good — their quickness, their athleticism. The thing that was frustrating is we really accomplished a lot this year. To end that way is obviously what really stings. It really does.

London’s had such an amazing career. It’s just part of life. I could hear the Xavier guys. They were right next to our locker room. The way they were celebrating after their big win. The thrill of victory, and then you get the agony of defeat. You feel that.

But that’s life. We’ll grow from it. Our returners have got some valuable experiences, and we’ve got work to do, that’s obvious.

But, again, I want to tell you Florida played a heck of a defensive game, and we were very poor offensively. They got some length behind. London and I talked about it. That quickness up front and that length behind protecting the rim was very challenging for us, and we didn’t shoot it well when we got some looks. That’s what happens.

Q. London, I mean, obviously, you had a terrific game the other night, struggled more tonight. Could you just talk a little bit about Florida’s defense and how much what they did impacted your inability to get the kind of production you wanted.
LONDON PERRANTES: Obviously, the guards were quick. They got into the ball. But I think it helps when they have, obviously, like Coach said, length in the frontcourt. So if you get by that first guy, you’re meeting some athletic, tall guys in the paint. Obviously, when we got some open looks, we didn’t hit those either. So they kind of just packed that paint and basically dared us to make a three. I think we made one tonight. I don’t think you’re going to win a game like that.

Q. Jack, today you and Mamadi start together for the first time, opened up the game pretty well between you two and getting some production. You guys combined for 6 of the first 8 points, 8 of the first 13. What do you think you guys were doing well then? And then as the game kind of progressed, did their size start to negate things in the post for you?
JACK SALT: I thought the team had a pretty solid start, playing them well, and then just their length and their quickness got to us a little bit. They were just getting looks, and we weren’t converting on ours.

TONY BENNETT: Just to add to that, I think it was 19-17. Then at the 3:00 mark or 3:03, I was looking at that, they went up 21-17. We weren’t playing the way we needed to, and then it just separated.

Certainly, Jack and Mamadi did some good things. I thought we kind of had the game going the way we wanted early, and then it separated.

Q. London, obviously, not the way you expect to end your career, sitting on the bench and kind of watching it transpire. What’s going through your mind in the last few minutes? Any reflections?
LONDON PERRANTES: I don’t even know what was going through my mind. It’s a bunch of emotions, obviously, just it was over. It was over for me. I couldn’t do anything else. To help extend that, help extend my season, my career. I was just feeling like I couldn’t do anything anymore. It was kind of frustrating for me.

Yeah, obviously, I’ve got to step back from it and look at the past four years. I did some things that I could be proud of, but right now, obviously it’s tough.

Q. London, when you know your career is ending like this, how much do you try to get those other guys involved? It seems like you’re still trying to get those other guys involved. What does the future look like?
LONDON PERRANTES: I knew my shot wasn’t falling, but I was still going to try to be aggressive obviously. My game is not to go out and play one-on-one. Even though we were down 20, 25, I’m not the person to just try and go get mine to go out on a high note. I was just trying to keep playing ball. Maybe some shots would fall. Maybe we’ll get some stops.

I came in with the team. I’m going out with the team. It’s not a one-man thing.

Q. London, I’m curious, with Kyle and Ty being younger guys, it seemed like last year that loss, Malcolm’s last game was very impactful for you. They had a similar reaction to this being your last game. What do you hope that they learn or take away specifically from kind of tonight, how tonight feels?
LONDON PERRANTES: Coach Bennett talked about it. They’re going to have to come back, and if they want to get to that next level, it’s going to — you’ve got to take this feeling and put the fuels to the fire and get back to work during the summer, during the off-season, so we don’t — so they don’t have this feeling again. Obviously, I don’t want to have this feeling again. It’s going to add some fuel to my fire, too, moving forward.

I know they’ll be back. We’ve got some good young talent, and Coach Bennett is a genius behind it. So they’ll get back to work, and they’ll be back for sure.

THE MODERATOR: London and Jack, thank you very much. You can go back to the locker room.

Q. Tony, after their flurry at the end of the first half and the dunk, you kind of just looked like you had a bemused face. I don’t know what the expression to call it. Kind of a weird smile on your face like you just didn’t have an answer on the way off the court. Do you remember what you were thinking at that point?
TONY BENNETT: I don’t think I was happy. I’m not sure what I was thinking. It was 19-17 with about 3:15 or whatever. We had missed some shots, but we were battling, and then we struggled to score and then we had a few breakdowns. If we’re not shooting well, it’s hard for us because we don’t score a whole lot in the post. They’re potent. They get down the floor.

I just said, all right, I was just trying to figure out at the half, is there anything we can do? We started out going four guards, but I was just frustrated because I thought we had played well enough to be at least attached. I didn’t think the game was over, but I just didn’t like that feeling of how we finished the last — didn’t score, I think, the last five minutes, and then the last three minutes they went on that 10-0 run, and we gave up too much and were fighting to hang in there. That’s enough.

Q. Tony, I think after one of the early season wins, you were asked about the team, and you said you didn’t know how good the team could be, but you just wanted to play to its potential, whatever that would be. Do you think, maybe tonight aside, this team got everything out of itself that it maybe could have? Particularly with Isaiah out tonight.
TONY BENNETT: Yeah, that affected us, of course. I told this team a few nights ago they’re one of my favorite teams. I might have to rethink — no, I’m just kidding. I still feel that way about them because we lost a lot. There was a lot of expectations, but they did a lot. Take this game away — and you can’t take it away completely, but to finish 11-7, to win 23 games, to make the Tournament, to advance with the inexperience and to stay together. We went through some of the losses. I admired that about them, and I’ll always admire that.

Isaiah gave us everything he could and tried to play, but this team got a lot from itself, and it’s a credit to them. It’s a credit to the coaching staff. But then yet to end it this way, to just get overwhelmed like that the last whatever minutes, just feeling a little bit outmatched was frustrating.

But like I said, I challenged the guys that are returning. You’ve got to grow from this.

Q. I’m going to cheat with a two-part one: At 13-13, is that game unfolding kind of exactly the way —
TONY BENNETT: Yeah, I liked — Jack battled, and Mamadi was good early. Yeah, we were defending pretty well. We were hitting them with some screens, got a couple easy ones at the rim, pocket passes, wraps. It was right. But there is a reason why Florida in defensive efficiency is in the top five in the country. They really defend. You’ve got to make some shots. I liked what we were doing early, but they adjusted and did a good job. Then we had too many breakdowns, then it was separated. Yeah, it was going the way we needed to go to play against them.

Q. You talked about not having a post presence for scoring and other offensive limitations. Given that — and I know you haven’t done it yet — evaluate what you and the staff were able to do. It seemed like almost game to game you had to find other ways to do it. Was that fun? Challenging?
TONY BENNETT: Against UNC-Wilmington, we went five guards and tried to attack and made some plays. We tried it again, and it didn’t work. We were desperate, trying to find ways to get points on the board. At times we had to play four guards. We had to use Devin at times. In the game against UNC-Wilmington, it was five different guys playing.

It was challenging. Fun? It was rewarding when it went well. It was always such a fine line. You saw when things aren’t going well against a team of this caliber in this setting to get smacked like that is tough.

But I told you guys on whatever day I hold this with open hands, and I have to. I have to learn from it. I’m very fortunate. I look at this opportunity as a blessing. To coach, to be in these settings. And I say, if you’re going to take the good, you have to take the hard and grow from it, and that’s what I will try to do.

I probably made some mistakes in this game. I’ve got to go back to the drawing board and figure out where we can tighten things up and be better.

Q. Mamadi and Jack combined for 17 points and 16 rebounds.
TONY BENNETT: I would have liked that on the front end, if you’d have told me that.

Q. If you’d have taken that going in?
TONY BENNETT: Yeah, I would have said it’s not going to be a 65-39 game.

Q. What did you think about Mamadi, makes the start?
TONY BENNETT: Yeah, a couple times he had breakdowns, but it’s a sophomore and a freshman. They battled. You saw Jack’s heart. He’s a warrior. You saw Mamadi’s athleticism. Mamadi has to keep getting used to it. Darius at times did some good things. I liked, at least for the most part, what I saw in them. It wasn’t a lack of effort on their part for sure.

Q. When you are having an offensive game like this or lack of an offensive game, what can you do in game? Is there anything you can do to get a spark? What do you do this off-season knowing that you need that?
TONY BENNETT: Yeah, for sure. We tried. We went four guards at times. Tried to spread the floor, ball screen a little more. They’re pretty good. We tried our whole package really, basically different things, different lineups. Got some decent shots, but, again, you go 1-of-15, and then their defense, it got a little shook.

You know, there’s a gap. We’ve got to improve our program. They accomplished some stuff this year, but we’ve got to get better, and we’ve got to continue to recruit well, continue to develop players well.

We have two guys that redshirted that I think in the future can help for sure, but we’ve just got to keep growing for sure. Those young guys, Ty and Kyle and Mamadi, as first years, invaluable experiences to play in the ACC and get the amount of minutes they did and the opportunities to get in the NCAA Tournament, ACC Tournament, that’s important. Even though — and probably it should sting, and that will push those guys to work. But they had some great moments, too, for being freshmen.

That’s part of using that and figuring out ways to try to get a little more scoring, a little more shooting, all those things come into play.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for being with us, Coach.

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