Postgame: Virginia coach Tony Bennett, UVA players on win over Georgia Tech

tony bennett uva basketballVirginia coach Tony Bennett and players De’Andre Hunter, Isaiah Wilkins, Mamadi Diakite and Kyle Guy talk with reporters after the top-ranked ‘Hoos defeated Georgia Tech, 65-54, on Wednesday.

Coach Tony Bennett

On locking in #1 in the ACC:
“This is the third one in five years as the ACC regular champion. That is not lost on me and all the players that I have been blessed to coach. This group, I told them, ‘You are trying to do something special, and it is not going to be handed to you.’ Credit to Georgia Tech and how physical they were and how they came out. We were not great tonight. But that is a credit to them after having two tough losses and some injuries. We had to earn it and outlast them.”

On playing the same lineup without injuries:
“I like that we have settled in. Different guys have played different amounts of minutes, but that is the starting lineup. We have not always had that luxury to do that. Up to this point we have been very fortunate. We have an elite medical staff with Ethan and our doctors. And what Mike Curtis does, it is not always by chance. Some of the things you cannot control. But they do a great job with their prep and keeping those guys as healthy as they can.”

On preparing for the postseason:
“I told our guys, ‘Not a whole lot of anything else matters right now except us preparing well, playing to win every time we step foot on the floor and then just trying to improve and see what we can learn.’ Obviously, we want to play well. But to establish tonight the one seed and get a share of it, of course you would like to keep winning. It is just not getting caught up in everything else. That stuff is just insignificant. The rankings, the seeding, what social media says – that is insignificant. I told them, ‘Do not overcomplicate this. Be about improvement, playing to win and then preparing the right way.’ We will see how far we can take this.”

On the team being the best version of themselves:
“I think that is all a team can ever do. Concentrate on the process and then good things happen after that. Those are the fruits of your labor. But this team is connected, they have got a clear understanding of themselves and then I think that is always our goal. Just max out. We do not want to leave any stone unturned, but be the best we can be. I know these sound all cliché but when you get down to it, that is what you have got to lock into. This team, up to this point, has probably reached their fullest potential.”

On Kyle being engaged tonight:
“Great question. I think he was 100 percent engaged. Locked and loaded.”

Guard De’Andre Hunter

On the first thirty minutes of the game and why was it such a struggle:
“We came out a little bit sluggish, I do not know why but we did. Georgia Tech is a good team, they came out, they played hard, they hit shots. They were playing good defense though, so that kept them in the game.”

On the challenges, Josh Okogie presented:
“He is a hard driver. He is very physical, he crashes the glass. So, I try to keep out of the glass and keep him in front.”

Forward Mamadi Diakite 

On the game plan against Ben Lammers:
“We were trying to not let him take the jumper. It was more so the fact that when he gets the ball, the guards were rubbing off of him and that was opening a lot of room in the back. Once we gave him a little bit of room, he would shoot it. They were using the little mistakes we made defensively to score, so they had a high percentage on those.”

Forward Isaiah Wilkins

On helping the guards:
“I think we are just trying to provide a lift. I think we did a good job of being aggressive, I think [Jack Salt] was really aggressive early and we talked about that on the way over here tonight. So, I think that it takes a little pressure off the guards when we can convert and get some points.” 

On if the team is meeting its goals of this season:
“I think that we are playing good team ball. After each game, there are obviously areas to clean up. But, I think we believe in each other and we are confident, and we will see where we go.”

On the performance by Mamadi Diakite off the bench:
“I think he gave us a big lift today on both sides of the ball. I was really happy for him. He got his postgame going, he was posting on some guards. He played really well tonight, I was really happy for him.”

Guard Ty Jerome 

On what it means to clench at least a share of the top seed:
“It is definitely a good step in the right direction for this year. We just cannot get complacent because we have so much more to go, hopefully at least 10, 11, 12 more games. We have so much more to do.”

On when to be a playmaker versus when to set up for his shot:
“It is just about making the right play. When the shot presents itself, I am going to shoot and when help comes, I will kick. It is about staying in attack mode and being aggressive.”

On his 13 points in the final 11 minutes of the game:
“I think it was just right spot, right time, some open looks. There was one time Dre was pushing in transition and he found me behind him. Just my teammates doing a good job of finding me in the right spots and I will be able to knock them down.”

On the impact of the 8-day break:
“I think there were just some breakdowns we had. I am not going to use the excuse of the break. There were some off ball screens we got beat on and some outside drives we gave up. And they did hit some tough shots too, so give a little bit of credit to them. But, we want to make every possession tough, and we did not do that in the first half. In the second half, we still had a few breakdowns.” 

Guard Kyle Guy 

On how the bench is adding to the team’s success:
“Just chemistry and trusting each other. De’Andre [Hunter] has really bought into that sixth man role and Nigel [Johnson] has been really good for us off the bench. So, I just think getting comfortable and everyone buying into our roles.”

On his conditioning:
“I do not feel as tired as I did last year at this point. Last year I was tired in December, so my body is holding up a lot better. I just feel like the bumps are not bothering me as much.”

On Mamadi Diakite’s performance:
“He was huge and he played really well offensively. Defensively, he helped keep [Ben Lammers] in check.”

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