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Press Conference: UVa. basketball coach Tony Bennett

tony-bennett-newlinks2Transcript from UVa. basketball coach Tony Bennett’s pre-ACC Tournament press conference.

On being named ACC Coach of the Year: “I’m very thankful for it in a league like this. I said it before I came on, I think you could have voted for a number of guys but it usually just goes to the team that wins it. But, a lot of guys did a great job. When you win an award like that, and I know every coach says it, but it’s the job your players do and they did a heck of a job.”

On UVa’s loss to Maryland: “I thought that we didn’t play poorly. but we didn’t play well. I think Maryland played well. There was a hunger that you could see in them that was better than ours. We played hard, but we weren’t hungry. At this stage of the year, it’s tough, but I think we can learn from it heading into postseason play. I know that we talked about it all week, and with our bye I’m sure they were getting patted on the back all week about all that stuff. It’s great when you can learn lessons in victory, but sometimes the best lessons come from a defeat like we just had. Now we’ve got three days of preparation for either Maryland or Florida State, and we’ve got to be hungry heading into this ACC Tournament. I think we learned that in this game. I’ll take it and say ‘we lost and it is what it is’, but I think it will end up being a positive how we use it and learn from it.”

On UVa’s recent struggles in the ACC Tournament: “The challenge is to take that next step in the ACC Tournament. Hopefully, we’re more balanced and a better team and will be ready. We’re not going to change who we are, but you really want to play well. That’s the challenge that’s in front of us – that we haven’t gone on in this tournament. But, it’s a great opportunity and that’s all we can ask for.”

On Joe Harris’ stepping up his play: “I think he’ll need to. We’ll need everybody at their best at this point in the season. Against Clemson he did that, he really took over. He has to be aggressive within reason. Joe knows his game and he knows when he’s feeling it. I think you need to trust that a player knows when they’re not feeling it, when they’re off so they’re not going to press. Joe needs to be assertive for us and I think he will be, I really do. I think we’ll need it for everybody. The thing that most people don’t see is that, even though we have a stronger team with more weapons, he is still the focal point for most defenses. They tag him and shadow towards him and don’t want to let him get going. I’m not saying they want to make someone else beat them, but he can do that. We have more weapons so we can overcome it, but he still gets guarded hard and sometimes when they’re doing it there’s not much that you can do, so just create shots for other guys. Hopefully, he’ll keep that assertive mindset and I expect that.”

On London Perrantes’ recent shooting success: “There are times when you need to be a threat out there. If teams are thinking that he’s not going to shoot then that makes the game harder. I really do trust London’s feel, it’s one of his strengths, so I like to tell him that he needs to be assertive within reason. It seems like he’s been doing that more and more. We had that talk before the first game of the ACC season at Florida State and I saw him do it a little bit. At times he gets so pass first oriented, but he has that ability to stretch the floor. Again, the more weapons you have, especially with the perimeter guys out there, it will open things up for Joe and the defense will have to pay attention to everyone.”

On UVa’s rotation: “Each games dictates what you need to do. We’ve shortened the rotation and gone most of the regular season with seven guys with solid minutes. The eighth, ninth and tenth guys with Evan [Nolte], Darion [Atkins], and Teven [Jones] will remain the same. Each game will require something different and that’s something that’s been effective for us all year. It’s a feel thing, it really is. That’s not going to change for us just because we’re in the postseason. We’re not going to play 11 guys and not seven, or we’re not going to only play seven guys. It’s all about the matchup and we need what we’re struggling with, because each guy brings something different.”

On changes in the team during the season: “I think the practices leading up to most of our games were great. The intensity stepped up and the leadership of Joe [Harris] and Akil [Mitchell] was great. The Florida State game where Joe got his concussion two minutes in, but our guys hung together was important. They battled and came through, and since it has been different guys in different situations. There has been such a hunger in practices and that usually holds true. I certainly just point to the different intensities in practice. That comes from those those guys like Joe and Akil seeing things not going right and getting things straight. That change led to guys working harder themselves and being hungrier.”

 
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