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Press Conference: UVA basketball on eve of NCAA Tournament

virginia uvaUVA basketball coach Tony Bennett and players London Perrantes, Isaiah Wilkins and Devon Hall talk with reporters on the eve of the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

 

Q. Isaiah Wilkins, how are you feeling? How much practice have you been able to do? How ready are you to play? And then for Devon and London, can you speak to their press defensively and what challenge it presents.
ISAIAH WILKINS: I didn’t practice all week at all. I go to practice, but I don’t do anything. I’ve been resting since we got back from New York. So today I’m going to work out a little bit when we go in there and see how I’m feeling, and it will probably be a game-time decision.

DEVON HALL: I think that their press is really active. We’ve been watching film on them. It seems to be their calling card. It’s just up to us to be able to handle it.

THE MODERATOR: London?

 

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LONDON PERRANTES: I think he answered that one.

Q. Everybody talks about their defense, but their offense is able to get really hot really quickly, and they make contested shots. Do you have to be really alert against a team that can be just shot makers? And what do you think about watching them?
LONDON PERRANTES: They shoot a lot of shots. They get them up very quickly, so of course they’re going to make some. We’re going to have to make them hit contested shots all game. If they can do that, then they deserve to win. We just can’t give up any open looks, any easy looks. I think we’ll be all right.

Q. London, this is your fourth time being in the Tournament. You played a lot of mid-majors and see teams that are seeded higher. They always come in with a chip on their shoulder. UNCW stretched Duke last year in the first round. They come in hungry, a successful team. How do you guys balance that? Especially with the 5-12. There’s that upset every year. It seems like it’s a trendy pick.
LONDON PERRANTES: We have to come in as if it’s a regular game. Obviously, when you get on the floor, seeds don’t come into play; just two teams looking to advance. We’ve got to come out and play to the best of our ability. Obviously, they’re going to come out firing. That’s the way they play — pressing, doing all types of things. So, we’ve just got to be ready for it.

I think, if we’re prepared, we’ll be fine, but we know it’s not going to come easy. I think we’re ready for a fight.

Q. Isaiah, even without practice this week, I’m sure you’ve watched plenty of tape of these guys. What have been your impressions of Cacok? He’s shooting about 80 percent from the floor. A guy who’s 6’7″ and would probably be your kind of matchup. If you can’t go, who are some guys to fill in to help with that?
ISAIAH WILKINS: We’ll probably start Jack at the five, and he’ll guard him. Mamadi, Jarred, guys like that I don’t go. He gets a lot of stuff off of pick-and-rolls, so we have to do a good job on ball-screen defense. From what I’ve seen, he gets a lot of dunks and layups. So, we got to try and stop that and make him shoot over the top of people.

Q. You had eight points and eight rebounds in limited minutes against Pitt. How much did that game take out of you and then affect you the next night against Notre Dame?
ISAIAH WILKINS: I was tired in that game, and one day of like back-to-back games, I think it took a lot out of me. I thought I was going to die against Notre Dame.

I’m glad I got these five days’ rest or whatever it is, and I’m trying to get ready for tomorrow.

DEVON HALL: He’s milking it. (Laughter).

Q. For all you guys, what did you learn coming out of New York? Obviously, a disappointing showing against Notre Dame the last game. What did you guys learn, what do you work on? And obviously, offense, you guys have got to get more consistent with offense. What are some of the things you guys worked on in practice?
LONDON PERRANTES: I think it came down to our defense. Obviously, we didn’t make shots, but we couldn’t stop them at all. We did a lot of defensive things. We did a lot of pick-and-roll defense. Obviously, with UNCW, they do a lot of pick-and-rolls after the fast break or even in fast break. I think this week we’ve been working on pick-and-roll defense a whole lot, if not the whole practice.

And then offensively, I mean, you’re not going to be hot all the time. Obviously, we wish we could have made some more shots in the Notre Dame game, but we’ve got to keep our confidence up and keep shooting the shots we can get.

Q. Devon?
DEVON HALL: Yeah, you nailed that one.

THE MODERATOR: Isaiah, anything else?

ISAIAH WILKINS: No.

Q. This is for Devon: Most games this year, you guys were undersized, particularly in the ACC. This might be a matchup where you do have a height advantage. How can you guys use that to your advantage tomorrow?
DEVON HALL: I think just being able to throw it inside. Some of the coaches have been preaching that we throw the ball inside and be able to get easier baskets doing that. So, we have guys like Isaiah, Jack, and Jarred who have guys on their back and they have good post position. Just throw it in and let them make plays.

Q. London, I remember Malcolm (Brogdon) talking about his last NCAA Tournament and looking around, noticing more stuff. Do you do that, or is it too early in the tournament for you to kind of take in any of the nostalgia stuff that he talked about?
LONDON PERRANTES: I mean, yeah, I’ve been trying to do that this year. Obviously, with the ACC Tournament being in Brooklyn, it was different, so I was trying to take all that in. It is actually my first time being in Orlando, so just taking some stuff in. My family will be here tomorrow before the game.

So just being able to take stuff like that in, allowing my family to be here is also cool, and just being able to have them here for the whole ride is going to be a great feeling.

I’m obviously not thinking about taking it all in as if it’s going to end tomorrow. I’m trying to prolong that as much as I can, but, yeah, obviously, I’m trying to take everything in for sure.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much and good luck tomorrow.

We’re joined by Virginia head coach Tony Bennett.

TONY BENNETT: First, just very thankful to be here, to be in this tournament, and excited about the opportunity. I never take for granted playing in this tournament and qualifying for it. I have a lot of respect for Kevin, Coach Keatts, and what they’ve done the last couple years with the UNC-Wilmington program. They’ve really built a heck of a program, a heck of a team.

And I understand in these games you’re going to have to — everybody’s capable, and you’re going to have to be as ready as you can. They’re so quick. They play a fast pace. They pressure the ball. They’re good off the ball screens. So, they test you in a lot of ways.

We’ve tried to prepare to the best of our abilities to be ready for this, but, again, thankful to be here, of course, and excited about the opportunity in front of us.

Q. I think it’s been 18 or 19 days since Isaiah had the strep throat. Is that kind of mystifying? It’s gone through the team, and he still has it. I guess the other guys are okay.
TONY BENNETT: Isaiah was up here. I don’t know if you asked him. I’m sure you did. We’ve held him all week. He hasn’t practiced. And we’re hopeful — we’re going to, I guess, test him, or he’s going to go through our 40 minutes out on the court and see how he responds and then kind of make it a game-time decision. Hopefully, he’ll be able to play in spots.

He says he’s feeling better, but, yeah, he’s lost some weight. He’s given us — he’s such a warrior. He’s given us whatever he can give us in those games, since he’s been sick. I think it’s just a nasty virus that’s gone through him. He’s been tested a couple times for mono, and both times it’s come back negative, which is good.

So we’re just trying to be as smart as we can. Obviously, he’s the heart and soul of this team in many ways, but we’ll see where it goes after today.

Q. Tony, along those same lines, with the matchup with Cacok and what he can do and him being — his quickness, it seems ideal for somebody like Isaiah. The backup plans, is this a time when maybe Mamadi can be a factor? Can Jack guard him? How do you like the matchup if you don’t have a full Isaiah Wilkins?
TONY BENNETT: You know my standard line, “We’ll need them all.” And that’s not just a standard line; we will. That stat is remarkable what he’s done. He’s shooting 79.9 percent. I think it’s because the guards are so good, and he rolls. He’s got good hands, and he can do stuff.

Yeah, we’ll need to be sharp on him. Of course, there’s guys — Jack and Mamadi and Jarred and hopefully Isaiah handling that. But he is quick. He’s strong. He’s explosive. So, they’ll all be getting chances with him. He does a really good job on the ball screens and rolling and finding the ball after that, and they find him.

Q. Tony, two parts: On their defense, when you look at the press, how important is London and his experience in going against that? And what do you see from them when they do settle, if they do settle, into a half-court defense? What do they do there?
TONY BENNETT: They do a good job. They have a few different kinds of presses. They can run and jump. They can make it hard to get it inbounds. They can trap you and just try to disrupt you with their quickness. So, they do a good job of that, and they turn that into offense.

Then in the half-court, they’re real pesky. They can get in passing lanes. They can switch on ball, off ball screens, and they just make you be real sure with the ball and handle it and work to get good shots. And, again, they use their speed and their quickness to be disruptive.

Q. 48 times since 1985 a 12 seed has upset a 5 seed. Is it just something about those teams, that matchup? Is it an anomaly? Have you thought about it, talked to the team about it and said, hey — because you guys were 1 and 2 seeds the last couple of years.
TONY BENNETT: Since what year?

Q. Since ’85, I believe. 48 times out of 148 games.
TONY BENNETT: Should be 49 because in 1991, Wisconsin Green Bay was a 12 seed, and they’re playing Michigan State. This guy, he was an okay player, named Steve Smith. I don’t know. He had his patented hesitation move at the top of the key, and my best friend Ben Johnson is draped all over him, and at the buzzer, swish. And they beat us, I believe, I think it was a 5-12 game. We were the 12. And we would have then played Larry Johnson at UNLV if we’d have won.

Listen, the way college basketball is now, and we always talk about the parity. Every year it shrinks. You’ve got to be ready. I think every year we’ve played we were going to be the first 1 seed to get upset. I was informed by our media that Clark Kellogg said right away that mark is there.

It’s reality when you’re playing this tournament. It really is. I don’t know if there’s anything to that number. You’re seeing two 15s, four 13s, they’re all there. Maybe the 5-12 one is there percentage-wise more, but I just think it’s such an even deal. In this game with UNC-Wilmington, there’s obviously a contrast of styles, but look what they did to Duke last year and a number of their players are returning.

But as I said, certainly respect them and we know we’ll have to play. That’s the reality. If you don’t play well, you won’t advance. You have to play, not perfect, but you’ve got to play well.

Q. Tony, if I’m not mistaken. Mike Scott — well, I know he played for Kevin. Was that after you got the job? Did you know Kevin before that? Did you have much dealing with him then?
TONY BENNETT: Not so much before. He was at Hargrave. He did a really good job there, and then he was with Coach Pitino at Louisville. When Mike was with us, Kevin would sometimes come up and obviously recruit his program. He was always terrific just in terms of support, whatever we needed, if it was talking to Mike, and obviously was so proud of the success that Mike had in his college career and then in the NBA. But that was more when I got there. It’s been eight years, Doug, I’ve been at Virginia, and I think it was in those early years.

I remember when I was starting Will Sherrill, a walk-on, over Mike Scott, and we had to get some things squared away. Kevin was great. He said, “I’ll help you any way I can.” But he was great.

Q. Along the lines of what you were talking about earlier, being like 5 or 6 seed rather than being a 1 or 2 seed, is it different? Do you come in with a different approach this week with the team and how you handle things when you’re more in the middle of the pack when it comes to seeding?
TONY BENNETT: We’re a different team this year. We have less experience. We have guys that have great experience. London’s going into his fourth tournament and other guys that have played in this, but we’re just a different team.

Our approach in how we prepare, there’s little adjustments. But there is a newness for some of the first-year guys that we have or guys that haven’t played. Maybe slightly, but not a lot. Again, it always comes down to there’s so much — it’s such a great opportunity. You walk in, and they’ll announce your name when you walk on the court, stay in a nice hotel, but it still comes to when that ball is tipped, who can walk in, who can execute, who can win the battle of the possessions and things you do. That’s what you’ve got to get to and not get caught up as much in the outside stuff or say, okay, now we’ve got to be different because we’re there. We have to address how different and good UNC-Wilmington is, but I don’t think there has to be constants in your approach.

Q. This might be the first time maybe all season or in a while, maybe you’re the taller, bigger team in this matchup. Do you try to exploit that? You talked all year that you guys aren’t really wired to go inside and things like that, but do you try to do that maybe a little more tomorrow considering the matchup?
TONY BENNETT: I think you see what the game brings. You try your hardest to, obviously, be as good as you can defensively, rebound. And offensively, if there’s opportunities, you always try to offensive rebound, but they do a good job with that. If there are opportunities, absolutely, you will. But, again, it doesn’t change your whole game plan.

They’re disruptive. They use their smaller guys to kind of get you a little frantic, and you’re going to have to have your composure with it. Yeah, if we have some opportunities, hopefully, that size will show.

Q. Tony, it was a 5-12 game in Tucson. You would have played Utah.
TONY BENNETT: And I had a bad second half. I started out, I had to hit a bunch of threes the second half. It was bad. I had a lot of assists, but my father let me know about that many times. “You know, son, if you’d played a little bit in the second half, we would have advanced, but you let me down.”

Q. Different team, but do you remind your guys of Wilmington taking Duke to the finish line last year on this stage?
TONY BENNETT: Yeah, I think with social media with you guys, I think they’re aware of that, that they remember it. What I told them in our preparation, I said, you know, in watching part of that game and remembering it and then watching it, the guys that are returning, boy, some of the creative shots they made, how they bounced up and made shots, how they went at it and they weren’t afraid of the moment at all. Not that I would expect them to. You watch against teams in their league and you have a feel for that, and you see them against guys we’ve gone against, some of the long, athletic guys, and they went at them. That even opened my eyes more and gained my respect more for the stuff they can do, and I certainly shared that with our guys, how capable they are, and how much of a veteran team they are.

Q. In that regard, did you take a long, hard look at their tape from Clemson this year?
TONY BENNETT: Certainly, we watched that, and you saw that. Some of this stuff is early. Some of this stuff is last year. You look at recent stuff, and you’re always looking at pieces of different games throughout. Coach Soderberg is doing the scout. Everybody’s got their pieces. We’ve watched a lot of games. You watch so many games, and Clemson was one of them, of course, because we were familiar. Seeing those guys make those plays and the things they could do against teams, where we’re not similar to Duke or Clemson, but at least you have in it your mind’s eye a feel for what that’s like.

Is there a limit to how many questions one guy can ask? (Laughter).

THE MODERATOR: We’re almost done.

TONY BENNETT: Oh, all right.

Q. You may be aware that Kyle Guy was in somewhat of a flap on social media. A lot of people praised him for his response. Are you aware of that at all?
TONY BENNETT: I wasn’t until I did the radio show with Dave, and he brought my attention to it. I’m not as familiar with that.

It’s funny, I just asked Kyle when we were getting on the airplane, and I said, “Hey, I was on my radio show, what happened? What was going on?” And we talked about it. I mean, that stuff, you could catch me — I said it on my radio show. I’ve been in games where we’re getting blasted, and I might look at my staff and just say, “Look at that guy’s hairdo over there.” I might make some crack, and we might giggle or laugh or who knows what. Just sometimes there’s a lightness in a moment.

I have no problem with that. I didn’t see it. I don’t care about it. If I thought it was disrespectful, if I thought a guy was being selfish or wasn’t working hard or wasn’t a competitor, so be it. But I know this team. I’ve said it before. We’ve lost together, and we’ve won together, and they’ve stayed true to that.

So much stuff is — people handle different things different ways with their facial expressions. I just kind of was filled in a little bit, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. I trust Kyle with that, without a doubt. I trust all my guys.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much. Good luck tomorrow.

 
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