Virginia NCAA Tournament Notes
• Virginia posted its first NCAA Tournament win and advanced to the round of 32 for the first time since 2007
• Virginia posted its 29th win of the season, its most since 29 wins in 1982-83
• The Cavaliers won their 14th road/neutral game of the season, most since 18 in 1982-83
• The Cavaliers held their 22nd straight opponent under 50% shooting
• The Cavaliers improved to 13-1 when scoring at least 70 points
• Virginia improved to 7-4 this season when trailing at the half
• The Cavaliers improved to 1-4 this season when allowing 31 or more first half points (allowed 35 tonight)
• Virginia rallied from a 10-point deficit to win for the second time this season (trailed by 11 points in Feb. 18 win at Virginia Tech)
• The Cavaliers’ 10-0 run early in the second half marked the 18th game this season UVa has had a 10-0 run or better
• Virginia tied a school record with its 35th game of the season (2012-13)
• Anthony Gill (17 pts) scored in double figures for the 15th time this season
• Gill scored in double figures for the fifth consecutive game (longest streak of his career)
• Malcolm Brogdon (14 pts) scored in double figures for the 27th time this season (32nd time in his career)
• London Perrantes (12 pts) scored in double figures for the fifth time this season
• London Perrantes (6 assists) had his 12th game with at least five assists this season
• Joe Harris (11 pts) scored in double figures for the 23rd time this season (92nd time in his career)
• Joe Harris tied the school record with his 35th start of the season (tying Joe Harris & Akil Mitchell – 2012-13)
• Justin Anderson, Darion Atkins, Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, Joe Harris, Akil Mitchell, London Perrantes and Mike Tobey tied the school record with their 35th game played this season (tying six players in 2012-13)
Virginia Career Record Book Update
• Akil Mitchell (787 rebs) moved into a seventh place tie on Virginia’s career rebounding list, passing Chris Williams (786 rebs, 1999-02) and tying Ted Jeffries (787 rebs, 1990-93)
MODERATOR: We’re now ready to begin the Virginia press conference. Coach, if you could start with an opening statement, please.
COACH BENNETT: It was a tale of two halves without a doubt. Credit to Coastal Carolina. The shots they hit, the job Coach Ellis did, they made tough shots. We weren’t quite dialed in defensively, but they made some tough plays and they showed that they were ready to play. And we were off. We were struggling to score. We weren’t as sharp defensively as we needed to be.
Then in the second half, I think the guys kept their composure, got a great lift certainly from Evan and Anthony and tried not to panic but tried to up the ante defensively. That’s what happened.
MODERATOR: At this time, we’ll open the floor for questions for student‑athletes.
Q. Evan, considering you’re kind of fluctuating playing time this year, how surprised are you to be sitting up here at the podium, having hit those big shots?
EVAN NOLTE: It’s pretty ‑‑ I don’t know if it’s hit me yet, but it’s definitely a good feeling. Especially if your minutes fluctuate, whenever you can come in and help your team like that, it means a lot. Also, when you’re doing that, everybody around you is happy for you. That makes it even more special.
Q. Talk about how you got so wide open there in the corner.
EVAN NOLTE: So with the offense we were running, where we do flare then curl, and I come down and set a screen, my guy, he has to make a decision whether to help and stop the ball or sag or stay on me. And then that guy can get to the rim. So when I set a screen, the guys look for me and then make a good pass out to the three‑point line. That’s how I got open.
Q. Anthony, you were on the court for most of the second half. It’s a tie game, I think, with about eight and a half minutes left. What are the players saying to each other at that point?
ANTHONY GILL: Just stay together. When we got into halftime, Coach Bennett preached unity. We came in and we weren’t really executing the way we should have. We weren’t really moving the ball like we normally do.
The second half, we decided to play as a team. That’s how we’ve been winning games all season and we decided to pick it up right there and play for each other.
Q. Anthony, you and Akil and Tobey often have a lot of offensive rebounds, but you guys were held to zero today. What was Coastal doing and were they just being physical? I guess, what was so tough about getting the offensive boards today?
ANTHONY GILL: I’m not really sure right now. I guess we’ll have to go back on the film and see if we went hard enough to the glass. I thought we did at times, but they were doing a good job boxing out.
Credit to them. They’re a great team and they have great bigs that can play.
Q. Anthony, in the first half, you were 2 of 5. You initiated some nice drives to the basket. A lot of contact. Then you seemed to get all frustrated. Second half, what changed? So many times you cut and got wide open. What was the difference between the first half and the second half?
ANTHONY GILL: My teammates, they trust me and they look for me whenever I am posting up. And I appreciate that a lot. I’m not sure. I guess I was just cutting harder in the second half because in the first half we weren’t getting the offense that we really wanted to.
Q. With them putting a scare into you, your fans are freaking out, people on Twitter are freaking out. When you’re on the court, can you focus on executing, or does your mind ever wander to oh, my God, we’re going to be the 1 that loses to a 16?
ANTHONY GILL: I think we just stayed focused throughout the whole game. We knew that we were going to pick it up and we had to pick it up and that’s what we did. I don’t think ‑‑ of course, your mind can wander, but you just try to stay as focused as you can and execute what you’ve been practicing all year.
Q. Evan, did the 1‑16 thing ever pop into your mind during the two hours you’re out there on the court? What was it like seeing Duke go down earlier today?
EVAN NOLTE: First, seeing Duke going down kind of reiterates the fact that this tournament, anyone can win. The margin of error is so slim. Someone asked me, they said when you’re on the bench the first five minutes, did you ever think we could lose this game? And I responded, I said if you’re sitting on the bench and you’re thinking your team could lose the game, like you shouldn’t be on the team, because the goal is to win the game. So you’re there saying yeah, we’re going to win the game.
Q. Anthony, I know you knew you were going to play against Eric Smith. But for you two to be going against each other in a tournament game after leaving the place you were together as teammates, what was that like tonight?
ANTHONY GILL: At first, it was a little weird, going against my old teammate. That was my point guard at my old school. But it was fun in a way, just to be out there on the court with him again. It feels good to come out with a win. But yeah, it was a great time playing with him. But I’m happy here too.
MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Congratulations.
We’ll open the floor up for questions for Coach.
Q. Tony, I don’t know whether you spent an unusual amount of time in the locker room, but you were later than Coastal coming out. What kind of message did you try to pass along?
COACH BENNETT: Halftime, right, you’re talking about? There was a little ‑‑ I said it in the post‑game. There was some bickering going on. You could feel the guys, come on, what’s wrong? We shouldn’t be in this spot. I just told them, I said, you guys have been so unified, what Anthony referred to, all year. That’s a strength of yours. You’re an unselfish team. When you’ve played your best ball, your unified. Now you’re going to start fracturing? I said you have to come together in a way that you haven’t all year, because of what’s at stake and I said ‑‑ interesting hearing Evan. I said they’re capable of beating you. I said, stop being afraid. If you lose, you lose. I said play. I said, play as hard as you can defensively. You’ve got to lay everything you’ve got defensively and let it come offensively. I said take the shots that are there, stop trying to do it by yourself offensively. But you’re going to win it with your defense. I repeated that a few times and kept talking about those things.
Look, Vic, you asked me the question here, can a 16 beat a 1? Yeah, of course they can. It will probably happen. We were going to maybe be the poster child for that if we didn’t pick it up. But it’s college basketball. Our game’s a 40‑minute game, and you just watch. You mentioned some of the games, you mentioned some of the 1 seeds. There isn’t a big separation. I know that sounds like coach speak, but it’s not. There are too many good players you have to play.
I don’t know if our guys felt it or not. We didn’t feel quite like we were capable. In the second half, they did play.
Q. Tony, Coach Ellis said in the second half, you guys simply wouldn’t let them do what they wanted to do offensively. Can you talk about specifically what you did to shut them down?
COACH BENNETT: Our system is our system defensively, and it was just an idea of trying to be tenacious. Having a mindset of being so tough and sound and make them make plays over the top, contested shots. Some of the shots they hit were tough early. Then we had a few uncharacteristic breakdowns and just said are you going to have an iron will? Are you going to outlast them or will they outlast you? That will determine who will win the game.
You saw some of the bounces or some of those passes kind of ricochet off. Boy, is this not our night. Sometimes that does creep into your head if you’re honest. But I said you’re not going to go down without tightening up. I thought we were much sounder defensively with just not getting stretched, making them make plays over the top. They missed a couple and I thought we blocked out a little better.
So I don’t know if they got fatigued or not, but we seemed to get a little stronger as it went on.
Q. Do you view this as a sign of Virginia’s mettle or a red flag for how this team might perform, a number 1 seed might perform in this tournament?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, I mean, probably both. I think you’re always ‑‑ you look and say that won’t cut it when we play Memphis. You can’t spot a team like that. They probably have a little more explosive scoring ability. We’re going to have to be sounder. We’re going to have to be more ready.
But I think they also showed some mettle and that’s why ‑‑ that was the message before to your game’s a 40‑minute game. Keep playing. I told them in practice, if they happen to separate from you a little bit, I said don’t panic. Keep playing. If you separate from them, you have to keep battling. We didn’t get in that spot too many times this year, but they’ve always had something where they’ve stayed together and kept playing.
At least we came upon the right way for us in the second half and know we’ll have to do it for the majority of the game or most all possessions against Memphis.
Q. Tony, for a guy like Evan who doesn’t get consistent minutes, do you have to keep his confidence up during the season or is he the kind of kid that is ready when he’s called on?
COACH BENNETT: He’s got great character. He’s been real aggressive and I think it’s helped him. When we’ve gone against ‑‑ we put guys on the Green Machine, we call it, to run the scout team stuff, I try to get him some reps with us. But I think it’s been good for him because he’s really been able to be aggressive and he’s been hard for us to stop.
So I think he almost, he knows that’s going to keep him in better shape, keep him sharper, and he showed that. We needed that. I mean, his buckets were huge. For him to step up and do that in that setting without playing that much speaks volumes of him.
You always worry about that. That’s the hardest thing for me as a coach. All these guys desperately want to play. They work so hard. You can’t play them all. We’ve shortened our rotation. But it’s the greatest lesson in saying stay ready because in this setting he was the guy that helped us get to this next round.
Q. Just with Evan, he didn’t play in the game against Duke on Sunday. What kind of made you put him back into the rotation for this game? Did you see something specifically that made you think he could contribute?
COACH BENNETT: We thought he could stretch them. They at times went ‑‑ their number 23, Badou Diagne, I think that’s how you pronounce it, was hard for us to guard. He was mobile and almost played like a mobile four. We thought he’s not posting up that much. He’s playing more on the perimeter. Maybe Evan can play him that way and then we can get some bang offensively by stretching it.
The question that was asked to Evan, when Evan ‑‑ when you come off of a screen from Evan, if Joe’s coming off, they’ve got to decide am I going to stay. Our other bigs don’t screen and separate out to the corner or the three like that, or on a ball screen, most of the guys will roll to the rim. But he causes you kind of more as a stretch four. And we’ve played him mostly as a perimeter guy, as a three. In this game, we said let’s match him up.
Coach McKay said I think we can use him as a four. He had a scout and did a good job and said I think he’ll be okay defensively and give us some potency offensively and space the floor a little bit.
That’s why Anthony got some of those shots and Joe. They were in between places.
Q. You mentioned the bickering, not wanting to see them come apart. How early did you see that and were you panicked a little that oh, man, after all this they’re going to come unglued?
COACH BENNETT: As you a coach, you always know it’s a fine line. I just thought we were uncharacteristic how we were playing. I can live with it if a team plays great and beats us, but you don’t want to go out, if you’ve come this far and played the kind of ball you’re capable of, you don’t want to go out and not play in that way.
That was the only thing that concerned me, how we just were a little impatient. I didn’t feel like we had quite the tenacity that was needed. So that was what was bothering me, and I don’t know if they thought it would come easy or if they were a little nervous. I’m not sure. I really am not. I don’t know what goes on inside of their minds. But I knew we needed to settle ourselves, become more composed but more tenacious in the same way. You needed to do both. You needed to do it offensively but defensively come up with the soundness and toughness they showed. You wouldn’t want to end your season like that, especially how they’ve played and what they’ve done up to this point.
Q. Tony, talking with some of the guys in the locker room, they said that your demeanor and your even keel‑ness basically calms them down throughout the course of games. How difficult was it for you today, especially in that first half, to not get too high or too low to make sure your guys stayed calm?
COACH BENNETT: You got to keep playing. There’s times you got to get after them and you got to a arouse them. We tried to do that. But I thought you’ve got to feel that situation. There’s times you have to say a lot of possessions. You got to stay steady. You can’t panic. I think our guys play best that way, having that balance of that fire in their belly, but you need composure because it’s such a long game. There are so many stops now and the lengths of the stops are longer. You get started and all of a sudden, there’s two and a half minutes where you’re sitting out. Some of the guys were frustrated. They slipped on the floor a couple of times, the ball goes out. Some uncharacteristic things happened and I thought that got us a little uneasy. I felt like they needed a little more steadiness at certain times. And my assistants, they tell me stuff too. Hey, hey, just calm them down, calm them down. They’ll say jump them. I trust them and they’re a great guide for me that way too.
Q. Coach, starting on the second half, you inserted Anthony Gill in the lineup. And then there was a spell sort of midway through the half where both Akil and Joe were on the bench and the team is scoring pretty fluidly. Talk about juggling your lineup to help both ends.
COACH BENNETT: I think desperate times call for desperate measures. I think that’s been a strength of ours all year. Different guys have stepped up. This time, it was Evan, but we do have some versatility that way. And we needed to score some points and the guys were holding their own defensively. And guys needed a little rest. We had foul trouble with Akil. I played Anthony and London a lot of minutes in that second half but with the longer breaks, it was time for that.
But yeah, that’s what I think makes us different than in years past, to have the versatility and the depth to do that.
MODERATOR: Sorry, gentlemen, but our time’s up with Coach Bennett. Coach, thank you very much and congratulations.
COACH BENNETT: Thank you.
UVa. Locker Room
Virginia sophomore forward Evan Nolte
On his performance versus Coastal Carolina: “I just tried to come out ready. I got some good looks, I was able to knock them down and I was shooting with confidence.”
On coming off the bench and making an impact: “I always have the mentality of staying ready. If the game doesn’t go well, I’m always ready to come in off the bench. Being a shooter, you try to come in with confidence and don’t try to hesitate.”
On the feeling of making an impact in the win over Coastal Carolina: “It’s the best feeling when you’re in the game and you have it going. It’s an even better feeling when you don’t get a lot of time and you come in and can help your team like that. Everyone was really happy for me, so it makes it that much better.”
Virginia redshirt sophomore forward Anthony Gill
On beating No. 16 seed Coastal Carolina: “Winning any game in the tournament is a relief because if we don’t win we’re going to home. Coastal Carolina is a good opponent, regardless if they are a No. 16 seed. They’re a great team, they have great players and we have to respect everybody.”
On what the team takes away from its victory over Coastal Carolina: “Play as a team like we’ve been doing. Don’t let the bright lights and all that put pressure on us. We’re going to stick together, play as a team and play our defense.”
On not winning pretty: “A lot of people don’t like our game too much because we play slow on offense and make the other team use the whole shot clock on defense. A lot of people don’t really like our game, but when we’re winning games it’s fine with us.”
Virginia senior forward Akil Mitchell
On the difference between the first half and the second half: “I told the guys at halftime we can’t worry about losing, we just have to play our game. Enjoy the game like we’ve been enjoying it this whole season, and have fun doing it. It seemed like everybody was uptight, we were too tense and everybody was pointing fingers about losing. We had to enjoy the game and play and I thought we did that pretty well.”
On Evan Nolte’s performance: “Evan hasn’t played a whole lot down the stretch or in the ACC Tournament, but we all know he can shoot. It’s the epitome of our team. We say it all the time, we’re a band of brothers. It’s the strength of our team, being able to come together like that.”
MODERATOR: We’re now ready to begin the press conference for Coastal Carolina. If we could, we’ll begin with a comment from Coach Ellis.
COACH ELLIS: First of all, I want to congratulate Virginia. They really played a great second half. The three‑ball, the 3‑point shot really broke our back. They hit them at key times. I know the kid off the bench, Nolte, his two threes were big. When they come off the bench, sometimes you are not as focused as you need to be.
We knew going in we made sure to switch the screens. We didn’t.
But they showed why they’re good. They didn’t panic when we took the lead. They stayed the course. They played tremendous defense, especially the second half. They really took us out of what we wanted to do.
I’m proud of our team. We competed. At the same point in time, we came up short and we’re disappointed we didn’t win. We came in here to do that. But you got to give credit to Virginia. They’re a very good basketball team.
MODERATOR: All right. At this time, we’ll open the floor for questions for the student‑athletes.
Q. Were you surprised at how well you shot the ball early and to have that early lead? Or did you come in feeling like you’d get off to a good start?
ERIC SMITH: I don’t think we were so much surprised. We are real confident in ourselves and I think we did a good job moving the ball early and getting good looks that we’re accustomed to making and we were able to knock them down in the first half.
Q. How do you avoid kind of tensing up when you have the lead and it’s the 1‑16 game everybody talks about, how the 1 has never lost. How do you try to let some of those nerves go?
BADOU DIAGNE: I mean, our coach warned us about that. We have to stay in the moment, whatever happen in the game. And keep focused, stay on defense and not foul, not do anything bad.
Q. What was the feeling at halftime, having a lead and surprising a lot of people to that point?
ERIC SMITH: We felt real good at halftime. We did a good job early on following the game plan, which was to control the boards, take good shots when we get them. So we felt real good at halftime about what we did. Followed the game plan and that’s what gave us the lead that we had.
Q. Could you just sum up the experience of being in the NCAA tournament. The program hasn’t been here in a long time. What was the experience like for you guys?
BADOU DIAGNE: It was a nice experience. At the end of today, we came here just to focus and win games. So I guess it was good so far, but ‑‑ I mean, we had a good experience.
MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. You can return to the locker room.
At this time, we’ll open the floor up for questions for Coach Ellis.
Q. Cliff, what was your message to your team at halftime and what were you concerned about from Virginia in the second half?
COACH ELLIS: The message at halftime was stay the course. It was a long way to go. We’re only halfway there. We’ve got to keep doing what we were doing. Gillis had gotten three fouls. I thought our focus was when they got the ball to kind of mirror them, cushion and contain. We lost that containment a few times when they took it to the hole. Warren was in foul trouble and that was a big concern.
We had kept them to zero offensive rebounds. And I don’t know if that’s ever happened to Virginia, but I am so ‑‑ I knew that the threes and the rebounds were key, and we wanted to continue to do that.
Offensively, we’re doing some good things. The thing that turned the game around were some threes and then their defense ‑‑ we didn’t get the shots we were getting in the first half.
They’re long, they’re thick. Felt like we had a half a step on them as far as quickness. But they did a very good job positioning and you can see why they’re so good. They made it tough for us to score.
We were trying to grind it out, but those threes were, they were some back breakers.
Q. Cliff, you had the ten‑point lead there late in the half and in retrospect, had you been able to milk it a little, things might have changed. What was going through your head at that point?
COACH ELLIS: Momentum’s in your favor, don’t change anything, you know. You got momentum going. You don’t ever turn momentum off. We did have to get Gillis out of the game with the third foul. I think that made a difference, when he picked up that third foul. We got our best penetrator and a guy that can deliver. I thought that was big.
We had another guy ‑‑ we had a couple of guys with two fouls so I was trying to protect and not ‑‑ Gillis has got three, I can’t let Badou Diagne get three. I can’t let these guys get three. Guys off the bench, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
Q. Coach, you called a timeout early in the second half after Virginia came out of the locker room with the quick run. What did you see that they were doing differently and how did you try to counter that?
COACH ELLIS: They started taking it to the basket. We were losing that cushion. They were driving. Then we started doing that and then the three‑ball came. They came out driving it more. That was what I was doing. We got to have that cushion. Got to have that cushion.
Q. They got 17 from Gill off the bench.
COACH ELLIS: He’s been playing well. You look at him as if he’s a starter. He’s very athletic. Look at the guys that really hurt us, Gill, Nolte. Those are the two guys. They’re coming off the bench and they hurt us. So you got to give those guys credit.
MODERATOR: Any other questions? Coach, thank you very much.
COACH ELLIS: Thank you.
Coastal Carolina Locker Roon
On losing the lead: “We started forcing some shots and losing our fundamentals on defense. We were trying to do the same things they were doing. Then we started forcing some shots and we lost some possessions and they make you pay for it.”
The difference between the first and second half: “It was tough. We felt like we should have won the game. We had control of the game. Then we got into foul trouble and things just change quickly.”
On first half: “That first half is what we were expecting. We knew we could come out and play like that. Unfortunately, we couldn’t keep it up the whole game.”
On next season: “We have to take the next step. The next step is making it back here and it is going to take a lot of work. We will not get an automatic qualifier so we have to win the conference tournament again. We have to start over.”
On playing a strong first half: “We hung in there with them during the first half. We were doing everything right, but we could not finish strong.”