Virginia NCAA Tournament Notes
• Virginia played in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1995
• Virginia ends the season with 30 wins, tied for the most in school history (1981-82)
• Cavaliers fall to 0-4 all-time against Michigan State
• Virginia held its 24th straight opponent under 50% shooting
• The Cavaliers’ 12-0 run late in the first half marked the 20th game this season UVa has had a 10-0 run or better (all three NCAA games)
• Virginia set a school record with its 37th game of the season
• Joe Harris (17 pts) scored in double figures for the 25th time this season (94th time in his career)
• Malcolm Brogdon (17 pts) scored in double figures for the 29th time this season (34th time in his career)
• Evan Nolte set a season high for rebounds by grabbing four in the first half (finished with five)
• Mike Tobey has scored the first Cavalier basket in all three NCAA Tournaments game this season
• Joe Harris set a school record with his 135th career appearance and tied the school record for career starts with his 128th (tying Ralph Sampson and Bryant Stith)
Virginia Career Record Book Update
• Joe Harris (1,698 pts) moved into 11th place on Virginia’s career scoring list, passing J.R. Reynolds (1,683 pts, 2004-07)
Postgame Press Conference
COACH TONY BENNETT: What a hard fought game. I think there was a couple opportunities where we maybe could have laid down, but they didn’t. And I told them what was remarkable about their season was sometimes you can get hot and have a five‑ or six‑game stretch, but these guys did it from the Florida State game to win a regular season conference championship, and then they carried it through to the conference championship. Got here and they don’t have to hang their heads for how they played.
This to me is what’s right about college basketball, to coach guys like this. It’s a joy to coach Joe, Akil and certainly Malcolm up here, but certainly these two seniors. You guys don’t know them as well as I do, some of the writers have, but what they’re about is good. And I’m thankful that for four years I got to be a part of watching them grow from boys to men and turn our program around. And I always tell them “A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul,” and they left a legacy that they won’t forget.
It stings now and it feels empty, and it’s a team you don’t want the season to end because you don’t want to stop coaching them, but I thank God for the opportunity to work with these guys, and they should hold their head high, and they are what’s right about the game of college basketball.
THE MODERATOR: Take questions for the student‑athletes.
Q. Over the first 10 minutes they only had one player score, Dawson. What was it about him that you guys struggled with, because you were obviously stifling the rest of their team?
MALCOLM BROGDON: I think Dawson presented a challenge because he’s very versatile. He can move, he has great body control when he gets in the air. He plays through contact. He was able to finish in a lot of different types of ways.
So he was just a hard matchup for us at the beginning.
AKIL MITCHELL: He’s an athletic player, he’s quick, he’s physical, and I don’t know if we underestimated him or what, but he got going early and was able to get on the glass and get in front of the rim.
Q. Joe, some of the things that have had been working offensively for the team most of the season seemed like they were very difficult to come by today. How good is Michigan State defensively? And what were they able to do?
JOE HARRIS: Michigan State’s a very solid defensive team. Very similar to us, they just made everything, everything tough on you, they make you earn every basket and I just thought they did a good job being in gaps, helping one another, it seems like they did a good job of just flooding. And they’re a good help defensive team.
Q. For either of the players: How great was it for you to even though you didn’t have the outcome that you may have wanted to have, how great was it to come up pretty much from Charlottesville up here to New York to play in Madison Square Garden?
AKIL MITCHELL: It’s a wonderful opportunity, of course, to get a chance to play here in the Garden. It’s a dream come true. I’m proud of these guys for the way they fought all year. We have always thought about it and dreamed about it for four years, Joe and I now, getting to this point and playing on this stage. So it’s been a fun ride.
JOE HARRIS: Yeah, I would just say Akil and I have been through a lot in our four years here, and this is how we wanted to leave the program. We wanted to leave it in a better spot than when we came in, and I think we definitely did that. And for to us make it to a Sweet 16 was awesome. To play in the Garden was unbelievable, but what made it more special was the team that we have is a special team. The bond that we have with one another, with our coaches, with our trainer, everyone, it goes down the line, with our managers, everybody is close with one another. And for all of us to experience it together made it such an unbelievable experience, and something that we’ll never forget for the rest of our lives.
Q. Malcolm, you guys shot 35.1 percent. Mostly their defense or do you feel like it was a cold shooting night at all?
MALCOLM BROGDON: I think I definitely have to credit their defense. They have a lot of good athletes. They contest shots. But we also missed some easy layups inside for sure. But I can’t take away from their defense. I think they did a good job on us.
THE MODERATOR: All right. We’ll excuse you to the locker room and take questions for Coach.
Q. Was there anything about the way the game played out that you hadn’t envisioned?
COACH TONY BENNETT: No, it was physical. You could see that. I thought we were a little ‑‑ they sped us up early. We were a little impatient, and then I think we got into our groove defensively late in the first half, and even offensively we started moving the ball better. They’re very good defensively. I thought that we had trouble scoring inside.
Something that hurt us Anthony rolled his ankle, Gill, and he’s such a scorer for us and he just he couldn’t move as well. I don’t know if you saw that. So defensively it was hard and offensively he didn’t. So we lost a little bit of our scoring punch inside. And then Mike, there was some matchup problems defensively, with Dawson or Payne stepping out. So we were struggling a little bit to finish inside. We actually did get some opportunities to score inside and couldn’t finish, and that cost us at clutch times.
So but we knew you were going to have to work, outlast them. And it was a classic game; what I thought it would be. We left a few out there we probably should have got, but I said, told the guys not to hang their head because it was hard fought, and it was enjoyable, I know, for me.
Q. After they gave you that opening and you guys got back into it, you had them on their heels a couple times. But what about that Michigan State team, guys that have been here and the sweat equity that goes with these situations, what makes them difficult in the final minutes?
COACH TONY BENNETT: They made a big three by Trice. I felt like momentum shifted. Justin hit the big three. We were really making some great stands defensively. We took them late in the shot clock. They looked a little stagnant and they were having to make plays. How they scored almost were broken plays or transition buckets.
But when you’re in a game like this, with this much at stake at this level, plays have to be made, whether it’s big shots hit or just a big block or something. They did that. We had a little trouble down the stretch doing that. A couple times we broke down and they made us pay, but they’re used to winning. They have obviously those guys, the experience, and they are a physical team. I think they’re playing the best ball. Dawson makes all the difference; he did today. He was a matchup problem for us. That’s where Anthony, I think had he been healthy, could have been better on him. I’m not saying he would have shut him down, but we would get a little more punch offensively with that, but he really ‑‑ he was good.
Q. How tough is it going to be to say goodbye to these seniors? And what did you tell your team after the game?
COACH TONY BENNETT: A little bit what I said in front of you guys there. They really are ‑‑ you guys have been around them. You know how special Joe and Akil are.
It’s life. We had so many good things happen this year. Unbelievable things. This is part of it. You got to take the hard, and not that this is hard. What a joy it is to play in this setting and to get our program here. But big shoes to fill, but I think they have established this program, and I think it’s going in the right way. I think in time they’re going to be able to look back and feel so good about it, and they will always be a part of it. I’m hopeful for their futures.
Now, I want to see them take whatever time they need to take off, and get the best opportunities, and hopefully we prepared them well to have professional careers. I sound like a broken record but they are what’s right about college basketball. I’ve been around them, I know, I’ve seen them when it’s not been good, I’ve seen their attitudes. And you could see they were ‑‑ it was special in that locker room afterwards. I didn’t even have to say much about the emotions there. But I thought they laid it on the line in their last college game, and they will remember it.
Q. You touched on it a little bit, but Branden Dawson’s been a guy that has been talked about as being an X factor for Michigan State to get to his potential for basically years in this program. And it seems like he’s sort of coming into his own now. How difficult was he tonight and how big of an impact did he have in this game?
COACH TONY BENNETT: Yeah, Akil’s a terrific defender, really, for us. And early he got by him and drew some fouls. Akil was a little tight on him, when I saw him do that to Akil a couple times, it made me nervous. Then the way Payne started the game, we got to switch the matchups. And then that was a hard matchup for our big guy, Mike Tobey. He’s a matchup problem because he’s so explosive, so athletic. And then he just, he doesn’t need a lot of shots. I know he got 16 shots, but he’s always around the ball and he plays much bigger than his height.
I can see why without him they were good. With him, they’re really good. Yes. That’s what they need.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
COACH TONY BENNETT: Thank you.