UVA coach Tony Bennett talks with reporters after his Cavs defeated #4 Louisville, 71-55, on Monday.
On London Perrantes’ free throw performance tonight: “He’s got a good feel, as I’ve said many times, so I trust him. I felt we needed to try to attack and touch the paint and be assertive and make the right plays from there. He had a nice feel and he did draw some fouls, which was good. We’ve had those dry spells where we haven’t been able to get to the line so that was big tonight. To be able to cash in and make 18 of 20 is obviously important.”
On Louisville’s offense and Virginia’s defense in the second half: “I hope you guys liked it because I liked it a lot. I think that’s what we have to be. We flew around and we jammed the lane. It was a challenge in the first half, they did spread it out and attacked off the dribble. Yes, they were shorthanded, I understand all of that. They’re talented and I don’t know if they got worn down or not. I just know the crowd was into it, Isaiah [Wilkins] was terrific with his activity. Jack [Salt] was too, and our guys really tried to spread out and help each other. It wasn’t just one guy on the ball. We’ve had some trouble recently against Villanova, Syracuse and even Virginia Tech. We’ve been a little bit stretched and then guys would beat us off the dribble. I felt like we were a little more collective defensively and then, you had the energy of Mamadi [Diakite] and some rim protection. I thought those three interior guys were terrific in the second half. They’re playing good ball for us.”
On Mamadi Diakite’s defense: “He can slide. He’s got the quickness. He just doesn’t understand space and protecting and getting away when a guy puts it on the floor. I felt like we needed rim protection because people are trying to attack us off the dribble. To have Jack back there and then Mamadi and Isaiah, that can clean up some mistakes. I thought there were some big plays where maybe they did get into our paint, but we were bothering them defensively. That was good. On the ball, I think Mamadi, with his quickness, just needs to understand more protection. Protecting his feet, spacing, and not hugging up on a guy because they’ll call that pretty quick.”
On if Isaiah Wilkins is becoming London Perrantes’ defensive counterpart: “He’s always been our heart and soul, our glue guy, since pretty much day one. That’s how it’s been. He knew we had to respond to the challenge of stopping the ball collectively. It’s not about one guy. Our defense has been good for us and we’ve gotten gashed a few times in some games and we really said, ‘let’s rally’. He was the leader of that rally of bringing us together, just demanding a better team defensive approach.”
On Virginia’s successful play against Louisville: “They were undermanned today. They’ve been playing really good basketball without Quentin Snider and then the backup point guard and then they lose these guys, but they’re hard-fought games. We’ve played some of our best basketball against them, for whatever reason. I don’t know if there’s any specific thing. We just played good basketball and we knew after the Syracuse game, we had to come home and play because every game is significant at this stage in ACC play. I think we felt the importance of it, as you do every game. We needed that and we’ve been fortunate, [Coach Pitino] is obviously a Hall of Famer. He has terrific players and I think our guys really know they have to be right to compete with Louisville.”
On whether or not he reminds everyone that losses are inevitable: “We talk about that all the time. I can live with a loss. It’s not who we play, it’s how we play and then what happens from it and if we can grow from it. Because everybody’s capable of knocking each other off in this league, I said, ‘Every game, you’re playing for your basketball season.’ I tell them that not to make them feel tense. I say it because it’s a privilege. A lot of teams are in spots where maybe every game doesn’t matter as much. Now we’re getting to the second half and every game has major significance for a lot of reasons. Embrace that, appreciate it, and play that way and then we’ll pick up no matter what happens. Win or lose, we’ll adjust and go on. I think our guys have a healthy perspective that way and I’ve tried to be that way with them. I think if you get so consumed with a big win or a big loss, that’s not the right way, at least with our team, and I try to instill that. I think we responded well after a great first half and a poor second half against Syracuse. We had a chance to right the ship. Maybe playing that quick was good for us, but you can’t do that in this league. It’s on you, whoever you play next.”