Postgame: Virginia coach Tony Bennett, players on win over Notre Dame

tony bennett uva basketballVirginia coach Tony Bennett and UVA players Isaiah Wilkins, Ty Jerome and Devon Hall talk with reporters after the Cavaliers’ 62-57 win over Notre Dame on Saturday.

Coach Tony Bennett

On what it means to send the Seniors out with a win on Senior Day:
“It means everything. You always try to play for your seniors. There is a lot of emotion, of course, and to do what we did was special. I remember doing that with past groups, but to come to half court and just look those three Seniors in the eye and say, ‘Thank you’ – you could see how much it meant to those guys. That was for us to thank the crowd. Win or lose, I told them before, we are going to thank the crowd for an incredible home stand – their passion and their support.”

On what he was told about Kyle after he went down in the first half:
“I would never have put him in the game, if he was not good to go. He was with [Head Trainer] Ethan [Saliba]. They tested him out. I asked Kyle, and he said ‘I am okay. I am good to go in.’ He seemed a little gimpy, but he was in there. He got popped at the end so that is why he came out at the end. That had nothing to do with his knee. I really do not know [about his knee] right now. They will do some tests, and hopefully it is okay.”

On the work that Virginia’s bigs do setting screens that tire out the opponent:
“Everyone has been such a part of the quality or success that we have had, but Isaiah [Wilkins] and Jack [Salt] play their role so well. They screen; they rebound; they occasionally shoot and they get those guys open [on screens] and of course that takes its toll. We would not be in this spot without those guys. They are as much a part of our success as everyone, and that is a significant role. I thought Devon [Hall] was terrific down the stretch, making some of those plays, and I thought some of those rebounds that Dre [Hunter] got were very significant.”

On what Coach Bennett plans on doing to prepare the team mentally going forward:
“Now you are in one-and-done tournament play – the ACC tournament and the NCAA tournament. I think that it was about putting our stamp on this game and finishing the season strong in terms of our identity. I told the guys there are a lot of reasons why you could be a little off – the celebration at Louisville and that excitement, the quick turnaround, playing against a good team in Notre Dame today – but that is unacceptable. You put your stamp on this game to the best of your abilities. We had some trouble and you see why when Notre Dame is healthy they are special, but we toughened it out and now we get ready [for the tournaments]. You continue on, but you understand that it is quality play. You do not change who you are, but you know that if you drop one, you are out.”

Forward Isaiah Wilkins

On getting the offense flowing late:
“I think it’s a group effort. [The guards] have to come off of our shoulders tight and their moving a lot during the game and I know it’s easy to get tired. So, it’s just a mix of them doing that and us trying to get a piece of the defender coming around. So, yeah, it’s a group effort.”

On his emotions in the team gathering after the game:
“It’s just special, it’s been a really special time for me here. I love all of these guys. It’s just been a great four years and this is a great way to go out, I was really happy with it.”

On preparing for the upcoming tournaments:
“I think we just have to have a full reset. There’s been a chapter, and it’s been closed and you have to be extra prepared, but still play free. I think that we’ve prepared up to this point, all the way from the summer time until now. So, it’s time to lock in, go out there, you can’t play tight. Play free, but you gotta give a little bit more at this point of the year, since everybody’s playing good ball.”

Guard Ty Jerome

On what the season has been as a whole:
“We don’t play until Thursday so we’ll probably have tonight and tomorrow to really reflect on the regular season and how amazing it was and really be thankful for it. Our fans at every home game, they’re amazing, huge thank you to them. This team, we just didn’t give up all year; on the road, in tough environments, it was a great, great, great regular season. And we need to carry this momentum forward going into the best time of the year.”

On Coach Bennett’s center court talk after the game:
“He just said to ‘give thanks to the fans. That they’ve been here for us every home game, they’ve been amazing and we just wanted to come out and give thanks one last time for the seniors and last home game of this year for us.’ We’re just really thankful for them.”

Guard Devon Hall

On playing on senior day:
“It’s nice to come out to the court and be able to pull out a win on senior night, but I’m not necessarily feeling any type of pressure to get a win. Just try to keep your emotions stable and try to fight for your team. For the most part I did, walking out there with my family and holding my jersey up, that stuff sinks in. It’s a special for moment for me and my family. I’ve been here for five years and I can’t ever play here (JPJ) again, so it’s a special moment.”


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