Press Conference: UVA after upset loss to Michigan State in NCAA Tournament
MODERATOR: We’re ready to begin with the University of Virginia.
COACH BENNETT: A very physical game the way we started. There’s a little bit of a pattern or a trend for us, later in the year our starts hurt us, and when the Trice young man had 13 I think of their first 15, we dug ourselves a hole. After that first five minutes, it wasn’t a matter of heart or effort. I thought our guys laid it on the line, but when we needed a key stop or a bucket to be made, it wasn’t there. If you look at it, we took 17 more shots than they did. We had trouble finishing and trouble making shots and then there’s a key breakdown. And again Michigan State, they’re playing good ball right now, they’re very tough and they’ve got some guys who made some big plays in that setting. Stings right now, of course, the finality of the season after we’ve had a heck of a year with these guys, what they’ve done, but it just leaves that feeling that you wish you could have taken it further. But it doesn’t take away when all the dust settles what was accomplished, and we give thanks for that but certainly learn from what took place.
MODERATOR: Questions for Justin, Malcolm.
Q. Justin, can you talk about Branden Dawson’s impact on this game inside, in the paint, and what he was able to do and how difficult he was for you?
JUSTIN ANDERSON: We knew the challenge that he presented to any basketball team, his ability to rebound, his ability to pound on the inside and tough fade away jumpers. He’s a very complete player down there. I think early we didn’t match his energy but we did a great job getting back to who we were and I think we did a solid job on him. I’m not sure about the numbers, but he’s a tough player.
Q. You guys, Coach mentioned that trend of slow starts but your defense keeps you in those games. How do you balance even with your defensive playing well all year, when you don’t have that offensive consistency? How do you get that back and the defense sparks the offense, especially the last two losses that wasn’t there consistently enough on offense?
MALCOLM BROGDON: I think it’s about what Coach Bennett said earlier, getting off to a good start, whether it’s being sure-handed with the ball or not having defensive breakdowns. Our defense does lead to our offense but when you’re having defensive breakdowns and you can’t get stops and you’re having trouble seeing the ball through the net, then you’re going to struggle, so offensively I think that’s why we struggled a little bit.
Q. For Malcolm, why was Trice able to have that hot start?
MALCOLM BROGDON: I don’t think we made him uncomfortable. I thought he was too comfortable at the very beginning. Losing him in transition and just not pushing him out of his comfort zone. When players that can score at that level get comfortable, then they’re going to knock down a lot of shots.
Q. What did Michigan State do defensively to you guys that contributed to your 29 percent shooting tonight?
MALCOLM BROGDON: You know, I think they play a similar pack defense. I think they jam the lane and then they — when we come up our down screens, which is a staple in our offense, they swipe the gap really hard, which I thought led us, disrupted us a little bit more than we should have let it. We just got a little bit out of chemistry.
Q. Justin, there were a couple sequences in the second half where I think you were down 2 and maybe 3 and had an opportunity to get back there. Did you feel like the breakthrough was coming, at some point you were going to catch up and take the lead?
JUSTIN ANDERSON: Yeah, I didn’t have a doubt in my mind throughout the course of that game that we weren’t going to win that game. This team’s resiliency and ability to fighting no matter what the circumstance may be, I just knew that collectively we had our heads in and we knew what we had to do to try to fight back. It hurts, when you pull that close in the second half and maybe they get a big shot, a big bucket, or whatever the case may be, it really hurts because we know how hard we have to fight to get back when we dig ourself in a hole like that.
Q. Malcolm, could you talk about that as a team 2 for 17 3-point shooting and some of your 3-point difficulties here?
MALCOLM BROGDON: I thought offensively we were just a little out of rhythm and it’s hard to not gun 3s when you don’t see one go through the net. We just struggled in that way. Michigan State played good defense.
MODERATOR: Any other questions for Justin or Malcolm? Okay, thanks guys. Congratulations, great year. Questions for Coach?
Q. Tony, did you feel the defense and rebounding were good enough had it been a decent offensive day to win this game?
COACH BENNETT: I think so. Michigan State, I thought early we were bailing them out with our offense. You have to shift them. I mean, they’re like us, they’re standing in the elbows and they’re really jammed in there, and the ball has to shift, you can’t just stand one pass and either throw it inside and the defense hasn’t moved. And the ability to move the defense and be physical and finish and we had a lot of opportunities. You look at our offensive rebounds, 18 of them, we got some in there. We just had trouble finishing. It’s not like they’re huge. I thought when we settled in, we moved them better and got some looks, but the percentages, whether the key free throw here or there, the 3-pointer shots, and then finishing, your defense can only hang in there so long. It was enough, but not the start. To mention, you asked a question about Trice, he hit some tough ones early, too, a couple real tough ones that got him going and a couple times, we didn’t have that many turnovers but the three of them were crucial because we call them live ball turnovers, they’re the ones that, boom, got them going, they run out and got points off of them. That hurt because we didn’t shift the defense right away and attack.
Q. Same question about Branden Dawson. Early on he seemed to really impact the paint defensively especially and that altered things a little bit?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah. I think his eyes light up when he sees Virginia because he was terrific last year and he’s was good again. He is so athletic and so strong and our guys had trouble finishing. That’s where you have to be able to use fakes, draw fouls and do things. He was a man, he made some tough shots, blocked shots, got on the glass. And you can see why he’s at good as he is, and he plays well in big games. He’s done that twice on a big stage.
Q. Can you talk about that fourth foul on Atkins with eight minutes to go and maybe how that changed the momentum?
COACH BENNETT: What was the score at that time? Six point game? It looked like a clean block. When you’re clawing and trying, scrapping, trying to get back in it, you need everything to go well for you and go right. That hurt. Then there was — that was at the end of the shot clock right there. Seemed like there was a little bit of a momentum shift there but that certainly hurt us. Maybe when I watch the tape, I’ll realize that I overreacted to it but I thought it was a good block and again, we needed everything at that time.
Q. You mentioned Branden Dawson from last season. In this game did you see anything, the difficulties you had were similar or reminiscent to the problems you had facing them last season? I know it’s a different season, different players.
COACH BENNETT: Honestly, I’m not sure. I think he made some tough shots against us last year. We tried to match-up Darion Atkins on him, our most athletic, lively defender. Last year I think he had 24-10. He was timely, that’s the thing. He was timely. He probably impacted the game more defensively this year than he did last year. Everything he did was timely at the right times.
Q. Tony, obviously you referred to being a little bit out of sorts early?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah.
Q. What was the deal on that timeout where they were going to review it? I thought you guys were thinking they would take a point off the board and they added putting one on it. What happened there?
COACH BENNETT: Nice call, right? He said both of them were 3s. They had those in, they were checking them. We didn’t call the timeout for them to check it, we called the timeout to try to get ourselves going. But they reviewed both of their 3-pointers. My staff said his foot was on the line on the second one at the top of the key. Then they went back and saw it. They put the review in before and both were 3s, so that was what it was.
Q. Just when I asked the players, when you’re getting the stops, it seemed the first half you guys were playing good defense, you just couldn’t finish, after the initial run. How do you get them, if the defense isn’t spark being the offense, what next?
COACH BENNETT: It’s a challenge, we got some shots, we got some offensive rebounds. We’re not the greatest offensive team, we don’t have tremendous shooting, so that’s why I said let’s shift the ball. We decided to make a concerted effort to pound it inside, we got a few things there. We got some good looks, but when you’re that cold, hard to beat a team like Michigan State. You have to be able to, and again I think after the start our defense rallied enough, except for a couple key possessions, but you have to be able to make some plays. Trice made them for them, Dawson made them. We couldn’t get those. Again, there was a better effort in the second half to get it moving and get it closer but that puts a lot of pressure on you.
Q. You talked about Dawson, how he played great this year and last year. How about Trice though, his development from last year to this year?
COACH BENNETT: Good player. He has the ability to create shots, make shots. When you can stretch the defense like that. He’s complete, he can score at all three levels. Off the drive, off the pull-up or deep 3s. It was a dagger 3, the one he hit at the end of the shot clock. It looked like it was an NBA 3. We should have known that, we saw it against Belmont most of the game but he drilled one. And again, like Dawson, those two, they were the deal. Valentine, I think their big three, we did a good job on Valentine, but didn’t really do the job we needed to do to be successful against Trice. And as poor as we shot and all those things, we still had a chance, and we tried to hang in there with it, but when you got a guy like Trice, making those plays down the stretch, that’s what makes you advance in this tournament.
MODERATOR: Any other questions for Coach?
Q. What was your main focus at halftime? Did you feel pretty good considering you hadn’t played that well?
COACH BENNETT: Offensively we said let’s shift them, let’s get the ball moving and really attack. We got a couple good looks and we said defensively let’s try to keep them off the glass, avoid the runouts. Do what we do. There’s no magic formula at that time, a couple a little adjustments here and there. We went with Evan again at the four, try to move them that way so at least there would be some spacing. I was hoping we could either knock done a shot or open up the lane a little more for some drives, which we got. But it was stay in there, stay in there. We have been in this spot. Ironically, I think about 17 of our 34 games we’ve been down at halftime. So as much as we struggled, it was still a two possession game. But they had a quick burst and we fought back. It was typical of a lot of our games but just not enough. Because they’re so tough-minded, they’re so good defensively, every start like that was costly, especially in this game.
Q. What was it defensively that Michigan State did that really didn’t allow Brogdon and Anderson really to get going?
COACH BENNETT: Again, they jammed the lane, they played a similar defense kind of that we did. Some of it we just missed some shots but they were in position and they made you earn. When we did get the open looks we didn’t capitalize. A couple times we probably forced and didn’t screen it well enough or move it well enough. But you are going to have to outlast them. That’s how our game was against them last year. We probably didn’t have as quite the outside attack as last year without Joe, but it’s just a physical, hard game and there’s not a lot of easy stuff there and that was the case again, we knew that.
Q. Can you talk about the decision to start Justin Anderson today after having him come off the bench in previous games?
COACH BENNETT: I thought he showed. He did a good job. I was really worried about the match-ups. Evan would have had to guard Valentine, and I thought — and when we played NC State we put Justin on Anthony Barber, Cat Barber, and he did a really good job spreading out. And I thought okay, London can really move and try to bother Trice, which Trice just got off to that start and we liked Malcolm on Valentine. So we thought the match-ups were good. How Justin played, and that probably, I don’t know if it would have made a difference if Evan was out there or not but I thought it was time.
Q. You played Michigan State two years in a row now, how would you compare this team to last year’s team looking forward?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, they’re playing good ball. Last year with Harris and Payne they had probably a couple more big playability guys that could just go get stuff. I’m missing someone, who’s the senior? Yeah, Harris and Payne, Appling, yeah. They had guys with that experience but they understand who they are, they’re very clear. They go through, it’s Dawson’s team, it’s Trice’s team, you can see that, and Valentine. Those guys have a ton of experience. They’re not quite as explosive offensively but very sound, very tough, know where they’ve got to go to get stuff. I think that’s a fair assessment. And defensively, very good.
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