UVA Basketball: Bennett, Cavaliers look to use time off to their advantage
Story by Zach Pereles
The Virginia Cavaliers are at last on their ACC-scheduled break. After slogging through wins against NC State and Miami last week, the nation’s No. 3 team has five days until it takes the court again, when it hosts Duke — and “College GameDay” — at John Paul Jones Arena on Saturday.
“Whenever your bye week comes, you make the most of it,” Bennett said. “Just balance it. Use the rest for two days off but then the right kind of preparation, and be as good as you can.”
Virginia hasn’t looked quite itself as of late with Ty Jerome dealing with a back sprain and some of the players looking not quite as fresh and focused. Kyle Guy, who is just 7 for his last 26 shots, said the week between games is “huge” and will allow the team to be “laser-focused” moving forward.
Jack Salt agreed.
“[It allows] guys to get their bodies right and minds right, because I feel like we’ve been grinding a little bit lately,” the big man said Saturday. “[In] today’s game and also the N.C. State game we did a lot of things that were uncharacteristic. We definitely need some time to focus and get back on track.”
The ACC allows for each of its 15 teams to get one week-long break from the two-games-per-week schedule during the conference slate. For the Cavaliers, this respite comes at a crucial juncture. Contests against top-10 teams Duke and North Carolina are on the horizon.
While the benefits of the extended break — rest, recovery and more time to prepare — are obvious, Bennett will also trying to make sure his team doesn’t get rusty and is mentally and physically ready to compete in two of its toughest games of the season.
“Sometimes there’s a rhythm when you’re playing a lot of games, and sometimes rest is needed,” Bennett said. “I believe it’s a balance, and beyond that it’s hard to say.”
For what it’s worth, Bennett is 4-4 in the games following the week-long ACC hiatus.
NOTE: In Bennett’s first season, 2009-2010, UVA had to play a make-up game against UNC-Wilmington during its scheduled ACC break.
|YEAR||GAME BEFORE BREAK||BREAK||GAME AFTER BREAK|
|2011||56-62 L vs. North Carolina||Jan. 8 – Jan. 15||60-76 L at Duke|
|2012||58-61 L at Duke||Jan. 12 – Jan. 19||70-38 W at Georgia Tech|
|2013||44-59 L at Clemson||Jan. 12 – Jan. 19||56-36 W vs. Florida St.|
|2014||75-56 W vs. Syracuse||Mar. 1 – Mar. 9||69-75 L (OT) at Maryland|
|2015||50-47 W at Virginia Tech||Jan. 25 – Jan. 31||63-69 L vs Duke|
|2016||73-53 W vs. NC State||Feb. 15 – Feb. 22||61-64 L at Miami|
|2017||79-62 W vs. Wake Forest||Jan. 8 – Jan. 14||77-73 W at Clemson|
|2018||59-50 W at Miami||Feb. 13 – Feb. 21||65-54 W vs. Georgia Tech|
The 2015 team faced the exact same scenario the 2018 team does: facing Duke at home on Saturday and North Carolina on the road on Monday following the week off. That team responded from the Duke loss to knock off the Tar Heels 75-64.
The week off allows the Cavaliers some rest when they sorely need it. But unless they can convey that advantage into a strong performance this weekend, it will be for naught.
“We have a week to get ready, which is a long amount of time,” Mamadi Diakite said Saturday. “We’re going to come right and leave it on the court.”