UVA Basketball talks with media on eve of Sweet Sixteen: Transcript
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the Cavaliers are on their way to the dais here in the interview room. As soon as these guys get settled, we’ll get under way. We’ll open it to questions from the floor for the Virginia student-athletes.
Q. De’Andre, they have four starters at 6’9″. I guess Florida State might be a comp of a team you see. What are the challenges when you face a team with that kind of size, kind of across the board?
DE’ANDRE HUNTER: That means they’ll be good defensively, probably. They’ll probably switch a lot of things. Their length will definitely bother us. We’ll have to box out, but I feel like we’ll be fine.
Q. Kyle, this is a place you guys are familiar playing, and coming from Columbia, you had an away game there this season. What kind of benefit does that have? The 3-point shooting hasn’t always been kind to you here. How does it play into preparation this week?
KYLE GUY: There’s always an advantage to having played in a gym before. Shooting will come and go, that’s why we play defense at Virginia. So we still shoot with confidence, and I didn’t even shoot it good last game and these guys are still feeding me. As long as we have the confidence in each other, we’re fine.
Q. Kyle, Coach has urged you guys to really take joy in winning and in the process as a team.
Is it hard at all to reconcile that with maybe after Sunday, maybe you didn’t have your greatest personal shooting performance. Is it hard to reconcile that?
KYLE GUY: No. I’m all about the team. We have a blast trying to pursue a championship, and these are moments that we’re never going to forget and moments we’re trying to cherish.
Q. Ty, how much do you watch other teams maybe on the west coast during the season, and what all do you know about Oregon?
TY JEROME: Yeah, I’ve only seen Oregon once in the Pac-12 Championship. They beat Washington pretty good, and I know they’re hot. I know they’re tall across the board. They have a really good point guard and a lot of guys that can make shots.
So I know they’re playing really good defense as of late too. So like Dre said, it will be a good challenge for us. But we feel like we have a really good attack and we’re excited.
Q. Ty, this is a team that likes to also play at a slower pace, tempo-wise. Does that present an advantage to you guys, or is it something you kind of thrive in slowing down teams that maybe aren’t used to being slowed down?
TY JEROME: I think that they probably want to play at a similar pace. But for us, it’s always about trying to get the best shot possible. So if that comes quicker on the shot clock, that’s fine. Or if that comes late, that’s fine too.
And then it’s always about just trying to make them take a tough shot. That’s our motto, make them take a tough shot and get a good shot. Whatever pace that comes at, we’re fine with.
Q. Kyle, I know you said you’re all about the team and you certainly demonstrated that. But when you have a shooting night like you did the other night, does that make you eager to get back out there and give it another shot?
KYLE GUY: Yeah, absolutely. I think when my shots aren’t falling, I try to help the team in other ways, whether it’s play a little bit harder on defense or try to create for others. Or even just my presence on the floor sometimes gets guys open because they’re not going to help off of me, even if I am shooting 0 for 10. So that helps the team.
I’m eager to get back on the court. I think we all are, and excited for the game.
Q. De’Andre, could you talk a little bit about your thoughts about this building and some of your feelings about how you’ve played here over the years?
DE’ANDRE HUNTER: I feel like I’ve played well here. But it’s a new year, new game, so I don’t know. I’m just looking forward to playing again and having the opportunity to play with my teammates.
Q. Jack, Ty said something last week about being excited because this was his first Sweet 16. You’ve been through this before. You’ve seen this kind of advance. What have you tried to let the guys know now that you’re officially making a deep run in the tournament? What advice did you have for them?
JACK SALT: Yeah, I just try to have their backs all the time. Especially guys my position. Mamadi and Jay, they’ve been playing well over the past two games. Just giving them any advice I can. It’s pretty awesome to be back here after three years.
Q. Just want to get — two hours away from Indianapolis. What’s the ticket request been like and how excited are you to perform in front of everybody?
KYLE GUY: I always have a lot of ticket requests whenever I’m around home, so looking forward to that. It’s nice to be playing close to home for me. So it will be a good turnout for my family and friends.
At the end of the day, we’re here to win basketball no matter where we’re at.
Q. Kyle, to that point, how many have you had, requests for this game and what’s the most you’ve ever had? Because you have a pretty good entourage that tends to follow.
KYLE GUY: For this weekend, I told everyone to buy tickets. If I had tickets, maybe they could make some money on the side scalping. But this year, I had 85 people here when we played here.
Q. Ty, it seems as if the team has played better in the second halves than the first halves of late, maybe earlier in the season. To what do you attribute it, the halftime talks, whatever?
TY JEROME: I think it’s a testament to our coaches, doing a great job of making halftime adjustments. And just everybody staying calm at half and understanding that as long as we’re in striking distance, we’ll be all right. And just following the adjustments that the coaches make for us and coming out with confidence in the second half no matter what the score is.
Q. For any of the players, how does last year’s experience influence or inform the way you approach being a No. 1 seed this year, and does it make you feel that it’s any more delicate or tenuous than a lot of people might expect?
THE MODERATOR: Ty, do you want to go first, please?
TY JEROME: I think the way we approached our first game against Gardner-Webb, we had a whole different approach to it. We knew how good everybody in the whole tournament was, and Gardner-Webb still came out and punched us in the mouth. We are able to remain calm because we knew we were going to be in a dogfight.
At this point in the tournament, everyone is playing at such a high level, you would be crazy to underestimate everyone. Last year’s tournament experience kind of — we kind of forgot about it already.
Q. Jack, can you talk a little bit about Mamadi and Jay and their improvement? And why do you think they’ve gotten so much better toward the end of the season? Anything in particular?
JACK SALT: Those two have both been playing amazing over the past two games. They’ve been doing a good job on defense, scrambling and cleaning up on the boards, blocking shots. They’ve switched on. It’s awesome to see guys like that. Even though, in my position — they’re in my position. They’re playing over me. We’re winning games, so I couldn’t be more happier.
Q. I’m going to concede up front, this is a dumb question. But we’ve seen UVA fans take over Raleigh. We’ve seen them come in force to Charlotte and other places. I think the crowd presence in Columbia was maybe a little less than some of us expected.
In honesty, to you, Ty, do you get the sense maybe UVA fans were waiting for the second weekend to really show up in force? Based on ticket requests and things like that, are you sensing that they may be coming in force like they have in the past to some other places?
TY JEROME: Based on ticket requests, the only requests, I get are my family and close friends. So they’re here every round or every game they possibly can be. But I don’t know what fans are thinking or why we didn’t get a great turnout in Columbia.
But, I don’t know, we were fortunate to move on and we’ve got to focus on the game and not the stands.
THE MODERATOR: Guy, thanks for your time. Good luck.
Coach Bennett is on his way to the dais. As Coach gets settled, we’re going to go to the floor to take questions. We want to welcome the Cavs to Louisville and we’ll go ahead and get the microphones ready and start with questions from the floor.
Q. Coach, how much does it mean, having gotten through the first weekend and now getting to this stage? Is there any benefit, anything that can carry over?
COACH BENNETT: Well, I think everybody who’s gotten to this point is playing at a high level. Everybody’s highly motivated. Everybody is playing well to advance to this point.
I think us, having to overcome a shaky start against a very good Gardner-Webb team and facing that and showing some resiliency, I hope the way we had to play to advance and then against Oklahoma will carry over. You’re going to need that again to continue to advance.
Q. Tony, they have four starters listed at 6’9″. Are there any similarities to Florida State with them, just with their length and size? And just kind of how do you counter that kind of a lineup?
COACH BENNETT: Their size is impressive. Terrific point guard. When we played Duke, when Jones was out, they went — they were big and long like that. And then Florida State, that length.
Their defensive numbers have been terrific in this. They’re hot, obviously. They’ve won ten in a row and their numbers are really good in terms of turning people over, field goal percentage, defense.
I think a lot of it has to do with their system defensively, what they’re doing and I think their quickness and length. That’s just something that they can close on shooters, plug gaps, and they’re interchangeable parts, which makes it challenging.
So you’ve obviously got to try to get shots, you’ve got to be good with the ball offensively. You’ve got to take care of it when they pressure you and, of course, be as good as you can defensively against them. That’s why team — you can see it. There’s not many easy looks out there. You have to look for them.
Q. Tony, we heard from some of the players after the Oklahoma game, you came in the locker room and had a stuffed monkey on your back and pulled it off.
Do you feel now you’re in the second weekend in the tournament, has there been a shift in energy in the guys?
COACH BENNETT: We just had fun with that. Again, only those of us who have been part of last year’s team and been through this year and all the things were there can appreciate it. We’ll be bonded for life by this experience.
We just had fun with it, saying, you know, that was there. They had to kind of fight through it. And so coming into the locker room and saying, all right, that part is gone or you’ve gotten past that, I think we’ve talked about all the time. There’s the joy of competition, the fun in pursuing a championship.
But there’s still a focus, and there’s still expectations and, you know, pressures and all that there. I think that they could get over that obstacle, I think, was significant. They’ll have that with them.
Now, coming into the Oklahoma game, I thought we played early better. We were more efficient. We’re going to have to do that here. Again, advancing, it’s another step and I think there’s excitement.
So it does feel a bit different than — I think you’d ask any program that — but ours, than your first round games. So to advance is excitement.
Q. Kind of a follow-up, do you feel unburdened by getting this far after what happened last year? And how do you process going forward the challenges that still remain?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, I think it’s like — to advance, certainly to win the first round game after last year’s situation, you had to look that in the eye. It was ironic. We were a 1 seed again in that setting. And then to be down 14 points.
But the guys, to have responded with the season they had and to have the year they had to be co-champs in a league, the ACC that has five teams, obviously we know, in the Sweet 16, having to go on the road and play that many games, that to me was an answer that was responding in the right way. Then there was another step of responding in a challenging, tough setting in the first round, second round.
And here we are. I think certainly, there’s an enjoyment and a freedom in it, but there’s also a desire to play well and advance again.
Burdened, unburdened, doesn’t really matter in my opinion. You just step up to the challenge that’s there. You have joy in it, you have focus in it, and you got to be able to look both victory and defeat in the eye and say, it’s a possibility and go forward.
I think that’s the best way to be, and our guys have worked very hard to get to this spot. Obviously, everyone here is desperate to advance.
Q. Tony, a lot of times in the past, I know your dad has given you a golden nugget before you go to a tournament. Has he said anything to you this year about how to approach things or any special little messages?
COACH BENNETT: He always gives me great insight and messages. He doesn’t watch the games, every now and then. I don’t even know if he’s going to be here, if he’s going to come to the games. He didn’t last week. That’s always a game-time decision.
But he’s been a rock for me over my career, as so many have. But he’s helped me, and I think only as we talk about last time, parents understand and bleed or feel for their children in ways that the rest don’t.
So when he tells me things, I know it’s trusted. And the fact that he’s been through it as a coach, that he’s coached teams to a Final Four, he’s had first round defeats, all that in between, is invaluable.
But there isn’t anything specific that stands out. I think he just wants — I think he’s thankful and wants to us keep playing well.
Q. Tony, talking with Jack and also Jay Huff, they compared Oregon’s collection of size and length to Louisville as far as the teams that you’ve seen that are similar, matchup zone. How valid is that and how do you prepare for a team with four 6’9″s?
COACH BENNETT: We talked about Florida State, Duke, Louisville. I don’t know if Louisville is that long. It’s unique. I think their zone is different, or their — you look at it, say I think they might be man-to-man sometimes. I think they’re zone. It’s very effective. All experiences help, but I don’t think there’s a team that plays their kind of defense in our league.
So, again, you study film and you try to come up with a game plan and go after it and know you’re going to see — I think the — I don’t know if anybody is quite that long and that athletic or has someone as athletic as their interior player in Wooten.
Q. Tony, with Kyle looking to bounce back shooting-wise from Sunday, do you feel — because as a player you were also a very efficient shooter, do you feel equipped to sort of help him with that sort of thing?
COACH BENNETT: I think Kyle played — you know, he missed shots. But what I like is he played well. He got to the lane, he passed well, he guarded hard. It’s about the whole game. Yep, we’re going to have make some shots, of course.
I think he’s not going to be cautious or anxious to shoot an open shot. I mean, he obviously did that. Even when he wasn’t hitting, he took good shots. Of course, you get extra shots, you work a little bit on your mechanics. But you step to the moment and shoot it. I think he’ll be equipped. I’ll give him the confidence certainly to take good shoots, but I’ll give him the instruction to play well defensively, play strong with the ball, help this team lead. That’s what good players do. That’s how you help your team, so that will be my advice.
Q. Coach, you’ve won four of the last five here in Louisville, rallying for the last two. How much of that can be an advantage now that you’re playing here at this level this weekend?
COACH BENNETT: We’ve had some more here. I can remember the one we lost, the bank shot by —
THE MODERATOR: Mangok.
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, you were there; you remember. We’ve certainly had some battles. You’re in, I guess, a familiar setting. I haven’t gone out on the floor. I’m sure it’s obviously going to be a different floor and all that.
I don’t know how that will affect us, but we’ve been in bigger pictures, we’ve been in tough games where we’ve been down in possession games where you’ve had to not unravel and just stay the course, find a stop, get a score and just keep plugging so you don’t panic or you don’t change too much who you are unless there’s little adjustments.
I think those experiences, whether it was Louisville this year or in games in the tournament or during the year, that’s the stuff you look at and you certainly try not to get in those spots. But that’s tournament play.
Q. You had a semi-miraculous victory here last year.
COACH BENNETT: Yeah.
Q. When the bracket goes up, does that stick in your mind? Does that give you comfort, knowing how you’ve come through in this building?
COACH BENNETT: I really didn’t think about that. Yeah, we had some amazing — a comeback win and things like that. But, honestly, I didn’t think about that. I didn’t even, quite honestly, know where — I saw, hey, we’re going to Columbia and I didn’t even look past that. That’s how it was.
But to be here, obviously, and have played in this facility is good. We played South Carolina, coincidentally, in — so we were in that facility. We played them this year on the road.
So to be in a place that you’ve been, you maybe understand the feel a little bit, can’t be a bad thing.
Q. Do you ever have a game, one of your games end early, maybe at home, and will you turn on the TV and watch one of the Pac-12 games to check —
COACH BENNETT: Here’s what I understand. When I was at Washington State, and I got the job at Virginia, I think the majority of people are like, who is this, who’s this guy?
Again, they knew the name from, obviously, the singer, but that’s about it. Half the time, everybody’s in bed when the Pac — well, it was Pac-10 when I was there — the Pac-12 are playing games.
But I have great respect for Oregon and for Coach Altman. Dana’s done a terrific job. What he’s done with his team to kind of change things and win ten games. I obviously watch them. But I don’t watch a ton of other games, any other conference, really, unless it’s just bits and pieces of it.
So I understand, like you said — all you got to do is watch them and see what they’ve done in the last number of games to appreciate and respect their caliber of play.
Q. Tony, Mike Curtis has talked before about the communication with you in putting together his program and what he does. I’m curious, from your point of view, what does he do this time of year to keep the guys fresh, not overwork them? And particularly I’m interested in when you’re playing two games in a weekend, what he does in the day in between that kind of keeps them fresh but doesn’t overdo it. Just what goes into that?
COACH BENNETT: I think your strength and conditioning coaches are invaluable and your athletic trainer, Ethan Saliba and Mike Curtis. They’ve been unbelievable all year, getting our guys as healthy as they can to recover after games.
We just talk about the load and all that stuff. But you have to prepare hard. You have to compete. But then you have to be wise, you know, duration.
Intensity is usually not something that varies up and down. Duration. Be prepared, not do too much or too little. That’s where he gives a good balance. He’s been a Godsend for us ever since — he’s been with me the whole time, ten years, and he’s cutting edge in everything he does. He’s made incredible strides with our players in terms of their — not just their bodies but their health and he’s one of the best.
Q. Tony, Mamadi and Jay have talked about how their confidence and other non-traditional aspects of their game and discipline have been helped by working with Tom Perrin over the past season. What have you observed in those areas that’s helped them develop as we’ve gone along?
COACH BENNETT: I think there’s such a development with players in the mental side of the game. Sometimes just processing things with others outside of it has been good.
Tom’s been great with them, and I said it early in the year, Mamadi is an X-factor for us and Jay and different guys have.
But when guys aren’t playing 35 minutes, 30 minutes a game and their roles are — sometimes they’re coming off the bench and it’s hit or miss. You have to be strong-minded to be successful in that and be in the moment and learn what — you know, how to process success and failure because you’re in a limited window.
I think Tom has helped those guys in that, and those guys have helped themselves by how they’ve just stayed after it. They’ve been about the team and they’ve worked. And that’s a pretty consistent formula for players that are good.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thanks for your time today. Good luck.
COACH BENNETT: Thank you.