UVA Basketball: Tony Bennett, Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, Mamadi Diakite, Jack Salt on win over Purdue
THE MODERATOR: As the Cavs get settled in the interview room, we’ll have an opening statement from Coach regarding tonight’s terrific game, and then we’ll go to student-athletes for comments and then back to Coach.
Coach declines an opening comment, so we’ll go to questions to the student-athletes.
Q. The Purdue crowd was on you pretty good. You struggled a little bit in the first half. You had the ankle. To have the game you had and the win you guys had, speak to that.
KYLE GUY: Their fans were fantastic and actually ours were great as well. Actually, I’m going to give a little slack for Indiana and a win out of state. So that’s that.
But honestly, you know, I told you guys I don’t really believe in slumps and I always found rhythm when my guys are trying to find me. The two at the end did a great job screening and obviously Ty, Kihei, Dre, they all were looking for me even though I struggled in the past few games. All the credit goes to them.
Q. Mamadi, can you kind of take us through that last shot at the end of regulation and how it all transpired? What was going through your mind when you let the shot go?
MAMADI DIAKITE: I don’t know. It happened. I was the person who was designed to take it. And I don’t know. I took it, and it went in. I was happy and ready for the next five minutes. I don’t know how to talk about it. It was unbelievable. I don’t know how to talk about it. I don’t know.
Q. Guys, this is obviously a huge moment. What does it mean to you guys to get that guy to the Final Four?
KYLE GUY: I’ve said in previous interviews this week that most of the credit goes to the guys who aren’t here anymore. And to Jack’s class. They did all the work and built the foundation, and we were lucky enough to walk into a great program with the best coach in the country. So to finally get the critics off his back means a lot, and going to a Final Four.
TY JEROME: What Kyle said about the guys that came before us is 100 percent correct. They built the foundation. They built an amazing foundation. You think of all the guys that came before us and just the teams that were so close and showed you just how difficult it is to get to the Final Four.
And how many times Coach Bennett has been a 1 seed or a 2 seed and has had so much regular season success. To be the team that gets him to the Final Four, I think that’s what means the most. But he’s believed in every single one of us. He has our best interest at heart, on and off the court. And he’s a great person.
To finally quiet the critics feels great.
MAMADI DIAKITE: I would say the same thing, but I’m going to add the fact that Coach is an amazing coach. He kept working on the same things again and again, you know. Although he was losing and coming back the following year and probably not having the same success, but he kept doing the same thing again and again, and right now it’s paying off.
JACK SALT: He’s a great coach, a great person. He deserves to be in the Final Four.
Q. Ty, did you intentionally miss that last free throw? And did you at all flashback to two years ago in this building when you did the same exact thing?
TY JEROME: I made the first on purpose (laughter).
And I don’t know. There was so much going through my mind. I didn’t really miss it on purpose. I short-armed and Mamadi did a good play by hitting it and Kihei made the play of the century and Mamadi being ready to shoot. Actually, let me add, he looked me off first or looked Kyle off first and then looked me off. Then he got to Mamadi over here, and he made a great play.
Q. Ty, considering that you didn’t miss the second free throw on purpose, what are you thinking when the ball is tipped over your head and it’s basically at your own 3-point line and the clock is running away there?
TY JEROME: I wasn’t thinking. I was just screaming for the ball. I was screaming at Kihei. I said a lot of words and was clapping my hands really fast.
Q. For all the players, when you guys were up 3, five seconds left and Purdue was bringing the ball down, were you guys looking to foul either Carsen or anyone to keep them from getting a 3 up?
KYLE GUY: When I left the huddle, we were supposed to foul after — like if someone got it, running towards their own baseline, we were going to wait a second and foul. Kihei said he tried to four. While he was doing that, I kind of let Cline go because I thought we were fouling. So if that pass was completed, we might be in a different situation right now. Sometimes the ball bounces our way, and it was a great effort.
Q. Kyle, you’ve been very public in sort of owning how last year ended. When the buzzer sounded today, you sort of took a moment to yourself at center court. What were you thinking at that moment?
KYLE GUY: I was definitely flashing back to when I was on my knees last year, and I did it again. And that was just, you know, just overflowing with joy. So happy for my teammates and my coaches and for myself to be able to break through in the way that we did this year.
Not only did we silence his critics, we silenced our own and we’re so grateful for our fans that traveled and have always believed in us.
Q. Kyle, you took that fall at the end of the first half right in front of the media and looked like you were in a lot of pain. What was going through your head at that point?
KYLE GUY: I stepped on someone’s foot, I don’t know, and I heard it pop. That’s kind of mostly why I was, you know, rolling around like I was, because I was really scared. But I thought what was best for me was to get up and let everybody know I was fine and let Ethan, our trainer, assess it.
Q. Kyle and Ty, could you speak to the game Carsen Edwards had, and is that obviously not the thing you’ll remember most today, but what stands out about his play?
TY JEROME: If nobody asked that, I was going to ask to add something and just speak on to what he did tonight, because that was the best performance I’ve ever seen. That was the best performance I’ve ever played against. I don’t know. Kihei and Dre are both great on-ball defenders, and he just hit everything. Going to the basket, step-back 3s. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. I told him after the game that he’s a helluva player.
KYLE GUY: Yeah. He pretty much nailed it. But, you know, I told him after the game that I had a lot of respect for him and that he’s a bad dude. And he’s nothing to hang his head on. Again, performance for the ages by him and by both teams. So yeah, I never witnessed anything like that and I figured the question was going to come up eventually.
COACH BENNETT: He made me rip my play card in half when he hit the shot off the glass. I just ripped it in half. It was good.
KYLE GUY: It was his night. He played fantastic.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for your time and congratulations.
Questions for Coach.
Q. Tony, I know you were saying yesterday what you’ve said before that, if the Final Four didn’t happen, that you were at peace with it and you could live with that. When the buzzer rings, when you see your dad, when you’re standing on the ladder and swinging it, was it everything you could hope it to be?
COACH BENNETT: It was great. We said it before. The joy of competition, the fun and the pursuit of trying to win a championship. And we didn’t win a championship, but we got to the Final Four. Of course, it was exhilarating, it was great.
But I meant what I said. And it’s easy to say up here but I said it before, and I experience things. And I was at peace, but there was a burning desire to get these guys and our program to a Final Four and hopefully beyond.
So the moments are good. But I remember 19 years ago, I was sitting in the back of a press conference. My father took his team to the Final Four. They beat Purdue. I memorized his quote. He said a quote I never forgot. It stuck with me for that long.
They asked him: Is this one of the greatest feelings that you’ve ever had, getting to the Final Four?
He said this: From a feeling state, euphoria, yes, it is. But it doesn’t compare with faith, with kids, family, grandkids. He said because I know what truly matters, it enables me to enjoy what seems to matter like this.
I’ve remembered that quote and tried my best to live by it. I want this program to honor what’s important to me, my faith and these young men through success and through failure.
That’s what I’ve wanted. And he pointed me in the right direction. As a competitor, you go after it and you want to do it. But in the bigger picture, you have to be at peace with both. That’s just my viewpoint on it.
So sorry for the long answer, but I’m glad I got the chance to say that.
Q. Tony, could you kind of take us through what’s going through your head when Mamadi gets the ball with one second left and all that that followed?
COACH BENNETT: It was great. Ty was clapping. I was like throw it to Ty. We’ll get one up there. Mamadi to catch it and get it off that quick, so improbable. Two years ago, what happened here, we’ve had amazing games here and comebacks. I was almost in shock a little bit.
Then all right, let’s get to it. But as I said, when Carsen hit the 3 off the glass and the way they started the game, my gosh, the 3s they were hitting falling away, our guys did a great job of adjusting. We ran some guys at Carsen, and we don’t practice that a lot. I’d like to tell you that’s it. But we had to try to do something, and probably too late.
Our guys just scrambled, they played, and that was impressive that they could do that and not give up anything. I thought that was a key among, obviously, the individual plays.
Q. Speak to Carsen’s game. When you’re a team built on defense, is it hard not to get frustrated when a guy is making those shots?
COACH BENNETT: We kept saying, he’s got to make them all. He’s got to make them all. Keep bothering his shots. Keep moving him on offense. See if we can wear him out. Screen him, move him, run him.
It was like it’s going to happen sooner or later. He did not get tired and he kept making the shots. That’s why when he made the bank shot, I said, My Lord. It was impressive. I’ve seen guys — having played in the NBA, you see guys that can create separation and bound up at the range. I’ll be curious to watch the film. It felt like it was about 27-, 28-footers. Sometimes you can’t get a feel. Am I right on that?
The second, one time Kyle — ball screen’s coming, he just points this way. When he points, he rises up. That was, again, one of the best performances probably I’ve been a coached — have coached against.
Q. Tony, Ty said that Kihei made the play of the century on that pass when he looked off him and Kyle. What did you think about Kihei’s game overall? That pass under those kind of circumstances.
COACH BENNETT: Freshman, he’s a first year. You saw what he did last Thursday. And then to see that, you know, I thought we needed to go big. I thought we needed some length on Edwards and it helped a little bit.
But then, all of a sudden he was getting a little bit of space on Dre. I’m like, all right, now we need to wedge him and get as tight as we can on him and run someone at him.
He’s, you know, five assists, zero turnovers, the play on the glass. I thought going big was the key for the majority of that game, to bother, to screen him, to move him. And it helped our offense.
Then at the end, we put Dre kind of back at the 4 spot. Then he made a couple. The drive, I know he was frustrated, as well, when it went out of his hands. He made the free throws, made the drive. It was just a chess match.
Matt is such a good coach. He’s unbelievable. I’ve known him. Some of their stuff is some of the hardest stuff to guard. I know that young man had a great game, but they move like we move and they set screens. In a one-day prep, it’s hard. So our guys adjusted and did the job on the fly.
Q. Coach, heard you out there on the court and then you credited the players when you came in here.
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, go ahead.
Q. When Kyle said you’re one of the best coaches in the country, you gave a head shake. But to hear them in this moment talking about wanting to win for you, understanding it’s not about you, but what does that mean to you?
COACH BENNETT: And my staff. I didn’t mention my staff. This is unbelievable for the staff and what they’ve done. I’m so thankful. I don’t deserve the credit. I don’t care about the critics. I don’t even pay attention to that. I really don’t. I just know it was really hard to lose in the first round. It stung. It was, as I said, a painful gift. It was so humbling but it drew me and drew our team closer in a way we couldn’t have gone.
The quote we use, I’m full of quotes, is from the TED Talk I showed them at the beginning of the year. The quote is, If you learn to use it right, the adversity, it will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn’t have gone any other way.
I didn’t know if that meant we’d get to a Final Four or do that. I just knew that would deepen us in ways on the court, off the court and what we believe and mark us for the right stuff. And that, I think, is what took place. I’m thankful that they said that. You kind of led them and they had to say that, I’m up here.
But there’s so many great coaches. This is — coaches get too much credit when it goes well and they probably get too much blame when it doesn’t go well, you know.
So that’s the reality. Growing up a coach’s son, I get all that. So this is not about me at all. It’s about the program, it’s about these young men, the guys who went before us and just trying to represent the right stuff. Now we get another chance to play another game and hopefully advance and get to go back to the Midwest. I’m a Midwest boy, so nothing wrong with that.
Q. Tony, we’ve heard a lot from Kyle recently saying calm is contagious. You said you ripped up your card after Carsen hit that 3-pointer. What does it say about the team that they were able to stay calm and composed in a hostile environment and pull it out?
COACH BENNETT: Composure. When you look at what this group of guys has done on the road in the ACC, the last couple years or last number of years, that’s hard. This tournament is unbelievable. It’s the media and the excitement of it has made it so big.
But maybe the test of a team as far as quality is over the course of the season, the conference play. This is a different kind of test and it’s what’s probably most honored and rewarded.
What they did to go on the road and be consistent and play, those games prepare you for that. Us being down, no one has faced pressure like these guys have or this program after losing in that first round. No one’s done that in the history of the game so no one had to do that.
Then to be in that setting against Gardner-Webb, that was almost another road game, to be honest, the way the crowd was going. Just to kind of muster up enough resiliency and come through it, all those things prepared us for this moment to not lose sight and be composed and stay after it. They were encouraging each other in the huddles and they weren’t going to let it get away. If we got beat, we got beat. But we weren’t going to lose this one. That was what I knew.
Q. Tony, I wanted to point out that today, to the day, was the tenth anniversary of the day you were hired at Virginia. Were you aware of that going in and did you talk about it, not talk about it, choose to ignore it because you didn’t want to jinx it or anything at all?
COACH BENNETT: I mean, I’m glad they’ve kept me for ten years. I don’t know. I’ve been here ten years to the day. What do you mean jinx it? How would I have jinxed it? We’re in the Elite Eight. It was an honor to play.
Yeah, I’ve been here ten years. Thankful that Craig Littlepage and John Oliver took a chance on me. I’m thankful that Jim Sterk and Anne McCoy took a chance on me at Washington State and I get the opportunity to coach. To be at a place for ten years is a long time in today’s day and age.
It’s a pretty good ten-year anniversary gift for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thanks. Congratulations and good luck in Minneapolis.
COACH BENNETT: Thank you.