UVA basketball: Who cares who gets the credit?

uva-basketball newYou want to know why UVA is 27-1? Coach Tony Bennett will let you in on the secret.

“I read a quote to our guys after the game in the locker room and I think it captured this group as well as anybody. A guy sent it to me a couple of days ago in an email and he said that when he was coming up as a coach, his philosophy was about this. When I read it I said, That is these guys.

“The quote says, It’s amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit. If that doesn’t embody these guys, in terms of their ability to play for each other, to be unselfish, to do the dirty work and then to see what they’ve accomplished,” Bennett said after Virginia’s 69-57 win over Virginia Tech Saturday.

You hear often about groups that are worth more together than the mere sum of their parts. This UVA group is worth a lot more as a unit than what you’d get adding up what they have, and that’s keeping in mind that they have a lot.

Media types like to talk and write about how Bennett doesn’t have a roster of McDonald’s All-Americans, but the cupboard isn’t exactly bare, either. Malcolm Brogdon and Justin Anderson were highly-regarded recruits coming out of high school, and 2014 alum Joe Harris, now in the NBA, proclaimed Anthony Gill, during his redshirt year after transferring into the program from South Carolina, as the best player on the team before he was ever able to step onto the court for a live game at JPJ.

Brogdon and Gill are two of the top 10 players nationally in stats guru Ken Pomeroy’s data-driven player of the year standings, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that to look at their stats (Brogdon is the team’s leading scorer, at a relatively modest 13.5 points per game).

Which is precisely because nobody cares who gets the credit. Saturday against Virginia Tech as an example: Gill carried the load in the first half, scoring 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field, getting to the line and making all four of his free-throw attempts. In the second half, Atkins was the man, 7-of-9 from the field, 14 points.

Brogdon had nine in the first half, 10 in the second. Perrantes had 11 points on just four shots, all makes, three from three-point range, to go with six assists and just one turnover, after missing the final 15 minutes of Virginia’s win over Florida State on Sunday and then the road win at Wake Forest on Wednesday with a broken nose.

Perrantes wore a mask to try to protect the nose Saturday, but chucked it after re-breaking the nose while diving for a loose ball late in the first half.

“I dove on the floor and the mask shifted, and my nose just went with it,” said Perrantes, who had eight points and five assists in the second half after breaking his nose for the second time in a week.

“It’s such a delicate thing, a broken nose, but it was tough of him to respond like that, and just step up out there and play. We needed everything he had, for sure,” Bennett said.

Getting Perrantes back Saturday was huge. The next bit of big news for Virginia basketball would be the return of Anderson, who is due back … soon, maybe next week. But in the meantime, Virginia has gone 7-0 without Anderson, who had emerged as an All-America candidate before going down with a broken pinky finger on his left (shooting) hand in the first half of the Feb. 7 win over Louisville, scoring 13.4 points per game and shooting 48.4 percent from three-point range.

Evan Nolte, a 6’8” junior who had been the fifth man in Bennett’s four-man post rotation up until Anderson went down, has gotten the bulk of Anderson’s minutes since. Nolte isn’t what you’d call lighting up the box score, averaging 3.9 points per game in 28 minutes per game over the last seven, but he’s holding down the fort by playing good defense, rebounding and moving the ball.

Nolte epitomizes the Who cares who gets the credit? philosophy that defines this team.

It’s a team effort to get to 27-1. Not even Bennett wants to take credit where credit is due.

“I’m very thankful because these guys have just bought in, played their guts out, and it’s the contribution of everybody, from Coach (Mike) Curtis, our strength coach, to (trainer) Ethan Saliba with all the injuries, and the players, we call them the ‘green machine,’ the scout team, all the staff. That’s pretty special,” Bennett said.

“Did I expect it? Probably not. Am I very thankful? Absolutely,” Bennett said. “To be a part of it at an institution like this is what I had hoped for, and I’m glad at least that we’re in this part of our goals in the conference season. We stepped to it, and we weren’t afraid to go get it.”

– Column by Chris Graham

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