UVA Basketball’s Tony Bennett, Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, on win over Auburn in Final Four

uva basketball bear creekTHE MODERATOR: We’re joined at this time by the head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers, Tony Bennett, and student-athletes Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome.

We’ll take one question for Coach Bennett, and then we’ll go to the student-athletes.

Q. (Off microphone.)
TONY BENNETT: It’s just an action that we run, and Ty said, you know, if it’s open, you’re coming, and make that thing, I think. He had hit a great shot the previous play. Again, I haven’t seen the replay, but someone said they did get in his space and pushed him. But then to make the three free throws is terrific. You just keep playing.

I said that to Tracy after on CBS. I said, These last two games, oh, my, how they end it. We got up ten, and they made some tough shots, and we had a couple of — I think we stood a little bit, and we had a couple of tough plays. We played well in the second half, and they played the plays.

I do feel for Auburn, but I feel better for us right now, and I’m just thankful these guys stepped up and played the way we needed to and got through. Survive and advance, I guess that’s taking on a new meaning.

THE MODERATOR: We’re going to take questions for the Virginia student-athletes.

Q. Kyle, can you take us through your thought process where you’re standing at the line there and had to make three free throws to win the game.
KYLE GUY: Yeah, these are moments that every basketball player has dreamed of, hitting the game-winning shot or free throws or whatever. Kind of had that feeling in your stomach, like a good nervousness, like, all right, this is my chance. To be able to go to the National Championship off of that for these guys and Coach Bennett, I mean, I really don’t have the words.

Q. For Ty, on the sidelines, sitting there, you about — as the end of the game was unfolding, you were about to swallow your hand, it looked like. What was going through your head when you were sitting on the bench the final moments?
TY JEROME: I was just so frustrated with myself. I let my frustration get the best of me, and I picked up my fourth foul, just a bonehead play. It almost cost us the game.

Luckily, we somehow came out on top, so I get another chance to play Monday. But to put myself on the bench and leave my teammates like that in crunch time is a terrible decision.

Q. For Ty and Kyle, you guys had to commit three fouls within several seconds. Kyle, you were the one on the court. Ty, you were going offense-defense. How often do you practice the situation where you’ve got to get multiple fouls within a few seconds, and then how close to perfection did you guys execute that?
TY JEROME: We actually practice late-game situations pretty often in practice. We’ll make our two teams, and we’ll say, all right, this team is down six with the ball with 1:30. So it’s something we’ve practiced a lot. We run over late-game situations a lot.

That three Kyle hit was off a play that Coach put in. Everyone did their job screening, and Kyle hit a super tough shot.

The same on the side out of bounds plays. It’s a play we put in and practiced it multiple times. It wasn’t just luck. We worked on that situation a lot.

KYLE GUY: Yeah, we definitely take pride in trying to overprepare. We have a poster in our practice gym, in our weight room that says “Success Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity.” We did a great job staying disciplined during those last ten seconds and making something happen.

Q. Ty, Kyle, one year ago, you’re sitting in the press conference losing to the No. 16 seed. A year later you’re now one game away from a National Championship. Just comment on what that means and how good it must feel for you guys to be so close for redemption to be achieved.
TY JEROME: I feel like I get asked this question every single round, every round we advance, and every round I say the same thing almost, and it feels a little bit sweeter, a little bit sweeter. But to think this time last year we were starting our spring workouts, and to still be playing at this point in the season with, after tonight, one other team in the whole country on the stage that you dreamed about since you were a little kid, it’s an unreal feeling. We’re going to do everything we can to finish the job.

KYLE GUY: Yeah, not much to add. Just you guys can ask that question again on Monday.

Q. Kyle, were you waiting for a whistle on that? And then do you have an internal dialogue at all when you’re going to the free-throw line of anything you say to yourself?
KYLE GUY: Yeah, I heard him call it right away. They were asking me did I know, because I put my hand — my face into my jersey, but that was me focusing. I knew they called a foul. I knew that I got behind the line for three shots because I practiced that. I just literally told myself that we dream of these moments, and to be able to make one happen was special.

Q. Kyle, how many times have you stood in your driveway on an outdoor court or just in a practice gym by yourself and sit three free throws to win the game or tie the game, and after Tennessee (Auburn) called a time-out, it looked like you didn’t go into the huddle. You just sort of walked around the edge. Were you trying to not get caught up in any conversations?
KYLE GUY: Yeah, I didn’t want to have anything to do with my teammates or coaches at that time. I just wanted to be in my own space. I knew they had confidence in me; I just needed to build up my own. And we all practiced those shots as a kid. They were probably a little bit more spectacular than free throws, but whatever it takes to win.

Q. Just given the range of emotions in that game, is more jubilation or relief you’re feeling right now?
KYLE GUY: I don’t really have the words for how I feel. I really don’t. I’ve been pinching myself the whole time I’ve been in Minneapolis because it doesn’t really feel real, but I’m just so happy right now, so proud of — he played freakin’ phenomenal. 21, 9, and 6 — he carried us through this game. Obviously, Coach did a fantastic job preparing us and making the adjustments during the game. I think it’s a little bit of both. Just really happy right now.

THE MODERATOR: We want to thank Ty and Kyle for joining us here in the main interview room. They’re going to head back to the Virginia locker room, which is still open for athlete availability.

Q. De’Andre Hunter had a huge stretch early in the second half. Just how big was his imposing force in kind of getting that game turned around?
TONY BENNETT: I’m having a hard time hearing. There’s a fan. Did you say De’Andre? Yeah, I thought his second half was key for us. I thought we played good basketball in the second half to get up that. But he attacked first half. They’re athletic, and they’re quick. But De’Andre really did the things we needed. Got us different kinds of baskets, you know, whether he could drive, got a couple of offensive rebounds, and really a very strong second half for sure.

Q. I wanted to ask you in the first half Auburn did not hit many three-pointers. You guys did not turn the ball over, and yet they were right there and had the lead at halftime. How concerning was it that it seemed like you were doing what you needed to do?
TONY BENNETT: Well, I thought we had some errors defensively. One, we weren’t back the way we needed to against them. We made a little adjustment at halftime to hopefully help with that, and then we let the ball get in the lane too much. We weren’t what we thought we needed to do, impacting the ball handler, even if it got close to a ball screen, they run a dribble drive and they run these little brush screens. They were getting downhill, touching the paint, and that put too much pressure. They’re so quick. And they went by us, and we needed to collectively, we always say, build a wall or impact when we could.

I thought we improved on that in the second half. We tried to move them, and they didn’t shoot it as well in the second half. For the most part, we handled the ball pretty well. That was, hey, we’re taking care of the ball, but I knew it was the transition defense and how much they’re getting in the paint and offensive rebounding — areas you’re not going to win if you don’t clean those up. And they made the plays down the stretch.

Q. You said Kyle making his three free throws was terrific. Is that a strong enough word for that situation? You’ve got a career, a season, so many things on the line.
TONY BENNETT: Yeah, the fact that he hit that shot before it and then stepped to the line. You know, we were 6 of 12 from the line, and we struggled from the line, but for him in that setting to do it, yeah, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Terrific, sorry, that wasn’t a strong enough word. Amazing, spectacular, is that — I don’t have many more. I didn’t graduate from UVA, so my vocab is a little limited.

THE MODERATOR: Good words still, Coach.

Q. When Ty came out with the four fouls, did you have any words for him, and then how did you try to weigh when to bring him back in?
TONY BENNETT: Yeah, I said, why did you do that? Yeah, we needed him on the floor, and I was going to put him in once we got into the media timeout, but I thought, if we could get him at the three minute or under three, we’d put him back. They shot a shot, and I don’t know if we missed a blockout, but we got a miss, and they offensive rebound and we got it back. At that point, I think he went in around the three-minute mark.

I don’t know when he picked up the fourth foul, 4:30, five minutes, somewhere in there. Somewhere right in there. It was before the media. It was either going to be under the media or at the three-minute mark. We needed him back on the floor. I think we went down by a couple of possessions at that time.

Q. These guys just said they’ve been answering questions about every game after last year. Can you just kind of put it in perspective what it means to come from that to within one game of winning a National Championship on Monday?
TONY BENNETT: It’s a great story. It is. I told those guys, and I said it, I think, at the press conference here. Two years ago we were playing in Orlando against Florida and just getting blown out. They were at the scorer’s table, and there was maybe two or three minutes left, and I huddled down by them. I said, this is going to change. It’s okay, but take note of this, we’re going to do this.

Then after the UMBC game, we sat in the holding area after that loss, and I said, we’re not going to put up Isaiah or Devon, our two seniors. Ty and Kyle, we’re going to be up there, and that’s going to be one of the hardest things, facing that press conference, but it starts now. It’s going to mark something. I said, we’re going to get through this, but you guys need to be up there with me, and we need to go through this, and we need to go through next year together. We need each other. I knew it was going to be such an important time in our lives no matter how it played out.

To see them earmark those guys after that game in Orlando two years ago, and then after, to put them — that’s not a fun setting for anybody in the press conference. And now to sit with them here brings great joy to my heart, it really does, because it’s good. That’s all I can say, and I’m so thankful. Again, whether it happened or not, I would have been so thankful for what they’ve done for this program and our bond through this all.

Q. Coach, congratulations on the win. You come from a basketball family with your father and your brother —
TONY BENNETT: I don’t have a brother, my sister.

Q. Sorry, your sister.
TONY BENNETT: I always wanted a brother. No.

Q. Just comment on what credit do you owe them to getting to where you are now one game away from a National Championship?
TONY BENNETT: Huge. I mean, so many people have poured into my life basketball-wise, but I’ve said this before. What my dad did for me, he took Wisconsin to the Final Four, he retired, and then he decided to come out of retirement. We went to Washington State, and I was his assistant or associate head coach, and he took the bullets for three years. It was hard. He lost. He had been at the top, and he did it, and he said, I can’t go any more, but I think you have a chance. I don’t know if you can turn it around.

Talk about a father’s love for his son in that regard. He basically, at the end of his career, said, I’m going to try to help you rebuild it. Here you go, son. You’ve got a chance. I wouldn’t be here without that.

And my sister Kathi was a great player and a great coach, but my wife, my children, my mom — I understand, when you’re a coach’s son, it’s everybody. So I’m humbled. I stand in awe of this journey. I really do, and I really am thankful for it. But mom, dad, wife, kids, sister — it’s all there.

THE MODERATOR: We’d like to thank Coach Bennett for joining us here in the main interview room. Congratulations, Coach.

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