augusta free press news

Virginia coach Tony Bennett on win at #18 Louisville

tony bennett uva basketballOn if Tony Bennett felt Virginia was in a good place at half due to poor shooting from three point range compared to Louisville’s high percentage

“I wasn’t sure, while they were shooting the ball well, we broke down a couple times. We were a little slow getting to the shooters, but they shoot…I mean it’s in their hands and it’s off, and we’ve seen them do that. At least if we’re there a little quicker and they’re making them, we’ll live with it, but we’ve got to get there quicker. I didn’t know because they’re hard to guard, they’re disciplined, they threw the 1-3-1 at us that they hadn’t showed a lot. They played, I think, only one possession against Duke, so we were a little confused. I thought when De’Andre (Hunter) got in foul trouble, Jay Huff gave us a great lift offensively, and I thought De’Andre was special today. The way he played, that was a special performance. I liked the individual defense on the interior, the individual defense sometimes bothering some shooters in the second half. It was really a gritty second half for us, though we didn’t even shoot it – I think ‘Dre (Hunter) is the only one who hit the 3’s – we didn’t shoot it well, but we took care of the ball and got some pressure with Kihei (Clark) and finished it the right way.”

On Virginia’s 34 points in the paint and how it helped their low shooting percentage

“We’re such a post scoring team, I don’t know what else to tell you. There are different ways to get it in the paint, and again whether it was drives or tough finishes, Mamadi (Diakite) and Jay (Huff) gave us a lift. I didn’t play Braxton (Key) and Jack (Salt) in the second half. I just went with what I thought defensively with the matchups and the way it was, but the rebounding and the tough play in the lane, some drop passes and pocket passes, nice things happened off the ball screen. We were so much better in the second half and tried to just stay the course.”

On why he though Virginia performed better in the second half

“I think we got De’Andre (Hunter) back on the floor, he’s a terrific defender. That helped us with the matchup at the four spot.  Then when I put Kihei (Clark) in, he was really heating up the ball, and then De’Andre guarded (Jordan) Nwora, who was terrific in the first half. Then we were more mindful, not that we shouldn’t have been, on Ryan (McMahon) because he’s such a good shooter. I just thought we bothered, of course they missed some shots, and we ran some decent offense.”

On Kyle Guy’s rebounding and how he has been a consistent rebounder all season

“He sure has. Sometimes the other guys just have to get people off, and your guards have to come in and clean it up, and Kyle has a nose for the ball. He’s deceptive with his bounce off the floor and going and getting stuff. Sometimes when he drives, he’s deceptive that way too to be able to get off his shot. With a lot of long threes, and they shot a lot in the second half, there’s long rebounds, so that was important for the guards to clean up.”

On if he did not trap the post because of the three-point percentage in the first half

“Well, our guys have been doing a good job guarding individually, Jack Salt is terrific, Mamadi (Diakite), Jay (Huff) – they’ve done some good things. We always talk about it, but correct, the way they shot the ball, we thought, ‘Let’s make some plays over the top and score, stay at home a little bit because most teams are planning for our post traps. Not that we won’t use it, but I think maybe they made one or two post buckets off a move, but it helped us with our rebounding and also our perimeter defense.”

On if there was a moment in the game when he realized De’Andre Hunter was really feeling it

“The whole game. He was so complete defensively, he hit the threes, he was driving and he’s just playing good basketball. You look at his stat-line, 9-11, made 2-2, got to the line. I just thought he was so efficient. That’s about as efficient as it gets and that what’s so valuable. Whether it’s guarding a switch, the perimeter guy, or again, guarding (Jordan) Nwora. We needed his drives, drawing fouls and we needed his threes when we weren’t shooting with the rest of the guys.”

On De’Andre Hunter’s ability to take over a game

“He’s just continuing to evolve his game, you can see it. He’s improving and he’s just playing at a high level. In practice he shows signs of that, of course, but to do it in games is a little different, when we needed it. There’re some other really good players on the floor, so the spacing and things like that allow him for that. When he’s at the four, he’s a matchup problem. Just like when (Jordan) Nwora is at the four, he can be a matchup problem. That’s the way the game is going with guys like that, at times, playing those spots.”

On Jay Huff’s performance

“Yeah, I thought he gave us a lift. During that 1-3-1, his offensive skill, his touch around the rim and his length is certainly unquestioned. It’s just a matter of him continuing to be good defensively, take care of the ball, get stronger. All those areas, he’s improving in. There’re opportunities, like I said Jack (Salt) and Braxton (Key) didn’t play in the second half, Jay showed flashes. Jay’s sort of a moving target with all of our guys. Sometimes Kihei (Clark) is it, it’s just what the game requires, but Jay’s offensive skills were there. We talked about the mismatched four, well he’s an interesting five man. What I loved today is that he made some interior jump hooks and shots. It wasn’t just out at the three-point line or a drive. That was exciting to see, and then he used his length to block a couple shots. Those things are all there and they’re coming. He was rewarded for the way he played today, and we were rewarded by the way he played as a team.”

On how Virginia was able to pull off a comeback win with poor shooting from Guy and Jerome

“Well, like I said, I think we got a great Mamadi  (Diakite) and I talked about De’Andre (Hunter), those guys, different guys at different times. That certainly was a good step and a good sign that you have to be able to win in different ways. I thought De’Andre was the catalyst to that, but other guys stepping up. That was hard. If you would have told me, ‘You’re going to be 2 of 17, here are your stats and the first half, this is the way it’s going to be.’ I would’ve said, ‘We might be in for a long one tonight.’ But they toughened up and played well.”

On Diakite’s progress

“When you color your hair, you kind of have games like that. He’s improved. Like Jay, for bigger players, it’s a process and it’s a hard process to shortcut. It’s just the reality of it – the way we demand people, the way we think we have to play to be successful, holding guys defensively, all those things. You just see them get more and more accustomed to it. Again, it’s really just a process and Mamadi has gotten stronger and better. His athleticism is on display with his shot blocking, his quickness, if he has to show, and be able to close out. That puts pressure on you when their five men can ball screen and separate. That’s a hard action, and we had some trouble with it.”

On Virginia’s success on the road against Louisville, especially given last year’s comeback victory

“We played well. I have so much respect for the Louisville program, in terms of, Coach Mack and his staff now. The battles that we had with them when it was Coach Padgett, and obviously Coach Pitino. This is one of the more beautiful venues that you’re going to play in. The fanbase, they care, you just feel it. You feel it in the arena. There’s talented players so you know that you have got to play well. Our guys answered the call every time we’ve played them in these games. It was so improbable last year, but this one was the way you’re supposed to come back. Last year, I don’t know, but this year is how you have to do it when you’re in those spots.”

augusta free press
augusta free press