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March 5, 2010
7:28 a.m.

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Could Tony Bennett’s basketball team, which has lost eight straight, get hot over the next nine days and end up in the National Invitation Tournament?

It’s possible, yes, but unlikely. Which means UVa’s regular-season finale Saturday against No. 22 Maryland will almost certainly be the last game at John Paul Jones Arena for Bennett’s three seniors: guard Calvin Baker, swingman Solomon Tat and center Jerome Meyinsse.

On the ACC coaches’ teleconference Monday, Bennett was asked to talk about the seniors, who also are team captains. Bennett’s comments:

On Baker:

“Calvin’s a battler, a competitor. He’s kind of had an up-and-down season. I feel bad for him in his senior year to have to deal with the injuries he’s had to deal with, the amount of surgeries and things like that. He’s been through the wars, he certainly has.

“He’s made some nice plays for us in certain games, and I know how much he desperately wants to play. He probably hasn’t gotten as much of that as he’s wanted, but that’s all part of it. But he’s been here a long time, and he’s battled-tested, and like I said he’s helped us in some games, no question.”

On Tat:

“He’s a warrior. He’s got the best attitude I’ve seen, really, seeing his situation, in all my years of coaching. I mean he just is urging the team on, he’s all about the right stuff. That’s why I named him captain. I’m so glad I’ve gotten to experience being with a guy like Solo because of his work ethic, but also because of his attitude, and that’s going to carry him far beyond [basketball].

“Even in the hard times, he’s been a voice of encouragement for our players, for our staff, and I respect that greatly.”

On Meyinsse:

“There’s a good example of a guy that has just paid his dues, has worked hard, and he’s improved. He’s a great role model off the court, on the court, great character kid. He’s just gotten better and better, and he’s become a bit of a presence for us inside. I couldn’t be happier for Jerome, who, again, represents all the right things.”

Virginia is coming off a 68-55 loss at Boston College. Meyinsse started and scored 12 points, on 6-for-6 shooting. Tat came off the bench to score 5 points in 11 minutes, both season highs. Baker didn’t play.

UVa (5-10, 14-14) hosts Maryland (12-3, 22-7) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Jeff White

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