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Jan. 20, 2016

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Virginia Game Notes
No. 13 Virginia 69, Clemson 62
Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016

Virginia Head Coach Tony Bennett

On the bench:
“The balance was important. Devon Hall played and gave us quality minutes. I thought Isaiah Wilkins’s activity guarding Jaron Blossomgame was solid. We switched some ball screens and I thought that helped us get back to playing how I think we have to play. I was really pleased with the contributions from the other guys.”

On the close game:
“We got closer and I never thought that we took control in that game. It’s a fine line and I say it all of the time, I like this side of the line better than the other side, but it comes down to a few key stops and you have to get those. The fact that we were able to get a few of those was important for us. We will certainly keep working at that. You can see why Blossomgame was the reigning player of the week in the ACC and he is so talented and why they have won some games. I think we responded well and have tightened up defensively. We’ll take it.”

On the win after a few road losses:
“We have been in games on the road and of the ones we’ve dropped, they’ve been possession games that really could have gone either way. I’ll be honest with you; the wins at home have also been possession games. To say there was a three to go in and out against us it would have been a tie game under two minutes. You saw how tight this was. That’s just the way it is. Again, we should talk about the depth of the league and the talent of all of these teams that we have played from last year. They are all better, of the ones that we’ve played for the most part. I really believe they are. I don’t know what our potential is, but I want us to get to that line. We have to get to that line and I think we took a step toward that. I don’t know how good we can be, but I want us to reach that line and know that there will be a lot of close possession games and we need to get some stops. Again, we left some points on the board at the free throw line and even some off the inside shots that I thought we should have had. It could have made a difference and could have also made a difference in some of the other games. To come back home, play a good team, and come away with a win, I am thankful for that.”

On starting Jack Salt:
“I started Jack Salt because I thought his tenacity and his physicality would get us off right. Jack didn’t really have a good start. He was exhausted and looked exhausted. He got ducked in a few times and had trouble finishing, so I thought that we should go with Mike Tobey to start and use Jarred Reuter in small minutes. Again, that is part of being a freshman with Jack and Jarred. There is a bit of inconsistency to say the least. I though with Mike that the size was important. With Jack, usually to start games and brings physicality and perhaps maybe will draw a foul or two.”

Virginia Guard Malcom Brogdon

On letting the game come to him:
“Coach got on me a little bit about forcing some shots, and I tried to respond well to it and play better with my teammates.”

On Devon Hall’s performance:
“Devon had a great summer. Offensively and defensively he’s playing with a lot of confidence and I think he’s finally stepping into his role and playing up to his potential, which I think is great. We need him to play at the level he is playing at and we need guys to step up. Devon, Isaiah, Darius, I think everyone stepped up tonight.”

On the recent “search for answers:”
“It is different for us. It’s definitely different for me. I’ve never been on a Virginia team where we have struggled to get stops and our defense has been questioned. But that comes with the territory. Every season is going to be different and we have to realize that. This season has been different. We’ve had more roller coasters at the beginning of the season with high expectations, but we are not a team that listens to the expectations from the outside. Like Coach Bennett said, we have to just put the blinders on and focus on what we have to do to reach the goal ahead of us. I think we’re righting the ship and getting back on track.”

On the team’s play:
“Everyone brings a different aspect to the team. Darius Thompson brings transition offense for us and has really helped us pick up our tempo. Isaiah Wilkins is a great passer, our best passing big, and arguably the best passer on the team. At times he is too unselfish, at times he is always looking for the pass. When he has a good balance of getting people open but is also being aggressive and looking for his shot, we are really at our best.”

Virginia Forward Isaiah Wilkins

On getting back to defense-first basketball:
“It felt like we were playing as a team again- we were really gelling. They hit a lot of tough shots and have some really good players, but in my opinion we just had this vibe that we were going to get it done today and it paid off.”

On guarding Jaron Blossomgame:
“He is a really really good player. I think he’s killing it this year from what the Coaches told us and what I’ve seen on tape. When I’m in, I’m just trying to make sure that he doesn’t get a catch, because that is the easiest way to play defense- if they can’t get the ball then they can’t score. He is a really complete player. He can shoot the three and can put it on the floor, so we just tried to go out and get as many stops as possible.”

On his passing:
“I focus on passing a lot in practice when we do zone drills and stuff like that. I feel like I always know where Mike Tobey is, but the guards shift when I get the ball. So when I look up and see a big guy on me I know that someone is open.”

Virginia Forward Anthony Gill

On his fastbreak dunk:
“I didn’t leak out. It was a long three pointer and I saw that we had the rebound. I was at the three-point line boxing out my man. Then I saw that no one was in front of me so I sprinted down the floor. Luckily, [Malcolm] found me. It felt good to get easy points.”

On the influence of the crowd at the end of the game:
“I think that the home-court advantage certainly helped us out this game. They get us through a lot of situations, especially when we’re going through a dry spell. They can keep us going.”

On the team being on the same page tonight:
“I think everyone had the same mindset tonight, which was great for us. Everyone was trying to take steps in the right direction so we can be efficient later on in the season and in the next game.”

On what Isaiah Wilkins means to the team:
“He’s been a great addition to this team. He brings a lot of energy in practice. He’s someone that can really help us out a lot. Whether I’m not playing well or someone else isn’t playing well, he always comes in and steps it up. He’s someone that doesn’t stop. He’s always crashing the glass and it really helps us. When he comes in the game you know there’s going to be an element of offensive rebounding coming into the game.”

Virginia Guard Devon Hall

On his performance:
“I’m just trying to stay patient and continuing to work hard. It’s about guys making plays for me and me being able to make plays for other guys. We’re just sticking to the system.”

On how being in the starting lineup affects his game:
“It maybe helped a bit with my confidence, but I trust everyone on the floor and they trust me. If it’s me having to play four minutes, I’m going to play hard. If it’s me playing 25 minutes, I’m going to play hard each and every possession.”

Virginia Guard London Perrantes

On whether the team had gotten back on track against Clemson:
“It felt like that a little bit. Clemson made some tough shots and played extremely well. We definitely wanted to buckle down on defense and get some stops like we usually do and I felt like we did that today. They had been playing well coming in, but we kept our lead. Our defense made some key stops and we made some key buckets towards the end.”

On his struggles from the free-throw line:
“I don’t know. It was just one of those days.”

On the performances from Devon Hall and Isaiah Wilkins:
“They played huge. We’ve been looking at those two sports for somebody to contribute and be consistent for us. They stepped up tonight. Devon played extremely well. He got other people involved, knocked down open threes and got to the paint. He’s capable of doing that. Isaiah played good defense. It’s just a matter of consistency in order for us to be successful.

Clemson Head Coach Brad Brownell

On the game:
“Well we gave ourselves a chance. That’s what you’re trying to do in these situations, put yourself in a position in the last three or four minutes to have a chance. We didn’t make enough threes. I know we made eight, but we needed to probably make a little bit higher percentage today. With the way Virginia guards you, they’re going to give a few of those up. I thought Jaron Blossomgame was outstanding. I’m pleased with the way our guys fought back and dealt with some adversity. It got really loud in here today. You could tell Virginia was locked in. They had some guys really step up. [Isaiah] Wilkins and [Devon] Hall especially made some good shots for them. Certainly Malcolm Brogdon was very good. We just couldn’t make enough plays to win the game. We had it to one possession twice. We had a bad turnover and then obviously a bad miscue with the press.”

On whether he expects the team to shoot around 24 three-pointers a game:
“Yeah, you know you’re going to with the way those guys guard you because they protect the paint so well. Sometimes that’s what you have to do. I thought Avry [Holmes] had a bunch of good looks, he just didn’t make any of them, 0-6. Tough night for him. We didn’t get enough extra baskets though. They do a great job blocking out. We didn’t get any offensive rebounds. We needed to fight a little more for some easy baskets to try and help us.”

On whether Landry Nnoko’s late foul trouble hurt the team:
“Not really. We went small and hoped to get a three or two out of it. Donte [Grantham] made a three. I thought that was a tactical decision that was a good one. We knew we couldn’t stay with that for long, but we did sneak a little bit and it helped bring us back a bit.”

On not getting to the free throw line enough:
“Yeah that was certainly a big part of it. They got to the line, we didn’t. [London] Perrantes missed a few, which is rare. That opened a couple things for us and gave us an opportunity. We just didn’t capitalize.”

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