Weekend Notebook: Bennett Stays on Even Keel
Feb. 9, 2017
CHARLOTTESVILLE — As the second of the two regular-season men’s basketball games between the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech approaches, there will be much talk about the rivalry between these programs. But it won’t come from UVA head coach Tony Bennett.
“I’ve never heard him bring it up,” junior forward Isaiah Wilkins said Wednesday at John Paul Jones Arena, “and I don’t think I’ll ever hear that.”
Bennett, who’s in his eighth year at Virginia, tries to approach every game the same way, Wilkins said. And so Bennett is not placing any extra emphasis — in public or in private — on the Cavaliers’ upcoming clash with the Hokies.
At 6:30 p.m. Sunday, in an ACC game that ESPNU will televise, No. 12 Virginia (18-5, 8-3) meets Virginia Tech (16-7, 5-6) at Cassell Coliseum.
Bennett’s record against the Hokies is 11-4, and the Wahoos have won nine of the past 10 games in a series they lead 90-54. Tech’s lone victory during that span came last season in Blacksburg, where the Cavaliers’ furious second-half rally fell short.
“Obviously we know that [Cassell Coliseum] is crazy,” Wilkins said, “because every time we go in there we’re in a close game, whether we come out on top or we lose. [Bennett will] bring that up for sure, but it’s just another game we’ve got to be locked in for. We’ve just got to come out with some fire and really be ready to play and be locked in for 40 minutes.”
In the teams’ most recent meeting, UVA never trailed in a 71-48 win over Tech on Feb. 2 at JPJ. Wilkins scored a career-best 15 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds to lead the `Hoos.
The Hokies are in their third season under head coach Buzz Williams. “They were off” at JPJ last week, Bennett said, but he expects the Hokies to be at their best Sunday night.
“Buzz, one of his gifts is his ability to motivate teams,” Bennett said on his radio show Tuesday night.
Virginia Tech lost late Wednesday night to Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The Cavaliers haven’t played since Monday night, when they knocked off No. 4 Louisville 71-55 at JPJ. Wilkins posted his first double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds) against the Cardinals and matched his career high with five blocked shots.
UVA’s players had Tuesday off and won’t practice Thursday. Moreover, Wednesday’s practice was a light one.
The rest “feels good,” Wilkins said. “I think it’ll help us a lot. Guys are a little banged-up.”
ON THE MAT: The wrestling team’s final home dual meet is Sunday afternoon at Mem Gym. At 1 o’clock, No. 23 Virginia takes on ACC rival Pitt.
For UVA fans, it will be the final opportunity to see a senior class led by George DiCamillo wrestle in Charlottesville. DiCamillo, a three-time ACC champion at 133 pounds, moved up to 141 this season, and he’s ranked No. 6 nationally at that weight.
DiCamillo, who earned his bachelor’s degree in economics last spring, is competing as a graduate student this season. He said he remembers in previous seasons “seeing all the other guys’ Senior Days and being like, `Man, this coming. This is coming really fast.’ “
He was a redshirt sophomore in February 2015 when Nick Sulzer, one of the Cavaliers’ all-time greats, wrestled for the final time at Mem Gym.
“I just remember the emotions Nick was going through,” DiCamillo said. “It’s kind of the same emotions that are hitting me now.”
ON THE DIAMOND: Joanna Hardin makes her debut as UVA’s head softball coach Thursday in Tempe, Arizona. At 5 p.m. Eastern, Virginia meets No. 9 Oregon in the Kajikawa Classic.
The Cavaliers, who finished 18-33 overall in 2016, will play five games in Tempe before returning to Charlottesville. Virginia’s home opener is March 3 against ACC rival Virginia Tech at The Park.
Hardin came to UVA from McNeese State, where she compiled a 79-34 record in two seasons as head coach, with one NCAA tournament appearance.
Here’s Hardin discussing the Cavaliers’ program on the latest edition of the Wahoo Central Podcast.
OPENING DAY: Virginia’s lacrosse teams play their 2017 openers Saturday afternoon, the 14th-ranked women against Elon at KlÃƒÂ¶ckner Stadium and the No. 14 men against No. 6 Loyola in Baltimore.
Each has a 1 o’clock start.
The women’s game can be seen online at ACC Network Extra. The men’s game will be streamed live (and for free) on several sites. (Check @UVAMensLacrosse on Twitter for information.)
This will be Lars Tiffany‘s debut as head coach of the UVA men. He replaces Dom Starsia, for whom Tiffany played at Brown. Starsia won four NCAA titles at Virginia, in 1999, 2003, 2006 and 2011.
Tiffany, like Starsia, is a former Brown head coach. Tiffany guided the Bears to the NCAA semifinals last year. He previews UVA’s season on this Wahoo Central Podcast.
For Myers, this is her 22nd year as head coach at her alma mater. In each of her first 21 seasons, the `Hoos advanced to the NCAA tournament. Virginia has won one NCAA title and been runner-up six times under Myers.
From a team that finished 9-9 last season, UVA returned eight of its top 10 scorers. Also back is goalkeeper Rachel Vander Kolk, who was the ACC freshman of the year in 2015 and made IWLCA All-South Region second team last season.
“I feel like she’s been here for five years,” Myers said, “and yet she’s only third-year, and I say that in a great way. She’s just so mature and so settled and solid in what she’s doing, but also so eager to get better.”
Midfielder Kasey Behr led the Cavaliers with 38 goals last season. Now a junior, Behr is a nursing student at UVA.
“She has a full plate, but the nice part about Kasey is she is a very talented kid, and every athlete can always get better,” Myers said.
“She doesn’t have as much time as some other kids do, so she’s really found ways to maximize what time she has, whether she’s studying or training for our team.”
Myers previews the season on this Wahoo Central Podcast.
ON THE COURTS: Also at home this weekend is the top-ranked men’s tennis team, which takes on No. 6 Florida in a dual match Saturday at 5 p.m. indoor at the Boar’s Head Sports Club.
The Boar’s Head also will the site of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, Feb. 17 to 20.
Under head coach Brian Boland, Virginia has won two straight NCAA team titles and three of the past four. The `Hoos are 3-0 this season after winning last weekend at Vanderbilt (4-3), at Kentucky (4-3) and at Louisville (7-0).
RISING STARS: The women’s basketball team, which plays Thursday night at No. 16 Miami, returns home to face another ACC foe, Wake Forest, at 2 p.m. Sunday at JPJ.
The `Hoos have won five of their past six games with the Demon Deacons.
Of the Cavaliers’ top four scorers, two are freshmen: Jocelyn Willoughby (9.7 ppg) and Dominique Toussaint (9.6 ppg). The 6-0 Willoughby leads UVA in rebounds per game (6.3), and the 5-9 Toussaint is first in assists per game (2.8).