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Jan. 23, 2018

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Virginia Head Coach Tony Bennett

On the key to the defensive effort tonight:
“I thought in the second half, that was some of the best defense we’ve played. They had a couple of careless turnovers on their part and we turned them into points. Without Donte Grantham, that’s a huge blow in their first game. They were really good early and had some breakdowns. I want to acknowledge that because Brad has done a terrific job. They are a well-coached team, but that’s a hard blow. In saying that, I don’t want to take away what I thought our guys did, especially in the second half defensively. I thought they were so active with their hands. Mamadi (Diakite) gave us some lift and everything was contested. It was physical. They kind of punched us in the face a little bit in the first half and we were a little sped up and stretched out. We then righted the ship and played some of our better defense. They were a little fatigued, but I like how our guys responded.”

On the tone at halftime:
“I talked to them right when we came off the court and I said to them, `fellas, whether you like it or not, this is going to be a blue-collar game.’ This is a physical game and that’s how they play. They are going to bump you and play hard defense. They are going to screen hard and we have to do the same. You have to respond to this. Nothing soft or with fluff is going to work in this game. I addressed them at the start and then went into the coaches. We just talked about can you find it within. I like how our guys responded. I thought we did a good job offensively in the second half, moving a little more and just letting it come. We were stronger with the ball as opposed to being a little impatient at time.”

On being 8-0 in the conference and what is special about this team:
“I mean we have respected everybody we have played. We have said this game is significant. It’s the only game we’re playing, so it’s important. They have just found ways. We struggled in the first half, but use the saying, `we don’t have to be great, we just have to be good all the time.’ That’s our way. Again, I don’t know what our ceiling is or anything like that, but like Clemson was playing before Grantham got hurt, they had a special connectivity. I think there’s a special synergy with our group. There’s individual talent, but I love the saying that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We have some really great parts, but there is something going on with that synergy. You saw that on the defensive end and even offensively. Guys are understanding their roles and making big shots at the right time. We have different guys with different balance. I think those things up to this point has been high level. You work hard to get there, so you don’t want to back up.”

Clemson Head Coach Brad Brownell

Opening Statement:
“Congratulations to Virginia. I thought they played obviously terrific defensively. I thought our kids played really hard, especially the first 20 minutes. We did a lot of good things defensively to bother them, but after the break, we just lost some momentum there at the end of the first half offensively and I think we really tried to do too many one-on-one things in the second half. When they have a lead like that, you’re really in trouble. Just got outplayed today in the second half badly.”

On missing Donte Grantham:
“We’re not going to come into every media deal and use that as an excuse. We’re dealing with some things with that, but injuries happen. I’m disappointed because a kid like that, you guys should see him personally. He’s an unbelievable young man who’s had four years in our program. He’s our leader. He’s been working to this point. He wanted to play on a team that went to the NCAA Tournament. I feel bad for him. It’s a terrible way for a kid’s career to end. At the end of the day, we have to figure out a way to play without him, and we’re working on doing that. I tough Aamir Simms did some good things for us today. For a freshman in there battling, he played as well as anybody. We’ve got to make some other adjustments and do some other things to counteract it, and I’ve got to figure some things out, but we’ll work through that in the next month and a half.”

On Virginia’s defense:
“Absolutely. Now they’re not a huge denial team. So, they’re not trying to deny, but what they do do is they got their hands up all the time they get deflections. The other thing that I think you don’t realize when you see Virginia — they’re big. Their guards are big. They have size. They bring tremendous athleticism off the bench so this is an older group, too. They’re extremely well coached in what they do. When they can lock into you, it’s hard to execute good offense. Especially in this building. Because this building, it’s a little bit like playing at Clemson football. We raise hell on third down. Don’t get third down because you’re probably going to have a delay of game penalty. I think that’s about the only thing we didn’t have — a delay of game today.”

Virginia Guard Kyle Guy

On defense:
“We grind every day and we work on defense. We preach it. Like you said, we get back and we rebound and do our job, it is hard for anybody to score on us. So, when we are hitting on all cylinders, it is actually really fun to play defense like that.”

On how this win relates to the upcoming game at Duke:
“This game Saturday was the one everybody circled at the beginning of the year. It is going to be a really good test for us and we are really looking forward to it. Our defense was great this second half, so that is good momentum and a boost going into that game.”

On the defensive stops being a motivation:
“We like being different. I think I said this a couple weeks ago, that when we miss a shot on offense we are not very worried about it because we know our defense is going to make up for it. Most teams feed off energy if they are hitting shots, and we do it when we are making other teams miss.”

Virginia Guard Ty Jerome

On coming back in the second half after two fouls:
“I think that that is happening too often. I keep picking up two fouls, whether they are fouls or not. I cannot keep picking up two fouls. I do not like sitting that long in the first half. I do not think you have time to be angry. I just have to always play my part, cheer the team on, and help in any way I can. They did a great job getting the lead going into halftime and that is when I knew I needed to play my part in the second half.”

On sensing frustration from the other team:
“Yeah, a ton of frustration. They stopped running their offense. A lot of it, I think, is when you can do two things: when you can keep them off transitions and keep them off the glass, that takes away the majority of their offense. When you play good ball screen defense, that is another thing that is demoralizing. Those are usually the team’s three main things: offensive looks and transitions, offensive rebounds, and then ball screen defense. So, if we are good in those areas that sets the foundation for our defense.”

On the halftime talk:
“[Tony Bennett] said it was a real blue-collar game. So, we needed to roll up our sleeves and just fight it out, be physical, be who we are. That was his message to us after the Wake Forest game too. A lot of times, at this point in the year, teams start slipping a little bit on the things they do best so we wanted to turn the screws back just a little bit and get back to who we really are. That was the talk at halftime and we did a good job of executing in the second half.”

Virginia Guard Devon Hall

On ‘s defensive play:
“[Ty Jerome] today, his activity with his hands was amazing. He really helped us because sometimes they would get around a ball screen, and him being active with his hands really helped us.”


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