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Feb. 24, 2018

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Virginia Head Coach Tony Bennett

Opening Statement:
“It’s really sad [referring to college basketball], and it’s so hard to know what’s true and what’s not, and I think ultimately from this — I’m hopeful that the truth will come out and in the long run it will be better for college basketball. Virginia’s name was mentioned in something, and it had nothing to do with recruiting. It was something with Malcom Brogdon’s mother, who I’ve known for eight years, and she has maybe the most integrity and is one of the kindest lady’s that I know. She made a statement, and this is a non-story. I absolutely believe her and I just want to make it clear that that’s it on that. We’re trying to get this thing going, and keep going. It’s a special day for us to win our outright ACC Championship. But, I do want to acknowledge this. It’s so hard to know what’s going on, and what’s actually true and not. I think it’s wise to not make too many comments or go into detail, but I hope in the long run the truth does come out. College basketball will be in a stronger place eventually, and it has to. So, with that, I think we’ll leave it at that and move on to questions about the game or our players or anything else.”

On holding Pitt to seven first half points:
“I’ve been on the other side of that, [scoring] maybe nine or 10 or 12 [points]. That’s a hard feeling. I have the utmost respect for Kevin Stallings. I think he has such a bright mind and he’s such a great coach. I’ve coached against him when he was at Vanderbilt and he’s so good. [Pitt] is so young and they’ve had some things happen. So, I certainly feel compassion. But, you’re in the heat of the game and we were trying to be as focused as we can. They actually missed some [good] shots. When I saw [the box score] I was surprised that they had only one field goal made in that first half. They just missed some point-blank ones, and I think their inexperience and youth showed up, and for the most part we were in [defensive] position. I thought we tried to play it the right way. I thought our guys responded the right way and respected them, and respected the game.”

On if anything changes moving forward with the ACC regular-season title already won:
“Not at all. We’ve got to keep playing to the best of our abilities. We’re going to try to improve, try to prepare the right way and play to win. We cannot get more complicated than that. We got the one seed last game and I said `You’re not starting over – let’s push, let’s be as good as we can and try to compete.’ But, I’m very excited for the guys that have been in this program to win an outright title, that’s no small feat.”

Virginia Forward Isaiah Wilkins

On how it feels to outright clinch the ACC:
“It’s exciting. It was something that we knew about coming into this game, so it was exciting. It is a good feeling, but there is still a lot of basketball to be played.

On being able to play deep into the bench today:
“It was a good feeling. It’s obviously good for your body, and it’s good for those guys to get out there and get some experience.”

On holding Pitt to one field goal in the first half:
“I think that they had shots and they just missed them. So, we have a lot of cleanup there.”

Virginia Guard Nigel Johnson

On being part of an ACC regular season title team after transferring from Rutgers:
“I knew that I was coming to a team that was going to be good and had the tradition of winning. I didn’t even know it was going to be this good. We shattered my expectations. I expected to be somewhere in the top 4 or 5 in the ACC, but to be outright champs and No. 1 in the country — I didn’t even expect that.”

On holding Pitt to seven points in the first half:
“At halftime, we didn’t talk too much about it. We were just talking more about staying with it and to continue to do what we do. It was crazy. To hold a team to one field goal in a half and seven points just speaks volumes of our defense. That is what we do every day in practice. It showed today.”

On being unbeaten in conference play:
“It means a lot. At this level, road wins are hard to come by. When you can go undefeated at home and protect your home court — it’s a recipe for a championship.”

Virginia Guard Devon Hall

On his reaction to finding out they held Pitt to one field goal at half:
“I think Coach [Tony] Bennett said something about it, but it kind of went in one ear and out the other. I was just trying to keep the mentality of staying focused.”

Pitt Head Coach Kevin Stallings

Opening Statement:
“That wasn’t any fun. Virginia is the real deal, if they are healthy. They had a couple guys who were banged up towards the end of the game. I thought on film that it was the best Virginia team that I have seen, at least since Tony [Bennett] has been there, and he would have a much better opinion on that than me. Defensively, they just don’t have weaknesses and make it very difficult for you. I thought we were a little intimidated in the first half, which surprised me because we have not shown that so much, I don’t think. I mean, we have been beaten soundly a few times, but I haven’t felt like we were necessarily intimidated. I thought we were intimidated at times in the first half. We missed some layups, we missed some stuff right around the goal there, but you don’t get many good shots against them. Then what happens when you do get a good one, then you rush it because you are thinking, `Gosh, we don’t get many of these, we have to try to get this one in the goal and then you rush yourself. But their defense is just phenomenal, it just is. There is nothing you can really say. You can try different things to get things to work. I thought we were better in the second half, our pace was a little better, we were able to jump up and make some shots, but you have to make shots against them, and that is hard because they are great on that end.”

On what the message was at halftime:
“I told them I was disappointed because I thought we had a deer in headlights look in the first half, and I did not anticipate that. I hadn’t seen that, I hadn’t felt that. If anything, we don’t have anything to lose. We should just throw caution to the wind and play, and that’s what I told them yesterday, and that was the message before the game, but obviously, it didn’t work. Like I said, we played a little better in the second half.”

On the realistic expectation of his team’s offense coming into the game:
“I didn’t see the first half coming. I didn’t even think that could be the worst-case. I thought we would at least be better than that in the worst case. They just don’t have any weakness, and so what it comes down to beat them, and not many people have experienced that this year against them, is you have to make shots. You probably need to have somebody who can create and get into the lane that just has that quickness where, no matter how good they are; you have that quickness factor against them. We just don’t have it. It’s hard to get inside because they trap you, they rotate good. We tried to induce the trap a couple of times to beat them on it, but they didn’t trap. They are an experienced group; they know what you are trying to do to them. [Tony Bennett] is a great coach, he has done an amazing job there, just an amazing job, and I think their team this year is amazing.”

On his message to the Pitt fans and alumni:
“I appreciate the fans that have come out and supported this team, and I share in the disappointment in the way some of the things have gone, the record for sure. I am not disappointed in the attitudes, the coachability, and the effort of our players. I feel like our players have given us what they have to give. I share in some of that disappointment, but I certainly appreciate the people who have come out and been loyal and faithful to this team.”

On the expectations of this team entering ACC play:
“Going in to it, we thought we were going to have our best player [Ryan Luther] and a guy who has been through all of this. When you look back at the last time we played a ranked team with [Ryan Luther], West Virginia came in here and with three minutes to play, it was a two-point game. Then we lose him, we didn’t know it would be the rest of the season, but it was the rest of the season. I didn’t have expectations because I expected Ryan [Luther] to come back. Then when it became obvious he wasn’t coming back, I didn’t have any expectations because I didn’t know how this team was going to be able to navigate without one guy who has any semblance of experience through this league. We have had some chances, we certainly had a chance in here against NC State, we had a chance against Wake [Forest] the other night, we had a chance against Miami, we had some chances and didn’t get them done. So, it’s not where we want to be, it’s not where we are going to be. I knew when I took the job that this was going to be a hard year. I didn’t know it was going to be this hard, I didn’t know some of the dynamics that played out would play out the way they did. I mean, we will be ok. We are not a good team this year, but it’s not through lack of effort, it’s not through lack of trying. We need to build the program up again and get it better in every way.”

On if he was thinking about his job security coming into this game:
“No, because again, I am pretty good about not worrying about things that I cannot control. You tell that to your players, you tell that to your children, it was told to me and taught to me. I don’t control how long I coach here, I control how hard I work and what kind of job I try to do while I am here, and that is all I can do. Those are my controllables. The others aren’t controllables to me, so I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them.”

On if the team has gotten progressively disheartened over the course of the year:
“Sure, they have gotten disheartened, and understandably so. To their credit, it hasn’t kept them from coming out and practicing hard and working hard, and being coachable, and trying to improve and get better. But yeah, to have the season we are having is disheartening. It is disheartening for anybody who cares about the program. I think that their response to it has been very admirable, and I really respect them for how they have gone about it and how they have handled it.”

Pitt Junior Guard/Forward Jared Wilson-Frame

On what was said in the locker room after the first half:
“We just needed to pick up the intensity, play a little harder, and build a little more confidence. Just focus on picking up the pace a little bit. We were already a little stagnant with moving the ball, but we were just standing still. In the second half, we tried to come out and pick up the pace a little bit and that’s what we talked about.”

On if the game tended to have a `snowball effect’:
“No, it was just stuff we were trying to execute on offense and their defense was kind of set up for that. Driving lanes aren’t going to be open as much. Shooting lanes aren’t going to be open as much. We just tried to change up the pace a little bit, like I said.”

On the most difficult aspect of Virginia’s defense:
“There is actually a couple teams that play defense the way they do, just not at the same level. Their coaches do a great job, their players do a great job, and working at that system on defense. I think it’s just more the guys that they have that are dedicated and skilled enough to execute it.”

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