March 28, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Coach, when you're ready, congratulations.
COACH BENNETT: Thank you. It was a hard-fought game. I think we won that with our defense, and then timely plays offensively were there.
They're tough defensively to figure out. We don't play against that a lot. At times we struggled but made enough offensive plays but certainly rallied defensively in the right plays. I take little exception. We're the only team in the tournament playing Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I don't know how fair that is, we've got three games going there. No, I can't tell you how thankful and excited I am.
It was a hard-fought game. It was a knuckle buster or whatever you want to call it. We had to fight. Again, these guys found enough, and we know we can play more efficient and better in some ways, but the defense carried us.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. For Ty and Kihei, Coach called a timeout with, I think, 4:42 to go. Oregon didn't score another basket. They hit four free throws after that, but didn't score from the field. What was talked about defensively during that timeout and what do you think tightened up over those final almost five minutes?
TY JEROME: Coach called timeout. He called a set for us to run and he said, But what matters is our defense. That's what carried us all year, and that's what's going to take us as far as we can -- as far as we want to go.
KIHEI CLARK: Yeah, I feel like we just got stopped on defense and then we rebounded well down the stretch.
Q. Ty, the 3-pointer you made to put you guys ahead for good, 48-45, take us through that. What was going through your mind? Were you set on shooting the 3?
TY JEROME: Honestly, I'm thinking about the one I missed after that. That would have really sealed the game. I want that one back. But just we were starting doing a better job of moving and Kihei found me in the right spot and I think Dre or Mamadi set a great screen and my teammates did a great job of finding me in the right spot.
Q. Kyle, can you speak to what Kihei gave you in terms of lift scoring and everything else he was able to do tonight?
KYLE GUY: He's been tremendous all year, especially as of late, really heating up the ball and keeping guys in front. He did a great job on a tremendous playing guard in Payton, knocked down timely shots. When he was going to the free throw line, told him to ice it and this is what he came to Virginia for.
Q. Kyle, in games like this, you guys are comfortable in these kinds of games. How much of an advantage is that?
KYLE GUY: We're in March, and it's 40-minute territory, as Coach always tells us. So it helps that we try to stay calm under pressure and that we try to execute and get stops defensively, no matter what the score is or how hectic the game is going. That will always be in our advantage, and we're going to try to continue to bring that to every game.
Q. Kyle, how rewarding or whatever was it to hit that first three and then come back and hit the second one?
KYLE GUY: Felt great. Any time I can get Ty or Kihei an assist, I think they always appreciate that. So I'm going to keep shooting. I don't really feel like I'm ever out of rhythm. So as long as they have confidence in me, I'll always have confidence in myself.
Q. Kihei, what was your look there getting so many open 3s? It looked like that Oregon's plan was to let you shoot the ball while they overplayed Ty and Kyle in those situations.
KIHEI CLARK: Yeah, just trying to take my open shot when teams try to play off of me, and then if I can hit a couple, then that frees up Ty and Kyle.
Q. De'Andre, how would you assess that last five and a half plus minutes defensively for you guys when you really locked down on Oregon?
DE'ANDRE HUNTER: I think we played great. We were communicating, we were scrambling, keeping guys in front, rebounding. We were doing all the things we practice every day. I mean, I think those last five minutes just shows how great we can be.
Q. For any of you, what was the mentality? What was going through your head coming out of the locker room? Did you feel like you got the game in hand at the end of the first half, up 30-22, and then at the eight-minute timeout, Oregon pulls ahead, are you thinking you had the game under control coming out of the locker room? What was going through your mind during halftime, and then when Oregon makes a comeback?
TY JEROME: No, the game is never out of reach until the final buzzer goes off. They're such a capable team, such a great defensive team. You saw how they came out and we didn't match their energy early. We got a little loose with the ball. They made some great adjustments. The game is never out of reach until that buzzer goes off.
Hope that answers your question.
Q. Kyle or De'Andre, in that last four-minute stretch, it seemed like Oregon was really maybe not necessarily in panic mode, but seemed like they would rush down the court and just try to take the first good shot. What do you do defensively to kind of force them into something like that?
KYLE GUY: We just try to -- after we get a shot up, we try to get back. The bigs will crash, but the guards always get back. We try to set our defense. We run on the board before every game back-pack and rebound, so those are things that are never going to change. As long as we carry those forward, we'll always have a chance.
Q. Ty, all five starters played at least 35 minutes. You didn't get any scoring from the bench. Obviously, it was a very competitive game. What have you learned from NCAA, ACC, any other tournaments in terms of getting a day of rest and coming back? What is the challenge kind of physically facing your team right now?
TY JEROME: We've been preparing for this during the regular season too. Coach said he looked at the schedule when it first came out and he saw three Saturday-Monday games. He was upset at first. To start March off, he was happy because it prepared us for this tough team, one day of preparation and another tough team. So we've been preparing for this all season. The ACC did a great job of preparing us for this moment.
Q. De'Andre, did you feel at all uncomfortable starting at 10:30 or whatever the game got underway, just waiting around all day?
DE'ANDRE HUNTER: It was different for us, but at the end of the day, it's a game, and we're going to be ready.
Q. Ty, you said last week after the Oklahoma game how excited you were about playing in the Sweet 16, you'd never played in one before. What does it feel like now that you'll be going to an Elite Eight?
TY JEROME: Very similar. A tiny bit more exciting. And I'm just -- another opportunity to play with these guys and play for Coach Bennett and the rest of the coaches and just it's going to be -- I'm pretty sure it's going to be an amazing environment. So just the game you dream of as a kid.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for your time.
We'll go to the floor for questions for Coach.
Q. Tony, you heard me ask the players. What was your message at that timeout with 4:42? And how well did they respond defensively to then, I don't think, let Oregon hit a shot after that?
COACH BENNETT: I can't remember exactly what I said, but we tried to draw an action for a shot. I felt we were a little winded and that's why I called the timeout, to rest them. I knew we'd have to take care of the ball.
I think that was the key, only eight turnovers against them, and then just say do not give them -- we talked about rebounding defensively and not giving them anything easy. It's just getting our defense set when a shot goes up, get those guys back and make them make tough shots. We had a couple of little adjustments defensively.
But it was nothing too out of the ordinary, but it was to rest them, get a look at a shot, which we didn't get a great look, if I recall. No, we didn't. And then just reset and score-stop or stop-score. It was kind of one of those games and it was a little more stop-not score, stop-not score. But it was what was required.
Q. Coach, you mentioned they're a little tricky defensively. What were they doing to frustrate you guys and are you worried it's a blueprint for future opponents?
COACH BENNETT: Well, they run it -- whether it's a match-up zone or a switching man. Usually, their four guys are 6'9" or they're long. And then with Payton, it's something you don't see a lot of in how they do it. I thought we were a little stagnant early and they did a good job taking away a couple things.
We wanted to get movement against it and try to run somewhat of a man-to-man offense. It was hit or miss. We caught our rhythm, hit a couple shots, started attacking off the dribble in the paint. I thought that helped.
But we never really, I would say, solved it offensively. You've got to probably make some shots. And, again, 9 of 33 from 3 is not -- it's not probably too good and we did get some good looks. We just didn't knock down.
Kyle took -- we maybe took a couple early ones that weren't wise, but after we got some pretty good 3s and didn't knock them down.
Q. They had, I think, four starters, 6'9" or taller. How do you feel you neutralized that? You were leading them in rebounding at the half, 30-22, I think.
COACH BENNETT: Again, that's what makes their defense, it's unique. They switch like sizes. But we just talked about trying to block out a couple times. We did not. If they went inside, we tried to trap the post.
It was just make them make plays over the top and then fight. I thought Mamadi's rebounding was significant in that game. We needed that. And then, you know, everybody else, Ty came back and had six rebounds. The guards needed to rebound. It was just kind of a slugfest, it felt like it, and it was sort of last man standing.
Q. Tony, kind of what I asked the players. When defense is kind of part of your DNA, as it is with these guys, how much does that help when you're in a game like this where it's pretty ugly?
COACH BENNETT: Offense can come and go, and they're really good defensively. And we stepped up defensively, so you just hang on. You hang on and hang your had on that defense and hopefully you get enough offense. Again, ugly is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe it wasn't great, but I thought it was pretty good looking for us defensively.
Offensively, there were struggles, but you have to just -- you've got to hang in there defensively. That's how we're built. We will have a test against -- you look at the offensive output that Purdue had and how they move -- and I know Matt, and I think he's one of the finest coaches, and so is Coach Barnes. That was a hard-fought game. They're tricky. We'll get on to that one. But your defense had to outlast them, because it wasn't going to be our offense that was going to win that.
Q. Tony, De'Andre said the last five minutes were an example of how great you guys can be. What were you seeing over the last five minutes?
COACH BENNETT: Just we were trying to be in position, trying to slide hard, make them shoot contested shots. One and done them. They got a shot up, rebound. Just fight for position. Just kept talking about just fight, just fight and don't give them anything easy.
And fatigue comes into it at the end. The shots aren't quite as clean and as easy. I thought we did a good job of keeping the ball in front, helping each other, scrambling, as he said, and that's -- you know, that's what helped us advance from being down in the first round and then we started scrambling and made it tough. Same thing against Oklahoma. And then I thought it carried over at least, you know, you watch tape and you'll figure out if it was. But it felt like that's what carried us to this point.
Q. I know your dad has said before sometimes he stays in the hotel for big games. He was here sitting behind the bench.
COACH BENNETT: Yeah.
Q. One, what's it like when he is here in the building? Would you have liked to have given him maybe a less stressful game?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah. That's great that he came. I wasn't sure if he would. I just saw him when I walked out, he was sitting there. He's been through this. Ironically, he went against Coach Keady in 2000 and the trip when he got the team, the Badgers went to the Final Four.
But I'm just thankful that my whole family. For all of us, when your family's right there, that's significant. And he's had a huge influence and I'll probably get chewed out when I get back for the bad offense. We'll see. And all that stuff. I'm just glad he's there. It will be a mystery if he'll show up for the next one. I know that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for your time.
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