“Well, let’s congratulate Virginia. Malcolm (Brogdon) in the first half was about as good of a performance as we’ve had against us this season, maybe several years, but we couldn’t quite get over the hump. We got it to 49-49 and then we get a couple of bad possessions on offense. They score a couple of times after they get offensive rebounds. They missed several shots down the stretch, but we could never come up with the rebound, so they kept getting second shot opportunities. We turned it over 13 to their 8. They’re 18 of 21 from the free throw line, we’re 7 for 13, and a couple of those were one-and-ones down the stretch. It’s all those little things that made them end up with more points than we did. I thought the biggest factor of the game, to me, was that they had played with a high level of intensity, from my point of view, on offense and defense. I think they were the actors and we were the reactors the whole night. They scored more points in the paint without posting up anybody hardly all night long, because they drove the ball to the basket much more aggressively. They had better spacing, they had Malcolm and London (Perrantes) driving to the basket. They’re really good.
“One time they had two seconds on the (shot) clock, they threw it in and (Mike) Tobey makes one, and another time there’s two seconds on the clock and they miss a shot but come up with the offensive rebound. Again, I think it’s so many of the little things, but if I had to pick one thing, I’d say, again, they were so much more aggressive on both ends of the court. Their offense was more aggressive than our defense was, and their defense was more aggressive than our offense was.
“Yet, I really think they’re a good team. I said it even this week, I said it last week, I said it 10 weeks ago at the start of the season: Me and my buddies get together, and I thought Virginia had the best team in the country. Tony (Bennett) does a great, great job, and he’s a credit to what we should have in coaching. I don’t like him during the game, because his teams play so daggum well. They’ve really, really done some great things the last three years, and they’ve got themselves right back into it after a little slump in the middle of the season. But, we reacted to everything they did, and that part was difficult for us.”
Why were they so good at ball protection?
“They’re good basketball players. First of all, they don’t try to do any silly things. They make the easiest pass they can make. The last play of the first half, we got it to one, they throw the lob and we get there, we’ve got the little guy back there, but I still remember the play when Joel Berry was going down for a layup, and if I’m not mistaken, (Anthony) Gill was the one that ran him down. It’s just phenomenal effort from those guys, and we’ve got to have that kind of effort in our situation, too. They’re really good, and it was a one possession game late in the game, we just never got the ball with a one possession game. It was 77-74 and we missed a couple of free throws and still had it 77-74, but never got the ball when it was one possession. They’re a good basketball team.”
What did Virginia do to take Brice Johnson away for the last 17 minutes? Or was that your team not doing enough to get him touches?
“A little bit of both. He got very discouraged, he threw it in the 17th row of the stands one time when they double-teamed him, and he got discouraged at that point, too. I thought in the second half, he was much better than he was in the first half, but we’ve got to get him—He’s got to move more. We’ve got to get him more than 9 shots and hopefully less than 5 turnovers. They try to double-team big-to-big, and we handled it sometimes, and sometimes we didn’t handle it, but we didn’t do a very good job. We turned it over twice in the first half, once Isaiah (Hicks) and once I forget who it was going big-to-big. It was Brice throwing it to Isaiah and Isaiah throwing it to Brice. I mean our big guys had 9 of our 13 turnovers, and we haven’t done that all year, either.”
The same thing happened with Brice in the second half of the Duke game. Is there a common factor that you saw that explains that?
“Second half against Duke, we couldn’t throw it in the ocean. Today, I think we shot 50 percent in the second half, so because we didn’t get it to Brice didn’t kill our offense. I want him to get more shots, there’s no question about that, but Isaiah, I think he made 2 or 3 field goals in one stretch. I think he had 2 field goals in the second half during that stretch where Brice was not scoring. It’s not just about getting Brice the shots. If we shoot 50 percent in the second half, most times I’ll tell you I’ll take 50 percent in the second half in every game we play against Virginia for the rest of my life, but whether it’s Brice or Isaiah or whatever it is, we can’t have the turnovers like that and the missed free throws and miss easy ones.”
How alarming is it as a coach when you come into a game like this and Brogdon gets off to a start like the one he had?
“How alarming is it? He’s really good. I’ve had a guy score 49 against us before. We won the game. I’ve had a guy score 47. We won the game. Another guy that scored 46, we won the game. So I never get into that one person kind of thing. We had Tyrese Rice get 400 in the first half against us and we still won the game. Malcom Brogdon was one of the best players in the league last year, this year, he’s always been. He’s a tough match-up for anybody, and he was a tough match-up for us.”
When you talk about having to react to Virginia, is that something they just impose better, or is that critical of your team?
“I think that’s really—I think Duke’s defense was stronger than our offense was in the second half of the Duke game. That’s the thread there, but why it happened? I have no idea. But they have a tremendous level of intensity that they play at. They’re athletic, they know their roles, they’re really good. I think we’re pretty doggone good, but we weren’t good enough to win tonight.”
What do you attribute to the little things tripping your team up?
“I don’t know. It’s—Jim Larranaga said it after we beat them: In this league, you’re going to lose some games. Do I want us to play harder, with more intensity, and not have somebody pick up every loose ball and get every offensive rebound? I’m mad about the rebounds, and yet we outrebounded them 36-33. But I always look down there, it says ‘Second chance points,’ because it is a scoreboard, it’s one thing it counts, and they’ve got 14 to our 10. Some teams play exceptionally well wherever they play. Some teams play much, much harder at home. But down the stretch, Virginia had a greater purpose tonight. Why they had it, I don’t know. I think against Miami, we had a greater sense of purpose. I don’t know that Jimmy figured it out that night, too. It’s college basketball. They’re really good and they’re very well coached. They appear to be great kids.”
What made Anthony Gill effective for them in the second half?
“He’s been effective rebounding all year long. It’s just a guy, he bids on everything. I’ve never played bridge in my entire life, but one guy told me one time about a great player, he said he bids on everything, and that’s Alonzo Mourning. Well, he bids on every rebound, I think it was him that ran Joel (Berry) down from behind and blocked the shot, his motor is high, it stays high, and he plays at 100 percent. We had a guy named Hansbrough who did the exact same kind of thing, and he usually beat people up, too.”