Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Everything Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said after win against Notre Dame

Virginia men’s basketball won its fifth straight game overall and 22nd straight at home on Wednesday night, defeating Notre Dame by a score of 65-53. Reece Beekman tied a career-high with 21 points, Jake Groves scored a season-best 18 points, and Isaac McKneely added another 11 points. That is a combined 50 points from the trio, nearly enough to outscore the Irish without any other help. They even shot 13-of-20 from three-point range.

Next up, Virginia heads to Clemson on Saturday for a 2 p.m. tipoff. Until then, here is everything head coach Tony Bennett had to say about the comfortable win over the Irish, the big-time performances from Beekman and Groves, and what challenges lay ahead against the Tigers.

Q: Does this performance speak to how far the team has come since the first matchup in South Bend?

Yeah, I mean, I have a lot of respect for Notre Dame, all their coaches but this one guy. Nah, just kidding, certainly respect Coach [Kyle] Getter and Coach [Micah] Shrewsbery. We have good young coaches in our league. The stuff that they run, and Notre Dame is a promising young team, and you just look at Burton, I mean, his quickness is real. I mean, Reece is a special defender and some of the plays he made.

But in saying that to us, I thought even though their numbers were good shooting percentages, some were in transition and a few things there, we for the most part made them earn. And good offensive teams, good shooting teams, you can’t always stop them. Your job is just to make them earn and I thought we moved hard offensively and kind of was the accumulation effect of both.

They run a lot of tricky stuff similar to Virginia Tech, lead screen dribble handoffs. You got to stay on your horse, as we like to say. You can’t get knocked off. You got to just keep going and being with those guys. And I thought for the most part, there were some tough defensive stands. I thought Taine [Murray] gave us a lift.

But then offensively, it’s good to see Jake [Groves] play like that, Reece [Beekman], different guys at different times. So yes, we’ve improved, shortened our rotation in this game, but you know, doesn’t mean that’s gonna be the case. But as I said, it’s a team that they’ve been close in every game, Notre Dame, and when they’re shooting they can be attached.

Q: With Jake Groves back to playing more stretch-four, what did you like in the way he moved in the last game and this one?

Yeah, I think we’ve been using Jordan [Minor] and Blake [Buchanan] was a little…We got a couple of guys under the weather, and I think they were, you could see they were a little gassed, and you needed a full tank in this one the way Notre Dame moves you. But Blake and Jordan sort of play that five position, Jordan little more but Blake.

And then it allows Jake to play I think his natural position and not have to maybe guard and be locked in against some of those big, strong bodies, though he’ll have to at times, but his ability to stretch the floor and again, shoot the ball. And that showed in the first half. It was just beautiful. And then second half and I thought Reece and the guys did a good job of finding them. And they were trying to switch and do some things and a couple times they got lost but gave us a great lift.

Q: Reece Beekman had four threes tonight. What did you see from him tonight in terms of getting the right looks?

Yeah, I know he’s a little gassed, under the weather, too. He uncharacteristically and I said look that kid the start the second half tipped his ball. He’s got some quick reflexes. But I thought Reece was overall terrific because his ability six assists, the turnovers he’s gotta tighten up – I’ll always look at him with a critical eye in those spots.

I thought to start the game and to start the second half he wasn’t as sharp and sound with his sureness. But some of the pull-ups, some of the drives, some of the steals, defensively guarding that guy, and then he really has, I don’t even know numbers-wise what it looks like, but he’s improved his shot. And he’s playing a real good floor game, but also finding the right mix of looking for his shot. And then he’s got to be just as stingy as possible defensively for us.

Q: What was different this time versus Notre Dame to hit 13 three-pointers versus just two in the first matchup?

I think we have improved; we got some decent looks against them there. Sometimes the shots go in. Sometimes they don’t. I thought, why we’ve been a better team as of late is we’ve been better defensively. And I think that helps a lot of things. We’ve just simplified, we’ve worked, and we’ve tried to just offensively even simplify and move real hard and challenge and the way we’ve worked on our shooting and our stuff in practice. It’s showed.

Now, again, doesn’t mean you’re always gonna make…we’ll take 13 out of 25 from three. They were nine and 18. So it was a shooters game even though it was lower scoring, but it was good to see. And Jake helped out a lot, but Isaac was moving hard, getting some good looks.

And Notre Dame is one of the better defensive teams points per possession in our league I think they’re second, [North] Carolina is first, their second, we’re third, so we had to work. And again, hopefully in our working to get those shots, shooting good shots, that’s always the key. And maybe that wears them down a little bit and it was just one of those kinds of games.


Q: A lot of transition this year with people leaving and coming in. How do you feel like you guys are making that transition?

I think it showed. I think we’re improving. Still have a ways to go and you just got to show up every day in practice and every game. But early you could see trying to find our identity, trying to, myself, trying to figure out how to help these guys to play the best way. And as I kept saying, we just kept chipping away, simplifying some things on both ends, and really, demanding more quite honestly, but also, being more patient if that makes sense. But it’s, in practice, it’s been done, and we’re just digging in and trying to figure it out.

And again, I think guys are getting a little more comfortable. The emergence of Jordan [Minor] and Dante [Harris]. Dante was out for that stretch. He did a really good job and gave us a lift. His quickness defensively, touching the paint, making some plays, and then the experience or the physicality of Jordan.

So those two pieces, the emergence of Taine [Murray], has almost added to the personnel, but you’ve got to go through some stuff and figure it out, and I’m glad we’re getting there, and we still got a ways to go, of course. But it hasn’t been a smooth transition if that’s what you’re asking.

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