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March 21, 2015
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA
MODERATOR: We'll have with us Justin Anderson and Anthony Gill.
Q. Justin, a lot has been made of your absence and how the team did and how the team would do going forward. What are your thoughts on that and what were your feelings about how your team did while you were out?
JUSTIN ANDERSON: Wow, I think our team did a tremendous job without me. It feels weird saying that, but I was still there cheering those guys on, it was just a different role that I had to take. But our program is based on something that's bigger than one player and I knew that we were going to be very successful this season regardless of any one player or injuries that may occur. I've had total confidence in my team since day one.
Q. For each of you guys, you need no more motivation ever in March but you had this team last year and knocked out in the Sweet 16 at MSG. What does it mean for you guys to have another shot?
ANTHONY GILL: I just think it's a blessing to be in this position we're in. We're not going to go into this game thinking of it as A revenge game or anything like that. We are just going to go out there and play like we want to continue to keep moving on in this tournament. Like I said, it's a blessing for us to be here. We got knocked out by Michigan State last year, but, like I said, we're not going to take it as a revenge game.
JUSTIN ANDERSON: We're extremely hungry regardless of who we play, we know we have an opportunity and that's what this is all about, March is all about an opportunity and we're starting to see that on the highest level right now with the upsets that are occurring and teams taking full advantage of their opportunities. For us to sit here and dwell on what happened last year, it's not going to help us win this game tomorrow so we're just going to accept what we have to do and go in very hungry and try to come out on top.
Q. Anthony, I think it was 16 minutes left that you left that game last year with the ankle injury. You guys were up. How difficult was that for you to have to watch the end of that game, how was the post-game situation for you and how much have you kind of envisioned getting an opportunity to turn things around this year?
ANTHONY GILL: You know, I think that that game last year was big for our program, just to continue to make us hungry and want more for this program and want more for each individual player. But I think personally I think I really wanted to help my team out there and I wasn't able to perform the way that I wanted to and I think that that really in a way made me a lot more hungry and want to get better, just to know that I could have helped my team and I didn't really do what I needed to do because of injury. So I think that if anything it made me just a lot more hungry.
JUSTIN ANDERSON: And that's one player that we actually did need at that moment because he started off really well for us.
Q. What was your takeaway from playing Michigan State last year as far as their style of play and how maybe better equipped will you be this year having gone through it?
JUSTIN ANDERSON: I think our team has realized that that was a total different team that they had last year. You take away three guys that are playing at the professional level, Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Adreian Payne, those are three big-name players that had tremendous years for them last year. But this team, we understand that their system is one that gets out in transition and just like the teams we play in our conference, North Carolina, Louisville, teams that like to run in transition, we have to get back and set our defense is very important. And Valentine and Trice are playing at a high level this year, they're stepping up and filling those shoes from the guys last year and we have to make sure we keep constant ball pressure on them and not let them get going offensively.
ANTHONY GILL: I think it's going to be a physical game, especially in the post they're really a physical team and we have to match that physicality from the beginning and if we don't, we're going to find ourselves in a deficit. I think Dawson and the other interior players that they have create some challenges for us because of how physical they are and we're going to have to match that physicality.
Q. Anthony, you said it was big for your program last year to play in a game like that in Sweet 16, I think when you made the tournament you've made four Sweet 16s in a row. You have to play teams like Michigan State. How big for the program to get over that hump to beat teams like Michigan State specifically with the history that they've had in the tournament?
ANTHONY GILL: I think it's time for this program to take the next step. I think that that means to go past the Sweet 16. I think we have the players to be able to do that, we have the coaching staff, we have the system to be able to do it and we all have the want-to and the will-to be able to do it. So it's just up to us really and I think it will be great to bring something special back to Charlottesville and to the UVA fans.
JUSTIN ANDERSON: Yeah, it's definitely important to take the next step. Kind of piggy-backing off of what Anthony says, we are going to try to stay hungry and keep trying to achieve more. Last year we got to a point we were thankful, satisfied that we got there but we want more. And hopefully this year we can give ourselves that opportunity.
Q. Justin, a couple days ago you described Anthony admiringly as a junkyard dog. Can you expand on that a little bit more given this match-up and what he said about the physical nature of it? And just how important he is for this team?
JUSTIN ANDERSON: He's very physical. He thrives off of physicality of games like this. Like I said, 15 and in is his wheelhouse, even though he can step out and shoot the 3 in practice, but no one needs to know all of that. But when he has it in the low post and he's taking his time, we have full confidence in what he can do down there even defensively as well going against guys like where he's going to have to see Dawson tomorrow, he's just an animal, he's a beast, he's relentless we all respect him and we all know that's what he's going to bring every night.
Q. For both guys, the post-game after last year's loss to Michigan State, was that the most somber you've been and what sort of motivation was that for not necessarily this game but for the season ahead?
ANTHONY GILL: I think the biggest thing that hit me was we won't be able to play with the seniors on the team anymore. I think having Joe Harris, Akil Mitchell and Thomas Rogers and to no longer being able to play with them, I think that was the biggest thing to hit me and I don't want my time with those guys to end. I want to continue to keep playing with them, and I think when I realized that was the last game I would be able to play with them, I think that really hit home seeing them tearing up and things like that, I think that was probably the biggest thing that impacted me and I don't want to see Darion Atkins or Maleek Frazier or Rob Vozenilek go out like that and I just want to continue to keep playing with them for as long as I can.
JUSTIN ANDERSON: Anthony hit it right on the head, the senior class is always their leadership and their ability to have an effect on the younger guys. I know in particular being a guard, with much respect to Akil and Thomas, but being a guard, Joe Harris kind of took me under his wing my freshman year and kind of showed me the ropes and to realize that was my last game playing with him and see how hard he did everything and how great he was at doing the little things, he was kind of like my hero and it was sad for that day to come and for us to lose the game that close that we really wanted, we thought we had a chance to win, it was very emotional but at the same time it was very hopeful because we understood that those guys laid a foundation that was going to be one to compete with and we wanted to make sure that we wouldn't let them down by this year and years to come.
Q. Anthony, is the physical match-up the type that you kind of relish or look forward to as opposed to maybe a team that's more of a finesse type of group or does it matter? I'm just curious?
ANTHONY GILL: It doesn't really matter to me. I just think that I'm a physical player, I like to draw contact and things of that nature, so depending on whether they're going to be physical with me or they're not going to be physical with me it doesn't really matter, I'm seeking the contact regardless.
Q. Last year they held you to I think 35 percent shooting. What did you learn from that game against Michigan State and what do you got to do differently this time around?
JUSTIN ANDERSON: We've got to shoot the ball better. Maybe the rims in MSG were a little tight, Carmelo Anthony wasn't even scoring that well on those rims that year. But we feel good, we have confidence in our coaches, they prepared us really well and we have full confidence in our offense. Even though that stat was bad for us last year last season, hopefully I'm not speaking too soon and something crazy like that happens tomorrow but we have full confidence in our shooting and I think that we are going to come out with that confidence.
ANTHONY GILL: I think that we probably would have to execute on the offensive end a lot better. I think we need to hit them with screens. They were physical with us last year and we kind of took a step back and I think we need to come out with the same physicality that they had last year with us and we need to do it this year in this game, and just knowing the kind of team that they are, they pride themselves on physicality and tough defense and we're going to have to be ready for that.
Q. Could you guys talk a little bit about Brogdon, not just as a player but he seems to be kind of an interesting guy, told me about his plan to wipe out poverty, and he's got a lot of big plans after basketball, I guess. Can you just talk about him as a person and as a player?
JUSTIN ANDERSON: Well, he's different, and if I had -- and when I say that, it could come off bad but I don't mean that at all. I wish I had an hour to talk to you about how amazing he is on and off the court with his work ethic not only on the court but in the classroom, with his interactions with people. He's a great role model. He's someone that you want your son to look up to and be around just because he's always setting the right example and he's working as hard as he can to achieve whatever goals that he puts out for himself. I wish I had more time to talk about just the little things that he does that helps us grow as people and helps us grow as a basketball team and I think that's what makes this group special is we have a lot of individuals like him.
ANTHONY GILL: Like Justin said, he's an amazing person. I wish I had an hour to talk to you. I get to live with him and just to be able to interact with him on a daily basis is awesome. All of my roommates, it's just awesome to be able to just do life with them and it's just great. If I had an hour to talk to you, I would tell you a whole bunch of stories about him but I don't think he would want me to put those stories in the media, so I'm just going to keep my mouth closed on those.
JUSTIN ANDERSON: Can you guys ask Anthony to name his roommates?
ANTHONY GILL: My roommates are Darius Thompson, he's sitting out this year; Devon Hall, London Perrantes; wow, I just went blank, and Malcolm. Did I forget anybody?
JUSTIN ANDERSON: DA.
ANTHONY GILL: Darion Atkins, that's my favorite roommate.
JUSTIN ANDERSON: Did you guys notice anything about that?
ANTHONY GILL: Justin didn't live with us this year. He wanted to be outside the basketball group. I think that speaks to his character and his lack of teammate-ness.
MODERATOR: Justin, rebuttal? Anyone else? Okay, on that note, thank you. _____
Q. As you look at the last two games, opponents have shot the highest field goal percentage of the year against you. Is that starting offensively with quick shots and getting sped up or do you see a different cause for that?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, you always look at the quality of the shot, and against Carolina they got some pretty good quality looks against us but they also hit some tough shots. A good number of their guys were pretty well-contested. There's good stretches. Even in the Belmont game, some of our breakdowns in the Belmont game, we were playing them a little differently than other teams. We were trying to stay at home more on the 3-point shooters so it did open up maybe the lane for some drives and then some of their backcuts for layups. Those were just break downs. But there's a enough contested shots but you want to certainly not have that number go up, that's an important number for us, so I don't know if our offenses dictated that as much as just some tough shots being hit and then couple them with a few breakdowns or we talk about those live ball turnovers that have hurt us. Didn't hurt us as much in the last game, though.
Q. How big of a game is this for you guys not only because it's the next game but because it's Michigan State and if you guys take that next step as a program to get a marquee or a signature win like this, to get in the Sweet 16 and hopefully further?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, Michigan State is a heck of a program, very good team, excellent coach, and we know we'll have to play our best. As far as I don't get too much into having to beat a marquee team. You play so many in the ACC but just you want to advance. Any chance you can put yourself in an opportunity to advance is significant. This is a very good team as a 7 seed who's playing great. Seedings, throw them out, I said that before. But last year they're the team that stopped us and they played real well, it was a heck of a game. Again watching how well they're playing this year, I mean, if you can beat a team that's playing at a high level, and certainly Michigan State, that's great, but it's just about trying to advance, whether it's Michigan State or someone else.
Q. What are some of the signature things that a Tom Izzo team does better this time of year than January? Seems like his teams just keep getting better and better as the years go on. What do you see that he does to improve these guys for tournament play?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, I think well some of their staples, their ability to get down the floor, I don't know if they improve that as the season goes but their transition offense is terrific, how they will get rebounds, and off the pass they're up the floor, and I think because they're so tough minded, that's who he is, that's what he instills in his program. They really are -- they just battle, you can see that. Of course they offensive rebound, that's something they've always done. Those two things are there but they do them at a high level but his players are good. Their three guys, Valentine, Trice and Dawson, Dawson last year had 24-10 against us. He's got good players and he certainly has them playing so hard and you just see it. His track record speaks for itself, but their ability, you saw yesterday how they got some easy transition buckets, how quick they're down the floor. Some teams in our league do that, the Carolinas, some of those, certainly Duke, so your ability to as always try to make them play against a set defense will be one of the keys. But I think those two things and then just their toughness and their mindset that is part of that program make them so effective come this time of the year.
Q. Rick Pitino was on Dan Patrick's show a few days ago talking about the one-and-done rule, thinks it needs to be eliminated and has his own suggestions. What do you think of that rule? Do you think it's outlived its usefulness? Would you like to see change and how realistic is that?
COACH BENNETT: When we get a one-and-done, I'll let you know, I don't have much to say, I've never had one so I can't speak to that as much. It's hard. I was fortunate to have some time in the NBA. It's hard to tell a young man, I know other sports do it differently, but our formula's always been getting more mature guys in the system. I don't have -- I was asked this last year a couple times. I don't have a strong feel on it. Maybe I should because I can take both sides of that. For guys, if there's the opportunity to go and play at that level and take care of family and there's some security there, that's a good opportunity. But I know when you go back and look at the draft, I just go back to the draft and even some of the teams that you played against, just seeing Grant Hill here, we were teammates on the Pan American team, so many players, they were seniors, they were juniors. The strength of those teams with maturity, I guess maybe in some ways we had an advantage because we've been mature and a lot of other teams have been young. If there was -- if they stayed longer -- is Coach Pitino saying there shouldn't be any rule or should they have to stay longer? What was he suggesting?
Q. The LeBron level, the Okafor level talent can go straight to the NBA, but if you go to college you probably have to stay a few years.
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, I think if you did that, it certainly would strengthen the depth of the college game just like maybe in the past in that regard. Again, I don't have -- I haven't had a one-and-done, so I don't know. I said this before, if they're going to allow the one-and-done rule, I get asked, well, would you recruit a one-and-done guy? Of course, I would consider that if we could get one but if you do that, you had better have the ability to follow it up with another guy like that because that does -- I am amazed at how programs that lose guys can just reshuffle or reload as they say and do that.
Q. London yesterday hits the bucket in the lane in a 2-point game earlier, they had made a run and he hits a 3-pointer from in front of your bench. Do you ever tell him to shoot more? Just talk about what you're getting from him from an offensive standpoint.
COACH BENNETT: He's got such a good feel. The first game when Justin got hurt, we played at NC State, we talked to him about trying to look to be assertive more. I think he's got such good feel. Of course you encourage him. He knows he has a green light to shoot the right kind of shots but if you take a guy out of what's natural to him and make him into something that maybe he is not, I think you have to be careful about that. That first game against NC State, he was trying to be aggressive. I remember saying to him after that game just be yourself, you take the shots from there, you know what's right, you know you have a feel and I trust his feel and I think that's the biggest thing is that I trust. If I need to whisper something in his ear, if I need to talk to him, I will, but the game, he's such a classic point guard when you watch him the way he's played. He understands the moment, when he needs to take the shot, when he needs to get the guys the ball and that's really important. When you have Malcolm or Justin, guys who are more geared to being aggressive, you need a guy who understands that feel or can get it inside if we're not getting touches, so I don't think I want to mess with that with him. I trust his feel, as I said, or I can tell him hey, we can run a little action for him but he's very timely with his shots.
Q. Touched upon a prior comment you made about the one-and-dones, and you said you would consider that. It wasn't a we'll take a one-and-done in a heartbeat. Kind of describe your philosophical approach to recruiting and I was just talking to the players, they say a lot of the guys have the blue collar, underdog mentality. Do you look for that in every single one of your recruits? Say a one-and-done stud comes your way and maybe doesn't fit every single one of those parameters, would you still take him?
COACH BENNETT: Well, I haven't had a chance to recruit a one-and-done so I don't know but there are a lot of guys that are that talented who are blue collar and that hungry, of course. You don't want to take a guy, if you're not sure about the character or if he just is -- it's just I'm not about trying to -- I just want to use this as a touch point and I'm gone. You want a guy who wants to come and be a part of making a team great, whether it's for a year or two. We look for -- not everything has to be checked off the box, but we do look for character first, we look for toughness, and so if there was a guy who was that talented who was interested enough, absolutely I would go after that, but if there was a guy that didn't fit, I would not go after that guy.
Q. When Coach Izzo was in here, he described your post-game encounter last year at the Garden and said you remarked to him that's the way the game is supposed to be played. The disappointment in the result aside, was there kind of a mutual respect because of the way they played and was it almost like looking in the mirror, that blue collar approach to Michigan State brings?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, I wouldn't say it's not -- I've said this, there's so many different ways to play. I enjoyed that physical, it was tough, there wasn't anything easy and it's just what I've been brought up on, I believe what he believes and it was a hard-fought game. So again there's so many different ways, but it wasn't -- that game was not sloppy, it was hard-fought. Yeah, I think that's what I meant by that. What was the question part of that? I kind of got off track.
Q. Was it almost like looking in the mirror?
COACH BENNETT: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Q. You go way back with Izzo?
COACH BENNETT: No, for sure. We're similar programs, they run more than us, of course. They do different things, but I think we value a lot of the same things. Like we talked about, you mentioned blue collar, just a tough mindset, kind of that idea, the whole -- the cohesiveness, touching greatness in concert with others, you need that. And you have to have talent, there's no question. You guys can see that in their team, you can see it in our individuals, but that ability to try to do something special and go beyond requires a level of toughness on both ends of the floor, and guys that have bought into that so I think we both subscribe to that idea.
Q. Justin Anderson, he's a guy maybe in the NBA next year. Just his return and what it means because he looked pretty spry yesterday?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, it's good to see. Just to see him have a shot go in and see him moving better and get a block, that was important. Everybody asks he is he full strength? As much as he's missed, he can't be, but he is he certainly closer and to see him have some success in that game and give us a lift like that, I was really happy because I know how his attitude has been unbelievable through this, but how much he's wanted to get out there and show some, hey, I'm back and I can help this team in a positive matter and he did that and he was so excited about helping the team. Yeah, he's very important, we need all of our guys to be right.
Q. Tony, Tom Izzo said he wants his team to stay focused because he knows you guys are going to run that shot clock down the screens and stay focused throughout each possession. Are you stressing to your team because watching them make or miss, it's two paces, sometimes the ball is hitting the floor and they're at the other rim. You miss a shot, make a shot, get back on defense against this team.
COACH BENNETT: You have to, if you can't get back it can be a really long day because again, I mentioned teams in our league that are like the Carolinas and the Dukes and others, that discipline of doing that well. I mean, that's why I said we're not the same, we don't go down the floor like that, but of course, transition defense and that's why they've been good as of late. And when they've had success even yesterday when they have got down the floor. Makes misses on free throws that's kind of a discipline, something we know. That's the first key, that's where our defense starts in the transition so you won't see many better than I think the way Michigan State can go.
Q. When you saw the brackets come out and you -- obviously these are the guys who put you out last year. Did you look at them and say, well, good we're going to get another shot or were you like oh, it's Michigan State again the second round? What was kind of your attitude when you saw that as you were kind of maybe looking at the big picture?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, you usually look at your first game, all right, if we win, Georgia, Michigan State. If we get by a dangerous Belmont team, we're going to have our hands full. I watched Georgia play against Kentucky. I haven't watched Michigan State in that Big Ten championship. Man, they're playing really good basketball, you'll have to be at your best -- it's not like oh, revenge, we have got to get that, or oh, it's just if we get here then hopefully we can play at a better level than we did last time we saw them.
Q. Coach, could you just talk a little bit about Brogdon not just as a player and his competitive fire but just he seems to be a very unique person.
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, he sure is. I've said this before, he really is a great ambassador for our program, for the University of Virginia and even for college athletics. He's in the graduate school, the Batten School of Leadership at UVA, which is just an incredible program. He's done so well academically. He's a lot of what's right about this game and college athletics. He's become a great leader this year, I love that. He's very steady, humble, but competitive. One of the harder workers I've seen on his game. I mean, you wouldn't look at him and say he's just this gifted natural guy. He's gifted with his frame, his strength, his hands and all that but he's kind of willed his way into being the player that he is, but I don't think people realize how hard this guy works on his game and what he's done. Just again, he's the whole package, he really is. He wasn't real highly recruited coming out but that was an important get for us. I can remember seeing him at the Peach Jam. He got hurt at the end of the year but he did some things, he handles the moment well and his teammates love him. Those are the guys when you have that saying, you know, a coach-led team can be good but a player-led team has a chance to be very good or great, and I think he has that ability to lead the team and the guys respond to him and he's making the most of his college experience, he really is, from an athletic standpoint but certainly from an academic standpoint, socially and all those things.
Q. I think we got a reminder last year when Gill went out how important he is to this team. Can you just talk a little bit about what having him at full strength in this match-up hopefully for the entire 40 minutes, how important that is and just I guess the physical nature of their post players against him?
COACH BENNETT: Very important. That match-up was hard for us, we just didn't -- Dawson had his way, they have Payne, they have Dawson and they have very good players again. Anthony rolled his ankle in that game and we had a hard time matching up, so we need Darion and Anthony and certainly Mike, Mike didn't play as much in his last game but this is more of a traditional size, traditional game. Whether it's Isaiah, we used Evan as the four. Our fours and fives have to be right in this game, it is, because it's such a physical rebounding game, there's a lot of ball screen, off ball screen set, they've got to be sharp and showing and they've got to be engaged in what it will take from a physical standpoint. And Anthony's one of our guys who can get on the glass, can draw some fouls, he can manufacture some buckets if he has room and I know certainly they'll be guarding him well and he's certainly a key and when we've played well, he's been a part of that.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports