‘No pressure’ Malcom Brogdon, Virginia prepared to take care of business
CHICAGO — A much-anticipated night of all-ACC action in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight begins in Chicago on Sunday when top-seeded Virginia meets No. 10 seed Syracuse in the Midwest Region final.
The Cavaliers contended for their third straight regular-season crown in the high-powered conference while the Orange finished ninth and squeaked into the NCAA Tournament, but both are a win away from joining a league mate in North Carolina or Notre Dame – who play later in the evening – in the Final Four.
Virginia head coach Tony Bennett and his players answered questions about the Virginia game during a Saturday afternoon press conference at the United Center.
Coach Tony Bennett and players Malcom Brogdon, Devon Hall, London Perrantes, Anthony Gill and Isaiah Wilkins talked to the press.
The following transcript was provided by the NCAA.
Q1: Malcolm and Anthony, we talked about being aggressive and having that mindset. Does it change now that you’re a win away from a Final Four? Does the pressure change? Is it harder to kind of control your mindset?
ANTHONY GILL: That attitude doesn’t change. I think it’s something that we’ve instilled in this program that we’re going to go after it, we’re going to try our best to do what we can do in order to advance as far as we can. That’s just something that’s not going to change. The emotions are high right now after that win last night, but it’s time to get it back down to earth, and after practice today we really addressed some things in practice that are going to be good for the game tomorrow.
MALCOLM BROGDON: Yeah, you know, I think pressure is a distraction. We’re not feeling pressure. We’re enjoying this moment. We’re excited to play. We’re not really worried about the Final Four right now. We’re worried about tomorrow’s game and taking care of business.
Q2: Tony, I was intrigued yesterday, you mentioned the door knockers that you pack for the road. Can you elaborate on that?
TONY BENNETT: It’s just something that ever since these guys have been here, every home game and every road game it’s just hanging on a wall, just a simple door knocker, and we just before these guys go out and the coaches go out for a game, everybody just knocks on it, and it’s just symbolic of just keep knocking. Sometimes the door gets slammed in your face, sometimes maybe you open it an inch or you get your foot in the door or your shoulder, but all we’re in charge of is continuing to knock and maybe we can get that foot in the door. It’s something I used to do at Washington State but I really like that mindset, and I think these guys embody that, just that ability to knock away.
Q3: In the three games you guys have played against Syracuse these past three years you’ve shot the ball pretty well against their zone. Can you pinpoint any reasons that you maybe have had that success, and does it give you any confidence now going into this game?
TONY BENNETT: Well, it’s a good zone. You have to be able to attack it in different ways. You have to knock down some shots. The ball has to move, you have to dent it off the dribble, get on the glass, different kinds of things. I just think I have the guys that have the right spacing and the right mindset, and these are the guys who have made the shots and made the plays. It’s a challenging zone, no doubt, but I think some experience against it makes you respect it even more, knowing you have to be aggressive but you can’t be unsound because they get live-ball turnovers and that hurts, but if you just are too hesitant or passive against it, you can have trouble. We had a lot of trouble, I remember there last year early on and then picked it up.
Q4: London, could you talk about the assistturnover ratio for the three guards yesterday? Did you notice it? I know you’re not really that big on stats but that’s pretty impressive.
LONDON PERRANTES: Yeah, we took care of the ball extremely well. We wanted to get good shots. We didn’t want to settle. It just goes to show that our teammates knocking shots down, we’re playing with a lot of confidence, and I feel like that goes into that.
Q5:Malcolm, Jim Boeheim compared you to Klay Thompson. I guess that’s a high compliment. But what can the zone do to maybe make you not look like that, and I know you’ve had success against the zone in the past but what kind of threats does it pose?
MALCOLM BROGDON: Coach Boeheim recruits guys that fit the mold to play that zone, athletic, and they’re very active, so they challenge a lot of shots. I think the trap that the zone presents is shooting quick shots, shooting your first open shot, not getting them moving and just settling. Not settling and getting the shots that you want later in the shot clock I think is the key.
Q6: Anthony, you kind of had I guess a little bit less production towards the end of ACC play than you did at the beginning. What is happening now in tournament play that is making you have these big games? Has something changed?
ANTHONY GILL: I can’t call it. It’s pretty much my teammates are just finding me, and I’m not really doing anything too special. They’re just really looking for me, and I’m just happy right now. That’s it.
Q7: Anthony, last night after the game I asked you about the emotions after the game and how you guys really controlled those. We didn’t see a lot of celebrating, and you said that’s something you guys have worked on this season. I’m wondering if you could just expand on that and tell me how much thought you guys have really given to bigger picture outside of just making it to this point?
ANTHONY GILL: We handle one game at a time. It’s something that Coach Bennett is always drilling into our heads, just handle one game at a time, because we don’t want to look too far ahead or be harping on the last game we played, and that’s something that, it helps us really understand where we need to be mentally, and it helps us out a lot in that way because you don’t want to get too up or too down for a certain game or be looking at the past game and saying we’re going to live off that past success or anything like that.
Q8: London and Devon, I know you guys like to find Malcolm off screens a lot. In terms of playing against the zone where there are not really many screens, how does that change, finding him and finding other guys when you guys can’t really screen that much?
DEVON HALL: Yeah, I think Malcolm moves well without the ball, so being able to get him in the middle and him being able to make plays in there is really big for us.
LONDON PERRANTES: Malcolm will be a huge part of getting into the middle of the zone. Yeah, we may not be able to set as many screens, but we have some playmakers with and without the ball. I think we’ll be able to find a way to get them the ball.
Q9: Isaiah, you’ve had some pretty good success when you go up against zones because of your passing ability, running the high-low with Anthony. Do you enjoy playing against zones? Do you feel like you kind of thrive off that a little bit?
ISAIAH WILLIAMS: I really like to be in the high post area. I feel like that’s where I’m most comfortable and that’s usually where I am when we play against the zone. When I get there I’m kind of looking for Anthony but it’s also going to be finding shooters on the outside and then taking my shot when it’s there.
Q10: Anthony, I know you don’t like to look past the next game, but are you looking toward April 8th at all? Does that ever come up, the wedding? Do you think about that?
ANTHONY GILL: Yeah, I think about it every day, mainly because my fiancé won’t let me forget about it. But it’s something I’m really looking forward to. At this moment March Madness is really something that I’m in the moment with right now, but I know that there’s something special at the end of all this.
Q11: Tony, after last night’s game, Coach Boeheim said that you’re one of the best coaches he’s seen, and he’s seen a lot of coaches. I wondered how you would react to that. And if you could elaborate on how you feel about Coach Boeheim as a coach.
TONY BENNETT: Yeah, he’s buttering me up. I understand that. No, he’s a Hall of Fame coach. That was one of the things that was so appealing about coming to the ACC and I think that’s why these guys were so excited to come and play in this league. You get a chance as a coach to challenge yourself against the best, and as players you’re going against the elite players and talent, and that’s exciting. What those guys have done for us younger coaches, Coach K, Coach Williams, Coach Pitino, and obviously Coach Boeheim, it’s unbelievable. You know, you hope you get chances. We always talk about that. You hope you get chances to go against them and have a chance at we always say title fights, to get in those and go toe to toe with the best. Like I say, that’s very kind of him and that’s humbling, but our program isn’t to where some of those programs are yet, but we’re knocking. That’s what that’s all about. We continue to knock. I think what he’s done — we always talk about simplicity with execution, and that’s what he does. He does things that he knows what he’s going to do and he’s mastered it with his defense and his offense, and it’s why they’ve been so good over the years.
Q12: With this season specifically, that first match-up with Syracuse to now, what you’ve seen on film and how the team has grown into the point they are right now and what you can say about Mike Gbinije because Jim is giving a lot of credit to Malcolm Brogdon, as well.
TONY BENNETT: Yeah, they’ve improved, some of those young guys. Lydon, he’s gotten a lot better. Gbinije, he’s a fifth-year, so his experience, his ability to play off the dribble, Richardson, they’re better, Howard is playing more. I think they’ve improved and gotten better, but triple-threat guards for sure. They can score off the bounce. They catch and shoot and good size. He’s from Richmond, Virginia, Michael is, and we tried to recruit him real hard, so we know how good he is and he’s really been a key and led that team and taken them obviously to this point, which is special.
Q13: I love the story that you told about the advice that your dad gave you about don’t tiptoe into this game, and obviously we saw the way it affected the players, how quickly they came out, how strong they were. With you on the bench, we don’t always get to watch the way that a message like that might affect you in a game, and I’m wondering how did that motivate you yesterday in the game?
TONY BENNETT: Oh, it was great. I just was so thankful I got to spend a special time with my dad and to hear that story about my grandfather, his father. Those are those moments that you cherish forever. There are so many things, experiences that I have with these guys in special settings that you just hold onto. It just gives you kind of a peace and a great feeling going into that, and that was great to hear that. I didn’t know that. Just him taking the time, and he’s such a wise man, and he’s had a huge influence — I mentioned that yesterday. It was powerful. He actually was at the game yesterday. He hardly ever comes. I don’t know if he’ll come tomorrow, but he was there, and that was pretty good. We thought we heard him yell once, which was probably a miracle that we only heard one yell something once.
Q14: What did you hear him yell?
TONY BENNETT: Build the wall, I heard him yell on transition defense. Build the wall. I’ve heard that many times.