Coach Tony Bennett was not happy with his team’s defensive effort.
Tony Bennett’s three seasons as the head coach at Washington State featured some tenacious scoring defense. Those three seasons the Cougars allowed 59.5, 56.4, and 55.4 points per game. In Virginia’s first game in the 2010 Maui Invitational, Bennett’s Cavaliers allowed 55 points to No. 11 Washington and, as one might expect when seeing a number like that, things turned decisively sour in an eventual 106-63 loss.
Bennett was not pleased with his team’s effort or attention to the foundation of the program, namely defense and intelligent offense.
“We certainly did not play the way we needed to to at least give us a chance,” Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “When they have 40 points in the paint, 26 points off turnovers, 18 points off transition – it’s too much. That was really disappointing. I’ll be patient and positive, but I’m also a realist and that kind of stuff won’t fly. We’ve got to improve in that. It was very disheartening that we lost our way, guys got nervous, I thought we shot way too quick. You can’t do it against a team with that kind of firepower that shoots it that well.”
The Huskies started flexing their scoring muscle, literally and figuratively, early in the first round’s final game. After Washington hit two 3-pointers in the opening moments, Isaiah Thomas dribbled to the rim, drew a foul call on Mike Scott, and knocked down the lay-up. On the way to the free throw line, Thomas flexed and kissed his bicep. After the made free throw, Thomas’ team only led 11-7 but it was a sign of things to come – UW’s offense overpowered the Hoos the rest of the half en route to a commanding 24-point lead at intermission.
Just how strong were the Huskies? They made 8 of 9 3-pointers and shot a sizzling 64.7% overall in the first half. The only miss from downtown came when Thomas tried an NBA range 3 in the final five seconds. Washington not only scored on long jumpers, though. UW drove to the rim for paint shots, crashed the glass for offensive putbacks, and threw down a handful of dunks for good measure. The Huskies also added 19 points off of 12 UVa turnovers.
Things didn’t improve in the second half as Washington poured it on with 9 treys in 17 attempts and made 51.4% of its shots overall. For the game, UW made 58% of its total shots and 65.4% of its 3-pointers. The Huskies’ 17 made triples are the most ever allowed by the Virginia basketball program. Washington also added 22 assists, 8 steals, and 4 blocks while committing just 9 turnovers.
All in all, it was a defensive outing to forget for the Hoos, who gave up more points than any team Bennett has ever coached (the previous high was 86 points) as UW finished off the best three-game scoring stretch in program history.
“Well, it was kind of like a game of Horse for them and that’s what bothers me. We couldn’t even get to them to contest,” Bennett said. “Did they shoot it great? Absolutely. But when they have that much room and they can get to the lane that easy, we couldn’t take anything away. … It was disheartening. Credit to them because they shoot it well, but you can’t let a team that good get that clean of a look.”
Freshman Joe Harris finished with 19 points for the Hoos.
Offensively for Virginia, a pair of freshmen showed signs of the scoring ability talked about during their recruitment. Wing forward Joe Harris , making his second straight start, scored in double figures for the second straight game; he had a team-high 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. He also stayed active outside of the scoring column, pulling down 7 rebounds in 32 minutes.
Fellow newcomer KT Harrell, a guard, added 14 points and 8 rebounds. Harrell attacked the basket and the glass more effectively than at any point to date in his fledgling Cavalier career. He earned 13 free throw attempts (made 8) with that aggressive streak on offense. Harrell also had 2 assists in 26 minutes.
In addition to Harris and Harrell, the other Virginia youngsters saw plenty of experience-building action in the second half. Posts Akil Mitchell (15 minutes) and Will Regan (11 minutes) played in tandem for a large chunk of time while Billy Baron also logged 21 minutes. In the end, UVa’s freshmen had 41 of the team’s 63 points.
“It’s hard for them defensively, they can’t keep up. That’s why we try to have a system that relies on help and it just wasn’t there. We need to tighten up defensively,” Bennett said. “Certainly KT and Joe, it’s hard to find a whole lot of positive about this [game], but they made some high-level plays and [had some] experiences that will make them better down the road.”