Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

January 28, 2014

Streaking Virginia headed for ACC road tests

— Forward Anthony Gill and his Virginia teammates have every reason to feel good about the way their season is going. They also have a coach with a short-term memory that won’t allow the early season success to go to their heads.

The Cavaliers (15-5, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) are off to their best start in league play since Ralph Sampson was a senior 31 years ago. But four weeks ago, they had just lost for the third time in five games, and absorbed a 35-point blowout loss at Tennessee.

“He talks to us about that every day,” Gill said of coach Tony Bennett, whose team was ranked in the preseason for the first time since the 2001-02 season. “He tells us to not be put on a pedestal. We were at the beginning of the season, and we got knocked off of that really hard, and then again with that loss against Tennessee. We’re just trying to stay focused to be able to go forward and win some big games.”

The Cavaliers just finished sweeping a three-game homestand, and have major road tests this week against Notre Dame in South Bend., Ind., on Tuesday night and at No. 18 Pitt on Sunday.

Last week, while preparing to face struggling rival Virginia Tech, Bennett dipped into literature for inspiration.

“I quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson to them, that ‘The hero is not fed on sweets,”’ he said. “They’ve been on the pedestal and they’ve seen the other side. They got knocked down after they thought how good they’d be at the start of the year with all the projections. We weren’t tough enough, sound enough, or playing the kind of ball that gives us a chance. I said you have a tremendous opportunity and you worked hard to get to this spot. Just keep playing your ball and don’t give it back.”

Led by seniors Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell, and with contributions from a roster that allows Bennett to go 10 deep in his rotation, the Cavaliers reference the Tennessee loss on a regular basis.

“We know what it’s like to be up at the top and then to lose that feeling,” Mitchell said. “So we understand what we have to do to win and be successful and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

In his fifth season at Virginia, Bennett said this squad has mastered his offensive and defensive systems better than any of his previous Cavalier teams.

“I think we realized after the Tennessee game how we need to play together and what we’re doing and I think that’s what has given us a chance to be competitive and successful,” he said. “I think they’ve grasped that. Every game, just because you do it, doesn’t guarantee (a win). But they have the right formula for how we need to play to give us the best chance.”

It’s a formula that has been working.

Text Only
College Sports
Local Sports
Sports Videos
Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft NFL Draft 2014 Team Needs - Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL Draft 2014 Team Needs - Tennessee Titans NFL Draft 2014 Team Needs - Atlanta Falcons NFL Draft 2014 Team Needs - Carolina Panthers NFL Draft 2014 Team Needs – Houston Texans NFL Draft 2014 Team Needs - Baltimore Ravens NFL Draft 2014 Team Needs – Jacksonville Jaguars Too Hot or Too Cold: Brewers and Rangers NFL Draft 2014 Team Needs - Arizona Cardinals NFL Draft 2014 Team Needs – Oakland Raiders With The Sixth Pick, The Atlanta Falcons Select... Insiders Alert: Green-Beckham Dismissed From Missouri Football Team Olympic Great Michael Phelps Ending Retirement Draft Preview: Chris Davis Draft Preview: Jay Prosch Watson: 'I'm always going to cry' Is the use of pine tar considered cheating? Draft Preview: Jake Matthews Draft Preview: L'Damian Washington
Pro Sports