McKay: Virginia Never Wavered Against Purdue

One year after a stunning tournament exit, Tony Bennett and Virginia have reached the Final Four – and they might not be finished

Taz and the Moose
April 01, 2019 - 11:44 am
Tony Bennett Virginia Purdue

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One year after becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16, Tony Bennett has reached the first Final Four of his career. Indeed, Virginia beat Purdue 80-75 in an overtime thriller on Saturday, as the Cavaliers’ balanced attack overcame 42 points from Carsen Edwards.

“That was a high-level game and Carsen Edwards was going crazy, but Virginia never wavered,” former Bennett assistant and current Liberty coach Ritchie McKay said on Taz & The Moose. “They might have got staggered a bit, but that was a high-level game, and I think Tony’s ability on both ends of the floor – I think he’s an underrated offensive coach because of how good their defense is. But that’s a group that can beat anyone. I think the Wahoos got a chance to win it all.”

No. 1 Virginia (33-3) will face No. 5 Auburn (30-9) in the Final Four this Saturday at 6:09 p.m. ET. The Cavaliers will need strong performances from Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and De’Andre Hunter, who combined for 59 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists against Purdue.

“Tony Bennett is a phenomenal coach,” McKay said. “I think what people miss on Virginia – especially this year with Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter – he has given them freedom.”

And he has done so without sacrificing excellence on the defensive end. 

“I think it’s the accumulation of habits,” McKay said, explaining what makes the Pack Line defense so effective. “They know where everyone is going to be on the floor. They don’t gamble and take chances that are unnecessary that gives opponents uncontested shots. I think Tony’s dad said it best in the postgame interview: they have a chance on every night to just outlast you. If there’s a way to describe the Pack Line defense, I think it’s just a defense that doesn’t overwhelm you. It doesn’t create a bunch of transition baskets because we’re getting in passing lanes and all that. But you do have a chance if you’re consistent in it to just outlast the opponent.”

The proof is in the win-loss column. Virginia’s 33 wins are the most in the Bennett era.

Not a bad response to the most stunning loss in NCAA Tournament history.

“I think it’s human nature to be a little bit discouraged,” McKay said, “but I know him well, I love him, and he’s a dear friend. Even though I’m older than him, I learned an incredible amount not only about the game and philosophies and all that, but Tony is such a great man of faith. I think he really used it as something that could be a lesson in his life and in the life of his team. 

“If you saw the postgame interview (last year), his composure during that moment, his humility, I think the world got to see what those of us (have seen) on a daily basis,” McKay continued. “It’s authentic. It’s real. He’s never one that does something for the cameras that he wouldn’t do in his private life. I love him to death for that.”