Bennett knows it won't get easier for 'Hoos
The Virginia men's basketball team will try to avoid a third straight loss on Wednesday night when the Wahoos visit No. 9 Florida State.
On their way to last year's NCAA title, the Wahoos lost just three games all season. They had the same loss total the previous season -- and one of those was the infamous defeat at the hands of No. 16 seed UMBC in the NCAA Tournament.
Only three players on the current UVA roster -- Mamadi Diakite, Jay Huff and Austin Katstra -- were on that team that lost to UMBC. Diakite and Huff are the only players still around from the last time the Cavaliers lost consecutive games -- a four-game losing streak in February 2017.
So Tony Bennett agreed on Monday morning when a reporter pointed out that this sort of adversity is new to his current players.
"First, there's not a lot of experience. But the experience that we do have has been pretty fortunate over the last couple years, in terms of some of the success," Bennett said with a grin. "What I've liked is, they work hard in practice, and it's a 'growth' mindset. That's the buzz word that you have to have. You keep plugging."
UVA is 11-4 overall and 3-2 in the ACC after back-to-back losses against Boston College and Syracuse, which have knocked the Wahoos out of the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since November of 2017. The Cavaliers remain one of the worst offensive teams in the country, this season, ranking 351st nationally in scoring (55.7 ppg), 330th in field goal percentage (39.9 percent) and 348th in 3-point shooting (26.8 percent) as of Monday afternoon.
Bennett blames some of those struggles on some bad shot selection by the 'Hoos, but also credited good defense by some of UVA's opponents. He said he's trying to keep an even keel with his team.
"You need to be patient, but I think you also need to hold things accountable and push," Bennett explained. "I think that's what it's always, it's encourage, it's challenge, it's encourage -- and it's always that way, so we'll keep doing that. Guys are getting invaluable experiences, but no one likes to lose. I mean, that's the fact of the matter. So you try to get yourself ready and see if you can get one the next time out."
It won't get any easier for the Wahoos the next time out at Florida State on Wednesday. FSU is 14-2 overall and 4-1 in the ACC. The Seminoles have overcome a season-opening loss at Pitt to win 13 of their last 14 and seven in a row.
Bennett called FSU "one of the best" and "one of the most imposing defensive teams" in the country on Monday morning. The Seminoles are fifth in the ACC in scoring defense, giving up 63.4 points per game.
"And they don't hold back," Bennett said. "I know a lot of these teams, we've given some pretty good beatings to over the years, and I think they come after you. So you've got to be ready for it."
"Last year's team won a national championship, and everybody uses that to say, 'Hey, we're playing, you know, that.' Well, this isn't last year's team, but you still have that target," Bennett added. "So you're in ACC play, all that stuff's there. You have to just step in there, be the best you can be, and then just let it go. And that's what we'll try to do."