CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Late in the season, Tony Bennett likes to remember a few words from his father, Dick Bennett, to tell his Virginia team.

"It's what it is at this stage, my dad said 'it's steel-toe boots and hard hats this time of year' that's what it is and you have to have that mindset," Bennett said, "But you've got to be clear on your identity as a team."

Although not pretty, Virginia came away with a three-point win over bottom of the conference Louisville to remain in a tie with Pittsburgh atop the ACC standings at 12-3. A tie between the Cavaliers and Panthers at the end of the season would secure a sixth conference championship under Tony Bennett, but due to Pitt's head-to-head win they would take the No. 1 overall seed in the ACC Tournament.

So with five games remaining, the start to Wednesday night's game against a struggling Louisville side was unexpected. UVA could use reasons like playing a 3-23 Cardinals team, the drama from their recent win over Duke spilling into the week or even a flat ball for their flat start to the game, but Bennett has no time for any of those explanations.

"Those are excuses, that's poor excuses, you're in a race and they knew that," Bennett said, "And I don't know if they said that, you got to come ready. It's a privilege to play, you got to come ready to play no matter who."

While Virginia has remained the ACC's highest-ranked team since late November, the Cavaliers have struggled to put teams away with only four of their 12 ACC wins coming by double digits. Wednesday night in Louisville was another reminder for Bennett's team the margins are slim late in the season so grab your boots and hard hats.

"If we ever think that we're better than anything, boy that'll be the beginning and end, these guys got to come right and got to be ready and I don't believe we've got a squad that makes excuses," Bennett said.