Cavaliers Carry Lessons Learned from Tennessee Loss into NCAA Tournament
The UVa basketball team has arrived in Raleigh, North Carolina, where they will practice Thursday, in preparation for Friday's NCAA tournament game.
The 'Hoos head into the big dance having won 19 of their last 21 games.
Before that run, Virginia had lost 3-of-5, including a blowout loss to Tennessee. It was a December night in Knoxville.
Virginia's has the top-ranked defense in the nation, but they didn't play like it.
The 'Hoos allowed Tennessee to shoot 58 percent in the first half, and the Cavaliers ended up losing by 35 points.
After that the players knew there had to be a change.
Senior guard Joe Harris says, "We tried doing it our way and I wouldn't say we were being selfish, but it was more of an individual approach offensively and defensively, and the result was humbling, we got blown out."
There have been individual sacrifices.
Harris is taking less shots during his final season.
He and fellow-senior Akil Mitchell are averaging about five fewer points from last year.
Mitchell says, "It wasn't fun for a little while, but I think every guy on the team has had to buy into that, and there's something special about this team. We all put our egos aside and said we have to do what's best for the team. If it's take less shots or play a different role, that sacrifice is necessary."
The result is Virginia's first ACC championship since 1976.
Malcolm Brogdon scored 23 points in the ACC title game, but coach Tony Bennett had to challenge him, after Brogdon struggled in the first game of the conference tournament.
Bennett says, "I just said, you know we need you, the strength of this team has been your consistency. But also, when someone has been off a little bit, other guys have stepped up, but to get what we want, we're all going to need to be at a high level.
Brogdon has emerged as Virginia's leading scorer this year, on a team that was ranked 24th in the preseason poll.
"We didn't know how good we were going to be," says Brogdon. "We knew we could be good if we came together, and played with great chemistry but we didn't know if that would actually happen. We've put ourselves in a really good position right now to take advantage of a really good opportunity."
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