Virginia, UT's next opponent, has found success in simplicity

Virginia coach Tony Bennett reacts to a call during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against LSU on Monday, Jan. 2, 2012, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)

Virginia coach Tony Bennett reacts to a call during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against LSU on Monday, Jan. 2, 2012, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)

CHARLOTTSVILLE, Va. — Here at the University of Virginia, long tenured academics refer to the third U.S. President as Mr. Jefferson. Life on campus — referred to as "the grounds" — is rooted in the school's historic founder.

Men's basketball coach Tony Bennett, meanwhile, relies on a different raconteur.

"Simplicity with execution," he said Tuesday, nestled comfortably in the spacious digs of his John Paul Jones Arena office.

Bennett's philosophies are more Vince Lombardi than Thomas Jefferson.

It shows on the court. The Wisconsin native and son of legendary coach Dick Bennett brought a slow-it-down, grind-it-out style to the Cavaliers.

It's not pretty, but winning doesn't need to be.

Tony Bennett and Virginia have several similarities with coach Cuonzo Martin and the Tennessee Vols (4-2), who come to John Paul Jones Arena Wednesday (TV: 7 p.m., ESPN3.com) for an out-of-conference tilt.

"How we value possessions is in line with what Cuonzo does," Bennett said. "There are similarities and subtle differences. We understand it's going to be physical. There will be spurts and some opportunities to get out in transition, but you're going to have to lace 'em up pretty tight to play in this one."

Sitting at 6-2, the Cavs have won five straight games, including an impressive win at Wisconsin, after dropping two early games against George Mason and Delaware. Holes in the point guard position had Virginia, "scrambling to find an identity," through the early goings, according to Bennett.

His words parallel Martin's of late. Tennessee's identity currently resides on the bench in the form of injured senior forward Jeronne Maymon.

Finding a winning formula is what early-season games like this are all about.

"When you're trying to find success, these games are just a deposit for that success," Bennett said. "It's, 'OK, this is how we have to do it.' That's important."

Bennett calls his style "cold water in the face." The Cavs rank fourth nationally allowing just 52.9 points per game. They have held opponents under 50 points three times this season and 21 times in Bennett's four-year tenure.

Virginia is 20-1 in those games.

Those are cringe-worthy stats for a Tennessee team coming off an ugly, 37-36 loss to Georgetown.

In that affair, Georgetown coach John Thompson III tossed out his typical 2-3 zone defense and held the Vols to 15 made field goals. Bennett resolutely plays containment man-to-man defense with some zone philosophies.

Even so, he can't ignore what the game film tells him: Tennessee struggles against the zone.

Asked Tuesday if he intends to shift his defense to fit UT's shortcomings, Bennett laughed and countered, "I don't want to give all my secrets away. You've got to be true to who you are."

Martin and Bennett aren't strangers. They coached alongside each other as assistants to Purdue head coach Matt Painter at tryouts for the 2011 Pan American Games.

Stretching history back further, Tony Bennett remembers cheering against Martin back in March of 1995. Martin toed the free-throw line with 35.2 seconds remaining in a first-round NCAA tournament game. His Purdue team trailed 48-47. Dick Bennett, Tony's dad, was on the sideline as the head coach of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Martin made both free throws.

Purdue won 49-48.

It was Dick Bennett's last game at Green Bay. He left that offseason to coach the Wisconsin Badgers. Tony Bennett, who watched the game from afar as a member of the Charlotte Hornets, remembers the game vividly.

"It was a tough, low-scoring game," he said.

Sounds familiar.

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn

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Comments » 11

AHOUSE writes:

I hope to see a lot of TN orange living in Va.
at the game. Got my shirt ready to go.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

IMHO This one will be a tough lower scoring physical game.

ESPdarn3 better not black this one out or I may cancel cable.

D60 writes:

Let's hope this game don't come down to Martin having to set up a play to win or tie the game I'm sure we'll get a 35 foot jump shot

Tennfan4075 writes:

Va. will go zone and this game may be lower scoring than GT. Will have plenty of time to go to fridge or scan the web sites for the latest info on which coaches are not interested in the Vol FB job.

brod writes:

i have comcast. how do i get access to espn3?

jdcdjc writes:

Sounds like another low scoring game.

dcap8424 writes:

in response to brod:

i have comcast. how do i get access to espn3?

Go to Espn3's website. You have to sign in with your Comcast credentials and you're good to go.

ESPN 3 is an online only channel. You're not going to find it on your TV. You can watch it on any computer, tablet, internet connected game console or media player. Personally, I always watch ESPN 3 on my Xbox 360 or iPad.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to Tennfan4075:

Va. will go zone and this game may be lower scoring than GT. Will have plenty of time to go to fridge or scan the web sites for the latest info on which coaches are not interested in the Vol FB job.

Va might mix a little zone to slow the game but will play mostly their bread and butter man to man and push the game out to the perimeter..In the end we will have to knock down shots from the perimeter because VA knows we aren't shooting very good..This is a very big game for us!!!!This team desperately needs to prove they can win on the road against a good team..Not only win but be dominate!!Opening games with stone cold shooting absolutely needs to stop here..If the Vols want to prove they are a tourney team than we need to show we can shoot 45% on a consistent basis cause thats what top #25 teams do!!!Hall has the chance to have a big time game tonight..CCM would be smart to push a uptempo game and the first pass in the half court better be to Stokes before VA can set up the double team we all know is coming!!McRae has a pattern of one awful game followed by a productive game..He had is awful game last week! Iam curious who will be covering Harris(one of the best players in the ACC)) McBee is coming off 2 great defensive games

johnlg00 writes:

I have always thought highly of Dick and Tony Bennett as coaches. Their teams are always fundamentally sound and physically tough. Since UVA and UT are almost mirror-images of each other, I expect another grind-fest like--shudder!--the G'town game. In such a game, the team that can turn their defense into a few easy transition baskets will have a big edge.

I can readily understand why many fans don't like this kind of ball, but they need to realize that NCAA tourney play more often resembles that style than it does the run-and-gun style that appeals more to casual fans. The only time you see really high-scoring NCAA games is when BOTH teams want to run, which doesn't happen all that often. Talent being roughly equal, it is easier to slow down a running team than it is to speed up a deliberate one. I agree with BQ that this is the kind of game the Vols need to win to demonstrate to themselves most of all that they can play with the nation's elite.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

A totally ugly offensive team. Wow. We have no set plays to speak of.

HtownVol writes:

Right now its 16-6 UVA with 9 minutes to go in the half.. This team is officially PATHETIC!

Man this stinks, how can any college team have such a hard time scoring?

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