With about 30 seconds left in the first half of Virginia’s game against Hampton, coach Tony Bennett collapsed to the floor, where he stayed in a seated position. He had a dizzy spell, which he said was caused by being sick and dehydrated, and had to be helped to the locker room.
The 46-year-old coach returned for the start of the second half of the top-seeded Cavaliers’ 81-45 win over the No. 16 seed Pirates, but the questions lingered for Bennett, who admitted to being more embarrassed than concerned about the incident.
“I’ve just been a little under the weather the last couple of days, and I think I was a bit dehydrated,” Bennett said. “When you’re squatting down and get up quick, I just grayed out or blacked out. I was saying something to London (Perrantes) and had more Powerade than I’ve ever had in my life right now.”
During the timeout while Bennett was being treated on the sideline by UVa head athletic trainer Ethan Saliba, fifth-year senior forward Anthony Gill could be seen kneeling in prayer over his coach.
“I didn’t know what was going on, and I was praying just to make sure that he was OK,” said Gill, who initially sounded concerned. “It worked – I healed him,” he added.
Bennett’s dizzy spell was the third health incident involving an ACC basketball coach this season. North Carolina’s Roy Williams missed the second half of his Tar Heels’ 68-65 victory at Boston College on Feb. 9 after suffering a bout with vertigo during the game. Mike Krzyzewski missed Duke’s 80-71 win Feb. 2 at Georgia Tech when he spent the night in the heart wing of Duke Hospital.
Although Bennett was courtside for the entire second half, he spent most of it sitting quietly in his chair. “They told me to sit there and drink Powerade,” he said. “Yeah, thankfully the game wasn’t close in the second half. Usually you like to be active and involved. I guess it shows coaching is overrated. … You can sit on your hands, and they wouldn’t notice if you’re active.”
When Bennett left the game, the Cavaliers (27-7) were in the midst of a 20-3 run to close out the half for a 40-19 advantage.
Gill’s efforts gave UVa’s offense a boost. The 6-foot-8 Gill, taller than any Hampton starter, powered his way to a game-high 19 points and opened up the floor for the Cavaliers to snipe away from 3-point range, where they went 12-of-25 for the game and shot 55 percent overall.
“They knocked down that 3-point ball,” Hampton coach Buck Joyner said. “We wanted to challenge to try to make them knock down shots, and they did.”
“I think it started with getting into the paint, having our bigs be aggressive down low, just finishing down low, and then it opened it up for us,” said Perrantes, who hit back-to-back threes in the clinching run. “We wanted to start out inside first and playing inside out. I think that’s what we did.”
Perrantes added 12 points on 4-of-8 3-point shooting, and Malcolm Brogdon had 11, including eight in UVa’s run to end the half. Marial Shayok came off the bench to get 10 as UVa’s reserves put up 33 points and helped UVa to its largest margin of victory ever in an NCAA Tournament game.
“I think that’s huge, especially for our first game,” said Brogdon. The ACC Player of the Year went to the bench for good with 10:58 remaining. “We need the momentum. We need our guys to come off the bench to play with confidence going forward.”
Quinton Chievous led Hampton (21-11) with 17 points.
UVa will play ninth-seeded Butler, a 71-61 winner over Texas Tech, in Saturday’s second round at PNC Arena.