"I said, 'Uplift them, ' and we talked about don't panic, but play with fight", Bennett said. He remembers watching the UMBC upset for the ages. "You just gotta be used to that growing up, especially playing with your older brothers".
During UMBC's NCAA Tournament run a year ago, the Twitter account went from 5,400 followers at tip-off of the first game on Friday night, to 111,000 followers by Monday morning.
OR has has been the favorite in eight of its last 10 games, all wins, including a 4.5-point favorite in its 73-54 win over UC Irvine on Sunday.
Gardner-Webb's offensive pop aside, Virginia should be able exploit their subpar and overmatched defense.
It looked possible, at least through the first half, as the Cavaliers were tested in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma odds have the Cavaliers favored by 10.5, while the over-under, or total points Vegas thinks will be scored, is 126.5.
But Virginia cut the deficit to six in the closing minutes of the first frame.
Coach Tony Bennett has made the tournament six straight years while averaging six losses a season.
The jokes started flying right away. They've got to hit some big shots like they did today and they can't start off slow.
And finally, Virginia remembered it was bigger, stronger and longer than Gardner-Webb. The Bulldogs led 30-16 with 6:42 left in the first half.
"This is the most I've ever been excited about a game", Hunter said afterward. "I didn't really try to play outside of it".
At the first three TV timeouts of what many assumed would be a stroll, the Cavs trailed 6-4, 17-10 and 26-14. "Let's get focused on preparing to play the best we can play", Craft said. "I thought they made some good adjustments both offensively and defensively to exploit some areas that in the beginning of the first half they weren't".
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Virginia has the will power to push through to the Final Four? Ty Jerome had 13 points on 10 shots, Mamadi Diakite was able to finish off nearly every opportunity he was given down low, and Virginia finished the game shooting 52 percent from the field. Hunter's the best defender in the ACC and the main reason the two regular-season losses to Duke were competitive. Scoring is expected to be considerably tougher on Sunday, when the 9-seed Sooners take on the top-seed Virginia Cavaliers at 7:45 p.m. ET in Columbia.
Then Gardner-Webb, making the first NCAA tournament appearance in program history, learned how much of a matchup problem Hunter can be.
"That will always be part of our story. I understand that", Bennett said.