Ben Howland talks after Missouri:
BH: I’m really happy for our team. Our guys practiced on Christmas night. 3 of our players didn’t get a chance to go home because this was a quick turnaround. The time it would take to get back here… And that was a real sacrifice. It was all about trying to prepare to win this game which obviously is a great team and an important win for us. So I’m really happy with the way our guys kept fighting. We had leads. We had 10+ point leads a couple different times. In the first half, again in the second half. This Missouri team is obviously a very good team. They’re a fantastic team. They’re going to win a lot of ballgames this year. And that makes this win especially important because it’s going to help our overall RPI and helps our confidence.
With that being said, I thought there were some great performances tonight by our players. The Wear twins, in particular, had their best collective performance of their career at UCLA. And it really started in practices. There were great practices all 3 days and really carried over. It was unfortunate that Dave got into foul trouble in the first half because he was fighting [audio difficulties]. Shabazz [Muhammad] made some huge 3’s. Larry [Drew II] made some big passes down the stretch. Obviously Jordan Adams going to the basket late. That was huge for us. Put the game into overtime. We got outboarded by 14. 20 offensive rebounds for our opponent. That’s rare to win a game when you’re outboarded that much. The big difference maker to make that up for us was we only had 6 turnovers. They had 17. They’re a great team. And [Phil] Pressey brought his “A” game tonight when you look at him. 19 assists. He had 12 in the first half which tied his career high for the whole game. I thought that we did a good job on [Alex] Oriakhi. He’s a very good player. They hurt us on some slips. So we’ll come back and watch this game as a team. We’ll try to learn from it and improve as we get ready to prepare for our PAC-12 opening this week. Questions?
Q: you remember a game where you had a 15-0 run and you were still tied at halftime?
BH: if we had a 15-0 run, I didn’t even know.
Q: in the first half.
BH: in the first half? Okay. Give them credit. They’re really good. They shot the ball extremely well from 3. The game was really really fast-paced in the first half. We had 44 attempts in the first half, and the team averages around 60. Again, give Missouri credit. They’re really good. They made a bunch of big shots. And we made a lot of mental errors. We’re still learning. We’re starting 3 freshmen and playing 4. Norman Powell, as you guys know, sprained his ankle. He went back in. The trainer thought he was 85% when he went back in. Jordan Adams was cramping which is why we took him out of the game a couple times late. Larry played Norman’s minutes. 40 minutes. When you look at Pressey and what he did, a lot of it was because of how we prepared. We wanted him to be the guy that had to score. And he ended up taking 22 shots which is what we wanted. We wanted him to shoot. He hit a couple of 3’s that... give him credit. He played 44 minutes. That guy’s really a good player.
Q: Ben, how important do you think this is, confidence-wise? You said you’re still learning, but as you go into conference play, to get a win like this?
BH: yeah, every win is critical. We’re starting over. It’s a new season on Thursday. We’re playing a very good Cal team that has a Hall of Fame coach that’s one of the best coaches in the country in Mike Montgomery. And so our focus will be preparing for that. We’ll watch this game tomorrow [Saturday, 12/29/12] as a team. Take Sunday off. So the next 2 days, we’re not going to do anything physical really. Except maybe lift a little bit tomorrow. These guys are going to need to get their legs. This is our fourth day in a row and obviously tonight we were pushed to the limit.
Q: do you enjoy wins with 97 points more than 57 points? Or does it not matter to you?
BH: I enjoy wins where we’re not down 9 with 3:27 to go where we have to fight our way back. But I’m really pleased with how our team handled being down like… they [Missouri] were down 3 different times big and came back and took leads from us, and it was great to see our team through it in the end and fight their way. I’m really happy for our kids.
Q: is this evidence of Shabazz kind of having that killer gene at the end of the game?
BH: well, he made big shots. Those 2 3’s were huge. His teammates found him when he was open. Larry especially on that one drive. He’s obviously getting better. I just want him to rebound better. 1 rebound in 34 minutes. That’s not enough. He’s getting better defensively. I thought a couple of times late he did a good job helping. Whereas a couple of times earlier, he missed [helping]. He’s still learning. Everything’s new. And to be able to win, to keep learning that we’re supposed to do is really gratifying.
Q: Coach, you talked about your strategy there at the end of regulation. You were trying to bleed the clock. You had some fouls to give.
BH: we wanted [audio difficulties]. We probably fouled too quickly a couple of times. We only had 2 fouls so we wanted to make it tough for them. They ended up, I think… we spent 4 fouls too quickly because it only took us about 4 seconds. But they ended up not getting a great shot off. My heart was in my stomach watching [Laurence] Bowers throw up that last hail mary. He’s a heck of a player. Those guys are older veterans as well. He’s a fifth year player. Oriakhi is a fourth year player. Ross is a terrific player, and he’s a fourth year player. They have a bunch of veterans. Keion Bell is a fifth year player. I thought Keion Bell did a good job for them tonight coming back. He got 11. He hurt us.
Q: did your heart kind of go in your throat with the foul on Pressey…
BH: I thought that was good salesmanship by the little man. I didn’t think it was anything more than a foul. I thought he was trying to sell it. I thought we were in Europe.
Q: Coach, I think you talked about how well the Wears did. What was it that was different tonight that made them especially good against Missouri, especially given how big their big men are?
BH: they practiced really good the last 3 days. It’s an attitude. It’s an attitude about how to approach things. I thought especially for Dave. I thought Dave blocking out… he did a terrific job for us tonight. Travis had 9 rebounds. Dave had 6. Those were our 2 main rebounders, along with Kyle [Anderson] who had 6. We need to get more rebounds obviously from Shabazz.
Thank you very much.