Coach's Corner: Off to the Bay

At his weekly press conference Lute Olson gave no indication that Dennis Latimore was leaving. Olson conducted the press conference just like any other. He discussed the previous game, the two upcoming games and the play of his team.

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Olson opened the festivities by discussing the game against ASU
Lute Olson: "I thought we were passing the ball the best that we passed it all year long and we did the best job of moving to open spots and people setting good screens to get guys open. Our spacing was a whole lot better and that continued in the workout yesterday and I think we're going to get better and better on the offensive end.

"It certainly makes a big difference to have Luke's (Walton) timing where it should be. He had a great game, but we had a lot of guys (with great games). When you look at the balance with three guys with double-doubles and Salim (Stoudamire) in double figures in scoring and Jason (Gardner) in double figures in assists and one basket short of a double-double, which would have been interesting, we came close to (having four guys with double-doubles) making that a reality."

Question: Is this Arizona team one that is prone to more big scoring runs than most of your teams in the past?
Olson: "It just seems like when someone gets it started by hitting a couple of shots, it just seems like the momentum gathers. Basketball is a game of momentum, but we've had a great ability to go on runs, mostly at McKale Center when the crowd gets going and the momentum gets going. We've been able to carry that over to the road in conference play as well.

"1998 was great. 1988 was a great momentum team. We've been blessed through the years with a lot of teams that way, but this one is certainly as good as any of them."

Question: Did you see this kind of inspired play from Channing Frye coming?
Olson: "Like I've said many times, we see things in practice that you're going to see in a week or two in game situations. You could just see Channing's confidence building. His aggressiveness is something that has not been there before. Right now, everything that's up he thinks is his, and he'll knock our guys over to get the ball. That's the way your post guy should be. He shouldn't care if he sends a couple of them flying. It's his job to go get it.

"He's gotten aggressive on defense from the standpoint of the basket area is his, and if anyone is coming in there to score, he's going to challenge it. He's really, really stepping his game up. (Assistant coach) Josh (Pastner) is doing a great job with him. Channing is playing great and we need to have him continue to play great.

"Right now, the other players have a lot of confidence in him too. He's doing a much better job of getting open, as are all of our inside guys. He's a quick jumper who runs the court well. He uses both hands really well and has a great shooting touch. When I saw him in high school, I felt this kid is going to be a great player by the time he gets done because he's coachable, he wants to be a good player and he will spend time at it. He's only scratching the surface of what he can be."

Question: The first game with Cal was a close game statistically. What was the difference?
Olson: "If you look at the first half, their big three (Shipp, Tamir and Wethers) was 7-of-19. That was the key. I think the key was we really did a great job of keeping them out of their normal operational area. If they normally catch the ball at the three-point line, we made them catch it six or seven feet out, which makes it difficult to shoot the three from that range with a guy in your face. It extends the passing lane another six or seven feet, which allows your defense on the inside more time to recover and help."

Question: You are the only team to beat Cal at their place in two years. Is there a reason for your recent success at Haas Pavilion?
Olson: "It's a big game. Our guys play better in tough places. If you look at the games this season with the big pregame hype, our guys play at there best when there is a lot of hype around the game. Our guys are used to being in that position. If you take a look at other top teams around the country with Duke or Kentucky, Connecticut, Kansas, generally they play well in big games because they are used to being in big games."

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