Howland Teleconference with Media

Ben Howland talks about the challenges of ASU's length in their zone, whether Josh Smith will play on Saturday, and Brendan Lane's contributions against Arizona...

Q: Do we have an update on Josh?

A: We don't. He's going to ride the bike here this afternoon. We just got back from our practice and so we don't have anything yet.

Q: What do you think the chances are of having him available tomorrow?

A: I have no idea.

Q: Can we get an update later today?

A: Sure we can try to do that. Here's what will have to happen. If he rides the bike today, and he feels OK, which I anticipate but you never know, then the next step will be he will have to go back to UCLA tomorrow morning to take a computerized test. Then we'll see how he does on that, and then you come back here, and play or not play.

Q: Did you guys already practice today?

A: Yeah.

Q: And he didn't practice.

A: No. And our practice consisted of going through all their sets and all their stuff and doing some things that we're going to try to do offensively against the zone of Arizona State. But it wasn't a practice with contact.

Q: Were the Wears able to be more of what you hoped in this game because Josh wasn't in the game?

A: No, I don't. I think that it was a good matchup for them inside. Arizona doesn't have a lot of height this year. They've got a bunch of new kids coming in next year who are all big with real good size. That was our advantage. I watched the first half of the game last night. I haven't seen the second half yet. So they did a good job scoring in the post.

Q: And why? What did they do well that they maybe haven't been doing?

A: We did a better job executing to get them the ball in there and really looking for them. And I thought they did a good job posting and sealing.

Q: Can you talk a little more about your decision to play Lazeric Jones off the ball and have Jerime Anderson handle it more?

A: Well, just looking at our game a week ago Thursday. We had a chance to win on the road, didn't play particularly well, but Zeek played real good offensively. And looking at our offense, he's got to be our primary scorer No. 1. I talked about the fact that Josh was sixth on the team in shots attempted and it's really disappointing he didn't get to play yesterday because he had a good week of practice. All three practices he played real well. He should be in reality our second leading shot attempt guy. If he could stay in the game and get enough minutes. That being said, like you'll see if you watch the film, Zeek was setting a lot of really good screens for the Wears to get them open. We executed better offensively last night than we have been, because that was really a big focus in practice this week against their man. It really helped us. Zeek ended up getting 16 shots up, and he's going to be a primary guy that we're looking for to run an offense through. And with his point guard skills, he's going to make plays for others as well.

Q: So do you foresee this continuing?

A: Yeah.

Q: Zeek said last night it felt unfamiliar to him almost, playing the 2.

A: He'll be fine. I don't think Zeek has any problem taking shots. I think he was being modest.

Q: Kind of a wacky night in the conference last night. What do all these upsets tell you?

A: They're home games and road games. Every team at home won last night except USC, and so that's not that big of a surprise. And now, when you're going up into the mountains and you go up to Utah and Colorado, take the oxygen.

Q: Can you see someone winning the league with five losses?

A: Yeah, I do. It wouldn't surprise me in the least. I don't think it will happen. I think it'll be probably 4. But who knows?

Q: As well as you played offensively last night, were you equally happy with the defense?

A: I was. Our defense was very good last night. We spent a lot of time the previous two days really working at it. And our guys were really focused. Again, it was a good atmosphere, the fans were great. It was in honor of Coach Wooden, which always makes it extra special. So yeah, it was a good overall night.

Q: What are some of the keys against that ASU zone?

A: They're really big right now. They have those three kids that are going to miss tomorrow's game as well. So they're huge. They really have great length. But Coach Sendek has really done a great job with that zone the last four or five years. Since he's been there, actually. Opponents are only shooting 40%. They really do a good job contesting all the shots. They're matching up. It's got man to man principles within the zone. It's kind of like Richmond. Richmond was more of a man defense, switching everything, more toward the man side, where they're the same thing but more toward the zone side. So it's a hard defense to play against.

Q: How do those suspensions affect your game planning?

A: It makes it different because our matchups are so hard. They're starting Trent Lockett at the point, and he doesn't play the point normally, so he's 6'5, 220. They're two man is Felix, who had a great game last night, he was spectacular. He had a career high and really really looked good on the film. And he's their 2 at 6'6. And then they have Gilling in there who's very big, 6'7, 6'8 at the 4. Creekmur at the 3, who's 6'7. I mean, they're really big, they're long. So it's harder for us.

Q: Will Josh's absence impact the game because of that?

A: It impacts the game not just because of that, just in general. We'll see if he's absent. I don't know yet. I'm not giving up hope that there's a chance that he'll play.

Q: ASU has struggled with turning the ball over. Is that going to be a focus for you guys?

A: I don't think they turned the ball over that much last night, did they?

Q: They had 16, I think, right around their average.

A: They did a good job executing what they did. I don't know how long they knew those three kids were going to miss the game, but obviously they ran a few different things than they normally run, according to my assistant. But yeah, we're not a full court pressing team.

Q: Norman Powell has been struggling with his shot the last few games. Have you noticed anything?

A: Just, last night he missed a wide open three in the corner which was a good shot. He had the one dunk shot, which was nice. He missed one along the baseline that he shot too quickly, but for him, typically, it's just good shot, bad shot. Just recognizing when he's open. When he's open, he's a good shooter.

Q: You said earlier this week that you will have to win the Pac-12 tournament to make the NCAA tournament. Do you think that'll be the prevailing sense among all Pac-12 teams?

A: I can't answer for other teams. That's just how I feel about us.

Q: You told the Wears this week that you wanted them moving toward the basket more and going forward, not fading away. Why do you think that sunk in this week?

A: Just because I probably hammered it, every moment I can in practice. Travis got to the line last night six times, which is triple what he's been averaging. That's what he should get every night, six. We've got to get Dave to the line more. We've got to keep them out of foul trouble too.

Q: Were they correctly in foul trouble, from what you saw?

A: Yeah, I haven't seen the second half yet, but the first half, the fouls that were called were correct.

Q: What was different about last night, in terms of not giving up a lead?

A: You know what, we did a good job with our defense. I thought our defense got better. Our defense was good last night. That was the key to the win. When we hold an opponent to under 40% from the field, we're going to have a good chance, typically.

Q: Can you talk about Anthony Stover's role a little bit?

A: He did a good job for us. I thought Brendan Lane did too. They both did a nice job for us, and so I was happy for both of them, because they helped us, no question. Stover made that one key defensive stop there with Hill on the baseline in the last two minutes of the game that was really critical for us. Brendan was getting hurt from being driven, so we put Stover in instead and he did a better job on Hill, so that was good. But they both gave us good minutes. There was a really good sequence where they were in together at the same time and we got about two or three offensive rebounds that they were keeping alive and just wouldn't go in for us, but was really a great sequence of hustle and working hard. I don't know if you guys remember that, but it was in front of our bench in the second half.

Q: Are you concerned about your team playing down against ASU with them missing so many guys?

A: We know we can't play down and beat anybody. And Arizona State proved pretty clearly last night that maybe this thing has brought them together more. You look at Lockett and Felix, and they both had great games. Everybody supported them. So they played good. We're going to have to play really good to beat them tomorrow, and I know that, and I think our team knows that.

Q: Does it help Stover and Lane in terms of confidence and later on in the season to get more minutes now?

A: Yeah, I think so. Brendan did a nice job. I'm really happy for him, because he's had a great attitude and has really worked hard every day. He's a great kid, and he's a guy who's hardly played at all but really took advantage of his opportunity and did a good job and showed he deserves to play.

Q: Is there anything you can do to help prevent the cramping issue? Tyler Lamb had it last night, and Malcolm Lee was prone to it when he was here.

A: Malcolm had a special issue. Malcolm had it all the time. It's just playing too many minutes last night for Tyler. Our trainer does a great job of getting all these special things in their energy drinks that they drink. I'm just glad that's all it was. I thought when Tyler went down, I thought he was out for the season. I didn't know what the heck happened.

Q: Were you disappointed at all in the Arizona crowd chanting while he was down on the floor?

A: I would never notice anything like that. I never pay attention to the crowd in the middle of a game. I didn't know they were doing that. What were they chanting?

Q: Just chanting "U of A" really loudly while he was down, and it seemed a little bit in poor taste at the moment.

A: You're are the journalist. I couldn't say it any better. That really would have been bad (if it was a worse injury). I have no comment, other than to say that it's interesting that you pointed that out.

Q: What did you think of the Western Kentucky game?

A: Oh my goodness. I saw that last night about 2 in the morning and I couldn't believe it. Six guys on the floor. It just shows that anything can happen. That was amazing.

Q: Would you be happy with that if you were on the losing end?

A: No. But I've had crazy things happen. One time in my first or second year as a head coach at Northern Arizona, Bobby Dye, the very good former Fullerton coach who was at Boise State, switched the shooter on me at the foul line. The guy who got fouled was a bad shooter and it was at the far end, and they switched it like 30 seconds ago. I was so angry. So you know, I've seen things happen like that before. They won, we lost.

Q: Do you wish that the rule was changed where the opposing team gets to pick the free throw shooter when the fouled guy gets hurt (like what happened when Lamb was hurt)?

A: That's in there for guys who fake injures who have a bad foul shooter going up. Yeah, you know, I don't think that it's a bad rule. I'm just glad Stove made one of two.

Q: Does he make them in practice?

A: He's about where he is, percentage wise. I think he's around 60%.

Q: De'End Parker hasn't been on your bench the last few games. What's been going on?

A: His mom, and he's a kid that grew up in a foster home, so he's very close to her. She's had real bad health issues. She had open heart surgery in the past 12 months, and she's had some complications with that. So because he's not healthy and not playing, we just decided it was OK for him to stay at home and be with her. He's supposed to be back in school on Monday.

Q: Were they any other injuries from last night?

A: Everybody seems OK, based on the practice today.

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