Howland's Friday Teleconference

Ben Howland talks about facing the Bears tomorrow, Anthony Stover's comments about the team not being ready to play last time, and how the defense has improved recently...

Q: Anthony Stover said he felt you guys weren't ready to play Cal last time you played them, did you get that vibe?

A: No, I don't know what he was talking about. I read that in today's paper and thought it was...I'm embarrassed for him if he knew we weren't ready in his mind and didn't do anything about it.

Q: That game was a defensive low point. What went wrong and how much better are you defensively now?

A: We're better than we were in late December. They played really well and we played very poorly, especially defensively. You have to give them credit though. They're 19-6, they're an NCAA tournament team, they're in first place in our conference and they had a lot to do with us not looking great defensively and really took it to us.

Q: What is better defensively the last couple of weeks?

It's been more than a couple of weeks. We got a lot better from that point forward. After that road trip we played good defense against the Arizonas. We didn't play as well up in Oregon—especially against Oregon State, but our man defense has definitely improved. We're doing a better job of getting in our stance. That game we really allowed a lot of separation which allowed them to get a lot of easy shots and easy reads. We've done a better job of tightening things up.

Q: What do you make of the conference this year being so spread around with the race?

I think what's really evident is that anybody can beat anybody on a given night. You look at Oregon State losing at home last night to Washington State. That was a very good win for Washington State. Obviously Oregon played great at Washington. I watched the film and edits from Stanford last night and they are really tough. So anybody in this league is capable of beating anybody. I think that's played itself out pretty well.

Q: Is that parity or a drop in talent?

A: Parity. I think there's been a number of good players in our league. You look back at last year and there were eight guys who left early to the draft and I think three of them probably should have for sure. Probably some of the others should have come back and it would have made the league a little more talented, but that's part of today's culture.

Q: You talked about poise last night, how does that help you going forward?

A: We're winning some close games the last couple of games the last couple of games and it's always good to be on the right side of a close game so that was positive for us. They made a great comeback against us. Hit some tough threes. You have to give them credit. They really hurt us on the glass in the first half. And then we hurt ourselves with some bad turnovers. I need to get Zeek and Jerime both a little more rest so I've got to play Norman more minutes because when they get tired is when they make mistakes and turned it over.

Q: How does that fatigue affect the free throw shooting down the stretch?

A: Sure it does. No question it affects it when you're tired, but you've got to play through that. Jerime and Zeek have seven more games left in their careers regular season so it's coming down to the end here for them.

Q: How did Travis Wear's ankle respond to playing on it?

A: Good. No swelling. He didn't have any swelling. Watching him on film he did a really nice job, especially to play 28 minutes having not gone up and down since the previous Thursday. I thought that was real good. I was real excited to see him draw a charge. He and Dave, all our guys are improving. The disappointing thing last night was we couldn't keep Josh on the floor longer. We need to keep Josh in the game.

Q: Was he being overly aggressive?

A: Yeah, he was rushed a couple of times. We're going to watch it today. We're going to watch about 10 or 15 minutes of our game last night just so our guys can see themselves. You've got to slow down. We missed some easy looks inside last night and Josh's fourth foul is where he caught it and it was the right call. He did charge into him. His second foul was a bit questionable. There are always going to be calls that go for you and against you. But for him, he's so much bigger and stronger than everybody else that he never gets the benefit of people. The guy is putting his knee up his backside. He takes a lot of abuse, but when he slows down, he is really, really dominant. When he gets sped up and he's trying to go to fast is when he gets in trouble. He just needs to slow down.

Q: Cal is pretty balanced, spreading their scoring around. How does that make them more difficult to defend?

A: Their two wings, Crabbe and Gutierrez, and Kamp inside are their three leading scorers, but the other kids are capable of scoring big numbers. I think the freshman kid Kravish has really played well for them and I really like Cobbs. He's a really nice player. All those guys are capable of scoring 15 plus points a game on a given night. Last night Kamp, he's a very good fifth-year senior. I think he's one of the under-appreciated players in our league the last couple of years. He's a really good player. He had 14 straight points for them last night in one span. That's incredible. They're really good. They're a very, very good team. Cal is a team that can definitely go into the NCAA tournament this year and make a nice run.

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