Howland's Friday Teleconference

Ben Howland talks about a minor injury to Josh Smith, why Tyler Lamb didn't start on Thursday, and what he's heard about the Sports Illustrated story coming down the pike...

Q: When you look at this game, how important is this in terms of the standings?

A: It's very important and obviously we're coming down the stretch here, only three games left in our regular season. And it's important, because our potential mathematically, we still have a chance to be a team that gets a bye in the first round. It's important to try to get as high a seed as possible in the tournament. And obviously, we want to win. Arizona is a very good team, it's senior day for them. So you know they're going to be fired up. They've got a very good team. And you look at how well they've played, they played very well over the course of the last ten games. They're on a bit of a roll right now.

Q: What makes the McKale Center such a difficult place to play?

A: Well, number one is it's packed. They do a great job of supporting their team. It's a college town, so it's the only show in town, so they all show up here in Tucson to support their Wildcats. They have great support. It obviously all started with Lute Olson and what he built here, and built over the years, and it's years of consistency in terms of being a good team and a good program. Sean's done a good job taking over the mantel.

Q: How are they different now, over the last ten games, than they were when you last played them?

A: Their young guys have improved. Look at Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson. And their big kid inside, they're improving, and I think when they went to the Bay Area trip and swept that trip, that really gave them some momentum. They've been playing very well. I think that Solomon Hill is one of the better players in our conference, an all League player. Kyle Fogg is having an outstanding year again. He's really playing good basketball. I think Lazeric Jones' former teammate, Jesse Perry, has had a very good two year stint with them. And their young guys have grown up. Wagner's having a real good senior year, leading our league in two point percentage.

Q: Last time you guys played you didn't have Josh Smith. What's your plan for using him in this game?

A: Well Josh actually did a good job for us last night. Now I'm not sure how bad it is, but he tweaked his back today during our practice, so he has a little, I don't know if it's a muscle spasm or what but he tweaked his back and we'll have more information for you tomorrow, I guess. See how it feels when he wakes up.

Q: How much of a difference could he make against Arizona?

A: Assuming he's able to play and be healthy, he poses problems for them matchup wise. They really don't have a five man that they play per se. Angelo Chol is really a 4, who's plays the five, same with Perry. You know, I watched Zeek play in Junior College but Jesse Perry was playing the 3 in juinor college and now he's playing the five. Last year he played the 4. So there's matchup issues for Josh defensively, trying to match up with Arizona's personnel, as it would be for their team when he's in the game. A year ago they doubled him in the post and he made some really nice passes out of the double team that led to some good baskets for us.

Q: What did you think of Anthony Stover's minutes last night?

A: I thought Anthony played with real good energy. He did a good job for us defensively. He plays enthusiastically. He plays really hard every time he gets in there. He'll definitely play tomorrow. He gives us good minutes when he gets in there, he plays hard.

Q: Will Tyler Lamb start?

A: Yeah.

Q: Last time you played Arizona, Travis Wear had 20 points. What did he do against Arizona that was so good?

A: He scored inside. He did a good job scoring using his height advantage inside, and we got it to him inside. And he got some nice second shots, but he scored well particularly around the basket.

Q: How has your team changed since that last game against Arizona?

A: That was the first game that we actually went with Jerime Anderson playing the point and Zeek playing more of the 2. We are trying to run more of our offense to get Zeek opportunities to shoot or to make plays off of his opportunities to shoot. I thought that really helped us after our opening two losses in the conference on the road up in the Bay Area. And I thought Zeek last night did a good job being aggressive and looking to score. I've been on him for passing up open shots on the perimeter, and driving when he doesn't need to. He can just shoot, and I thought he did a good job of that last night. I definitely think we've improved, and we've had some good wins and disappointing losses where we've had a chance to win. And hopefully we can finish strong here.

Q: Sean Miller has said it's kind of life or death to get one of those byes in the Pac-12 Tournament. Do you feel the same way?

A: I just look at the stats of other tournaments. As I've said in the past, I was in the Big East for four years at the University of Pittsburgh, and I remember that during the 25 years up to that point, which was nine years ago…my second year up there, we actually played four games, we played in the championship. No one had ever done it. Finally Syracuse did it after I left. It took about 30 years before it happened in that conference. And Connecticut obviously did it a year ago when they won five games in five days. But if you just look at the percentages, the likelihood that someone is going to win four games in four days is very very difficult.

Q: Lamb didn't start last night. What was the reason there?

A: He missed an academic responsibility and I decided not to start him and started Norman Powell in his place.

Q: What did you think about Norman last night?

A: I thought Norman did a good job in his 22 minutes. He made a big shot for us and got off to a good start in the second half, put us up 3. He then had another shot that he should have shot faked that he bounced once. But he played good defense and he played hard. He did a good job for us.

Q: What have you heard, if anything, about the Sports Illustrated story to come out next week?

A: I haven't read anything. I've just heard there's a story, and other than that, nothing.

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