Howland's Tuesday Press Conference

Ben Howland talks about how the team's defense needs to improve, whether UCLA will continue playing zone going forward, and how Shabazz Muhammad's conditioning is going...

Ben Howland talks on Tuesday:


p dir="ltr">Questions?

Q: did you see enough from your man [defense] against Texas to decide that's what you want to stick with?

BH: we'll still use some zone, for sure. I want, like I said after the game, to be a team that is a man-to-man team, first and foremost. That's what I believe. We have a long way to go. Freshmen learning stuff for the first time. It's a learning process. There's so much to playing man. There's a lot of little things. Things that these guys have never had to do before. [audio difficulties]. Like lock and trail. And extend, bump. And being in a stance on the ball. Play hard for 40 minutes and not take a possession off. Block… this is all hard, tough things. Not easy.

Q: earlier in the season, you said you felt like this team, because it was long and big, and not necessarily super athletic, was more suited to play zone. Was there anything that has switched your point of view?

BH: we still are going to play some zone, for sure. There'll be certain teams that they'll be a better match for us to play in zone. And there's only so much time we'll spend. I think teams, as the season progresses, typically become better and better at attacking the zone as the season goes on and on. I think the teams that play zone primarily, in November, the zone works better than it does in February. Because kids in the summer time, they're not practicing against the zone, it's all man-to-man. And then once you start working as a team, working that zone offense, it gets easier and easier to attack zones. And then there'll be certain teams that don't shoot the ball well like Georgia, which wasn't a particularly good shooting team nor was Northridge and we played zone against both those teams and hopefully we'll get someone like that in the future. Against San Diego State, I wish we were better in our man. Because they shot too well [for the zone].

Q: what's the rough breakdown in practice for how much time you're spending time in zone and how much time…

BH: today we spent a short time on the zone. We'll spend some time this week on the zone. Today… we're trying to teach man-to-man. We have 4 freshmen out of 8 guys we're playing major minutes. [audio difficulties]

Q: how much encouragement did you take out of the last 2 minutes of the Texas game where it seemed the intensity picked up a bit?

BH: our backs were against the wall. And we became aggressive, and they became a little tentative against the press. I thought a couple times, after watching the film, they had a chance to attack… they had a 3 point lead and pulled it out [not attack and back off to waste time]. Our guys made some plays. What was encouraging about it was to not quit, not give in, not give up, keep fighting all the way to 0:00. We had a similar thing happen today. We were playing [audio difficulties]… and the team was down 2 with 6 seconds to go and ended up winning. Same type of deal where you just never quit, you never know what's going to happen.

Q: do you feel like the Texas game can be maybe an early turning point as far as, obviously it's early on, but does it feel…

BH: we'll see. When we look back at the season at the end of the year, we'll see if that was an early turning point. I hope so.

Q: how long do you think it'll take for the younger guys to get acclimated to this level? In terms of… maybe during conference play?

BH: I think it continues. It's just a continual growing process. We have to acclimate quickly. We open up conference real soon. But we're continuing to get better and better and better. It's not like we reached a point… it's continual. We continue to hopefully get better and grow…

Q: do you think we're on pace?

BH: this is a big time for us. Our freshmen, [audio difficulties] they're going to be out of school for 28 straight days. So tomorrow, we'll come in twice tomorrow [Wednesday, 12/12/12]. In the morning, we're going to come in and shoot for 40 minutes, 35 minutes. Then we'll come back and have 2 hour, 2 hour, 15 minutes practice 2.5 hour later. Now we get a chance to watch more film. Study others. Study ourselves. Etc.

Q: so you're going to use these 28 days as kind of a good point of reflection…

BH: just growing. More focus now on just basketball for those guys and by Friday, for everybody. Our school will be out for everyone by Friday.

Q: out of the previous teams you've coached, have you seen a team take a big step forward during…

BH: yeah, it's always a good time. We're hoping for that.

Q: did the win over Texas give the team any sort of tangible emotional boost?

BH: oh, yeah. To be down… that's a long flight. It's a much better flight coming home after a win than it is after a loss. I remember I got home… we sat on the tarmac for half an hour because we landed early, and we had a couple bags get lost. I stopped at the grocery store to picking up some tuna fish and by the time I got done eating, Sunday morning, 1:30AM in the morning. None of those guys got into bed before 2AM in the morning. Nobody. So it's just a different mindset. Winning… it was good for us. because I thought we had 3 good practices leading up the game. Those were 3 of our best practices of the year. Today was a pretty good practice, considering we were coming back after 2 days off, for the first time since October, and didn't have to worry about finals.

Q: most of your games aside from the James Madison game, have been pretty close, do you feel like the team is playing to the level of the competition? Maybe more than you'd like to see? Maybe you'd like to see them put their foot on someone's throat.

BH: we're a team that's going to be in most games all year long. We're not that advanced as a team. We don't know how to come out and do that yet except for that one game. [audio difficulties]and that was partly because we were so lucky to get away with a win after the overtime. Missed foul shots with 4 seconds to go by Irvine. Hopefully we get to the point where we're playing with the killer instinct and being able to finish out a game. And I think the team now is getting better. Shabazz [Muhammad]… a change in chemistry. Also for him, he's getting in better shape now. His conditioning is starting to get a little better compared to where he was 3 weeks ago.

Q: what can you see in him specifically that's changed?

BH: he's in better physical condition. You can see it in his body. He's lost 2 pounds.

Q: Kyle Anderson seems like he had a really good first half against Texas as a forward. Do you feel like he's getting a little more comfortable? Finding his niche a little better?

BH: I think he's a hard guard for another team's 4 man because he's so clever with the ball. He's got point guard skills. He got the second foul and couldn't play the last 5 minutes [of the first half]. He tweaked his ankle at the end of the first half. It bothered him today in practice. So he's getting some treatment. I have to go grab him as soon as we're done here. Get him some ice and what not.

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