Howland's Friday Teleconference

Ben Howland talks about the upcoming game against Oregon, the improving ability of the team to close out game, and more...

Q: You mentioned last night about sustaining intensity. How can you push that along?

A: It's just a process and, that's a good problem to have. That means we've had leads of 15 points. That's what I was referring to. It's not out of context. In a lot of ways, we've improved in that area in sustained intensity. When you asked that last night, Chris, it was relative to what were some of things we'd like to get better at. I would like to get better at, when we have 15 point leads, to not slip back and have them become close games once again.

Q: How do you keep guys focused on that?

A: I think it's just having that killer instinct and just not getting loose when you feel comfortable and keeping that same level of drive and intensity because these games are all possession by possession games. Sometimes it's a two second possession, sometimes it could be 25 seconds, but at both ends of the floor.

Q: Do you address the importance of this game with the team, or do you stick with the one game at a time thing?

A: Just as you said, this game is very important. If you look at both teams, they're 29, we're 31 in the RPI. They're 4-0 we're 5-0. I don't think it's lost on anybody that this is obviously an important game. We talked about the fact that obviously it's very important for us. Oregon is very good. Oregon is the best team we've played since Missouri. When you look at their record, their wins, they beat Arizona who is Number 3 in the RPI a week ago, they beat UNLV on the road, a great win since they have a very high RPI. They have great personnel, depth, size, ability to shoot. Singler is so tough, I just love him. He's a senior. They've got a lot of great pieces. That's why they're going to be an NC-Two-A Tournament team, and a team that can do really well in the tournament come March.

Q: How's Norman today?

A: Good. Better. Thank Goodness. He had a headache that had never been an issue before. He's had those hives he's broken out with and had those tests done last year a couple of times during practice. I was talking with Leif before the game and the last time he had a debilitating headache was in the summer. I didn't even remember that. He battled through it and I thought he did a really good job for us last night.

Q: For Tony last night, that spurt he had in the first half, what has to happen for that to become a more consistent thing?

A:I thought he did a great job when he was in there. He did a great job scoring on that one long pass. He had a couple good blocks. He played extremely hard. He's getting better. Tony is improving and Tony is going to be a real force for us, so I'm excited about how he's developing.

Q: Having to get guys to hold onto leads a little bit better, is that just one of the things that comes with having a young team?

A: No, I don't think necessarily that. Hey, listen, you guys wanted me to complain about something, so I'm trying to find something to complain about here. It's a good problem to have, because it means we've got the lead to begin with. I think the question was, if there was one thing, and I think the first thing I talked about was rebounding. And this team tomorrow that we're playing, that's where they are really good. They're outrebounding their opponents by nine per game. They're top two in the conference along with Arizona. One thing I've always believed is rebound margin is such a huge factor in being a really good team. That would be my number one issue for us, because teams have runs. They'll take leads, or come back on us. We've been down, and we've made runs to come back on teams. That's just really part of basketball. Just speaking to what is my wish list, I'd love to have leads and not relinquish them. But that's not really realistic in the game of basketball in this day and age.

Q: How much has Kyle settled into his role as kind of a glue guy for this team and is that kind of the role you envisioned for him?

A: I think he's a really good leader. What I've really been impressed with is how he's rebounded the ball. He shot it really well last night, and made some fantastic passes. The one that he hit Shabazz to start the second half was just a bullet, dime, perfect on the money pass. He's playing and he's getting better. It's just fun to see players improve before your eyes. And you can just see he's getting better.

Q: Was Tony's first half play a sign that he can get on the court a little more?

A: Yeah, he did a good job, and when he's called upon, we hope he'll continue to play the way he played last night. That was great for us.

Q: Kyle mentioned last night that it was hard to get up for Oregon State because there was so much talk about the Oregon game. Do you notice a level of excitement amongst the players just to be in a big game like this?

A: We did our walkthrough today and we'll have one more tonight. I'm disappointed to hear that he admitted that to you. That's kind of how we showed up early in the game. You've got to be ready to play any opponent from the start. I don't understand…anybody can beat anybody on a given night, and we've already learned that lesson this year. And I don't want to suffer through another lesson again.

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