Howland's Press Conference

Head Coach Ben Howland is very candid about the state of the team and capabilities of his players in his Tuesday press conference. He also details the status of T.J. Cummings and Trevor Ariza...

Is this the biggest week of the year for you?

"In terms of waiting to see if we're eligible? We're hoping to have some word (on T.J. Cummings) by a week from today (Tuesday) or yesterday (Monday). That's what our hope is, as to what T.J.'s final result is academically. I would think a week from today we'll definitely have an answer one way or another."

If he becomes eligible, is he strictly a power forward?

"Yes. Strictly as a power forward."

So he has no chance to play on Saturday?

"No."

If he's eligible, does he start?

"It kind of remains to be seen. I'm not going to ‘what if, what if.' We'll have to wait and see if he gets eligible first. We can't get too far ahead of ourselves here."

How has he looked in practice?

"He's looked good. He hasn't been doing much in the last four or five days because he's been really focused on preparing for his finals. He had his most important final, relative to everything, in his Anthropology 8 class. He got a B on his class paper. He had an A on the review session, the section, which is 10% of his grade. We're hopeful he's going to pass all of his classes and be back a week from tomorrow."

What's the status on Trevor Ariza?

"He had an x-ray yesterday, follow-up x-ray. And his lung is now fully inflated. So now it's a few more days of no activity, and then start to slightly get him back involved, foul shooting, still very slowly. We couldn't get his x-ray in the morning like how it had been planned. Finally got an x-ray late in the afternoon. So that's what a trainer said in the morning. Hopefully I'll talk to the doctors today to get a little more information."

Any kind of idea when he could start full practice?

"No. I have to talk to them. I'm not anticipating him coming back until the 17th."

What have you learned from the tape of the game?

"I've now watched that tape six times. I've watched it with three different sets of players, and then three times on my own. Early in that game, we came out missed a couple of wide-open shots. The first shot of the game was a wide-open three for Brian Morrison. Dijon Thompson missed a good shot early. It seemed like the thing had a lid on it early for us. Then there was our foul trouble problems. Fey had two fouls in less than two minutes of play. I think these guys were too amped up for the game. Morrison hammered the kid on the first possession of the game. You don't want to foul, a shooting foul on the very first possession, and give them two shots right away. You want to make your opponent earn it. We had six fouls in about the first four or five minutes. So foul trouble contributed to our problems early. Part of that was just being too anxious. In terms of watching the tape, overall we made some defensive mistakes, as you always do. We had some opportunities to take the charge and again bailed out. It's just very disappointing to me when I see a guy sliding out of the way of oncoming bodies. That's just something we're going to have to remedy, or give someone else an opportunity to get in there and take the charge themselves. Offensively we were really inept. The key point of the game was 36-33 with 7:45 to go and we had played so poorly offensively and finally clawed our way back in. Then they made a nice possession out of that timeout. And we took a couple of really bad shots. I would say we took 8 to 10 ill-advised shots that contributed to the loss. If we had a little more poise, a little more patience, we would have been better served."

What makes Cedric Bozeman such a good on-the-ball defender?

"He's just athletic, he's long. He started getting hurt down toward the end of the game when he tired, in terms of being penetrated against. Hawkins penetrated right by him late in the game, which hurt us. It's because he was too upright. I watched the game in its entirety with him yesterday so he could learn and see that. Something I have to do, and what we have to do, is play someone five or six, seven minutes a game as a back-up point. Because I can't continue to play him 40 minutes a game, especially when we get into the meat of the schedule, and the Pac-10 play, when we have Thursday-Saturday back-to-back games. He's not going to be able to play the minutes I played him the other day, which was 40 minutes. So, I'm going to have to bring along Ryan Walcott or Jon Crispin as our back-up point guard."

Is there no possibility of Brian Morrison getting back-up point guard minutes?

"No. Brian Morrison, if you saw the look-away pass that flew out of bounds, you would never suggest that he has any point guard capabilities at all. He had three turnovers in the first half. He's led our team in turnovers in practice. Brian Morrison doesn't have the point guard mentality at all. Watching the game with Brian last night, he was so sped up, going so fast, he took nine shots, one of which was a layup, and he was 2 for 8 on his other shots. Of those 2 for 8 shots, probably six of them were just shooting the ball so quickly. He had an opportunity to shot fake and guys to fly by him, and he has to learn to play the game and see the game at a slower pace. The thing I love about Brian is that he's so competitive, and he plays with a high-energy level, and getting out there and really competiting, but he's got to improve in that area. A couple of his passes were just really poor passes. He took a good number of bad shots. He had the drive, down five, with three minutes to go, that was an air bank lay-up. We actually air-banked three lay-ups in the game. It's hard to do. Josiah Johnson had one one, Morrison had one, and I forget who the third one was. You're at point blank, and you air bank it. That's just going too fast, and being out of control. So, no, he has no shot to be a back-up point guard."

But Jon Crispin does?

"Yeah, only because I want to give Jon a shot, see who's more competitive. Ryan Walcott has a better feel for it, having played it before, but defensively we can't have a big drop-off there. Probably the most important player on the floor from a defensive standpoint starts with your point guard, being able to stop the ball, pressure the other team's quarterback or point guard. Right now Ryan Walcott has the lead there. But one of them is going to play five or six minutes a game here the rest of the year. I'm going to talk to them today before practice about that. Basically I'm going to pit those two against each other in the next couple of days in practice and see who actually wants it more."

Did you think that you struggled to get into your offense, that Ced had trouble getting past the initial defense?

"He did a little bit. But some of it was Ryan Hollins was out on the perimeter handling the ball, which is tough for him, having never done it. He's a five man. He made a pass, which is one of our plays, where he catches and throws the ball to the wing, and they kept jumping toward the pass, and Trevor Ariza would have faked the pass and just gone straight to the basket. But again that's basketball experience. That's having skill level to play on the perimeter. It's something he has to continue to develop."

Did Ryan have a decent game overall?

"He was three for three from the field. He doesn't affect the game defensively as much as I would have hoped coming in here. You would think that Ryan Hollins would be our leading shot blocker. I don't know if he's blocked a shot yet, maybe one in the three games we've played. He's got to be more active defensively. He is doing the best job among our big kids of hedging on-ball screens. He's smart, he remembers his responsibiltiy for the most part. The whole thing for him is game experience, playing time. He's a kid who didn't even start on his high school team his junior year and is a late developer. He's catching up in terms of basketball experience. He had three fouls in that game, that hurt us. We went zone there early just to protect the big guys in foul trouble. Fey had the two. Two of Fey's four fouls were really bad fouls. He's going up and just clubbing guys. It's not even close. Not even a question. Coming down and landing on them with your body. So, he's got to learn how to play with a little more finesse at that end."

The team has started slow and improved in the second half. Is that the personality of this team?

"I'm not sure what it is. Typically I'd rather come out and pounce on them early, which we haven't done in any of our games. We have to get out to better starts. Hopefully we will."

Is Loyola Marymount better than you expected?

"I didn't expect one thing or another. I didn't know much about them, having not been out here and followed their program. I know Steve (Aggers) is a good coach. We coached against each other in the Big Sky. He was at Eastern Washington when I was at Northern Arizona. I've known Steve a long time. They're 5-1 and playing really well. They've done a nice job. They're playing with a lot of confident right now. They've won close games, close game on the road, in a tournament in Connecticut. So they have a team that believes in what they're doing. They have good size. The kid Keith Kincade is a good player. I really like his game. He was at West Virginia one year and then transferred back, so he was in the Big East same time I was."

Is there any pattern to how your teams play in finals week?

"Yeah, the game right after finals is always a terrible game. It's always a difficult game. Unfortunately for us, I can't remember in the last few years so many kids having finals on Thursday and Friday. Typically I've been used to guys having finals on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and most of the guys being done by Thursday. This year, most of our guys have finals at the end of the week. We had only two players with finals yesterday. The bulk of our finals are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, which makes it even more difficult as you try to prepare for an opponent, when you have finals right in the middle of it. You all remember, hopefully, way back when, it was a stressful time. And now, if you don't pass your classes you're not playing. Now you have these new rules. If you don't pass two of your classes, you're done. If this rule was in effect last year, we wouldn't have one of our players even playing right now. So this rule will have a far-reaching effect across the country, you'll see."

The fact that you had a chance to beat such a good team in Kentucky, do you expect that to carry over?

"The bottom line about the game, the biggest thing I wanted our team to learn from that experience, is if you play good defense you give yourselves a chance to win. On the road, and even if you're playing poorly on the offensive end of the floor. If we came out and we were clicking on all cylinders offensively, we win that game on Saturday. If you play good defense, you always give yourselves a chance. We weren't perfect defensively. We made mistakes defensively we could improve upon and get better. Always striving for perfection. In reality we're probably never going to get a shut out. But we're striving to play a perfect game at both ends of the floor. And right now we're short-handed. We're starting two five men instead of a four. Janou Rubin is our seventh man and playing major minutes as a walkon."

Could this team compete for the Pac-10 championship?

"Again, we're getting ahead of ourselves, because we don't know if T.J. is going to be eligible. I don't really know the status of Trevor. I'm going to be optimistic and just assume he's going to be healthy the rest of the year. Typically the case with pneumothoraxes, if they do have a re-occurence, it's going to occur down the road some as opposed to right away again. That doesn't mean it couldn't. If it did occur again, typically they have surgery. He would be out for an extended period of time. And that's just the possibilities. We're going to go into every game expecting to win, whether we have them or don't have them. We did that on Saturday. Our players are going into each game expecting to win each game."

What kind of defensive talent do you have on this team at this point? Can you play this kind of defense for the year?

"We have a long way to go. We didn't play great defense against Vermont or Riverside. Both those teams shot over 40% against us. So we improved. It was the best team we've played on Saturday, and our defense was much better than the first two games. So that's a good sign we're showing improvement, and getting better. But we have a long way to go. I think Trevor can be an outstanding defender. I'm excited about his ability to defend. He's long and athletic. It's kind of encouraging. Someone told me who was in the locker room, before the coaches came into the locker room after the game, he was the one talking to all of his teammates, saying, ‘God, we can do this. Look how good we played today.' He's talking, having not even played, like a team leader. It's exciting for me to hear. This kid really wants to win. And that's a great attitude to have."

Do you think that game gives your team help in terms of Pac-10 tournament-type games or post-season games?

"It was a great atmosphere. It was a great event, and a great venue. I thought the crowd was very supportive of us. Down the stretch, though, we couldn't get a stop. That blockout. When Mike Fey got the ball ripped from him, he didn't even lay a body on the guy, he just went to the ball. Instead of laying a body, and then getting the ball, he just went to the ball, and the guy came in underneath him and just grabbed it right out of his hands. Ced goes for the charge on the one play with a minute to go. They're not going to make that call. They made it on him twice in the first half, but with a minute to go, they just don't make that call. That's something you have to learn. You can't expect to get that call. That was a big play. It was a three-point game when he got knocked off-balance, instead of hanging in there. We had a lot of opportunities. We had a lob play that was wide open, and it goes right through our hands. We can't finish the play. That's the difference between winning against good teams. A possession here, a possession there. Every one counts. That's another thing our team has to learn."

What do you think about Stanford winning?

"I think it's great for the conference. It points to the fact that Stanford has a very good team. It was very important for our conference. We have to get some out-of-conference Pac-10 wins. That's why when we let the Kentucky game slip away from us, it would have been a great win for our conference. Hopefully Arizona will beat Texas. We want every Pac-10 team to do well in the non-conference. Except SC. Just kidding. Just a joke. Didn't mean that."


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