Howland's Press Conference

Head Coach Ben Howland addressed the press Monday this week, answering questions about the status of various players and the Bruins' upcoming game against UC Santa Barbara Wednesday...

Opening Statement:

"Reviewing the tape from the other night it was really even more disappointing after the game to see that we had a 12-point lead with 2:56 to go and the ball, and allow the team to come back, take us into overtime, and actually take the lead. So hopefully we're going to learn from that experience. We were feeding the post, as opposed to just getting the ball back out on the perimeter and moving it around. We spent some time yesterday with a few of the kids watching the tape, just so they can see where mistakes were made."

How's Michael Fey?

"Fey is seemingly okay. He should be able to practice today. They gave him some eye drops for an infection. He had a slight scratch on his cornea. Just a hairline. I talked to the doctor right after the game, who looked at his eye down at the hospital. He assured me it shouldn't be anything serious and he should be able to go today. Michael's mom went and got him the prescription. All the pharmacies were closed at 1:30 in the morning, Sunday morning. So, his mom took him his medicine yesterday morning. Woke him up about noon. I was trying to call him and he was still asleep. Most big guys, they need a lot of sleep. He seemingly is okay. I haven't spoken with him today, but spoke with him yesterday and he was fine. I'm anticipating that he'll practice today and be able to play on Wednesday.

"Trevor Ariza had his x-ray done this morning, and we still don't have a reading of that. I just had our trainer call me right before I came in here to see if I could give you an update as to whether or not his lung is fully inflated, which we're assuming everything is a go, until we hear otherwise. Unless you hear from us otherwise, just assume everything is good to go for Trevor. We'll let you know if in fact it is not.

And then with T.J. Cummings, we're still waiting on one grade. I'm very optimistic now that he is going to make it. But he still has one grade that's due in, that we should know probably tomorrow, is what I've been led to believe. Like many of the classes at UCLA, his final was 70% of his grade for the quarter. So it's difficult to know for sure until the grade is turned in. He had a passing grade going into the final, but 70% of the final is your grade, that's a large percentage to have as your final grade."

Is Trevor going to be playing limited minutes Wednesday night?

Meaning like the 32 minutes he had the other night? Again, I was told at halftime he was good to go by the doctor. He got really tired. He made a number of mistakes down the line defensively because he was so winded. But I like to have him in there. I feel more comfortable with him in the game than sitting on the bench. Hopefully he'll have two good days of practice. I'm playing guys too much. I've got to try to cut that back. When you're playing players 42, 40, 39 minutes, that's a lot of minutes to log. It probably contributed to giving up the lead in the last few minutes of that game, because we were tired. You could see it on the film. So again, that's something I have to do. I have to develop more confidence in those eight, nine and ten players to play them some minutes. I thought, for example, that Josiah Johnson gave us great minutes the other day. I was really pleased. He had nine boards in 15 minutes. It was probably his best game, for sure this year, maybe ever. You get nine rebounds in 15 minutes you're being very productive."

Will Dijon Thompson practice, with being ill?

"I don't know anything about that. I'm anticipating him doing fine."

When T.J. returns, will he come off the bench?

"I haven't decided that for sure. Probably, the first game he will. I anticipate him as long as he's performing well, moving into the starting lineup here at some point. We need that presence inside of a really good rebounder and a big body. As long as he understands that he has to rebound and defend. I was really pleased with our defense in the first half against Loyola. Anytime you out-rebound a team by 24 rebounds in a half, you're usually up by more than eight. We missed a number of open shots, too, in that game."

If T.J. moves into the starting lineup, who moves out?

"Don't know yet. I'm just hoping that's a problem. I hope I have that. To me it doesn't matter who is the starting players, it's who is finishing games. You look at my Pitt teams, I don't think Ontario Lett started a game as a junior, but he was in at the end of every game."

Will it take time for T.J. and Trevor to mesh with everybody?

"Well, they've been practicing together quite a bit. They haven't been on the same team. Typically we had up to this point T.J. as a third big. Before Trevor got hurt T.J. was sharing time with Josiah, essentially. Now, if he is eligible, and we'll know that for sure tomorrow, that will change what team he'll be on. More reps with the first team. He didn't have any reps, hardly at all up until now, with Cedric Bozeman, Dijon and Brian Morrison."

Do you expect it to take any time for those guys to mesh together?

"Yeah, sure. They haven't played together in a game, number one. And they haven't even practiced together a lot. I don't anticipate it being a big deal. I think two or three games. The unfortunate part is that we only have two or three games and we open up Pac-10 play. We have two more non-conference before the conference season."

How much of a diference will it be having T.J. and Trevor? Night and day? "I don't know about that. But definitely, the other day you can see having Trevor in there was really nice in the first half. He comes in and makes plays. His ability to pass. Ryan Hollins has been playing out of position. He's been playing the four spot for us. In reality, he's closer to being a center than a power forward at this point in time, with his skill level. You can see on the tape, Trevor's ability to pass the ball. We had a lot of turnovers. 21 turnovers is a lot of turnovers. Hollins would catch the ball at the high post and the defender gambled for it and missed, he bounces it one time and all of sudden the little guard is there and taking it away from him. Trevor is going to make probably less mistakes up there than anybody. Trevor will play two positions, the four and the three. Dijon will play three and two. It's nice to have that kind of versatility in your lineup. We can still play Hollins at the four."

You said at the beginning of the season you were looking to get some easy baskets in transition, and it looks like the team is struggling to do that. Is there something you can do to get more transition scoring?

"I'll tell you, even the other night, the one thing we learned, for example, was that Michael Fey had a couple of opportunites there in the first half on the break, and we're throwing ahead to him and it's going right into his hands and then went out of bounds. So we probably won't look to make those passes quite as often with him on the run. We'll get him down there to post up. One of the most pleasing things of the Loyola game is that Cedric Bozeman had 10 rebounds. Anytime you get your point guard to rebound the ball and start the break, that really helps. Anybody who has a great point guard, ala Magic Johnson, who starts the break himself, should help. Our guys just have to work harder to get down there. We missed out on some opportunities in transition, without question. If you go back and watch that game, there were a number of opportunities for us to score. We had a couple of scoring opportunities in the first half. One was an easy layup. Janou Rubin had a layup, and there was another one that was a dunk by Trevor. We just have to continue to get better at that. The good news is we're getting the rebounds. You can't transition unless you stop the other team and get the rebound."

Assuming T.J. comes back, will it give you a lot more talent to play against Santa Barbara?

"Assuming everything works out, this will be the first game when we have our full team for this year together. So that will be an important thing. We're playing a very good opponent. Santa Barbara comes in here as a team picked to win their league for the second year in a row. You probably remember two years ago they took Arizona to a very close game in the NCAA tournament. They can play. They're very well coached. They execute well offensively. They have changing defenses. They have good size inside. We watched tape on them. This is going to be a tough game for us. I don't want to go into the game, we're so excited now, T.J. and Trevor are back and it's going to be an easy deal, because it's not. They're very capable of beating us, as is anybody on a given night."

Is there anything nostalgic for you playing against Santa Barbara?

"I have a lot of friends in Santa Barbara. I spent twelve years of my coaching career there, so I really have fond memories of UCSB. I really enjoyed my time there. I have great memories of being associated with that program, and a lot of friends that are associated with that university. But this is business, and we want to win this game."

Will you have a lot of family coming down for the game?

"There will be a lot, yeah. I have more ticket issues for Michigan State. I have my brothers and sisters coming down from the Bay Area. So, if you have any extra tickets for Michigan State, I could use them."

Will Trevor start at the three or four on Wednesday?

"He'll probably start at the four. But we'll see how practice goes. It's subject to change. I'm going to see if his x-ray is okay, which I assume it is. I'm going to see if T.J. is eligible, which I think he is. But there are a lot of ifs, so I can't say that this is for sure what we're going to do. As I mentioned earlier, I think as the season progresses, his time will split between those two spots, and Dijon will split time in two positions. It'd be nice to have a little more depth."

Will that take care of some of your playing time concerns? "Yeah. It will help a lot. I thought that Ryan Walcott did pretty well in his six minutes the other day. I have to give him probably a few more minutes than six. As long as he can defend. He had one defensive lapse there. There was an on-ball screen and he didn't squeeze the guy into the screen, and he came back off it the other way and the other guy scored an easy jumper. He knows that's what's really his biggest thing for me, playing good defense. As long as he's not hurting us while he's in the game, from a defensive standpoint."

After watching what T.J. has done in the fall in terms of his studies, do you sense that he'll be able to remain eligible?

"He knew this is what he had to do to stay eligible. But just because he gets eligible for this quarter, we're going to stay on him. Chris Carlson, my director of basketball operations, knows where T.J. is 24 hours a day. And where he's supposed to be, and who he is supposed to meet with. They have a great relationship. Chris was really doing a great job staying on top of T.J., making sure he was following through with every detail of what's supposed to be taken care of, in terms of meeting with tutors, T.A.s, professors, office hours, all the things you have to do if you want to do well. This will be without question his most productive quarter as a college student. It's not even close. Which he should feel good about. We're also getting grades on everybody else. If anyone on our team doesn't pass at least two classes, they're immediately ineligible. You know that new rule. That's going to have every coach in the country worried after ever quarter or semester now, especially for basketball. For example, if you don't pass two classes next quarter, while we're on the road all over the place, you could lose them for the NCAA tournament. So every year, every quarter in basketball affects your eligibility. Spring for fall."

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