Howland Press Conference

Head Coach Ben Howland answers questions about the win over Washington, and discusses how the team turned around the skid, Brian Morrison's status and more...

What's the update on Brian Morrison?

"Yesterday (Monday) he did not practice. I don't anticipate him practicing today as well. When I looked at his ankle in the locker room either prior to the Washington State or the Washington game, it was all black and blue. I would very surprised if he plays either game this weekend. I think it's more likely that we'll see him when we play against Cal and Stanford at home. He thought he could play against Washington State, so you can't base anything on what he says. He's doing it out of optimism and out of wanting it so bad, but not being very realistic. Our trainer he thinks he might be able to play for us on Thursday. But I'm not one to have a kid who's been out for two weeks and not practicing, just throw him in the game. He (the trainer) talked about playing Brian against USC without practicing for five weeks. I'm just not doing that. You play in the game how you practice, and he'll have to practice before he's going to play in any games, to show that he actually can go at full speed."

Executing better offensively against a zone in the Washington game, is that the result of practice and just getting better do you think?

"I thought we showed good patience. We only took seven threes in the entire game. We were more patient. Even though we started with our lineup with the idea of having Trevor Ariza inside against zones and T.J. Cummings on the perimeter because T.J. does such a good job of stretching because he shoots so well, when we did attack the zone well in that first half, T.J. was inside along with Ryan Hollins. I thought those two guys did a good job of interior passing. One time it was Ryan to T.J. to hit a shot from the short corner. Another time it was T.J. hitting Ryan in the low post who ended up finishing the play after a lot of extra work instead of just going up straight. We did a good job of getting it to them inside. In the second half, Ryan Walcott hit a big shot where Josiah Johnson did a good job of screening up high, and he came off and hit that three. There was more patience. It is some practice, it did pay off. We did work a lot against a zone, that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, anticipating that teams will play zone after the games we had previously played when everyone was playing it. We saw more man in the game against Washington State, except for about six minutes. Same thing as Washington."

Are you attacking the zone better?

"Yeah, we're just getting better. Playing low, triple-threating, shot-faking. With zones, if you have the right mentality offensively, you're forced to be patient. If you're patient, a zone will break down and you'll get a very good high-percentage shot, provided you can pass, catch and are able to dribble some."

And what do you attribute the better rebounding to?

"More than anything it's a mentality. That's the first team we've out-boarded since we won our last game against Arizona State. We're 9-1 when we out-board people, and 0-6 when we don't. Pretty easy thing to correlate between doing something well and when you win."

What did Ryan Walcott do well?

"He played with energy, a lot of enthusiasm and passion. He took advantage of his opportunity. I told him and Jon (Crispin) before the game that they were both going to get their shot and we would play them. I think it helped us to play the guys we were playing less minutes, and try to get more productivity out of them. He got a steal. We haven't gotten many steals, and I'm not one to play a defense going for steals. But playing hard and getting deflections we should be getting more steals. For example, T.J. has two on the year. Zero in conference. Cedric Bozeman has 11 in 658 minutes he's played this year. Normally you'd like to get a few more, by just being active defensively. In 658 minutes, that's one every 65 minutes of play. You think you'd get a few more than that. It's about being more active with your hands, anticipating, covering down in the post, hitting the ball from below from a big. Being active. Being intense. Playing hard."

Is it about letting them gamble more and go for the passing lanes more?

"We encourage it. A lot of it is learning. I thought yesterday our guys learned a lot from watching the first 15 minutes of the game. We spent the first 45 minutes of practice before we went out watching the film, trying to get better. Seeing things we can do better. We have to continue to strive to do better. Ryan Hollins has had seven blocks in 11 conference games. No one is telling Ryan not to go look for blocks. He has to anticipate and be more active. He could have seven games in a game, not in 11 games. We have to start thinking bigger and do more with our God-given abilities. I really believe Ryan Hollins, if he continues to work hard and learn and jump to the ball, he's capable of getting seven blocks in a game."

Is it pretty common for you to watch a lot of tape with your team?

"Not as much the last two years, because it was easier. You disposed of an opponent and on to the next one. It was disposing of your opponent and moving on to your next opponent. It was really a very meticulous way of going about business. Because we're a younger team and are still learning we watch more. We still used to watch film, but probably not as much as we have this year. I think watching film is good for players. It's good for them to be able to see themselves. I told Ced – we need you to be more active defensively. You have 11 steals in 658 minutes. You have to do more in creating with that length and getting his hands on balls. He's leading the league in conference games in assists, which is a great stat. He's number one in the league in assists right now per game in conference games. T.J.'s #4 in rebounding in conference games only. Those are the best two stats in terms of individuals that we have going for us right now."

What do you think of the standings in the conference and your situation?

"We have the toughest road of any of the team in the middle bunch because five of our last seven are on the road. Our easy part of the schedule has occurred. We have the first and second place teams coming here and then everything else is on the road. So we have a tough road ahead, literally and figuratively."

Do you think your team is up to the challenge?

"I think we had a good practice yesterday. I think our guys are glad to have a win under their belt under those tough losses in a row. I think that Crispin and Walcott and Michael Fey felt good about their contributions, as did Janou Rubin. They're going to get more of a chance here, too. They're going to play and get minutes when we got down to Phoenix on Thursday. Our best chance to win is strength in numbers. Energy. I thought Crispin came in and played with toughness and heart. That's something you have to have. He really competed. He didn't knock down a shot, but he helped us without making a shot. Normally you'd think the way Jon could help you is go in there and make shots, but he did other things besides that. So when that comes with the minutes he'll be even better. I think both Ryan and Jon Crispin have done great at keeping their attitude positive after not playing the minutes they hoped they'd be playing. I really commend them on that. I was really happy with Ryan the other night. I think he had more rebounds the other night than three of our starters in 12 minutes. He did a good job and deserves to be recognized, for keeping that attitude. If he hadn't, he wouldn't have been able to produce like he did the other day. He's a good kid."

What's your read on Arizona State?

"They played Cal tough in their last game. It was a close game that went down the stretch there. They're by no means giving up anything. They have one of the premier big men in our conference. He's very, very good. They're a young team. They're starting a young group of players. It will be a very difficult game, and they're hungry to get a win."

What at the things you can do to improve rebounding?

"Block out. Go to the boards every time. That's one of the reasons why we watched film the other day. I want them to see how many block-outs they missed in a game we won. We missed block-outs right and left. They have to see themselves. It's something we've really tried to emphasize in practice. Mike Fey has really tried to block out. Ryan Hollins has improved in blocking out immensely from where he started out this year. T.J. is getting better at blocking out on defense. He's always been better blocking out on offense and understands that, laying a body. I thought he was physically the dominant player on Saturday. He was beating up, legally, the guy's trying to keep him off the glass Saturday. He had his arms up and was laying his body on people to get position to get rebounds. That's what good rebounders do. Rebounding isn't mostly about leaping ability. It's about position. There isn't a better example of that who was the second-best rebounder in the 1980s in the NBA. Bill Laimbeer. He could just about this high. Larry Bird. Moses Malone was #1 in the ‘80s, and he wasn't rebounding by leaping, but by position. All of these kids want to be NBA players, they should look at those guys. Karl Malone is not a great leaper, he's a position guy. I read one of those articles recently on him. He's prouder being one of the top four rebounders ever than being the leading scorer when it's all said and done and rightfully so."

What do you think it is that determines if T.J. is going to have an active or inactive game?

"If I knew that... Who knows? Ask him for me. I'd like to know that, too. He played 32 minutes the other day and that's what you have to always look at. Brandin Knight as a junior played 39.1 minutes per game. You have to be really a tough, hard-nosed great competitor to be able to fight through fatigue and play those kind of minutes. I think now our leading minutes is about 33 on the year, and that's still tough."

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