Howland's Weekly <br>Press Conference

Head Coach <b>Ben Howland</b> addressed the media Wednesday and spoke about the Western Illinois game, what the team needs to do to improve and the UC Irvine game on Saturday...

Head Coach Ben Howland spoke to the media Wednesday.

"We didn't practice today (Wednesday). We're practicing tomorrow (Thursday). We're just doing a film sessions today. We'll do that at 3:00. They're in school before that. It's a normal school day. Then we'll watch film at 3:00 of both our first two games."

Watching the film right after the game, did you notice anything you didn't before?

"We always watch film typically right after we play. Just watching it, our turnovers, we have to be better with the ball, less careless, and value our possessions more. I thought our transition defense has got to improve. That team (Western Illinois) really pushed it at us. If we don't get better in the next two practices, Irvine can really hurt us. They push the ball hard themselves in transition. We're going to have to do a good job with our transition defense here on Saturday to have success."

Have you thought about using a zone, with your bigs getting in foul trouble and your perimeter players struggling a bit to defend on the ball?

"I don't want to play zone. There may be a time when we do it. We have not worked on our zone at all. That's not something I see us doing a lot of this year. Once in a while a zone is good, because sometimes when you put a zone out there teams will tend to stand around. Just seeing a zone, some teams are bothered by it mentally. But typically it's not something I like to do. In a zone, you're going to give up a good shot against a good team. In a zone, you're going to have a hard time blocking out."

Is the team taking more three pointers than you'd like to?

"With a good shooting team, which I think we are, like at NAU, a third of our shots ended up being threes. If the right guy is taking them, no. Threes, then, are a good shot. Sometimes it's a few too many. We have to get the ball inside more. Talking about some spots in the film, there were opportunities to feed the ball inside more, which were going to watch today as a team. Often times you don't see it until you go back and you look at it again as a player. It really helps players to see themselves play, to see what they're doing well and what they have to get better at.

"I like the three-point line right where it is. As soon as they move it back, you're going to see a bunch of zones. It will be all zone. It's a percentage game."

Any change in the status of Lorenzo Mata?

"He was in this morning for treatment. He had three treatments yesterday. It's just hard to say. I would say he's doubtful for Saturday, as of right now. We'll see. That's the first time he's ever sprained his ankle. And the first time you do it it's a little tougher than after you have your first one under your belt."

Was Michael Fey better offensively against Western Illinois?

"Yeah, I mean he got a few more looks. Like twice, he got it high, kept it high and finished high. I thought Jordan Farmar's one pass to him was a great pass, when he got the drop-step and dunk, and it was a good finish. He's getting better. It's baby steps. For him, a lot of it is just self-confidence. That's something that comes with repetitions. There is no one on our team that worked harder in the off-season and deserves success more than Mike Fey. I'm going to be supportive of him and encourage him, because he paid the price in the off-season through his work ethic in the weight room and playing all the time. I feel good about his chances to continue to improve throughout the year and help our team."

Do you feel more comfortable with Arron Afflalo getting the back-up poing guard minutes?

"Yeah. That's where we are right now. Really, in practice every day, Brian Morrison gets to play it more. Brian right now has the best assist-to-turnover ration on the team. Six to one. In reality, that's who should be our back-up point guard. We just have to get him to settle down some. But I'll tell you this. Brian is going to be very important for us all year. His ability to put the ball in the basket, and do it in a hurry, he can score in bunches. He's going to be a problem for people to defend. I'm pleased with Brian. We just have to get him to continue that one shot-fake pass to Jordan in the corner was a brilliant pass. One time he hit Dijon Thompson, and Dijon fumbled it underneath and missed a lay-up. He made another really good pass in the second half. He made some nice passes."

Is Dijon doing what you want, rebounding and maybe not scoring as much?

"He's still looking to score. I think his hand is still a little bit bothered. I don't think he'll ever shoot it as well as he can until he stops taping his two fingers together. To be a good shooter, you need to have some spread on the hand. Until he gets comfortable enough to where he doesn't tape those fingers I don't think he'll be able to shoot it as well as he could. But I'm very excited about how he rebounded. I'm ecstatic. The last time was (Dan Gadzuric getting 16 against Arizona in 2002). So it's been a while. Sixteen rebound is a lot rebounds in a game. He went after it. He's by far a leader there. He had more rebounds than Fey, Hollins, Afflalo, Morrison, and Farmar combined. My hat's off to him. I hope he can be consistent. If he can get us eight or nine rebounds every night, it would be unbelievable."

What does Farmar have to do to settle down, and not force dribble penetration?

"It's going to come with experience. It's going to come with watching himself. He's going to learn through experience. That's how we all learn, essentially. Where he's making some mistakes is jumping in the air to pass. He's had two games now where he's jumping in the air to pass. People are getting in front and taking the charge on him. It happened in this game in the first half. It happened in the first half of the game against Chicago State. He'll learn. He'll get better. He watched the tape already on his own. And he's going to watch it again today with me in front of the whole team. He's going to learn from it. Then he has to execute and do it out in practice every day. The best friend to any penetrating guard is the jump stop. John Stockton is a great example of that. The kid I had at Pitt, Brandin Knight, was just such a pleasure, and that was a consistent part of his game, and he was an All-American. He'll learn. Where he's really good, and it's uncanny, is going into the lane and make those little finger rolls and those runners. I've never seen anyone at his size be so good at it. He shoots the ball. He was a little better defensively than he was in the first game, especially contesting shots. I'm having to play him more minutes than what would be ideal. He's playing 36 minutes a game, the first two games. I would like to have him a little fresher. You get a diminishing return. What happened the first two games is we had poor matchups for our big guys. Dijon played 36 minutes Tuesday night, too. I don't want anyone really ideally playing more than 32 minutes a game. That would be ideal. I think you get a diminishing return when you get past that number."

What kind of team is Irvine?

"I'm going to watch that USC game again tonight after we get done watching tape as a team. They're a team that is obviously a better team than our first two opponents. Aaron Fitzgerald is a very good player, the point guard. He's a fourth-year player. From Portland State to Washington State, to the JUCO down in Texas, and now he's at Irvine. Jeff Gloger is a kid who can really get hot and get it going. Their big kid inside, Greg Ethington, is strong. They're a team that is going to come in here and play their very best game. I'm certain of it. They're very well coached. I think Pat Douglass is an outstanding coach. A proven outstanding coach."

So, what is the agenda for Thanksgiving Day?

"Practice from about 10 to about 12:30. And then watch my daughter cheer for the Pitt Panthers on ESPN at 5:00 p.m. in the Backyard Brawl. We'll be pulling for the Panthers tomorrow. I was thinking about this, though. For Thanksgiving with our team right now, everybody has somewhere to go. But a year from now, I might have some Cameroonians over for Thanskgiving, and maybe a youngster from Toronto. That will be good."

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