Ben Howland addressed the media at his weekly press conference Tuesday.
How is Dijon Thompson?
"My guess, and I'm pretty certain...he had 13 stiches. When he hurt it and then re-injured it, this time on Sunday it was a worse injury than it was the first time around. And he was out for a week then. I would say it's very, very unlikely that he'll play on Saturday. It's unfortunate for him and for us. That leaves us with just four scholarship perimeter players eligible to play on Saturday. And then Janou Rubin, who we put on scholarship, who's going to be thrust into a role of playing time."
How did it happen this time?
"I know the first time he did it in practice he caught the guys arm. But this time, he hit it and somehow stretched it. You can't tell on film. Somehow it was reaching in and some kind of contact where it just split. Our team doctor said it was really a bad piece of luck. You wouldn't have thought this would happen again. And not only is it re-injured, he will definitely have to be taped (with his fingers together) the rest of the year, which obviously isn't as good as having the freedom of all five fingers. That's really an unfortunate break for us."
He had it taped that way after the first injury?
"He did. He had it taped that way for about two weeks. He figured, hey, it's healed, the scar is there. I don't have an explanation for it. It's just a really bad piece of luck for both Dijon and our team."
Do you have an indication whether he could be out beyond Saturday?
"I don't. I think some of it is waiting to see how it heals now. I think that he's going to be out, what I guess, is that I'm hoping that he can practice next Wednesday, to get ready for the Michigan game. But that could just be wishful thinking on my part. I don't know yet. Some of that will be up to Dijon, and how comfortable he is with it. We're not going to rush him back until he's comfortable with it. It obviously puts us at a disadvantage. We lose our leading rebounder, which is our big weakness right now, and our leading scorer. The rebound in particular. We've been out-rebounded three games in a row."
Who primarily will fill his role?
"It will mean more minutes for Josh Shipp, for one. And it will probably mean more minutes for Janou, number two."
Will Shipp start?
Why hasn't Janou played that much this season yet?
"It's just he's behind the five guys that were ahead of him."
Brian Morrison won't benefit in additional playing time?
"Yeah, a little bit. But we need him to use better shot selection. He put up four NBA threes in the game. We knew that having that line down there wouldn't be a good thing for him psychologically, and sure enough it came true. He saw that line there and couldn't wait to shoot those. I talked to him about it. He's shooting 31% on the year as our best shooter on the team. So for him, it's a matter of shot selection. He just has to get better at taking better shots, and being more patient. There's no reason that he should be shooting 31%, as good as a shooter as he is. If we just go out and do shooting drills with no defense out there outside of a game situation, he's an unbelievable shooter."
Is there anything you can do to help with the rebounding situation?
"We're just working on it this week, do some different drills, with a continued emphasis. Our players know who has to get more rebounds for us to get success. Michael Fey has improved his production. I thought his two early fouls the other day hurt him. I think he had four rebounds on Sunday. He has to step up for us. It really gives Lorenzo Mata an opportunity. The one thing we thought about Lorenzo when we recruited him is that he'd be a good rebounder. His minutes were productive, considering he missed the first two games, and then played in two tight games against Irvine and Long Beach where he didn't get a lot of minutes. He played 18 minutes and had five rebounds. I'm hoping he's going to help us in that light. We need someone to step up and be a force for us from a rebounding standpoint. Matt McKinney, again, with his minutes played, he's a good rebounder. He's just having a hard time playing extensive minutes because of whatever it is affecting him."
There's no change in his status?
"I talked to the doctor, and he's getting another 'table test.' I'm not even sure what that is. He's not in danger of anything that would be life-threatening. That's always my first question to these doctors, if he's in any danger. But there's definitely a physiological issue."
And they think it has to do with lung capacity?
"No, they told me Monday that his heart rate maxed out at 168 (beats per minute). He can't get his heart to beat fast enough to pump enough blood, so all of a sudden his muscles aren't getting the oxygenated blood when he's under the stress of exercise. That's the bottom line. Why is that not getting about 168? I don't know. That's the next test."
This only happened this year?
"According to him. I never saw him before. He said his first year here, when he redshirted, he was in great shape and able to go. I don't know. It's a weird deal, though."
So, how you used him Sunday, is that really the limit on him?
"Yeah. It's not a matter of how many minutes he can play totally, but how many he can play in a row. He actually played the first two minutes of the game, at 18 minutes, I could just tell the look on his face. He's shot. Then all of a sudden he shuts down. I would love for him to be able to play 20-plus minutes a game. Just look at the fact he's rebounding for us."
What'd you like about what you saw of Mata?
"I thought he was active. He competed. He was quick to the ball a couple of time. One time we took a quick shot and he rebounded high and kept it high. He's very inexperienced, and the only way to make up for that is to get him game time. He's only played three years of basketball before coming into college. Not a lot of organized basketball."
What were your thoughts on the firing of Henry Bibby?
"I like Henry, and I feel for him. That's about all my comments. He's a UCLA guy. He was just inducted into the UCLA Hall of Fame. He's one of the greatest players to ever play here. I wish him the very best. He's a good guy and he'll continue to I'm sure to have opportunities in our profession."
Fey and Ryan Hollins are shooting a pretty high percentage. Can they keep that up if they get more shots?
"The biggest part is they have to do a better job of sealing. It's really hard to post feed. If you go back and watch film, Mike has a hard time maintaining his seal. He'll be open momentarily, but they (the defense) will just slide right around him and getting in front of him. It happened one time with Hollins in the second half. He was trying to seal with his arm, and the guy just wiped him out, came right in front and stole the ball. When you're feeding the post, you have to know that they're going to be able to hold their seal, and keep that guy behind them. That means getting wide and low and really wanting the ball. And Lorenzo has to get better at it. We really don't have a guy who's good at it, like Craig Smith the other day. He was very good at it."
What have you seen of Pepperdine so far?
"Pepperdine is very, very good. Glen McGowan presents a lot of problems. He's 23 years old, he's a man. He can step out, he can post you up. He plays hard, and there's a lot of confidence. They're 7-1. Yakhouba Diawara is very big and strong, and tough. Alex Acker...this is a very talented team. They're very much on an equal talent level as, say, Boston College."
Different style, though?
"Yeah, but I'll tell you, they pound the boards. Jesse Pinegar can step out and shoot. They're good. I just got done watching the Wisconsin game. They crushed Wisconsin, and Wisconsin's not bad. But Diawara, McGowan and Acker are very good players. Those three could play in the Pac-10, without question. Same thing probably with Pinegar."
How did your freshmen adapt to their first loss?
"They're not used to losing a lot of game. If you look at Josh, Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar, their record over the last year, there weren't many losses between the three of them combined. It's about watching and learning from their mistakes. The game comes down to who's going to make the least amount of mistakes. We made a lot of mistakes, whether it was missed blockouts or bad shots, or just unforced errors against the press. We had 21 turnover. But even so, with eight minutes to go it's a one-point game, with a lot of mistakes on our part. When you go back and watch the film, we lost a little bit of composure. We came down and took a number of bad shots when it was a 7-point lead, a five-point lead, a three-point lead. That's what experience gets you. Boston College never lost their composure, down nine, down seven, down thirteen. They stayed right with us. That's what we have to learn to do as a team. I thought Josh gave us great minutes off the bench. He was solid. He's our leading offensive rebounder, in about half the time of anybody in the starting lineup. He does have a nose for the ball."
Did you talk to Ryan about rebounding?
"We definitely need Ryan to be more productive rebounding. In the last two games he has three rebounds in 48 minutes of play. So that's not going to be good enough to beat anyone on our schedule. We need him to get more. That's something that has to be his #1 focus, for his team to get successful. He has to get more rebounds for us."
Can you teach them to block out better, and teach them to want it the way you want them to want it?
"Yeah. I think to a certain extent we can emphasize and teach it, but it still comes down to you putting it on yourself to go get it. We need more rebounds out of Jordan. I told him. He's getting a rebound every 17 minutes. We have to get him to get more rebounds. Because we don't have that one guy on this team, or those two guys, that are getting rebounds for us, that you can expect to leak out here now and he's going to get the rebound for us. We don't have Big Dan (Gadzuric), like they've had here in the past. So it's five guys having to do it night in and night out the whole year. We need them all. Brian had nine rebounds in one game last year early in the season. We have to get more production out of our guards to run things down. Between Jordan and Brian, they played 52 minutes the other day and we had one rebound. They're going to have to get their nose in there and get more rebounds for us."
What do you like about this team?
"I like that they're working hard. We've had good preparation. We had a chance to win that game, with all of those mistakes. They're trying hard. I really think that the attitude has been good. I think they'll come back strong this week, and have a good week of practice. We really have a challenge ahead of us, to be without our leading scorer and rebounder, and to start three freshmen against a team like Pepperdine is going to be tough for this team. It will be a good measure of our resolve. I think Lorenzo is coming around, and I hope he has a good week of practice. I'd like to continue to get him some more minutes. He provides a glimmer of someone who is instinctually a good rebounder. He can go get it as the ball is coming above the rim. He can actually go get it."
Have you ever done anything like put football helmets or shoulder pads in practice and have them beat each other up in rebounding drills?
"No. But we do some physical work in practice. But no, I'm not into putting helmets on them, or boxing gloves on them. I'm not sure they'd respond well to that, I don't know."