Howland's Weekly Press Conference

The head basketball coach, <b>Ben Howland</b>, talks about the Pepperdine game, the zone defense, <b>Josh Shipp</b>, the injury to <b>Dijon Thompson</b>, playing a smaller lineup, and more...

Head Coach Ben Howland addressed the media Monday.

Has it been hard, with finals week, getting to practice?

"We had to move practice. It's really hard because it's finals weeks. It makes it hard to practice with all the schedules of the various teams."

Will Dijon Thompson play on Saturday?

"I don't know."

Will he practice this week?

"I don't know that."

Does he get the stitches out anytime soon?

"It has to be two weeks. So not until Sunday, would it be the earliest they would be out. It's normal procedure. I think in talking to him it doesn't hurt as much as the first time he injured it. I don't know why that might be. He also feels like this was stitched better the second time. The first time there were no internal stitches. They didn't do it from the inside, whereas this time they did. That may have made it better."

After watching the tape of the Pepperdine game, any other observations?

"We did a bad job in our zone in the second half. They (Pepperdine) made a simple adjustment. Having not played or practiced it that much it wasn't a great zone in the second half. In the first half it really got them off balance. But we needed it to just stay out of foul trouble, keep them shooting threes and to slow them down. They're a good team, I'll tell you. When I watch Alex Acker again on tape, I'm more impressed. Acker is good. He and Glen McGowan."

Is it a matter of being more active in the zone or knowing what to do?

"It's knowing. Like Michael Fey is there, and there are guys right next to him, and he's watching the ball. It's the same thing with zone and man, you have to know where the guys are around you. We're going to have to play some more of it this year at times. We'll have to get better at it. We have to scheme to get our best players out on the floor. One of the things that is becoming increasingly clear is that Josh Shipp is one of our best players right now."

With Shipp, is it that he didn't show it as much in practice than in the games? Is he a game player?

"I don't think that. He had a very good week of practice. He's actually getting better. He didn't block out at all the first two weeks of practice. He's now our best block-out guy on the team right now. You know what he is? He's very smart. He is a good game player, though. He has a nose for the ball. He leads us in offensive rebounding, having played considerably less minutes than some of the other guys. He has more rebounds than them, and they're supposed to be going after them just like he does. What's good about him, too, is he doesn't turn it over. He's a good ball-handler, he doesn't turn it over like...we've had a problem with."

Beyond the big shots, how big was Shipp's steal?

"It was a huge play. That's what I'm talking about, being smart. He rotated down on the weak side. He saw the whole play developing. It was a huge play. Then he comes down and makes a lay-up at the other end and ties the game. He did mix the block-out in the zone that Yakhouba Diawara tipped in. He knows that. He brings that up. You don't have to tell him. But he was great. He made some big baskets for us down the stretch."

Is it nice coaching smart players?

"Yeah. He's a good player. He's going to get better and better, too. The last two games we've had over 100 minutes in the Boston College game and 120 plus in the Pepperdine game by those four freshmen. They are going to continue to get better and better. I was really excited about Lorenzo Mata, his 11 rebounds, keeping him in there. He can go up in a crowd and get a rebound. He can jump quickly. He still has a lot to learn, but he's going to get better and better."

Can Mata play the four at all?

"No. When you saw him try to guard Diawara that one time, he will really struggle defensively to match up, is what we're talking about here. To go through screens and picks and that type of thing. I don't think you'll see him playing much at the four for us."

Is there an update on Matt McKinney's condition?

"No. He's supposed to get another test, a type that's supposed to test another aspect of this. Hopefully that will be soon."

Is Ryan Hollins getting any better at playing the four?

"He had six rebounds in the game, which was a step up, compared to the previous two games. Offensively, he's going to have to continue to get better, in terms of being a threat. At one point we were lucky because I called time out when we were about to get a 10-second count in the backcourt and he traveled right in front of the bench. Fortunately the ref called time out before he traveled."

Is it just a matter that you don't have any other options to play that spot?

"We have who we have, and we're playing the best players who are earning the time in the game."

Could you see going with a smaller lineup more often?

"Yeah. We've already done that. We'll see. I kind of alluded to that when I talked about Josh getting more time. Therefore, scheming defensively to do things to maybe play smaller at times."

If you played Shipp and Thompson, with Thompson at the four, who would match up defensively with the opposition's four? Thompson? Or Maybe Arron Afflalo?

"It would have to be Dijon. He's long enough. We may have to double every time his man gets the ball in the post. We may have to play some zone. We'll just have to scheme in that direction a little bit. It will have teams to have to match up with us offensively. Ryan and Matt are still going to have opportunity. They have to do it in practice every day."

With Gail Goodrich being honored Saturday, do you remember watching him play at all?

"Yeah, a little bit. More when he was with the Lakers than at UCLA. But I do remember him playing for UCLA. What a great player and scorer. I went back and looked at the numbers. In 1971 when they won the championship, he was their leading scorer, with like 27 points a game in the NBA that year. That's phenomenal. I remember Chick Hearn calling him El Stumperino. He used to have a camp up in Santa Barbara, at UCSB, that he held back in the day. Being a poor minister's kid, we couldn't afford to send me to the camp. I would have liked to have gone."

Last year there seemed to be pressure for you to win the Michigan State game because they were dedicating the floor to John Wooden. Is there similar pressure this Saturday because of Goodrich?

"Yeah, I think it's a special day. It's long overdue. He's really been great to me. He reached out. He really has great pride in being a national champion here at UCLA and being a part of those first two teams, and getting the program turned. I know he's very excited about this, and we want to make it a special day, and we hope we'll have a great crowd for him, too, to usher him in. It's amazing that there are so many players that are deserving of having their jersey retired. His is long overdue. He's a Top 50 Player in the history of the NBA. It's retired with the Lakers. He's in the Hall of Fame. He's one of the greatest players of all time."

How has he reached out to you?

"He was out here last year (Goodrich lives on the east coast) and came to a practice. He gave me a call when I got the job. I talked to him when I was out recruiting Alfred Aboya in New Hampshire. He's just been really nice. He had a son that was married in Santa Barbara last summer. His kids are still all out here. His grown kids."

UCLA's' Associate Sports Information Director Bill Bennett: "He was at the St. John's game last year."

"Wasn't that fun? Memories of that I'll never forget."

Is Hollins still rehabbing, because it doesn't seem like he is nearly as explosive as he was last year.

"You know what, he still is rehabbing it, probably not to the effort that Tony Spino, our trainer, would like him to give on a day in and day out basis. I'm not sure it's (not being as explosive) is true. He favors it a little bit. I think more than anything him missing being able to play in the off-season and carry it over hurt him more than anybody.  He hasn't played that much basketball. He just hasn't played that much."

It seems like last year his athletic ability allowed him to get to a few balls he's not getting to this year...

"If you go back and look the numbers, and I did that the other day, at the last ten games of last year, he's getting 3 rebounds, 4 rebounds. That hasn't changed that much. He's a career 4.2 rebounder I think. Right now he's right around three or four rebounds."

How's Jordan's defense?

"He's getting better. I thought he was better in the Boston College game. When we got beat twice for lay-ups against Pepperdine, neither one of them was really his fault. Our big guys forgot an assignment. He has to keep getting better in that area. We're not a team that can get away with playing that much zone against a lot of teams. We were fortunate it worked the other day to our advantage, to have zoned that much. One thing we have to do is get more solid play out of Brian Morrison. He's going to have to hopefully give us more solid minutes than what he's been doing the last three games. He's shooting 28% on the season. I expect more out of him. He gets anxious out there. We need him to play more solidly. A couple of his passes were absolutely unbelievable. I thought Janou Rubin's six minutes were actually a positive for us."

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