Howland's Tuesday Press Conference

At his weekly press conference, Head Coach <b>Ben Howland</b> talks about having more time to practice this week, Dijon Thompson, a shuffling at the five spot, and how the freshmen are handling the pressure...

Head Coach Ben Howland met the press at his weekly press conference.

The way Stanford controlled you on the inside, do you think Cal took that game plan?

"I don't think it's as much that. They did a good job, no question. David Paris came into the game averaging 6.6 and had a career high of 20, and 14 in the first half. That was a part of it. But our inability to attack their zone...we spent a lot of time on it in practice, we had a good practice yesterday and felt good about it...was a key.  We went 11 field goals attempted without making one during one point. Against Stanford we were down five and didn't have a very good offense in the first half, then Dan Grunfeld really hurt us in the second half with 16 points. He was really a key guy. In fact the only two baskets Rob Little had in the second half were against Lorenzo Mata. When he came in the game they went right at the freshman. Lorenzo has to understand, that that's what they're going to do now. When he comes in they're going to go right at him, because he's had problems stopping some of the big older guys in our league, starting with Channing Frye, and Little, and even when he got in the game against Cal."

Were you surprised how your team came out against Cal?

"Well, you know it was 6-6, then 10-10. So, it was right there. Then when they went with the zone and stayed with the zone. We took three or four quick shots and didn't make any of them, and actually one or two of them were decent looks. It starts spiraling, you don't block out. You have to hand it to them, though, they played well, especially their two inside guys. I thought they played extremely hard defensively. Both of those teams were well aware to get on us in transition. If you watch the film, they were very aware that we're trying to push the ball. Cal especially did a good job at that."

It went from 10-10 to 24-12, was it?

"Right. It was 10-10. I watched the game five times so I know it pretty good."

With the struggles of defending inside, you do have the guys that can play man straight up or are you now going to have to double more in the post?

"It's a game by game, is usually how I've done that in the past. We did that with Ike Diogu since he's so good. You don't want to have to do that necessarily because it opens up opportunities. It depends on the game and the person we're doubling on. Ideally you down want to."

If Paris, who is not quite to Diogu's level, is able to have that type of success, was it just a bad game inside and are you confident they'll be able to bounce back?

"I think Michael Fey will be able to bounce back. Paris's first shot of the game was a face-up 14-footer. Then he got a couple of follows, because we didn't rotate down and push him in the back. He actually got some confidence going off of some other shots before he actually made his first post move and scored on it. Getting confidence is a big part of being a good player and scorer."

Are you concerned that three straight losses for such a young team doesn't steam roll?

"The Arizona game we lost at the beginning of this three-game losing streak. We were there with them, and had a chance to win with a 1:30 to go, on someone else's court, against a very good team. Arizona is very good. They could do some damage in the tournament. Now this last weekend we have to bounce back. A lot of it has to do with how you practice. I'm glad we actually have some time before our next game to get back to practicing and work on things we need to improve on to get ready to play."

When the team starts out so cold from three, like 0-for-15...


Do you tell them to keep shooting?

"You know, we missed some open looks there during that cold spell there. We had opportunities. Some where quick shots, but some were wide open shots that we just didn't knock down. I've always believed if you're wide open and you're a good shooter, you shoot the shot. I think it's like this even moreso at home than on the road. You want to get going and we start taking the quick shot rather than being more patient."

Will Dijon Thompson play some three?

"A little bit. I would like to get 6 to 8 to 10 minutes out of him at that spot, see if that can help us a little bit with our minutes. Primarily it will be the three freshmen guards and Brian Morrison in those four spots."

After the game you said you'd look at that...

"I looked back at it. I think we're best served when we have four guards in there, at both ends of the floor."

What do you make of USC? They've had a tumultuous year, but had a good weekend against the Bay Area schools?

"They're a very talented team. They have six seniors. Regardless of how the two teams are playing, in a rivalry game, if it's football or basketball, you throw all that out. They have good players and they want to beat us. Our team wants to beat them. The freshmen are friends. Jordan Farmar played on the same AAU team with Nick Young. Arron Afflalo went to high school for a couple of years with Gabe Pruitt. Gabe and Arron are friends. After they signed they came up here and played together during the summer time. Nick and Jordan are good friends and worked a summer camp together. So these guys are very familiar with one another and are friends. It's going to be a game of two teams that really want to win, and teams playing in a rival game."

You said before that some McDonald's All-Americans can play harder. With Gabe, do you think he's motivated since Jordan has gotten so much publicity?

"I don't know. Gabe has received plenty of notoriety. Gabe is a well-known player. He was MVP of a tournament his senior year at Westchester down in Florida. People are very aware of his talent. Gabe is a very talented kid and a good player, as is Nick. Both of those kids are two of the better freshmen in the country."

Has Josiah Johnson moved ahead of Ryan Hollins?

"As of yesterday's practice, Ryan is playing ahead of Lorenzo at the back-up five. So we'll see how that goes today. I'm planning on practicing today, and then doing some shooting tomorrow and not having a formal practice. We went hard yesterday and I was really happy with the intensity level. So we'll go hard today, and then Wednesday do some shooting and some individuals, and then Thursday and Friday have more preparation for USC. Today and yesterday was really working on us to get back to being successful."

Does that mean Hollins won't play the four?

"He could play some four. But right now I'm looking to use him to back up Mike right now. We have to get someone to come in there and defend and not being taken advantage of. I talked to Lorenzo about this. I said this is where it is right now. He knows. He knows he has to be more physical. He's not putting up a fight physically, which you have to do to hold your ground. The thing is, he's done it before, like with Oregon on the road, in terms of being physical. Little in the Stanford game really took it right at him."

Do any of your big guys beat on anybody?

"You know, it's not Mike Fey's nature. It's not his nature to come out and whack somebody and be physical. He's had to learn to do that. He did a great job with Diogu and Frey, and even with Little. He did a good job holding his own and being physical. He had a little lapse against the Cal guys.  It's got to be every night."

Are you confident that your interior defense can toughen up?

"Yeah. My biggest surprise has been Dijon. He's been a good post defender. I thought we'd have to double every time his man got it when we moved him to that position, but that hasn't been the case. Stanford's Matt Haryasz was able to shoot over him a few times, and that's to be expected when he's 6-11 and Dijon's 6-7. Our thinking in that game was if we double-downed they'd rotate out to Grunfeld and Chris Hernandez for open looks. They're 45% coming into the game from three, and that would be a problem. You have to give Stanford credit. They have experienced guys. They're experienced, they've won four games in a row now. This is a team that is playing now how people expected them to earlier in the year."

Do you have some concern with this team in how they recently have had problems shooting the three?

"I think some of it is that we've been shooting quickly. Brian is shooting 40% on the year, and Arron is shooting 38%, I think. Part of it, too, is that we basically have just four guys we're playing at three guard positions. We just have to keep going with our freshmen, and ask them to play those minutes as best they can, and defensively. Jordan and Arron are #2 and #3 in the country in minutes played by high-profile McDonald's All-Americans (from last year). Josh Shipp, if he were a McDonald's All-American, he'd be ten on the list, and that's with not playing as much his first four games. So they're playing just a ton of minutes, relative to other freshmen in the country. They're gaining from it. You have your ups and downs. Obviously this was a down weekend, but you have to bounce back. The weekend before was a great weekend, even though we didn't get what we wanted, which was a road sweep. We have to bounce back now. An indication of that was our practice yesterday. I felt much better. After losing you feel terrible, but I felt much better after yesterday's practice, and getting back at it."

Are Dijon's recent struggles about him, or is it that the two last opponents defended him differently?

"I don't think they did anything special to him. I think he'd echo the same thing. He's going to be fine. He had a bad weekend. But he's been phenomenal all year. I'm very, very confident that he's going to continue to be a very good player for us the rest of the season."

Do you get a sense that the seniors really want to get this win this weekend after dropping the last four to USC?

I didn't know we dropped the last four to USC until you mentioned it. They want to win. Whether it's the upperclassmen, it's the whole team. I'm sure Dijon and Brian, being their last go round, along with Jo, want to win every game, and want to beat USC."

How big is it to have just a one-game week this week?

"I think it's great, just in terms of your overall season. You get more practice time. We haven't had really a lot of time. You have just two or three games before you're playing again. It helps you, because you do have slippage in the things you're trying to do, especially with the young group we have. We have four players who are going through their first time at it. Lorenzo has to get back to practicing his post defense. Our transition defense. Our responsibilities. It's harder because we're the only league in the country that plays 18 conference games. And we play 19 games between December 31st and March. You miss out on that practice time. It's important. Second time we play USC we have to turnaround and go to South Bend. It's much tougher. It's like an NBA team."

Is this a tough time for the freshmen - if they lose back-to-back to the two worst teams in the conference, that it will hurt their confidence?

"They're going to bounce back. These are good kids, first of all. And they're competitive kids. They're obviously disappointed about losing last weekend. I fully expect them to bounce back and play well this weekend. They have a great opportunity. Like I said, there aren't many freshmen in the country that are playing 30 minutes a game. So they should be having a lot of fun, in that aspect. Ideally I wouldn't want them to play as many minutes as they are, but that's just where we are. Cedric Bozeman's out for the year. Janou Rubin is out for the year. That's what it is."

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