Howland's Press Conference

Head Coach <b>Ben Howland</b> talked to the media Tuesday at his weekly press conference. He talked about Arizona, the Bay Area games, and the dilemma over <b>Mike Fey</b> and getting him more effective in the post...

Head Coach Ben Howland answered questions from the media in his weekly Tuesday press conference.


Will you be better against Cal's zone this time?


"Yeah, I'm confident we'll be better. We spent a lot of time on it after that. Like I said this past weekend, I thought we attacked both those zones well, Arizona State's zone as well as Arizona's 1-3-1 zone. We were just watching the tape again against Cal. That was really a lowlight of our season, and the attack of the zone was very impatient, with a number of quick shots fueling our inability to continue to be effective against that zone."


Given the success you've had lately against it, do you expect Cal to zone?


"Yeah. That's what they're doing now. They played a lot of zone against Stanford, for example, in their last game, and Stanford's a very good shooting team with a good inside attack. It's just what they're doing. They'll do both."


Does Thursday-Sunday for your two road games work better for you?


"Yes and no. It would be nice to coming back Thursday night after the game, but obviously that's not feasible. But this way gives us more time to prepare for the second game of the road trip, which I like. But it's also a long road trip, with an extra night on the road. So there are pluses and minuses. I would like to go Tuesday-Saturday, and fly back after the first game and then go back. That's me being idealistic as a coach. I know it's not feasible because of academics."


How does the addition of Richard Midgley change things, since he didn't play in the first game?


"He adds a really good shooter. He didn't shoot it well against Stanford, and he probably won't have a game that poor again, where he's 1-for-11. But he is one of the better shooters in our conference, and a tough, hard-nosed kid. He had a shoulder issue, where he hurt it earlier in the season. I can't remember who it was. Maybe Washington State. He's tough. He's a good competitor, and it gives them another good shooter."


How big is the importance of this weekend, in terms of post-season? What would you like to see?


"We'd like to see two wins. We want to win every game. Again, I'm not changing anything in terms of how we're preparing. We're preparing for Cal here on Thursday. And that's as far as we're looking ahead. It's one game at a time. I thought we let an opportunity slip by what would have been a great win, to beat Arizona at home. We had a great opportunity. It was a great home atmosphere, and we had so much working for us, coming off an outstanding performance against Arizona State. But now it's on to the next one."


Why is it that your young team tends to play well on the road?


"They do play well on the road. It's a good question. I've given that some thought. I don't know if being on the road and having less distractions is it. There are plenty of distractions to go around, more than you would like, here at home. As opposed to on the road, when you're more sequestered. I think these kids probably thrive on the fact, too, that it's us against the world when you're on the road. You've seen a number of teams that are like this. Cal has been very good on the road. I think they have four league wins on the road. I'm not sure why, and believe me, I've given it some thought."


Is it surprising for a young team to have success on the road?


"The young guys have been in a number of hostile environments with their high school teams. In small but loud gyms. And they're competitors. I think they've done a good job on the road for the most part. These are both difficult places to play."


How did David Paris hurt you so much in the first game?


"I tell you what, he hurt us facing up, he hurt us shot-faking, stepping through...he hurt us a lot of different ways. His drop-stepping and taking it right at Michael Fey. A lot of his points were on Michael, and Michael has to be prepared to defend him well this weekend."


Arron Afflalo said after the last game that you guys stopped looking inside to Mike and needed to do that more. Is it because of Mike or is it because your perimeter players won't look to him.

"It's a combination. He's had 17 shot attempts in the last five games. That includes one or two at Washington State, maybe it was three. We didn't play him much because of the matchup problem defensively.  He's third in the league in offensive field goal percentage. I think it's very hard to win when you don't have some kind of offensive presence inside. It doesn't mean he has to shoot it every time. But there has to be a presence, to catch it and make the defense collapse. They did a good job with that on Channing Frye, and Frye's a great player for Arizona. He only had 11 points, but it really helped him in the second half. You go back and watch that game, and I've seen it three or four times now.  They were more patient than we were. We still have to try to score whenever we can in transition with this team. But we have to really make a concerted effort to get the ball inside."


Any kind of new approach to defending Cal's post players? The last time Paris had 20...


"He had 18. And Rodrick Benson had 15. Those are the two main guys. Yeah, we'll try to do a few things differently to help. But really in that game, if you go back and watch it, our offense is what really made us struggle moreso than anything. I think we went through a seven- or eight-minute stretch when we didn't score a field goal in the first half. They finally got it going. It wasn't like they had it going at the beginning. But there is no question that Paris really hurt us. And I'll tell you, Benson is a very good player. He's really long, has very good skill level, and shoots the ball extremely well."


Afflalo was sitting on the bench during the 19-0 run against Arizona and he said it frustrated him. He said you pulled him because he took a couple of bad shots...


"Yeah, he got back in there, though, before that run was over. But he's right. He was on the bench for a good majority of it."


Is it unusual for him to take quick shots?


"We watched the tape yesterday and he's just got to learn. It really hurt us, the team taking quick shots, in the first half. I think it's hard. Usually the one you expect to take a quick shot would be a freshman, and not a senior, or a fifth-year senior. That makes it a little difficult, because we're trying to get these kids to learn. He (Afflalo) will be fine."


Is there a way you can get them to calm down?


"We watched the film, and we have to keep teaching and coaching. And Brian Morrison had a very good game for us on Thursday, especially in the first half. I think he was then a little too excited and amped up against Arizona. He has to be more discerning with his shot selection."


When he watches the film does he get it?


"We watch it sometimes over and over and over again, so hopefully. I just continue to try to coach him and get him to learn that. We have a lot of basketball yet to play."


What things can you do to get Fey the ball more?


"He has to do, number one, a better job of calling for it and wanting it. I like to have guys who are really demanding the ball. ‘Give – me – the – ball.' That doesn't mean I'm selfish and I'm going to shoot it every time. ‘But get the ball in here. I'm tired of not touching it.' But he also has to do a better job of sealing. When he's getting big and posting up, a lot of times guys are getting around him easily and it doesn't give the guards the confidence for them to pass it in there and not have it deflected or hit away."


Do you think there are times when the guards look at him and could throw it into him and don't?

"Sometimes. There are times when he's open and we're not hitting him, and there are other times when our weakside wings go through and they stay and load the baseline, and it allows their man to be weakside help, instead of being high above the foul line."


A month ago we were talking about Fey not getting the ball. Now we're doing it again. Has he gotten lax again?


"I don't know if it's lax. I can't put it all on  Mike. I have to do a better job of making sure we pass the ball in there. And that the guys have to look to get it into him. We talked about it after the game. We took 29 threes out of 66 shot attempts on Saturday afternoon. That's way too many threes, especially against a team that zoned us for about three minutes. Against zones, you get it in and get it back out and you shoot threes.  But this is too many threes."


Are teams doing more things to try to keep Fey out of the offense?


"No, I don't think so. He's taking the sixth-most amount of shots in conference games on our team. He's not in the top five. But he's shooting the third-highest percentage in the conference."


What's his best offensive move?


"His best offensive move is probably a left-hand jump hook. But he has a good right hand. We actually didn't practice today and just watched filmed today, but I actually had the big guys work out yesterday and just work on post moves for 50 minutes. To get him more reps. I think Mike will respond. He's a good kid and he wants to do well."


Do you think Dijon Thompson struggles against defenders who are longer like Ivan Radenovic and Rod Benson?


"I don't know. Dijon was guarded by Radenovic at Arizona and had a good game. I don't necessarily a guy with length is better than someone 6-5 and quick. Dijon will play must better in the next game than he did in the last game."


Does Dijon tend to take himself out of games, when he has really bad games?


"He had those two really bad games in terms of offense. But it's not all about scoring either. Against Washington State at home he was 3 of 14 from the field but he had 16 rebounds and took two charges down the stretch. You have to get to the line. You have to do other things. That's what really good players do. You concentrate on all the little things and scoring, the offense, comes to you. If you go out and say that's all that's important, that's the number one thing, I think you'll fail in other areas as well."


When he had that great game on Thursday, he said the team fed off of him. Is the opposite true as well – when he's having a bad game does the team feed off that, too?


"I don't think so. We were up one at halftime against Arizona, and he only scored three in the half. The thing I've been most impressed about Dijon this year is that he's become a more complete player for us than he was a year ago. He's been a better defender than he was a year ago. He's been a better rebounder. We need him to do those things for us."


Do you think Jordan Farmar consciously became more aggressive offensively and looking to score?


"We ran a lot of quick-hitters for him in the second half against ASU to get him going. He was fresh, he didn't play that much in the first half, because he had three fouls. He was open. He did a good job offensively against Arizona, and made some open shots. I think he's a very good shooter, and we need him to be aggressive and look to score like he did this past weekend. That really helps us."


Could you see a scenario where the Pac-10 only got two teams in the NCAA tournament?


"I would be very surprised by that."


Did you hear that Pacific's head coach, Bob Thomason, was lobbying to take one of the Pac-10 spots? He was asked if Pacific, if they lost the conference tournament, whether they should get a bid. And he said to look at the Pac-10, a conference that really only has two good teams.


"Bob is a good guy, and a good coach. I'm sure he just wants to get his team in."


Is there a magic number you need to win to get in?


There isn't a magic number. It's just going to come down to the last weekend of the season and the Pac-10 tournament."


Are games like Stanford and Oregon State more important, since they've already beaten you once?


"You know what, we have so far to go here.  There is no magic, for-sure formula that the committee tells you this is what it takes, this is what you have to do. They're very much into your non-conference schedule and who you play and who you beat and where you play them. Even though we lost against Michigan State and Boston College, they're in the top ten. We went out and played a very difficult schedule this year. I don't think we realized that at the beginning. BC is 20-1, I think."


Do you think it matters that something like ESPN says other conferences should get many teams while the Pac-10 shouldn't.


"Well, ESPN doesn't have an association with the Pac-10. Does it affect the committee? I don't think so. At the end of the day, they sit down with all the numbers. They're very well-organized. There are always going to be two or three teams that get left out of the tournament that have a right to feel they should have gotten in. It's like, was it right for Cal football to get left out of the Rose Bowl? If you're asking me, no. How much does promotion go into it? And I'm just making fun of ESPN for not having a contract with the Pac-10, because I think that has nothing to do with it. There are more teams east of the Mississippi, and you're going to have more people talking about more teams and leagues from back there."


If you finish fourth in the regular season, with 16 or 17 wins, do you feel you deserve a berth?


"I can't answer that. Who do we play in the first-round of the Pac-10 tournament and what happens in that game? There are too many what-ifs."


How about if the Pac-10 only got two teams...


"I would be shocked, just based on the RPI of the conference. But one thing I know in the world of sports, anything is possible. We could get five teams."


Does Fey understand his important to this offense?


"I've made it very clear in front of the team, again. Yes."


Does he want to be important to the offense?


"Sure. Of course he does. We had that conversation here before. Someone asserted that when he scores a lot we seem to lose. Well, he didn't score the other day and we still lost. So that throws that theory out the window. We win at Washington State and he played five minutes. We need to get consistency getting it inside. It doesn't mean he has to score 15 points a game. But we have to have a threat to get the ball inside. And we have to have some patience to get it inside."


Does he have the competition he needs in practice, or the threat of minutes being taken from him?


"He's our best post defender. Channing Frye had 11 points against us the other day. Frye is an NBA player. He will be in the NBA player. He won't be a low-post NBA player, he's going to be four that spots up and shoots the ball. But Fey did a great job on him. He did a great job on Ike Diogu. He has improved a lot from a year ago. Remember, he had three games where he didn't get a rebound a year ago at one point in the conference. I think he's our second or third-leading rebounder. So he's doing more things than he was a year ago, but we need to get more out of him offensively. We have to get him the ball, and he has to seal better and be more aggressive. He has to be more aggressive wanting the ball. I like big guys to get mad when they don't get the ball. You want to have that problem where you have guys inside on the block who want it in there. Because that collapses defenses."


Is it in him to get mad?


"It's not his nature. But I have seen him get mad, and when he does it actually helps him. One thing about Mike, though, is that he's trying very hard."


Does Fey have a sense that everyone is picking apart his game?


"I don't know if we are that much, even though we have been here. I bring it to the forefront by saying we need to get him the ball more, and this is what we need to do to be more effective offensively. Like I said he's our best post defender on the team. And he's really improved in that area. He wants to do well. In terms of whether it affects him, or does he know if he's the center of conversation today, I don't know that. We'll ask (Associate Sports Information Director) Bill (Bennett) to make sure he relays that to him."


How is Josh Shipp's bruised thigh?


"He had treatment on it yesterday. I'm assuming it's getting better and better. It was sore after the game."

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