Howland Comments to Media

Head Coach Ben Howland answers questions from the media Friday, talking about his UCLA team, and the athletic Memphis team he'll face in Saturday's Regional Final...

Head Coach Ben Howland took questions from the media Friday.

Where do you get your trap?   Many influences?   Philosophy you use on your trap?

"Are you talking about trapping of post players, trapping in the press?   That was just a mad scramble at the end down to try to create some turnovers.   We started really extending our defense beginning of the second half.   The traps in the back court didn't come till the last three or four minutes. It takes a lot of energy to play that hard.   Just impressed with how our players fought back.   But that trap's just basketball."

If both teams are so different from when you played in November, how much do you take away in preparation for tomorrow from what happened in New York in November?

"Oh, you definitely try to learn from any time you've played someone.   They handled us easily.   Memphis State is the most athletic team in the country, and the only one that can even have a qualm with that would be LSU.   All you got to do is watch the tape.   These guys are incredible athletically, just great players.   33-3.   They outboard their opponent by seven a game, they hold their opponents to 38% from the field, they shoot 35% from three, which I always equate to 52.5 from two.   They've got a lot of weapons.   They have unbelievable depth. They handled us very easily the first time we played them.   Williams is a great player.   They have at least three, four NBA players minimally, the guys we'll see down in the NBA down the road.   You know, could be five. They're a very, very well-coached team.   Calipari, his track record speaks for itself."

How key was it last night to keep them off the line, especially in the last few minutes and keeping Morrison off the line for the game?

"Some people question, why weren't you fouling?   We were down five with a minute, 30 to go.   My philosophy is that's a two-possession game.   Instead of fouling, they're 78% Gonzaga from the foul line, third in the country going into the game.   You foul them, you're giving them points. We talked a lot about not fouling.   Don't foul.   Jordan made that one reach from behind, which was not the kind of play that I would have wanted him to make.   I think they put it back to seven at one point there.   We made some mistakes.   Darren Collison got on the side of Raivio, he went in for a layup.   We still, with all that, found a way.   That's just a testament to our players."

How many of your players are taking exams and how does that work in regards to monitors, that sort of thing?

"We have a proctor that is with us who proctors the exams.   We've had most of our finals that were done prior to getting here.   We have had a few kids that have had to take exams both on Wednesday and again today.   But for the majority of the team, they were done prior to Wednesday."

Some coaches like to save their timeouts till the end of the game.   You seem to like to use them throughout.   What is the philosophy of when you use them?

"You know, it depends on just a feel for the game.   For example, a couple times -- we had spent so much energy getting back, at one point there Roll made his three, I called a timeout because we were just exhausted from extending our defense.   They got it back to 12. I guess the only one who really understands the method to my substitutions or my timeouts is me.   I don't know if I could explain it to you.   You just -- the only one who understands is Bill Grier.   He thinks it's good.   So ask Bill."

From a coaching perspective when you win a game the way you did last night, do you feel maybe there's some magic with this team, something meant to happen, or do those wins scare you a little bit?

"I think this gives us an opportunity to feed off of this.   We fed off of the Cal win being down 11 at halftime.   Upon winning that game, securing a share of the PAC-10 championship. We played five games in a row from that point forward.   We were dominant with our play.   That's my expectation, that we're going to feed off of this win and it's going to make us better going into tomorrow. We're going to need to be better, a lot better, to have a chance to beat Memphis."

What did you do last night after the game?   Did you go back -- have you watched the entire game over again?

"I haven't watched.   On the bus on the way back, I did see the last minute, 58.   I went back to the hotel, took a quick shower, got a quick bite, then we were watching film till a little after 4 this morning on Memphis."

How do you feel about rematches?   Do you feel one team or the other has the upper hand in Round 2?

"You know, this is a game where you have I think two outstanding teams.   Memphis is the No. 1 seed.   Memphis, I don't know where they are in their RPI, one, two, three or four.   As I've said, I think they have four or five pros.   They're very well-coached.   They're an outstanding team. It's going to be a fun game I think for college basketball fans.   We're hopeful we're going to come out and play our best game of the year."

Do you have a feeling in a way about a rematch?

"We see it all the time in our conference.   You play a team, usually in our conference you play them twice every time.   Although Dave is supportive of going to a 16-game conference because he thinks it would be good for the RPI.   The coaches are trying to support Dave on that. It's the second time we're playing them.   I think both times have improved dramatically from when we met in November when they were just so dominant.   They've definitely improved.   We've improved.   There's two good teams.   We're excited that we're still playing. Again, I have to continue to go back to what an outstanding team we beat yesterday in Gonzaga.   I think Gonzaga is just terrific.   They're so tough and so well-coached.   I turn on the tube, listen about how they blew it, everybody killing them.   I just hate to see that, to be characterized like that.

"Our team did something really special in the last three minutes of that game.   It's an unbelievable finish to a game.   Let's give Gonzaga due credit.   They had an unbelievable team and year and the greatest player in the country in Adam Morrison.   Mark Few is the winningest coach in the last seven years percentage-wise with the exception of Duke.   They do an incredible job with that program."

You said a couple times you think you have the best guards in the country.   Could you elaborate on what makes you think Jordan and Arron are the best standard in the nation.

"Results.   They're getting results.   They're sophomores.   They're very, very good players.   Arron I think is just an incredible defensive player.   That's where you have to give Ced a lot of credit.   Last night Ced had to go to Morrison because Arron, uncharacteristic of him, got in foul trouble.   He played with four fouls and almost got a crazy fifth foul.   I took him right out at mid-court.   I was really, really frustrated that he wouldn't recognize that that wasn't what you would want him to do, reaching for a ball at mid-court.   He didn't foul, but he came just really close to the edge.

"Arron brings it every day.   Arron brings it every day at both ends of the floor.   He has such pride in playing good defense.   He takes it personal.   He's just a winner.   You know, you go back to the Cal game, he had 21 points in the second half against Cal.   Absolutely put us on his shoulders in that comeback.

"Jordan is just a great competitor.   He's so smart.   You hear him up here talking.   His intelligence translates also to the basketball floor.   His leadership, his ability to make plays for himself and for others.   Now, you got to remember, last night we're down five when he makes the runner on the right side lane, just an unbelievable shot.   We get a stop.   Jordan makes the steal, makes the pass.   Luc makes the incredible catch, finish.

"The most exciting play of the game was Luc diving on the floor for the ball from behind.   That really characterized that comeback last night, that one sequence.   Not only the steal, the finish, the dive on the floor for the ball, possession UCLA.   I thought it took a little long to get the ball back in.   I think there was a lot of stunned people both on the floor and in the stands."

The first game was 88-80.   Both of you are now so much better defensively.   Where do you see the pace of this game?

"88-80 is not indicative of the game.   They crushed us.   They had us down 20 at the half.   I was watching that game this morning.   It was not indicative of what the game was like.   They handled us easily the first time we played. We've got to do a better job of trying to get back in transition because if they score 88 points tomorrow, they're going to win.

Could you elaborate on that.   What do you think is crucial for you guys to do to improve on that performance and be as good as you say you need to be tomorrow?

"Transition D, block-outs, contesting shots, taking care of the basketball, limiting our turnovers, attacking their press, executing offensively, reading the switches, knowing who you're guarding because they always are coming in and out with new players because they have such depth within their lineup.   I mean, their leading minutes per game is 27 minutes per game.   In other words, they don't even have anybody who plays 30.   They're coming at you in waves of athletes and players. They have a lot of things going for them."

Do you have a drill that approximates what Luc did last night in causing that jump ball?   Are they ready for your brand of toughness when they come into the program?

"We try to recruit kids that have toughness to begin with.   We're not looking for guys out there that we're going to try to make tough once they get to UCLA.   You got to have toughness to start with.   Toughness translates to being really good.   Not just in basketball, but football, tennis, golf.   How tough is Tiger?   Whoever you want to talk about that really is great, you know, mental toughness, physical toughness.

"This is about recruiting.   It's about recruiting good players.   You're talking about Ced, Jordan and Arron, they're McDonald's All-Americans.   Luc is probably a kid who was under-recruited.   It was South Carolina, Virginia Tech and UCLA.   I stack him up as being one of the top freshmen in the country right now based on his performance.   That was his eighth double-double of the season this year.   He might have had nine.   I think he actually got shortchanged on a rebound somewhere along the way where he had nine rebounds.   He's incredible.

"You look at our team, we're young.   Darren Collison came in and really got us going to get back in that game last night with his energy, attacking the basket in transition.   I thought he did a good job.   Mata's minutes, to come off a broken leg for two months, coming back, helping us.   We have a lot of guys contributing to what we're doing right now."

Knowing that you expect your team to feed off that win, do you still have to do anything to make sure the emotions get high again in such a short turnaround?

"No.   That won't be an issue."

You were at Northern Arizona at the time, but did you see or do you recall the Edney against Missouri? 

"Oh, yeah.   They show it all the time.   Funny, I have a friend of mine in your profession who was talking about that with some kids today in high school.   They know what you're talking about.   11 years ago.   A typical high school kid was seven.

"But Ed O'Bannon was here.   He was in our locker room after the game last night.   He was a part of that.   That was against Missouri in Boise, Idaho, second round.   They continue to show that to this day.   That was just an incredible play by Tyus.   When I first recruited Darren Collison to UCLA, I think he can be Tyus Edney in time.   I'm really believing that as this season has gone forward.   That was a great win.   For Coach Harrick, Mark Gottfried, Lorenzo Romar, Steve Lavin, that was a heck of a staff.   That really propelled them forward. "

Have you had time to reflect in all of this on the fact that you personally, it's the first time you're going to the Elite 8 and what it means to you?

"For me personally, this is new territory.   I'm excited about that.   It's the opportunity to play again, to advance on this tournament.   That's what this is all about.   That's why one of the big -- one of the big reasons why I wanted to be the coach at UCLA because I think year in, year out, because of our recruiting base, because of the tradition, history of this program, the opportunity to recruit great players who are great kids, that we're going to have a chance to do well in this tournament year in and year out. That's why you have to love college basketball and the NCAA tournament.   This is the greatest time of year.   It's the greatest sporting event in all of sporting culture in this country.   Everybody from all over the country involved.   Everybody's involved in this.   There's great interest in it.   It's just exciting.   It's pure sport and it's fun."

Could you comment specifically on Rodney Carney, your impressions of him as a player, what his future in basketball is?

"Well, he has a long future in basketball.   I mean, he's just an incredible athlete, 6'7", shoots the three so well.   Half his shots are three's.   I think my assistant, Ernie Zeigler, prophesied something.   He will win the dunk contest next year in the NBA.   He is unbelievable.   I can't even imagine how far he can take off from.   He's like he's flying.   He defies gravity. I think if Darren Collison were to stand there, he's one of those guys that could jump right over him.   I'm sure he can.   I'm talking about do the split leg thing and go right over, 6-footer.   He could probably go over a 7-footer. That all being said, his athleticism, when you talk about his ability to shoot the three, I mean, he has a beautiful stroke with range.   He is a lottery pick.   It's a done deal.   All those NBA guys are frothing. He's going to be playing basketball for a long time, being very successful at it, as he's been for John. "

Switching the subject to freshmen.   You depended on three or four freshmen on your team.   Can you talk about the freshmen classes on both teams, how much impact they have on this game. 

"Well, for our team, it's been all year, you know, five of our top 10 players, nine players, have been freshmen.   They've played an incredible amount of minutes.   When you look at what a typical freshman probably plays at the high major level, Mike Roll already has played 550-plus minutes.   Part of the adversity of losing Ced, losing Josh, gave him more opportunity.   He took advantage of it.   I really have a lot of confidence in Mike.

"You look at Darren Collison, he's playing 20 minutes a game.   Obviously, Luc is a huge factor.   Alfred Aboya, came off of two knee surgeries, both in July and in October, has done an incredible job bouncing back from those, really has given us a lot of depth.   Ryan Wright is going to be an outstanding player, our freshman center from Toronto, Canada.   I was looking at him from behind the other days, he's 250 pounds.   He has one of those Dorsey bodies.   He has a body that won't quit.   I remember him in AAU ball playing for the Baltimore team, coming out of that area.   He's always been a good player.

"Their freshmen are a year or two older because they went to prep school, which is an advantage.   Basically they have an extra year of maturity and age on them.   I think that's always an advantage.   I had a lot of players like that at Pitt.   Carl Krauser graduated at age 25.   It's always an advantage when you're 25 playing against a guy 18 mentally if not physically.

You mentioned Luc quite a bit.   How does somebody who goes from wanting to be the next Michael Jordan and a guard turn into one of your best interior players and rebounders?

"Really in my system, our (foreman?) Is like a guard.   My expectation is he handles the ball like a guard, he can shoot the ball like a guard, he can pass the ball like a guard, he can dribble the ball like a guard, he can switch on to guards defensively, yet he can guard bigs.   That's what you get really big players that are multi-positioned, guys that can do things at multi-positions.   That's when you're talking about Michael Jordan.   Michael Jordan can guard a one, two or three and play one, two or three on offense.   Magic Johnson played one, two, five, including five in the championship of his rookie year where they beat the Sixers.   He can guard a one through four typically night in and night out and play obviously offense any way you want. You talk about Pippen, McGradys, Kobe, that's what great players can do.   Guys that have length like he does, but yet have the quick feet and the school level."

Back to freshmen productivity?   Are they better because the great upperclassmen leave early or because of the AAU competitions prep schools?   What makes freshmen so much better now?

"I just think players are getting better, we're evolving.   Look at the average NFL player compared to 20 years ago, or the average NBA player, the average college player.   Players are bigger, faster, stronger, quicker.   They're more involved early in organized teams.   There's more competition at an early age.   They're being pushed earlier.   There's more in today's than 20 years ago specialization.   You don't see as many kids playing three sports.   You either play football or basketball in most cases.   You see it some, but not nearly as much as 20 years ago.   There's a lot of reasons.   Human beings are getting bigger, faster, stronger, quicker.   It's nutrition.   There's a lot of reasons why. You're talking about weight training, core training, nutrition.   There's so many aspects that are being really looked at. The Europeans I think were ahead of us.   I think our sports professionals in all areas have really caught up to it in a lot of respects."

 Since we're talking about going back in time year, you talked about Dorsey.   Do you remember Rodney Carney when he was a guy who wasn't that recruited?   Do you remember him at all during that period?

"No, I wish I did.   I wish I knew him.   I would have loved have recruited him obviously.   I know he's out of Indiana, if I'm not mistaken.   I don't even know what AAU program he was with.   He wasn't with one?   John probably had him tucked away somewhere, secret recruit, knowing Cal."

How does a guy like that get overlooked?

"If he wasn't in AAU programs, he wasn't seen.   Overlooked is one thing.   Being seen and overlooked is another.   If he's not out there being exposed to the coaches and all the recruiters that get a chance to go through and see all these kids, that's different. I'm just amazed, like the kid from Bradley, O'Bryant, he's from Blaine, Minnesota.   Gosh, what a great player he is.   I watched that tape first last night.   I saw them with some highlights against Pitt.   There's so many good players out there, guys that develop.   But, boy, is he a good player that probably wasn't as highly recruited as maybe you would think based on watching him play, both Carney and O'Bryant."

Talk about that concept of whether you worry that your team is emotionally drained from last night or whether you see that as a momentum thing.

"I see it as a momentum thing all the way.   We're going to feed on that win.   We're going to feed on that emotion.   We're going to feed on it.   It's making us better.   I equated it to the Cal win where we were down 11, came back and won.   Really from that point forward -- I think Jordan is right, after that SC loss, I think that really motivated us to take to it a new level.   I thought after that Cal win, which was a great win, we upped it up a notch.   That's what we're going to need to do to have a chance to have success."


 


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