Head Coach Ben Howland and players Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute answered questions from the media after the game Saturday.
Ben Howland: "Well, we're really excited to still be playing. We beat a very good team tonight, an outstanding team. I thought our intensity defensively for the entire 40 minutes was really, really incredible. That's the best defense we've played all year. We needed that to be able to beat a team as talented and as good as LSU.
"I thought that all of our players -- really when we got in foul trouble there in the first half, I think these two each had two fouls, Ced had two fouls, we had Hollins with two fouls. I was told that our starters played 53 minutes in the first half, and the players coming off the bench played 47.
"What's really been helpful for our team is the adversity we experienced early in the year really opened up a lot of opportunities for all the players on the team to step up. I have total confidence in all the kids that we're playing. It really makes a huge difference.
"Again, I thought to beat a team like LSU as soundly as we did. Again, we had things going right for us, too. We weren't guarding them at the foul line. They were only 13 for 28. Things went well for us today. We're excited about it."
For the players, were you guys aware of Big Baby's comments yesterday that the last time he checked, Walton and Jabbar still weren't playing for UCLA, how that might have been taken in the locker room.
Arron Afflalo: "Yeah, we did hear those comments. But, you know, that's just his personality. I'm pretty sure he didn't mean anything malicious by it. He probably was just making some comments to maybe fire up his team. We weren't too worried about his comments. We knew what we had to do to defend him and come out and win this game."
Luc, we know you've been getting better this season, as the season has gone on. Do you also feel you are improving in the tournament? How much better can you be in 48 hours?
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: "I don't know how much better I can be in 48 hours. All I know is every time I step on the court, I give my best trying to play as hard as I can, helping my team, helping me become a better player. For me, I just keep gaining experience. I'm trying to become the best player I can become."
Luc Richard, can you describe to us what it feels like leaning up against Big Baby, a guy who outweighs you by a hundred, what your approach was defending him?
Mbah a Moute: "My back hurts right now, you can tell (smiling). He's big. I mean, he's going to be in the NBA. He's a great player. I mean, he does great things for a guy of his size. To move the way he moves, he's a great player. It takes effort, effort and toughness. I think my teammate did a great job tonight helping me down the post, whether it was just rotating for a steal or pressuring the ball so he wouldn't get catches and stuff. I'm just happy with the way my teammates and team played today. "
It was the best defensive effort you had all year, Ben said. How can you tell when you're playing a game, the way you're playing defense is having an effect on your opponent? How did you see it tonight against LSU?
Jordan Farmar: "We see it pretty much every night. That's just the way we come out and play defense. They don't do the things they normally do. They're looking at each other, pointing fingers, sometimes eyes get real big, like a deer in the headlights, like they don't know what hit 'em. That's just from playing hard and playing together. It's not any special recipe. It's just really, you know, sucking up, defending, playing hard on that end of the ball."
Tell me your impression of Luc's performance tonight, being cool under pressure, his offensive performance, especially for a guy who has not been playing this game all that long.
Farmar: "Luc is doing a great job. I mean, when everybody was coming together in the beginning of the year, they asked me who should they look for, who is going to contribute. The first one that I noticed was Luc. I mean, I can just see all the little things that he does.
"You know, I told them in the beginning of the year how good he was going to be, that he doesn't even know that. That's the scary part. He has no clue. He's just out there playing as hard as he possibly can and trying to get better. You know, any time you focus on trying your best and not worrying about, you know, the result or thinking about failure or anything like that, good things happen. And that's what he does every night. The more he continues to do that, the more and more you guys will be impressed."
At one point you hit a three-pointer early in the second half, the shot clock expired, you were pounding on your chest. Were you pounding on the letters specifically or what was going on in your mind at that moment?
Farmar: "Things were going right for us. A lot of momentum was on our side. They played a good possession of defense. I came off a curl and was fortunate enough to knock down the shot. I noticed they called timeout. Everyone was kind of quiet. I was excited. I play with a lot of emotion. That's what has got us through. We play with a lot of emotion, really put our heart and soul out there. There was nothing specific. I was just hyped up a little bit."
For coach Howland, that was PAC-10 champion versus SEC champion. You have another SEC team coming up. Can the difference between the conferences possibly be that great?
"Absolutely not. We played terrific tonight. Again, our best defense of the year. Florida is a very, very good team, as is LSU. I mean, tonight, as I was saying, it's like our night. We didn't put the lid on the free-throw shot. They don't miss 13 of 28 normally. They had some open shots. Kind of just continued to, you know, work against them. Once you miss one, makes it a little tougher.
"Yeah, our kids played really hard and played terrific tonight. I think the depth issue, what they've gone through in terms of really they're only playing seven guys a lot of minutes. You know, the wear and tear of that, you know, it takes its toll. They're really good. I mean, you're talking about -- I mean, I still feel the same way about Big Baby and Tyrus Thomas, Darrel Mitchell, Tasmin Mitchell. These guys are terrific players, terrific kids.
"The real tough part for me is that - and I thought about this - is that we beat LSU. They have a great team, a very well-coached team. I really feel for all those people. We do as a community at UCLA, as we do in Southern California, the state of California, for all the Katrina victims. I've known a lot of people from our area that have gone and tried to help. You can never know what they've gone through as a community, as a state. These kids are great kids from LSU, unbelievable kids. They really embody the spirit of college athletics. As happy as I am about winning, if we were to lose, I would want to lose to no other team than LSU, especially with everything the state of Louisiana has gone through this year. You know, I have a special -- it's special."
For those of us who haven't tracked Luc all this season, could you tell us was this one of his best games and where has he improved this season and this tournament?
"Let's see. He had 17 and 9. Those are pretty good numbers. He is a very, very good player. He was a guy that you have to credit, first of all, Seth Greenberg at Virginia Tech and Dave Odom and their staffs at South Carolina. Those were the two other teams that were on him hard besides UCLA. We had to battle. He has a great high school coach. If you've read any of the stuff, Kevin Sutton is his name, whose background is originally from DC. Stu Vedder, a great coach.
"I went and saw this kid at Nike camp. I was really impressed. He played hard. My assistant Ernie Zeigler is one that really uncovered him. He was a guy who was under the radar. He'd only been there one year, down at Montverde Academy down in Florida. I really like him, how hard he plays, how tough he is. I go down to watch him, no air-conditioning, we're in July, about 10 coaches there. There's like six kids. I'm not kidding you, okay, you guys have been to Florida, some of you, in the middle of July in a non-air conditioned room. It is brutal. It was 110 degrees, 115 degrees minimum with a humidity level of maybe a hundred percent. Coach Sutton put this kid through a two-hour -- I was uncomfortable standing there, I'm wanting water after water out of the machine. This kid is absolutely playing like you can't believe, fundamentals. Just all sorts of different fundamentals. Stu Vedderu system. We had two former players that played for that same program, Cameron Dollar out of that program, Rico Hines, who both played at UCLA. Kevin Sutton coached them. The kid's terrific. He's a prince of his tribe. His dad's a major figure in that country. He's head of the labor department for the country of Cameroon. They're from Yaounde, him and Alfred. Alfred originally committed to Georgetown. These kids are terrific kids, all of them. All of our players are just unbelievable kids."
Could you talk specifically about the defense you guys had on Glen Davis tonight. He was 5 for 17 from the field.
"He's a terrific player. We watched a lot of tape on him. Most of the teams in the SEC when they doubled him came with a small, in other words, a guard as opposed to big to big. It never even affected him. Basically you see the same thing in the NBA. When you double someone in the post, someone's got to be open. We've done it all year against really, really only the best players. Leon Powe, we did it against a kid Fazekas at Reno, we did it against Sims at Michigan. We did it against -- I'm trying to think of other teams. Leon Powe is an absolute unbelievable player. We did it against Haryasz from Stanford. I'm naming all NBA guys for you. He's going to see a lot more of that next year at the college level and then eventually when he goes on to the NBA. He's a great player and a future sure-fire NBA guy."
You told us all about how you followed UCLA growing up. UCLA is playing for the national championship, the most successful program playing for another title. Is there something that feels right about that? Can you describe how you feel about that happening?
Howland: "You know, I'm getting ready to -- the hour is going to change here. In 15 minutes, it's going to become 1 a.m. My whole focus right now is to do what I'm required to do, get back to the hotel, start working to prepare for the University of Florida, who has a great team. Billy has done a fantastic job. We have the opportunity to play, each of us, Florida and UCLA, the last game of the year in college basketball. Yes, that's special. But we want to do our very best to get this turnaround time. I have to be back here at noon, and it goes to 1 a.m. here. If you see me dragging in here tomorrow, I apologize ahead of time."