Howland, Shipp, Love at Honda

Head Coach Ben Howland, and junior wing Josh Shipp and freshman center Kevin Love answered questioms from the media Wednesday at the Honda Center, about today's match-up against Mississippi Valley State, the NCAA Tournament and more...

Head Coach Ben Howland, Josh Shipp and Kevin Love were on the podium at the Honda Center Wednesday.

Q. Kevin and Josh, first of all I'd like for you to talk about the condition of your back. How much do you think it will limit your -- if you think it will limit you at all? And how you guys feel about being such a big favorite in this contest?

KEVIN LOVE: Well, to address your first question, my back is fine. We're actually in practices yesterday with, you know, Josh right here and Russell, we were actually having a dunk competition yesterday. So my back is fine. It's not going to limit me at all. I got good work with my trainers and everybody else who is helping me stretch out, you know, get it iced, get it rubbed down and doing electric stim and things like that on it. So my back will be 100% come game time.

To address your second question, being such a heavily favorite team, and we know that 16 seed has never beaten a 1 seed, and they're 0-92 against the one seeds, we're just going to take it like any other game. They're guys are going to come out and know we got that bull's eye on our chest, knowing that we are UCLA, and we're just going to go out there and fight.

Q. Kevin, you guys have been in some blowout wins this season, 30-something almost, one game, 40 points. When you are in those kind of games, you know, what's your mentality in terms of keeping your minds in it, what you are working on in the game. What can you benefit from when you are in that type of situation?

KEVIN LOVE: Um, you know, I can just say probably looking at the bigger picture. We know we have a bigger goal in mind. And, you know, if you take a playoff, anything can happen. You can get hurt and you just got to keep playing as hard as you possibly can when that stuff happens. We might get a chance to rest, you know, for the next game, which is going to be crucial coming down the stretch here. Because you saw that in the PAC-10's, as well, PAC-10 tourney, and when that happens, we just have to keep our mind focused on, you know, what we want to accomplish.

Q. Josh, you guys have been setting your sights on some big goals here this year, including a national championship. Is there a line you have to guard against between being almost overly ambitious and not focusing on the immediate task at hand?

JOSH SHIPP: I think our mindset is simple. It's been the same thing for the past few years, since I've been here, we just focus on the next game at hand. We do set goals at the beginning of the year, but we do them in sort of stages. First was the PAC-10, and then the PAC-10 tournament, and we accomplished those. Now, we're trying to get the third goal, to win the national championship. The main thing is just to take it one game at a time.

Q. Josh, you've been in a couple of these kind of, looked like, mismatches on paper before in the first round. What kind of things does Coach Howland say to try to keep you guys from being overconfident or keep you focused on the task at hand?

JOSH SHIPP: He just makes it a big point of emphasis that anybody can lose on any given night. I mean, if we don't come out and play, we could easily go home. For us, when the guys hear that, hopefully it keeps them focused and hopefully we're fortunate enough to win this game.

Q. Josh, you've been here before, so you know what the big lights and the bright lights are on this particular level. What information or what advice can you give to your teammates, such as Kevin even though he's PAC-10 player-of-the-year, that will help him get through all of this?

JOSH SHIPP: I mean, we've had a couple of tournament like-games this year, a lot of close battles. So, I mean, those guys, they have that experience. They know how to play in those games. I mean, Kevin, he's very mature for his age. I mean, we're not worried about him. We know he's going to come and play and bring it every game.

Q. Kevin, could I ask you, even though you are new to this stage, as Josh just said, can you talk about what you feel March Madness has become? Is it something that's sort of like the whole nation focuses on a little bit even if they're not sports fans?

KEVIN LOVE: I think so. Especially because, you know, this is when it really starts to get fun and you see the upsets, you see, you know, different teams, you know, bubble teams getting in, certain things like that. You see the George Masons getting to the Final Four. So it makes it real fun.
But also you get Cinderella stories, everything like that. I think everybody does focus on March, and they have good reason to just because of those facts alone, and we're hoping to make a run of our own.

Q. Does it transcend sports fans. Do you have people who maybe don't follow the sport, who suddenly when March comes --

KEVIN LOVE: I think so. It's funny, everybody is filling out the brackets, even the people that only pick the mascot in the next game for the bracket. So it's kind of fun.

Q. You guys often talk about your defense is kind of the key to winning. Can I get each of you to describe your half-court offense and how you guys each feel about that?

JOSH SHIPP: I mean, we feel good about it. I mean, it's stagnant at times. Sometimes we have our problems. But, I mean, like you said, our defense is the main thing. As long as we're playing that hard D, we have a chance to win on any given night.

KEVIN LOVE: I feel the same way. You know, if our D's on top of our game, our offense is going to come. Even if we're struggling a little bit, and we're kind of getting short in there and it's tight inside, our defense will helpfully pick us up. Our high court offense, we have to be able to hit the three-point shots, spread a little stuff out for me inside so they can't double- and triple-team. And I got to find cutters, you know, find Josh on the weak side, and Darren on the weak side.
Darren is on top of his game right now. So we're hoping after that PAC-10 tourney, he'll come steam rolling into the NCAA tournament as well.

Q. Josh, after the last two post-seasons and two Final Four runs, is it almost to the point that if you don't win a national championship, this season will be something of a disappointment?

JOSH SHIPP: I mean, it's tough to say it will be a total disappointment. I mean, we've had a great run so far. Like I said, we do have another goal that we want to accomplish, and it would be a great season if we do accomplish that goal.

Q. Josh, you guys have been down here, you particularly have been down here, playing in the Wooden Classic. When you come here, does it -- is there an extra comfort level that maybe you don't have in another arena where you sort of know the lay of the land, you know the shooting background, just everything that might trip you up in another place, you don't have that here?

JOSH SHIPP: Just being so close to home is definitely a huge advantage. Have your friends and family be able to come down and watch you play, that's definitely big. Like you said, we played in this gym before. It's not a new court to us, so that should definitely help us out, too.

KEVIN LOVE: I mean, we've only played here for one game, but, you know, we got a win here, and also, like you said, we played down here for the Wooden Classic. But this is only my first year at the NCAA tournament. I'm just trying to look up to Lorenzo and all the upper-classmen that have been here just to learn stuff from them.

Q. I'm wondering how much you guys feel a sense of responsibility because you play for UCLA to do things like win national championships, or is that ancient history?

KEVIN LOVE: No, I think we got to, you know, make the people that have came before us very proud. And Mr. Alcindor, Mr. Walton, all the way back to Mr. Hazzard, they won those national championships, Coach John R. Wooden, the greatest coach in basketball history, we're trying to make those guys proud. We wear that UCLA symbol across our chest, you know. We got the -- seeing gold for the Hundred National Championships. We're just trying to hang another banner up there and go for number 12.

Coach Howland's Opening Statement:

COACH HOWLAND: Happy to be here. Looking forward to playing tomorrow. Excited that we fulfilled our goals in the regular season, which was to win our conference, win our conference tournament, and, therefore, play as close to home as possible in the NCAA tournament.
Questions.

Q. Ben, can you just give us an update on Luc. How he's looking?

COACH HOWLAND: In practice today -- he did some shooting, but today he went through a full practice. We only went for about an hour. We probably did contact for about 15 minutes, and then a number of other things, five-on-zero at full speed. And, you know, it still causes him some pain, to cut on it in a certain way.
But he'll start tomorrow. And he'll battle through, you know, the pain, and I think it helps him to play tomorrow to get ready if we're fortunate enough to win for a Saturday match-up.

Q. Just wondering, in the course of just normal preparation, is it a little tough tracking down, like, video on a Mississippi Valley State?

COACH HOWLAND: We're one of the few schools in the country that I'm aware of that does such a good job of archiving games throughout the year. So I have an administrative assistant, Doug Erickson, along with our video coordinator, Clay McKnight, but primarily Doug Erickson, and one of our managers that works recording every game in the country that's on television throughout the entire year. So we have over 1200 games when that tournament comes out on Sunday.
We had three games on Mississippi Valley State because that's how many times they played on TV on some satellite we were able to pick up. We had 11 on BYU and 27 on Texas A&M.

And so we're able to go to work right away as soon as 4:00 rolls around and get our assistants going, and that makes a big difference. We have since sent out and received more video on Mississippi Valley State. So we have about six films on them now, which is, you know, about normal in preparation for a game as we get ready.

Q. Can you talk about their bigs, specifically Larry Cox and what you think of them?

COACH HOWLAND: I think Cox is really a good player. He's long. He's athletic. He's got a very good jump hook. You know, he can face up and shoot at 17 feet.
I like Speech. He's a very good shooter. He started, as well as coming off the bench.
Lucas is an outstanding player. Watson is very long and athletic. Clark can play.
They have a lot of good players. And their two-point guards are very good, Harmason and Davis. Davis is a young man originally from Los Angeles, very quick, handles the ball well. So they're a team that, you know, out of this SWAC conference, typically most of those teams have to play a murderous non-conference schedule to earn revenue for their school.

They probably play seven or eight guarantee games all against power conferences, which is brutal. But when they got into their conference, then they start to gain some confidence. They were 12-6. They finished in second in their league, won their conference tournament. They're a team that's a veteran team that primarily plays juniors and seniors for the majority of their minutes.
So we understand that we're going to have to play well to be successful tomorrow night.

Q. Ben, you've had such great tournament runs last couple years and you mentioned you've accomplished your regular-season goals. The post-season goal, I am assuming, is a national title. Do you have any concern level at all that if you don't reach that ultimate goal, that some people in the program are going to be a little disappointed with this season?

COACH HOWLAND: What people and what program?

Q. Well, whether it be your own players or even boosters, alumni?

COACH HOWLAND: Well, of course we'd be disappointed if we don't win out. I mean, but I think there's a lot of teams that feel that way. I mean, there's a lot of teams that enter this tournament, and I think that there realistically is probably as many as a dozen teams that would have a good shot of winning this tournament.

COACH HOWLAND: Really? Is that all there is? I walked all the way down here for four or five questions.

Q. At Pittsburgh and NAU, I think you went to Utah, how much of it is an advantage, like today. You were able to practice at Pauley, you know, 24 hours before the NCAA tournament. How much of an advantage is that instead of getting on a plane, getting into a hotel, finding a place to practice?

COACH HOWLAND: No question it's an advantage to play close to home, also for us, the fact that we're in finals right now, we had to move finals up. We are actually in finals week. We had players that are still studying for finals. We have a couple, you know, still taking finals tomorrow on the road or, excuse me, Friday, being proctored. We're -- or back at school depending on our win or a loss.
But there's no question that being closer to home is an advantage for us to not have to get on another plane at this time, and we earned that, though. We understood that that was a goal of ours, was to be able to stay close to home by winning the conference and then ultimately winning the conference tournament.

Q. Did you even speak about it in terms of more so than a one or two seed, it was just staying in Anaheim?

COACH HOWLAND: For me the most important thing, regardless of our seed, was going to be to be kept in the west. Now, my understanding is that you're only protected in that respect in the first or second line. So unless you are a one or two seed, you could be sent out of the area. But that's why it was important to be at least a two seed.

Q. This team won some games early in the season by 30 or more points. When you are in that kind of situation during a game, what is it that you look to accomplish or maybe set yourself up for for the next game, whether it's getting some guys rest or what can you make in those situations that will help you down the road?

COACH HOWLAND: Boy, I just hope we have another game like that, that would be great. We did have a game like that against Cal last Thursday in the first round of the PAC-10 tournament. We were up 30, and that actually afforded us to get some rest for the guys for the next game the next day. But that's a good problem. I can't even imagine thinking that way right now.

Q. How much time do your assistants -- I know you already, when you get the first and second round match-ups or potential match-ups, assign assistant coaches to those other teams. How well do you know BYU and Texas A&M at this point and how much time --

COACH HOWLAND: Pretty good. There's probably four or five films watching each of the opponents in the second round. If we get past the first, then obviously we'll watch more including tomorrow's game, which will be the most recent game they've played to be able to study. So we try to do a good job in that way.

Thanks. Appreciate it.


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