Howland/Players on Texas A&M

Head Coach Ben Howland, and players Kevin Love, Darren Collison and Josh Shipp answered questions from the media on Friday about their second-round match-up against Texas A&M, talking about the physical play of the Aggies and their big front line...

Ben Howland, Darren Collison, Kevin Love, and Josh Shipp.

Q. Just going back to last year's game, when you played these guys obviously you've added Kevin since then. They've lost Acie, they have a new coach, so it's not a really fair comparison in a sense, but what do you kind of expect this game to come down to, based on what you've seen?

DARREN COLLISON: I think they'll use it as a motivation for this year's game. It was a close game. Went down to the wire. Both teams could have easily won it. I thought we played really excellent down the stretch last year, as I remember. The difference now is we got Kevin, so think it's going to be a lot more easier. Doesn't mean we can't play hard. We are going to play hard.
It just comes down to us being physical with them. We got to be able to match their intensity. If we do that, we should be all right.

Q. Kevin, just obviously that is going to be a key to the game is they're going to -- they've said they're going shuttle a bunch of guys in to deal with you. You just expect to pretty much get pounded? Are you mentally, you know, thinking that way right now?

KEVIN LOVE: Yes. And Coach Howland actually talked about that with me, that they're going to send a few guys in, and they are going to pound on me. I think I counted it was four or five guys over 6'9", and those guys are physical inside.
And Coach Howland said last year was an all-out battle, all-out war against them. So I'm just going to have to go in there, and even if I get fouled hard, whether it is a flagrant foul, I'm just going to have to keep my mind on the game and not feed into that stuff.

Q. Kevin, DeAndre Jordan was talking a lot about y'all's relationship. Do you just talk about how you see him and what kind of friendship y'all have?

KEVIN LOVE: He is a great friend of mine. I've known him since about seventh or eighth grade; we've been playing against each other. We've been texting each other back and forth now. I just saw him before I came here. He is a great player. He's going to have a great run. I hope I get to play against him a little bit tomorrow.
And when he decides to go to the NBA, whenever that is, I think he's going to be a lock for a top-five pick, just because he has the size, has the athleticism, and he is a great kid. So I wish the best for him, and we've been good friends for a long time.

Q. And I think its fair to say, he hasn't had the season that many projected him to have and stuff. I mean, how much have you talked to him this year? How frustrated was he at the way it all went for him?

KEVIN LOVE: Well, you know, if I was the coach -- I was talking to Coach Howland today, asking why he didn't recruit him. I know his mom pretty well. I know they wanted to stay close to home, but if I would have -- I would have had him in there. He is a great player. He is a great friend of mine as well, so I would have had him playing, definitely.

Q. Kevin, can you talk about, as close as you and DeAndre are, as good as your friendship is, how well you know each other's game as you play against each other tomorrow?

KEVIN LOVE: I think the last time we played against each other was probably the Round Ball Classic in Chicago my senior year. And, you know, he is the type of guy that, you know, you put up a shot, he is going to contest every single one.
He changes every shot, and what it comes down to when he gets picked in the NBA draft, he might be something like an Andrew Bynum. People might pick him as like a project, but he's got a lot of upside, and I think he can do a lot of great things.

Q. Darren, can you talk about their guards and what sort of problems they pose for you guys? And does it matter that they can shuttle guards in and out, because they're pretty deep that way.

DARREN COLLISON: Just like the inside game, their perimeter is just as good. They got a lot of good shooters. Coach was talking about one of their players that Russ is going to be guarding that we have to step up and contain. Me and Josh are going to be having a load on our hands. If we continue the pressure like we've been doing last couple games, we should be all right. We can't let them get no easy shots. We can't leave nobody, and we just got to contain them throughout the whole game.

Q. Darren, obviously you guys will have Luc back starting tomorrow. Haven't seen him for a few games. Do you think he is going have like a little extra just going because he's had to sit it out last couple games? Think he'll be particularly motivated to get back in and try to make a difference?

DARREN COLLISON: Say it again.

Q. You guys haven't had Luc the last couple games. Do you think just having him -- him having to sit out and watch from the sidelines, do you think he's going be bringing it extra hard tomorrow because he hasn't had the chance to play yet and really get in the mix?

DARREN COLLISON: I think Luc's fine. We seen him work earlier today. He looked fine. I don't think there's no holding back. I think Coach Howland is pretty cautious, being on the safe side, so he wouldn't get in the game yesterday. But he is fine. He is ready to go. And I think he's going to help us out a lot.

The last two conference games when we won the conference championship he's been a big part of that. If Luc can play with us, he can help Kevin on the boards and bring a lot more to our perimeter game as well.

Q. I know you don't play Stanford tomorrow, but they have a game also, and you've played them this year with some success. What is the key to playing against the Lopezes, and how do you get the best of them?

KEVIN LOVE: That's a tough question, to get the best of the Lopez twins. They're two trees in there. They're monsters. You have to try to send our whole team at them, pretty much, just to keep them off the boards and make their guards take tough shots and just allow them to try to rebound and limit Brook's touches, because he's going to be another top pick in the draft whenever he decides to go out.

You know, talentwise those two are very, very good players and, you know, when you think you have one up for a shot fake, you step through and the other one's right there waiting for you, so that's a tough question.

Q. Josh, can you talk -- Coach Turgeon was talking about how he thought maybe the first team to 50 points wins this game. Do you feel that way? And after yesterday's 29-point performance, does that sound like some crazy scoring?

JOSH SHIPP: For us, bottom line, we're trying to win games. We don't care what the score is. We're going to come out and play hard defense, and hopefully we can limit teams and not let them score a lot of points. Bottom line is we don't care what the score is as long as we're on top.

Q. Kevin, I hate to be a broken record here, but you know just with your back, have you been trying to like sit down a little extra when you can and when you have been standing up today, are there any spasms or anything like that?

KEVIN LOVE: Not really. But I'm glad you're concerned. (Laughing).

Q. I gotta write with something.

KEVIN LOVE: I hear you. Everything's fine. I practiced on it today. It think the game yesterday was a good test for it. I know I only played 21 minutes; just getting into it and getting a good sweat going was very good for me and very good for my back as well.

Q. Coach, Howland, does it do any good to look at the film of last year's game with A&M, given all the changes?

COACH HOWLAND: It does from the standpoint, a lot of the personnel is the same. That was the most physical game we played, last season. I mean, no one played us more physical than Texas A&M. I see that in them again this year. So the good thing about it, we showed our players, look that's where they're playing against us a year ago, they can generally get the sense of how big and strong and tough they are and how well they shoot the ball. Obviously, they're very impressive, and that was a great win over BYU. BYU is a very, very good team. So to beat BYU is obviously an outstanding win.

Q. Ben, can you talk about the way Lorenzo Mata-Real handled Love coming in here and having to give up his position after all this time and being a senior?

COACH HOWLAND: Yeah. Lorenzo's done a great job all year long. He as you know started on last year's Final Four team. I think he started every game, which was impressive in itself, because he's had a lot of injuries over his four-year career. But he's been great all year, very supportive of Kevin. He's helped him learn a lot of things that, you know, a senior would help a freshmen with on the floor, the little things, and been really a good friend to him, a good mentor, and also a great back-up.

They've played together some. As you know, we've played them about eight or ten minutes together in the championship game against Stanford in the conference tournament. But Lorenzo's just had a great attitude from day one. Really proud of him, not only as a player but as a person.

He is going to graduate on time, will be the first person in his family to graduate from college; that's pretty special.

Q. Coach, you just mentioned Stanford. I know you don't play them tomorrow, but you've played them and played them well this year. What is the key to matching up against the Lopez brothers? How do you have success?

COACH HOWLAND: You don't match up with the Lopez brothers. There's nobody in college basketball that's matching up about these two big twins. And we were fortunate in that we played them the first game in the conference on the road and played very well that night. That was a big win for us.

I think they've improved dramatically as the season's progressed, especially when you consider Brook missed the first nine or ten games, in terms of their whole team being in sync. We were very fortunate to beat them in the second meeting at Pauley.

We had a free throw with a blessing from God that, you know, hit the back of the rim, the front of the rim and rolled in there by Russell Westbrook. So we had a lot of things go well for us in the last minute of that game. They played very well.
It was really a big win for us to beat them the third time in the conference tournament. I don't think you match up, I think you got to do it as a team. We double the post. That's what we did against them. If you try to play those two one-on-one, I don't think you can because they're just too skilled and too big.

Q. Ben, do you need more out of Josh Shipp?

COACH HOWLAND: Josh has helped us get to 32-3, so I think he is doing a pretty good job. And, you know, we would not be where we are now without Josh. I think Josh has played well and exhibit all year long.

Q. Just kind of wondering how much you're paying attention to what else is happening in your part of the bracket today. Any thoughts on all that?  

COACH HOWLAND: Not really. I'm just focused on our next game. Really, I think any time you start to look ahead or -- I haven't watched another game since the tournament's begun. You know, I watch Sports Center at the end of each night and see who's won the games, just because it's hard for me to sleep. But I do understand that San Diego beat UCONN, I think, in overtime, I think, by one, which is a great win for Billy Grier. He is doing a great job in his first year as the head coach, and that's an outstanding win for the University of San Diego. I have great respect for Coach Calhoun and that program, so that's a big-time win.

Q. A lot of the A&M players talked about because of last year's game they're not nervous or concerned about playing UCLA. I wonder how often do you see that anymore in non-conference play or in tournaments like this? How often any more do teams just fold when they see those four letters?   

COACH HOWLAND: We don't, unfortunately, get that luxury. I wish someone would do that. What we see typically is a team have their best effort of the year to play their very best game because we're UCLA. And we see that night-in and night-out through our conference and everywhere you go. So that's really made this team a battle-hardened team, when you have everybody giving you their best effort.
Obviously in the NCAA tournament you wouldn't be here unless you are a really good team. Of course Texas A&M's played against a lot of really good programs both in their conference and outside. We know what's in store. It's going to be a very hard fought, tough game.

Q. Coach, you talked about similarities, but there are, you know, Acie Law's gone, Aaron's gone, Kevin Love is here now. What kind of differences could that make in tomorrow's game?

COACH HOWLAND: Well, you just named two NBA guards, one from each team that's left and gone to the NBA. So those are both great players. Aaron was our best player last year, and Acie Law was their best player. We've added Kevin Love; they've added DeAndre Jordan, who is a very good, fine big man. You look at their team, they've got a lot of players that were here a year ago. They're a year older and a year better. So it's going to be -- we know how hard it's going to be. It's going to be very, very tough.

Q. How about schemewise when you look at them with the coaching change? What is different about the way Texas A&M plays?

COACH HOWLAND: You know, they're basically two very similar styles from Coach Gillispie to Coach Turgeon. Both man-to-man defense, primarily. [Cell phone rings].
Excuse me, our bus broke down, and so I had to figure out a way to get our team here. So we still got the guys here on time. Thank goodness. They run motion they do play it inside out. They get it into their bigs. They're obviously a team that has very good shooters, notably Carter, who had six threes last night in their last game against BYU. They're a very good offensive rebounding team as they were a year ago. So I think they're very similar from one year to the next in terms of the style of play.

Q. You mentioned how DeAndre Jordan is a fine big man. His production hasn't been quite what people thought it would be this year. What concerns you about him?

COACH HOWLAND: Just the fact that one-on-one he's so big and so long; he scores on you when he gets you angled. He is a good shot blocker. I mean, he is seven feet tall. He poses a lot of problems in terms of changing shots and blocking shots and scoring around the basket.

Q. Coach, where did the bus break down? What went wrong and did you have to get a new one?

COACH HOWLAND: You know, I had to bring three of our players who were due to be here on the podium early. I brought Kevin, Darren and Josh. The bus wouldn't start. It went dead. I'm not sure what's wrong with it, so we had to get four, like, vans from the hotel. We weren't at the hotel; we were at our actual practice. We practiced at a local high school.

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