Howland Talks After the Stanford Win

Head Coach Ben Howland answered questions from the media Saturday after UCLA's blow-out win over Stanford, 97-63. The coach praised the team for its defense, intensity, and in particular Alfred Aboya and Jrue Holiday for their individual performances...

Ben Howland's opening comments:

"I thought that this weekend we showed good improvement, again, being a team that has six veterans and five freshmen, you know it takes time for us. And I think we are going to continue to improve, that's the good news, because of our youth. These freshmen are starting to really get to where they understand everything, the concepts we're trying to do at both ends of the floor. I thought our senior leadership was tremendous in both these games. Josh, Darren and Alfred supplying that, and really leading by example with passionate play and the tenacity and unselfishness they play with.

"We had a chance in the first half to break it open a little bit further, but we were actually 1-for-8 on those transition opportunities. But it was all good in the second half, we did a better job finishing those transition opportunities, back-cutting for layups, I think we had three or four of those against their switching pressure. I was really proud of the effort our guys gave today. It's a really good feeling. 
And I think Stanford is a really good team. They lost at SC by one, they had both Washington and WSU beat and ended losing both those games by one. And they have great players... I'm sure they'll bounce back."

What specifically are the freshmen starting to get?

"Everyday in practice you're getting better because you're practicing against each other. The passion we have, our second group that comes in, really did a great job. They continued to build, and that's what nice having those guys off the bench keep the level of play and even raise the level of play. I think one thing, this team, we have pretty good depth now. We're playing ten or 11 guys every night. And Bobo got good minutes tonight. You can really see glimpses of where he can be down the road. But it's not just our freshmen, it's everybody. You always take time when you have a lot of new guys to gel together. I feel like we're doing that right now, but we have to move forward. We have the biggest game of the year coming up next. It's always the next game."

Stanford shot 27% in the second half, what did you do?

"I'll tell you what, they made some tough shots in the first. They were shooting 65% with about four or five minutes left in the first half. We ended up forcing a lot of turnovers. One thing that doesn't take into account the shooting percentage is when you force a lot of turnovers. Our turnovers compared to theirs was good. You saw we had 21 assists, 38 baskets, we really made a lot of good plays. Darren was terrific at both ends. I just love his pressure. Everything starts with Darren in terms of our defensive intensity. When he's on the ball, the way he has these past two games, we are a much better defensive team. He's really focused on that, we've made that a point. That's where everything starts, and I think he did a tremendous job this weekend."

Did Darren get winded in the first half?

"We got gassed there early in the game. The game was just going up and down, up and down, we were forcing turnovers... our guys were gassed. We actually practiced yesterday for about 30 minutes, which I rarely ever do, but I wanted to work on a few things. And you could see that the pace of the game early was really up and down so our guys got gassed. We subbed a little quicker than normal."

What did you see out of Aboya?

"I thought Alfred was terrific. Especially in the second half, the way he was chasing down rebounds. I love Alfred, I really do. I love how hard he plays, just the passion he brings. It's exciting. And the crowd appreciated, you could hear.  We made a lot of hustle plays today. I told the team after the game, it brings a lot of pride for me to have the first UCLA championship teams honored here today, and to see our players represent that heritage the way they did. To me, that's really special."

How does today set you up for USC?

"They're improved because they're healthy now. Leonard Washington is back. He creates a new dynamic, because of his rebounding and toughness. Gibson is a great shot-blocker. It's going to be a very tough game. They play different defenses and we have to prepare for that. But, you know, we have off until Monday, and, Go Steelers."

How do you think you did in regard to points in the paint?

"Our defense has been really good at pressuring the ball. We've been very active off of the ball -- helping each other and creating opportunities. I thought Jrue Holiday was spectacular this weekend. 15 points, five assists, one turnover for the freshman guarding the other team's best player. And those guys are good, I'm telling you right now, Christopher and Goods are very good players. And I thought Jrue was terrific in both games... you can see he's really starting to come on right now and that's fun to see because he's a special talent."

Was there more of an uptempo pace?

"We're always pushing it. The times that you get stops, it's much easier. It's much easier to run when you're not in-bounding under the basket. We're forcing a lot of turnovers. The easiest thing is when you create a lot of havoc with your defense. I thought Alfred, in both games, was tremendous defensively. He guarded Boykin one night and Hill today... I wouldn't want him guarding me."

Are you trying to force teams to play faster than they can?

"Our guys are going to push it when the opportunity is there, and there are more opportunities when you get stops. I know it's boring, I apologize, but it's the truth, it's like a broken record: it starts with our defense. And then we're making plays for each other, it's like having two point guards out there in the starting line-up because Jrue has a lot of point guard mentality in his game."

You said you had no complaints after Cal, do you feel the same way today?

"Well, I didn't know that quote would be emphasized so much, that was just kind of off-the-cuff. But, yeah, I'm very happy today. It feels good to win, and feel like the team's improving."

How important was it to respond like this after the Washington loss?

"Losing is adversity. I can't emphasize more, we have great kids in our program that are really good people. That's what you look for in recruiting. And when you have adversity, because there's so much expectation heaped on their shoulders, they handle that adversity very well."

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