Friday UW and UCLA Quotes

LOS ANGELES - For the Washington Huskies, the stakes couldn't be any higher. And because of that fact alone, that means UCLA will have all the motivation they need to try and bounce the Huskies off their Pac-12 perch Saturday morning at the LA Sports Arena.

Here's what Lorenzo Romar, C.J. Wilcox, Aziz N'diaye and Ben Howland had to say about the game, which would clinch an outright conference championship for UW if they could prevail.

Lorenzo Romar:
On playing at the Sports Arena - "I was a late bloomer. Seriously. I couldn't play in a place like this. I didn't get recruited out of high school; I had to go to community college. The first time I played in here was when I played for Washington when we played the Trojans."

On what it's like for him to come back home - "It's fun, but it's not as special as it used to be because I've done it so many times. I'm just used to it. When I first used to come back I used to just look around - and I still do, to an extent. When I was a sophomore in community college, a good friend I grew up with named Don Carfino was playing here at SC and he left me tickets to one of their games. After the game I went to the locker room because I was with Don - my guy. There was music playing and one of their players named Willie Brigham was talking to me. He was talking to me about how he had to get more shots and play more…I was listening to him. More half listening to him, because I was looking around at that locker room and looking at those uniforms, and I was like, "I have to get here. I've got to find some way to get to this level'.

"USC began to recruit me. The told me they had four guys they were looking at, and if they didn't get one of the four then they would offer me a scholarship. So I was constantly reading the papers to see if they got one of those guys. Sam Worthen went to Marquette, and Darryl Mitchell went to Minnesota, and the other guy - Dean Jones, the third one - he committed. So there it was. I remember that."

On if it's more special to win it in LA - "You could say it's happened because of the Pac-12 Tournament. The Pac-10, we won it in Staples, so it wasn't this place. But in Los Angeles, that's always been fun for me personally. But I don't know if it would have any more significance being in the Sports Arena - even though Muhammad Ali fought here when he was Cassius Clay."

On if it means more getting a chance to win it against UCLA - "I don't know what they think, but in my opinion it's a good team we're going to have to play really good against and it'll be special because you really had to bring it against a good team. But because it's UCLA, it doesn't add any extra significance for me."

On trying to neutralize UCLA inside - "We just have to be more aggressive and we have to put our bodies on them a little earlier and more aggressively. They kind of picked spots they wanted to go on the floor last time and just went and took the spot. We can't let them take those spots."

On if Aziz's wrist will be affected bodying up against UCLA's bigs - "No. Rarely do you push with your hands. More with your body, your hips."

On getting physical with UCLA's Joshua Smith early - "You have to do your homework early, or you have no chance. Zero chance. Once he establishes himself in the low block, he's just going to move you out of the way. It's tricky because some guys that big and strong will just run you over. He doesn't do that. He just moves and moves and you're backing up with him. It's hard. He's a tough cover. Then he'll turn; if he feels you jump to the side he'll drop-step and now here comes the violence. That's tough to deal with. It's not dirty, it's not illegal or anything.

On finding a way to beat him - "Like I said, you have to do your homework early. You have to get to that position before he does. You've got to beat him to the spot."

On watching the WSU-UCLA game - "That game reminded me…Washington State looked like us against Oregon. And Oregon looked like UCLA last night… they were just hitting on all cylinders: 11-16 from three; getting backdoors; guarding…I don't know if they've played a better game this year from the games that I've seen."

On feeling sad for UCLA in the wake of the SI story - "You never wish that on any program, that someone decides to write a piece about all your dirty laundry. Most programs have some sort of dirty laundry. you can almost go into the basketball list of universities, pick one at random and then decide to hand out and spy on their program - you're going to find dirty laundry. So whenever someone does that and exposes all of that - you never wish that on any program."

On if he's talked to anyone in his UCLA circle about it - "Not really, but it seems like that's how it is all the time at UCLA. 'I can't believe what's happening!' My first year at UCLA, I joined them after they came off an Elite 8 year, and people were saying 'I can't believe what's happening!' It had nothing to do with off the court stuff, it was like, 'They can't play defense, they can't do this, they don't do that…' It seems like there's always a cry for things aren't working…it's just that this has been a different twist.

"But when I was younger - I might have been 11 years old - it came out that Lew Alcindor and Lucious Allen had been caught smoking marijuana, and I couldn't believe it. No, those guys don't do that - they are athletes. They are my heroes. They don't do that. So that came out, and I remember it; that was a big deal back then.

"Stuff happens sometimes in programs; just pick and choose what you want to write about."

On if the pressure to win at UCLA is greater in the Pac-12 Conference than anywhere else - "Within our conference, I would say yes. I would say the pressure to win here is…Kentucky, (North) Carolina, there's a lot of pressure to win there too. In those places they sell out every game, and they complain when things aren't going well. But they are there. But here at UCLA a lot of times they get upset, but then they stop coming to games - which is different than some of these other programs."

On the banners casting a large shadow - "It's just always going to be that way. A donor of UCLA talked to me about their program a few years ago, and he was complaining. I was like, 'They've been to three Final Fours!' and he said, 'But they didn't win it!' Okay, there's no use in me talking any further. But that's the mentality, which is totally unfair, totally unrealistic."

On if there's a connection between the program and the city, or if there's a disconnect now - "The program was…UCLA was it, was everything. The Bruins, the Dodgers…it was a big deal. So there are many that are older now but still feel that way. They are totally connected."

On the early start - "They start at the same time, so we have to bring it. We have to be ready to go."
C.J. Wilcox:
On his health - "Hip-wise, it's not too much pain. As far as the game, I'm glad we got at least co-Champs, but…"

On feeling 100 percent - "Still a little bit off, not 100 percent. But I feel like my confidence on the floor is back. I'm not thinking about it when I'm out there anymore."

On the UCLA game - "They beat by Washington State by 30 and they gave us a good run at our place, we barely won. We know they are going to come out and compete and we have to bring our 'A' game, play one of our best games of the season."

On Gant telling the team not to wear cool jackets - "Just going out there and thinking we're going to win the game with ease. We have to stay focused and make sure we take care of business."

On feeling loose today during shootaround - "We're just kind of still celebrating being co-Champs, but we know tomorrow we have a really serious game and we have to get focused."

On the UCLA game in Seattle - "We weren't rebounding the ball well and Josh Smith was having a really good game and we were having a hard time stopping him. He's been a big emphasis for our scout and we have shut him down and keep him under control and just win the war on the boards is the biggest thing. They were killing us on the boards, so that's the biggest emphasis that we have."

On how tough it is to guard Smith - "He's a big body, and he moves people and catches rebounds a lot, so we just need to limit him to one shot and try and get the boards so he doesn't keep putting them up off the glass."

On finding him off switches - "I tried to avoid that. I had to get there for the trap a couple times when they threw it into the post, but I was never one-on-one with him."

On another element UW has to stop - "Just their offense, just staying dialed into their offense. Sometimes we get lazy and they get a lot of flare screens and stuff. They got a couple of flare screens on us last game, so we have to execute the scout - just like every other game. We have to handle our business."

On what it's going to take to win - "A whole lot of focus; everybody has to be dialed in and we can't have any no-shows from anybody."

On nervousness knowing it's a national stage tomorrow - "Not for me. We've played in big games before. Same-caliber game; it's going to be on national television and stuff like that. We just know that if we come out and play our game, we'll be fine."
Aziz N'Diaye:
On the wrist - "It's okay. It's alright. It's the same thing…sore and it hurts."

On playing against Josh Smith and it being easier because he's big like he is - "I like playing guys like Josh because he likes to post up, instead of those guys that like to play out on the perimeter and I have to run around."

On what it's like when he tries to get position - "He's a big body. When he catches it deep, there's not much you can do. Fighting for position is going to be a big key."

On what's the key to stopping him - "The big key is guarding as a team. I'm doing my best to pushing him off the block and on the other side will be help side…we have a good plan for tomorrow, so we'll see."

On how much of tomorrow's game is about UCLA or playing for a Championship? - "It isn't about UCLA. It's about us and how much better we want to be. We want to win the championship, so that's a big key. We need that game. We are just going to come out and bring it as a team, and whatever happens, happens."
Ben Howland Friday Teleconference Quotes: How was Lazeric Jones today (ankle)? - "You know, I talked to the trainer. I haven't seen Zeek yet, but he didn't have any swelling last night. So my expectation is, not knowing, we're 25 minutes away from practice, that he should be able to go through the walk through that we're going to do."

What about Josh Smith then (banged up with multiple injuries)? - Josh, same thing. The trainer hadn't seen him yet, but Josh and he had spoken and sounded like Josh was OK, at least in Josh's estimation. If anything changes with those guys, if they aren't able to do the walk through, I will alert Ryan Finney, so that he can reach out to you guys and let you know."

Why did Terrence Ross give you guys such a hard time last time? - "Because he's arguably the best player in our league. He's a complete player."

Can you talk a little about the differences between the two teams since you played in Seattle? - "We were 5-4 at that time, and they were 7-2, so they went 8-2 and we went 5-5, so that was a big game for us. I watched the game again today, and we were up ten with less than six minutes to go, and got whistled for fouls on three occasions in the next couple of minutes that they scored six points on rather quickly. I'm just watching one of the plays right here. It's hard to watch when you know we were right there, with a ten point lead and with the ball, even. But they've had a great year and really done a nice job. And Ross, Tony Wroten have been terrific. Wroten is the freshman of the year in our conference undoubtedly, and does a great job for them. Ross is like I said arguably the best player in our conference. So, those two guys, and then their other guys. Wilcox has done a really nice job for them all year, Abdul Gaddy has been a steady influence for them. They've done a good job. Darnell Gant, the fifth year senior out of Crenshaw High School has really done a nice job for them. So they've got a bunch of guys that have really played well and Lorenzo's done a really great job for their team.

Ben, at this point can you really see much of a difference whether you guys finish fifth or sixth? - "Well yeah, it makes a difference, no question. It makes a difference in the Pac-12 tournament. But for us it's more about playing the best team in our league right now, who's in first place, and going out and giving our all. And playing our very best."

But what would be the difference? You said it'd make a difference - "Just the path that you take between being the fifth seed and sixth seed to get to advance in the tournament."

Ben, of all the teams you guys have lost close games to, this is one of the few you get a second crack at. How much motivation is there to get some revenge? - "We were disappointed we lost that game, both right after the game and…but it's not revenge, as much as they're very good. Our kids obviously respect them. And we want to go out and really play well tomorrow."

How important do you think it will be to get a win going into the Pac-12 Tournament? - "I think it'd be very good for us, and important. Especially against a team that's in first place, that has already won a share of the league championship."


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