THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, coach. We'll ask that you make an opening statement.
COACH 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.
THE MODERATOR: Questions first for the student-athletes, please.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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?
Luc Richard 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Jordan 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.
Q. 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?
Jordan 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.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. We'll bring Coach Howland back up. Congratulations. Questions for coach.
Q. 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?
COACH Ben Howland: 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.
Q. 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?
COACH Ben Howland: 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 Vedder 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.
Q. Could you talk specifically about the defense you guys had on Glen Davis tonight. He was 5 for 17 from the field.
COACH Ben Howland: 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.
Q. 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?
COACH Ben 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.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, coach.
COACH Ben Howland: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Brady, we'll ask that you make an opening statement.
COACH JOHN BRADY: To address the game, I thought the first 10 or 12 minutes of the game, UCLA, they were able to get us back on our heels. We really weren't able to really recover from that or make up the deficit that we created for ourselves or they created for us the first 10 or 12 minutes.
You know, there was a combination of guarding us well, then the shots that we were able to get, we couldn't make them. I think it was because they came at us early, doubled Darrel Mitchell off of every ball screen. We weren't able to get any rhythm with the ball.
When you're not making field goals, the next thing you need to do as an offensive team is get to the foul line and make up the lack of field goal production by making free-throws. Well, one positive thing that we were able to do is get to the free-throw line 28 times, but we couldn't score it from there either tonight. We'd been a 69% free-throw shooting team throughout the season, almost 70.
It was just one of those situations where it wasn't working. But I compliment UCLA for the way they guarded us the first 10 minutes, 12 minutes. I thought the last 25, 30 minutes of the game we kind of did a little bit better. In the second half defensively, you know, UCLA's numbers, you know, they struggled with it too offensively against us guarding them. I really compliment them for the first 10 or 12 minutes. That was the difference in the game. We weren't able to recover.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Can you talk about how difficult UCLA's defense was tonight. As painful as the subject is, how good was their defense tonight?
GLEN DAVIS: Well, UCLA did a great job of defending. You know, what can I say? Like their coach said, tonight was their night. They performed well. They handled the task at hand. You know, we were kind of shocked, you know, about -- you know, we were down, we tried to get back. We just couldn't get up. They kept on fighting, kept on fighting.
We tried to do some good things. But, you know, it just didn't go our way today. You know, that's how it happens, man. This is basketball. It's so unpredictable.
DARREL MITCHELL: Well, you know, like he said, they played excellent defense on us. It's something we faced all season. Tonight we just didn't handle it as well as we had in the past.
But, you know, it's just one of those things where they shot the ball tremendously well in the first half, like coach said. The first 10, 12 minutes of the game predicted the game. We outscored them in the second half. We defended them a little bit better in the second half. But that first 10, 12 minutes, we couldn't bounce back from that.
Q. Did you ever see this type of game unfold, being dominated for a lot of game? Did you ever see how that could happen?
GLEN DAVIS: No, I never seen this coming. You know, I never seen this type of game coming, especially the kind of team we are, the kind of character we have. But, you know, you never say "never." They came out and they just punched us. We didn't recover from it.
Q. What was your impression of Mbah a Moute and the defense he played on you tonight?
GLEN DAVIS: I think Moute played a great job, he did a great job. He was real active. He's relentless on the boards. You know, he has a high level of potential, being so young.
You know, he did a great job. Tonight was his night. They played wonderful. He did a good job. I wish the best of luck for him.
Q. Darrel, you're the last guy to get introduced, sitting on the bench. What were your thoughts before the game, then at the end, what was Garrett saying to you?
DARREL MITCHELL: What was Garrett saying?
Q. At the end.
DARREL MITCHELL: Well, my thoughts before the game, just we wanted to go out there, have fun, play tough defense, execute, win the game. But unfortunately, you know, things didn't go our way tonight.
I don't remember what Garrett -- I don't remember what you're talking about. My head was in another place at the end of the game. I don't remember what he said.
Q. How discouraging were those three dunks UCLA had just to start the second half?
DARREL MITCHELL: It wasn't really discouraging. You know, they hit us quick again like they did the first half. But after those three plays, we knuckled down on the defensive end. We slowed them down a little bit.
You know, we're a tough team. We didn't give up. We kept fighting back. We didn't have enough time to complete the task at hand.
THE MODERATOR: Darrel and Glen, thank you very much. Congratulations on a great season. Questions for Coach Brady, please.
Q. John, was there something besides the foul situation that caused Tyrus to sit so long in the second half?
COACH JOHN BRADY: Well, we just didn't think he was playing as well as he was capable of playing. We thought we'd try to give some other guys an opportunity to play a little bit better. That was really it. Wasn't anything else. I mean, he did get in some early foul trouble. I don't think he was ever really mentally as sharp as we needed him to be in terms of executing and who he was guarding, thinking about what they were trying to do against us.
Plus coupled with his foul trouble, we just thought we'd give some other players an opportunity to see if they could make us play a little bit better.
Q. You guys got back within I think nine points. You kind of weathered it a little bit in the first half, then went through that bad stretch. Was that demoralizing a little bit to you guys?
COACH JOHN BRADY: Our timeouts were fine. We were positive. I think our guys were a little taken aback because they thought they could -- not only did they guard us well. When we did get an opportunity to score, we weren't able to score. I've never seen Glen Davis miss five or six gimmes around the goal. They guard us well. Maybe because they guard us early as they did, they got maybe Glen rushing around the basket. I thought he broke free a couple of times, weren't able to complete it.
We knew that we'd have to make a few perimeter shots. You know, we weren't able to do that. Coupled with their interior defense on our bigs, maybe making Glen rush, Glen got 17 shots at the basket, that's probably the most shots he's attempted in the last five or six, seven games, or as many.
We kind of got it to him where we needed to, we just weren't able to convert. We didn't make anything from the perimeter. We were 0 for 6 from the three-point line. Again, I thought the first 10 or 12 minutes, UCLA was much better than we were in terms of aggressiveness. It got us on our heels. Maybe from that point on, we never were really able to gather ourself offensively, make timely shots, or score the ball around the goal.
I have think we settled down in handling the ball. We had some careless turnovers in the first half, but I thought really the last seven or eight -- seven or eight of those were early, then we wound up with 15 for the games. We had less turnovers in the game than UCLA. They had 17. That was really a trade-off as it went along.
We just weren't able to generate anything offensively. When we did have the opportunities, we were able to beat their defense a little bit. We never were able to get any kind of consistent offense or take advantage of the shots that we did have. Then again, we got to the foul line 28 times. When you can't score a field goal, then you get fouled but you can't score a free-throw, it puts you in a real difficult situation offensively to try to win a game against a team as good and well-coached as UCLA is.
Q. How did the Bruins' speed affect Glen specifically? Seemed to get a little winded at times.
COACH JOHN BRADY: Their speed affect him? Glen did get a little tired. "Speed," you're talking about running up and down the floor? They had a little more depth. They rolled some guys in there at us. They would sub three guys at a time. Although they're not a fast-breaking team, and I think they scored a few baskets early off of some turnovers, but we settled that down a little bit as the game went along.
I thought Glen was fine. He got winded a few times. We took him out and set him. He played 31 minutes, which is about right for him. It wasn't like we extended his minutes.
I just thought he kind of missed some baskets that he normally would have made. I've seen him all year long, make some of those, convert those. He got a little frustrated out there with missing some balls he thought he should have made also.
I think the key to it all - I have to repeat this again - is early on how they came at us, got us on our heels, defended us. Maybe because of that we rushed a little bit offensively when we did get some opportunities. They did a nice job. I'm not going to sit up here and say what we didn't do. I think sometimes in a game like this, the other team is a little bit better than you are this particular night. I think overall that's really what happened.
Q. Can you talk about Darrel's game tonight, kind of reflect on this is his last one. All of your other players will be coming back.
COACH JOHN BRADY: Well, I hope you're correct in the prediction that everyone comes back but Darrel. That would be really nice.
I can't say anything about Darrel Mitchell that you haven't already heard me talk about. He's a wonderful young man. He's the star of your team in a sense. You know, I hate to use that term. One of your better players, if not your best player, and he's your lowest-maintenance guy. In today's college game, when your best player or one of your better players can be the guy who is maintenance-free, it's certainly a pleasure for a coach to have a young man like that.
His game tonight, they did a nice job. I'm not saying Darrel had a bad game; I'm saying he didn't play as well as he would have liked because of what UCLA did to him. They did a wonderful job doubling him off every ball screen. It looked like us guarding JJ Redick. They were not going to allow Darrel Mitchell to get any rhythm of offense. That's smart. That's what's other coach is supposed to do. We didn't do a good enough job of countering that in any way.
But the rest of his career has been -- he's been in four post-season games, the NIT, three NCAA tournaments, won a Southeastern Conference championship, two Western Division championships, he's averaged probably 21 or 22 wins a year since he's been at LSU. His senior year, gets to go to the Final Four for the first time in 20 years of the program. He's going to graduate on time with over a 3.0. What a wonderful statement for a student-athlete.
Not to sound as Dale Brown used to say Pollyanna or anything, he goes back to his mom and dad and family. He's got a close-knit family in St. Martinville. His grandparents live there. His mom and dad grew up there. His father was his high school coach. What a beautiful story for a young man to come to college, have a wonderful career. You know, the way the college basketball game is set up, unless you win it all, you always lose your last game. It makes it difficult.
He's had a wonderful career. We'll never be able to replace him. He's made me a much better coach by having the opportunity to coach him.
Q. UCLA has played really good defense for a month or so. Is it at such a level that it's perhaps even hard to prepare for on the practice floor, to mirror what your kids are going to face in the game?
COACH JOHN BRADY: I think Texas A&M guarded us really well over in the Jacksonville second game that we were able to win on a Darrel Mitchell 25-foot shot. You know what, that's college basketball. Their defense is sound. They understand rotation. They understand help-side. They're a much better rebounding team, at least tonight against us. We couldn't rebound the ball tonight for some reason. That's really our strength. They took that away.
But they're very sound. Now, they have a -- Florida will have a few more weapons to score the ball than we do. Florida can shoot the perimeter ball a little bit better than the LSU team I coach. They may can spread them a little bit more, make it difficult to concentrate on one perimeter player as they did with us in Darrel Mitchell.
But certainly I'm sure they faced other teams that have multiple scorers, and I'm sure Ben Howland will have a plan about how to guard Florida.
But they're very sound defensively. I think one key to them tonight that we didn't see as well on tape, and it's hard to see a team on tape, the physicalness of the team, you lose that. But what they did tonight in addition to defending us well was rebound the ball quite well in traffic against Glen and Tyrus. I have to compliment them on that. I think that was one of the keys to the game early. They gave us nothing on the offensive board early on. They were able to get a couple against us and put them back.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach. Congratulations on a great year.
COACH JOHN BRADY: Thank you.
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