March 20, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by UCLA student athletes. We'll open it up for questions.
Q: You had some losses from last year personnel wise. Coming into this year, what are your expectations, your view of the season? Have you surpassed them yet? Have you fallen under them during the regular season?
Josh Shipp: I mean, first and foremost, just being at UCLA, you want to win championships. That's our goal every year. We did lose a lot of significant personnel. But, like I said, we have that goal every year. Coach did a great job recruiting, brought a lot of young guys in to help us out.
This year we did have a few mishaps. We didn't get our first goal, which was to win the PAC 10 championship. We didn't reach our next goal, which was to win the PAC 10 tournament. We're here now, hopefully we can make a deep run. Hopefully we can do that.
Darren Collison: Pretty much everything that Josh said. You know, a little bit in the beginning of the season we didn't really know where we was at because we had a lot of young guys. But as we kept rolling, as you start winning more games, we got accustomed to each other and knew each other personnel wise.
Q: Darren, how is your back feeling?
Darren Collison: Back's feeling all right.
Q: No residual soreness, a hundred percent?
Darren Collison: Well, I wouldn't say a hundred percent. I don't think nobody's a hundred percent going into this tournament. You'd be crazy if you said that. We played a lot of games, physicality games. I'm about nearly 90 percent. But I'm feeling fine.
Q: What kind of toll does a game going down to the wire like that take on you? Could you go to sleep right after the game?
Darren Collison: Well, we had no choice. We didn't get home till like, you know, 12:30. We didn't go to bed till around 2 or 3. We was pretty tired after the game. It was emotional at the same time because one shot could have definitely jeopardized our season, our career, me and Josh's last year. But we got it up. You know, the object of the game is to win as much games as possible. Just to win one game, we did exactly that, now we're moving forward.
Q: I want to get a scouting report on Villanova from y'all.
Darren Collison: Well, you got Scottie Reynolds, their point guard, a very good player. A good penetrator. His freshman year he put up a lot of big numbers. He's looking to score a lot. He can shoot the ball as well.
Then you got Anderson and Cunningham, who have 50 points between the two of them, very good players. If we can contain those two, we should be all right. You have Fisher coming off the bench, a good ball handler. These guys can put it on the floor really well. They got a lot of good guard skills. If we continue to play defense like we did last night, I don't think it should be a problem.
Q: What kind of adjustments do you have to make when they put out a number of guards on the floor? They can do as many as four at a given time.
Darren Collison: Well, we run about four guards ourselves, too. Josh Shipp, myself, Jrue Holiday, and Nicola, he's getting better at guarding the guards as well. Cunningham is more of a four man than he is a five. It matches to how we play.
It should be an interesting matchup. I think everybody matches up really well and it should be fun to watch.
Q: Given the way you play with Coach Howland's defense, that's the key for him, those guys in that locker room do the same thing. They love playing ugly. Do you relish the fact it's probably going to be a dirty it up 55 51 kind of game?
Darren Collison: Well, that Big East matchup, that's all it is. Just winning ugly. Coach Howland, he is a coach from the Big East. It kind of tends to rub off on us, as well.
You just want to win as much games as possible throughout the regular season, all the way up to this point. No matter how you win it, everybody is going to talk about the results. We understand that they like to play ugly. But we won some games playing ugly, as well. You don't want to play ugly, but that's just how the game matches up.
Josh Shipp: Yeah, like I said, we're at the point in the season where it doesn't matter how you can win, if you get a win. If it's an ugly game and we win, we're fine with that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.
We're joined by UCLA head coach Ben Howland. Coach, we'll ask you for an opening statement.
COACH HOWLAND: Thanks to all of you for being here today. Without further ado, questions are available.
Q: Coach, it's been kind of common among these Big East coaches to refer to teams they're playing against at Big East teams. They mean I guess with a big frontline, very physical type of team. I know you have some Big East blood in you. Do you consider UCLA a Big East style team?
COACH HOWLAND: You know what, we've been bigger and probably more physical the last couple years. This year we're not quite as big up front.
But the Big East mentality of playing defense first, and that's what wins for you, doing a good job trying to take away the other team's ability to score easy in transition, fight for rebounds, that's going to be key tomorrow.
So I enjoyed my four years in the Big East. I think it's a great league.
Q: It seems like every year you have to reload because you have guys who are leaving earlier than you probably would have hoped. What is that like for you year in, year out?
COACH HOWLAND: This past year was really tough because we had three kids leave early, and they're all starting for their respective teams in the NBA. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Luc has done an incredible job. He came out early and I think went the sixth pick in the second round. Obviously, Kevin and Russell were the fourth and fifth pick in the draft and we lost a really good senior, Lorenzo Mata Real . I'm pleased with our team, considering all the experience we lost, that we're having another good year.
Q: What are you expecting from this Villanova team? What are your keys?
COACH HOWLAND: They're a very good team in transition. They want to get up and down. They have very good guard play in Reynolds and Fisher. They have a lot of different wings. Basically, it's like playing against four and five guards at times. You know, Cunningham posts up, but he has a very good face up game, 17, 18 feet. Very strong around the basket.
They have a very strong bench. When you bring in Fisher, Stokes, the way he shoots the ball, Peña, who has been a starter at times during the year, they have eight very good players. I really like obviously their wings. Redding is a very good player, as is Anderson. So there's a lot of problems to match up with.
Q: Coach Wright was in here. The question was raised about playing here in Philadelphia, the proximity to Villanova. He made the point that once the ball goes up, really it's a ballgame, nobody really is cognizant of where they're playing. Do you agree with that?
COACH HOWLAND: Well, they may not know where they're playing, but they know that most of the building's rooting for them. So there's no question it's an advantage for them to be playing at home in a building they're familiar with, with most of the people who are gonna be in the seats tomorrow rooting for them.
We understand this is like the only true road game in the NCAA tournament. We're gonna come out and play like it's a road game. I think at times we've been a very good road team, not only this year but the last few years.
Q: Given you've tried to mix in a lot of younger guys, freshmen, how has this affected defense? How hard has it been for the kids to adjust to how you want them to play, to you to be patient with them?
COACH HOWLAND: You know, I don't think we've been, as a team, as good a defensive team as we've been the last few years. We've been better offensively, and not quite as good defensively. That's for sure. Going into the PAC 10 tournament, we were leading the country in field goal percentage. Now, since then we've had three games that have dropped us out of there. I'm sure we're still in the top five or so. But our defensive field goal percentage has not been very good. That's really the key for us. If we can do a good job defensively, it gives us a chance against Villanova tomorrow. If we don't play good defense, then it's going to be a long day.
And they're a hard team to defend. There's a lot of ball screens, there's a lot of transition. They're very good off the dribble at isolating guys that can penetrate, draw and kick. Cunningham in particular is very hard to match up with inside and is good around the basket. So we've got our work cut out for us.
Q: Jay was talking about your team. He said your team reminds him of a Big East team because they're physically and mentally tough. That is an attitude you wanted to instill when he came from Pittsburgh?
COACH HOWLAND: I didn't come in with the idea that we're going to turn them into a Big East team. But, I mean, all good teams are physical and mentally tough. I don't think you'll find many teams that don't have those attributes that are very successful.
We try to play good defense. We try to do a good job rebounding the basketball. We want to take good shots and be a team that makes the extra pass and plays smart but yet really tough and hard nosed.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.