March 16, 2011
TAMPA, Fla. - Press Conference Quotes:
QUESTION: What have you seen on film that jumps out at you from Michigan State?
Jerime Anderson: I think that Kalin Lucas really runs their team very well, and as he goes, their team goes, and Draymond Green, those two players are really the key focus to their team.
Tyler Honeycutt: Same thing, the point guards are good at attacking screens so we're going to have to do a good job of plugging them to stay in front of them.
QUESTION: You guys have such a young team. Tell me how you guys have been able to be so successful despite your youth.
Jerime Anderson: I just think that the chemistry on our team is really high this year, and our team is really close, and I think that really shows on the floor when we play. And we're really pulling for each other to play hard and play together. And I think that's really a tribute to the success we've had this year as a team.
Tyler Honeycutt: Also the same, our chemistry. For a lot of the guys, we've played AAU, a lot of us have played high school together. You know, we don't have any seniors on the team, so for around the age group we're all 18 to 21, he's the oldest one, the only one on the team 21. We've got guys like him and Malcolm who have been to the tournament and know the process, so we're going to be following them and our coach.
QUESTION: Following up on that, your coach Ben Howland has been here before and he's been to Final Fours. How much of a advantage does a coach like that give you guys, and does he change at all when you get on this kind of stage? Do you see him getting even a little more intense than he normally is?
Jerime Anderson: I would say that the stakes are higher, so he has to be a little more intense with us, just wanting a little bit more out of us as a team. I think it's a huge advantage, though, to have a coach with us to have all the experience that he's had in the tournament, and I think that will help us during the game, especially in close games that we might see in the tournament, like this one coming up tomorrow.
Tyler Honeycutt: Same for me. You don't go to three Final Fours in a row for nothing. So even if you know we might not agree on something that he's saying, you have to respect it and do it because he knows what he's doing.
QUESTION: Ten of your losses are against teams that have made the postseason, so what are we to make of the team that you guys are now, especially when we talk about playing against the upper echelon teams?
Jerime Anderson: I think a majority of those losses were earlier in the season and we're a whole different team now at the end of the season. I think that we've come along really great towards the end of the season, defensively especially, and I think that that's really going to help our team in the tournament. As long as you play defense, you're going to be in every game, and that's what coach preaches to us, and that's what we try to portray out there on the floor. You know, we've had some tough losses during the year, but I think they've all helped us and we've learned from all those losses.
Tyler Honeycutt: I think defensively is a big part. We changed our whole scheme of what have you done for years from hedging screens to plugging screens, and it's helped us out tremendously. We've improved every game for the most part. It's like, you know, one of the worst games that we had all year the last time we played, but that was a learning experience, added to many, not to underestimate any teams, especially since we beat them twice. We kind of underestimated them, so we learned from it. We're going to play on from here up.
COACH HOWLAND OPENING STATEMENT: I just want to say it's great to be here. Our team is very excited to be in the tournament, and we've got a very tough opponent who has more experience than anybody being in this tournament over the last couple years for sure, and so we're looking forward to the challenge of playing against a fine Michigan State team.
QUESTION: I think we're all struck by the caliber of programs that wound up in Tampa and the coaches, too. I'm wondering if you could comment on the thought of having to go through Tom Izzo and then potentially Billy Donovan just to make a Sweet 16.
COACH HOWLAND: Yeah, it's never easy, and this is especially difficult when you look at what Michigan State has done over the last 12 years. They've been in the Final Four six times, and the previous two years' tournaments to this, to be in the Final Four both years is incredible. So they're very much a team that's got experience in this tournament, led by some guys who are key components to those teams. You look around the room this time of year, it's great coaches, great players. It's pretty typical of the NCAA Tournament.
QUESTION: Michigan State is seeking its third straight Final Four appearance. You all made three straight not too long ago. In your experience are there any unique challenges to that third time around, anything different?
COACH HOWLAND: You know, that's a great memory, being there three times in a row, very difficult to get there once, so it's always difficult. Seems like any time you get to a Final Four, you look at teams that get there, there's always a game that you're really fortunate to get past, to move forward. For us in '06, it was Gonzaga being down 17. And in '07, we had a difficult time with Pitt. In '08, we almost lost to Texas A & M, I think, in the second game. So it's always very difficult to advance in this tournament.
QUESTION: You have such a young team, and how do you manage guys who are essentially learning on the job as this tournament goes along?
COACH HOWLAND: Well, I think in some ways it's a good thing. There's a lot of youthful exuberance and excitement about this tournament. Our main thing is to just go out and focus on what we try to do night in and night out, which is play real hard and play good defense and try to do a good job with Michigan State in transition because they push the ball so hard and so well. And then also with them it's a battle of the boards, and they always are a very good rebounding team and do a great job off the glass. We just want to focus -- the ball goes up, it's basketball, and we want to do a good job executing the things that we normally emphasize.
QUESTION: I know you're well aware of the tradition of UCLA before you got the job, but since you've been sitting in that seat and had the job, what's it like to carry that forward, to be in charge of a program like that with instant recognition wherever you go?
COACH HOWLAND: It's amazing. It's really an awesome responsibility. I really appreciate and understand what a privilege and an honor it is to represent UCLA as the men's basketball coach. You know, my first seven years Coach Wooden was alive and just passed away this past June, and what he meant not only to UCLA basketball but the game of basketball as a whole is something that we'll never see again, at least in my lifetime. So I really relish the history and tradition of UCLA, having grown up with it, watched those great teams play as a kid. So no one is more appreciative than I am at what a special honor it is to be the coach and to be affiliated with the program.
QUESTION: Kalin Lucas is obviously a stud from Michigan State. Can you talk about the challenge of matching up against a guy that talented?
COACH HOWLAND: I'll tell you what, he's a really, really hard guard. I remember he was the Big Ten player of the year two years ago, right before he hurt his Achilles tendon. He's a special talent. I watched him in the Big Ten Tournament get 30 against Purdue just last week. I mean, the guy is amazing. Watching him on tape against Ohio State at Ohio State or Illinois at home, he's a big time player, and he's going to be especially difficult to try to contain him and keep him within reason tomorrow.
QUESTION: I've got to ask you, as a former Santa Barbara guy, you probably always consider yourself a Santa Barbara guy. Are you looking past Michigan State at the Gauchos on Saturday?
COACH HOWLAND: No, I'm certainly not, but I'm excited that UCSB is here in the tournament. They're in the same region with us. I was with Jerry Pimm for the first two ever tournament appearances by UCSB, so I'm always proud and excited whenever UCSB has been invited to come back. Bob has done a great job. I think it's his third time now because it's the fifth overall for the program. It's great for UCSB and I'm really happy for all the Gauchos out there, and I always have a special place in myself for the time I spent up there in beautiful Santa Barbara.
QUESTION: At what point this season did you see this young group of yours grow?
COACH HOWLAND: Well, I think that after The Finals of the first quarter, we really got to focus on basketball at that point. At that point we were 3 of 4, and I think we won 16 of our next 20 or something like that. It really helped to be able to start to focus on just basketball there for those few weeks before we started a new quarter again. And then obviously the win over BYU in the Wooden Classic was a big steppingstone towards really getting the season going and headed back in the right direction.
QUESTION: Between Jerime and Malcolm, that's 32 postseason minutes; Kalin Lucas alone has 322. How do you prepare for a team that tested with a team that's so untested?
COACH HOWLAND: You know, at the end of the day it's a basketball game, and our guys have been a part of a lot of those this year and in years past. You know, they definitely have a lot of players that have a lot of experience in the tournament, and so you can't make up for that. But we're going to go out and play real hard and really try to play to our potential, and if we do that, good things are going to happen.
QUESTION: How is Malcolm's knee holding up? Long flight obviously, so how is his knee holding up, and what do you expect?
COACH HOWLAND: We just had a very good practice over at a local high school before coming here for the shootaround. So he practiced Saturday; we had a great practice on Saturday. Then he practiced on Monday and Tuesday and went through all of practice on both those days and again today. Now, I'm not going to have him shoot today so he's not having to re-warm it back up and go for the 35 minutes we have out there. He's fine, and he's actually practiced really well. I see him getting back to his normal 35 minutes a game.
QUESTION: After that Oregon game, you said you were going to come back over the weekend and put them through a pretty rigorous practice, and you just said right now that it was great. Was there any embarrassment coming off that Oregon loss that kind of is fueling that renewed sense of maybe enthusiasm or whatever you want to call it?
COACH HOWLAND: Well, I think I talked to the fact that I was embarrassed about how we played last Thursday, both after the game and then again in our press conferences on Sunday and Monday. But I think the biggest motivation that our team has right now is now they're in the NCAA Tournament, and it's a big deal. It's very, very exciting. You know, only a few kids get the opportunity to play in this tournament, and I know I relish it and I really try to emphasize for the team what a special honor it is to be in this and to be a part of it and to have the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament.
QUESTION: As a veteran coach, do you feel like you handle games like the Oregon game better than maybe you did years ago? How do you -- I know you internalize things a lot. How do you handle this last thing, and do you think you're better at that?
COACH HOWLAND: You hope you get better as you mature and get older. But yeah, it was very disappointing right after the game, and we responded exactly how I wanted us to, which was to come back and really get after it in our practices. So yeah, I think that the -- we had been playing so well, too, just a couple weeks ago. We played our best game of the year against Arizona. So it just goes to show you how important it is to just have 100 percent mental focus and be really prepared.
QUESTION: How has Malcolm looked? Is he pretty much close to back to where he was?
COACH HOWLAND: Someone just asked that. Malcolm actually practiced great on Saturday and again when we went again Monday. We kept him to about an hour, and then the last two days he's been going the entire practice. I'm not going to have him shoot today just because he's already gone really hard, warmed it up, iced it down. So we're just going to keep him from going through another warm up, cool down period. But I expect him to play his normal minutes tomorrow. No question, he's had really good practices. He's looked fine. Our game in the tournament, in the Pac-10 Tournament, I think there was a little hesitancy in the back of his mind, and I think that's gone now. If you asked him that, I think he'd tell you the same thing. He had a good practice again today and shows no signs of any effect from anything with his knee.
QUESTION: Have you seen any wide eyes coming into this? Have you seen them very excited? I know you guys had the presidential escort deal to the airport. Have they been handling that kind of stuff well?
COACH HOWLAND: I think that was fun for them. We'd like to have that any time we go somewhere. That makes things easier, to have the police escort. That's always good, especially on the LA freeways. But yeah, they're excited. But our guys, they get a lot of attention as it is being the second biggest media market in the country. You know, they're probably a little more used to a lot of exposure and a lot of people watching than most.
Locker Room Quotes:
On this game ...
"With Michigan State, they are a good team. It is going to be a battle."
On what the team needs to do to win ...
"We just have to play hard and limit our mistakes. When you get to the NCAA tournament, it is anybody's game. And when it comes to the NCAA tournament, it usually comes down to the team that limits their mistakes and takes good shots."
On playing in a big game ...
"We have played in big games. We played in Madison Square Garden, we played at Kansas where we had like 15 fans of like 17,000. I mean we have played at a packed USC arena, Oregon, Washington; we have played in some big games. I am not nervous at all. I have always been loose."
On getting to Tampa ...
"It was crazy. It was the first time I have ever dealt with something like that. For them to shut down the whole 405 for us to get to the airport was crazy. Yeah, it sunk in as this is a big deal because usually we fly with everyone else and the regular people on the plane."
On shooting well early ...
"It is good and can get contagious. Then the drives can open up and the passes to the wings. We want to work inside-out."
On facing Michigan State ...
"To be honest, I try not to focus on the other team and what they are going to do and how they are going to play. I just know that if we go out and play hard and play our game, that at the end of the game we are going to have an opportunity to win. I think that is our focus all the time."
On some players being a little sick or injured ...
"I do think that at the end of the season some guys might be a little sick or injured, but that is no excuse for not playing hard. Now that we are here at the tournament, we have no excuses to put out there. We are here and ready to play."
On the one-and-done mentality ...
"I think that we are approaching it well, knowing that we can't slip up. We have to be on our game and on our game every game. It is going to force a sense of urgency on us right away. I think it will be a good thing for us."