UCLA vs. Texas A&M Post-Game Press Conference Notes
NCAA MEN'S 1ST & 2ND ROUNDS REGIONALS: ANAHEIM
March 22, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We'll lead off with a statement from Coach Howland and then open it up to questions for the student athletes, then questions for Coach Howland.
COACH HOWLAND: Well, that was reminiscent of a lot of games we seem to be in lately, where we're having to make dramatic comebacks in the last few minutes, but the one thing I love about our team is that they know in their heart they're always going to win the game. They're going to find a way.
And we did not play well the first 35 minutes. That had a lot to do with Texas A&M and how well they played. They are a very, very good team and very well coached. They took advantage on us in a lot of different areas. They shot a very high-percentage the first half.
I thought the first ten minutes our defense really tightened, but we did a much better job. Obviously there were huge shots down the stretch for us. Kevin's two little fall-aways were incredible shots. Speak of horse shots, those were like horse shot plays, unbelievable with that kind of, you know, stuff on the line there. Your season's on the line, and you can step up and make those plays, that's why he is a great player.
And Darren's two plays down the stretch, Darren really kept us in the game initially by all his threes. They were giving him threes. They were going underneath the ball screens and saying, that's how you're going beat us, so he did a great job of reading that. But I'm just really pleased we were able to sneak out of here with a win.
These are the kind of games you have to come out on top to be able to advance in this tournament. The seedings mean absolutely nothing in the NCAA tournament. So for anybody who doesn't understand that by now with all the different games that are going on and going every year, this is another class example.
A 1-9 seed, and the margin between these two teams that played today is very, very slight. Obviously the work we did in the regular season, and therefore playing close to home, was a big advantage for us as we made our comeback.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes?
Q. On the last Texas A&M shot there was a little confusion as to who blocked it and how it was blocked. Could you tell us the details of what happened underneath?
KEVIN LOVE: Well, you know, I saw him driving in there -- was it Sloan that was driving in there? I saw him fake it to the basket. There was only a few seconds left. I was going to try to step up and block it. I thought I had the right timing, but I think it was Josh who stepped up and blocked it. So many things were going down, and it was down to the wire that I didn't understand or see who blocked it, but after the game in the locker room we were talking and it was Josh, and he made a great play.
Q. Kevin, can you describe how physical the battle was down low with DeAndre and Jones?
KEVIN LOVE: Well, it was pretty physical. I would definitely say it's up there with Stanford, with the Lopez twins, and also Brockman and Wallace from Washington as well.
It was a very physical game. We expected that all along. Coach Howland was stressing that throughout the week. Since we beat Mississippi Valley State, he said it's going be probably the most physical game of the year, and it was right up there.
Q. Kevin, as Ben alluded to, you guys had worked all year with the idea of getting here for the first round. Having that crowd and having the noise level the way it was and the support that they gave you, how much -- how instrumental was that in putting you guys over the top? Would you have won this game if you had played it in another site?
KEVIN LOVE: I don't really know if we would have. You want to answer that one, Coach?
COACH HOWLAND: I say yes.
KEVIN LOVE: He said, yes, so I'm going to say yes too.
COACH HOWLAND: One thing that just popped out at me as I was looking at the stat sheet here that -- it's incredible that I didn't even know, because we just came right from the locker room out to here. There's a time constraint and everything. Eight blocked shots by Kevin today. He almost had a triple-double with rebounds, points and blocks.
Now he is not known as a shot blocker, per se, but that's pretty incredible. Eight blocked shots is big time.
Q. Speaking of the blocks, you had two underneath and then got the ball, got a foul and went over to the fans and kind of was pretty pumped up at that point. Did you feel like that right there was the moment that really got y'all's engines revving and got you going?
KEVIN LOVE: It's tough to say. I just wanted to get the crowd on our side. I wanted to get the momentum going for us. I felt like at that time the momentum was going our way. I just, you know, basketball's an emotional game, whether you like to show it or not. I was just very into it.
I think I flexed so much, my muscles kind of hurt after this, and also I stuck my tounge out so much that, you know, it was pretty crazy.
Q. They outscored you 26-6 in the paint in the first half. What adjustments, what changes did y'all make in the second half?
KEVIN LOVE: They were just more physical than us in the first half. You know, they played a very, very good game, and they're physical inside. They got a lot of players, four or five players 6'9" or taller. That's a team -- I think they're 25-7, and they kind of underachieved for the year, but they're a very, very good team.
Like Coach Howland said, for being the nine seed all the way down to us, a one seed, there wasn't much of a difference in our teams. They are very, very talented and very well coached.
Q. You guys were down ten points early in the second half to a team that was playing well. Did you at any time think, my God we could blow it here? And at what point did you think, okay, we got it?
DARREN COLLISON: It was still a ball game to be played. Once that buzzer goes zero, zero, the time clock goes zero, zero that's when we'll stop playing. We've been through that all season. Ever since I've been here we've been through adversity, especially in the tournament. So there's not quitting.
We had some games coming into the tournament where we've been down; We just stayed focused. We knew what we had to do; we knew who was going to win, and all the coaches said we just had to do the right things to win the game.
Q. You scored 40 of your team's 53 points between the two of you. Did you feel like you had to shoulder the load more than normal?
DARREN COLLISON: The plays are designed for us. We had to create -- whether it was me on the ball screens creating for myself or my teammates, or whether it was Kevin getting it down low and getting an easy shot down low. The plays are designed for us; can't be any better way, and we just took advantage of it.
Q. And sort of a follow-up to that, Kevin. Is there a point in the game where you sort of said, I'm the main thing that's working today, and I sort of have to take the team on my back and try to win this game? I know you are not trying to score every point, but the way things were going, did you ever sort of feel you might have to come through to win the game?
KEVIN LOVE: I felt like I had to get on the offensive boards, defensive glass as much as I could. Rather than that I was just finding the openings. The same thing with Darren as well. We did score 40 out of the team's 53 points, but it's team game. I'm never trying to be bigger than the team. I just found openings. The fall-away two buckets at the end felt good for me. Darren found the seam in the lane and hit big shots. So those last four shots are very, very big shots.
Q. Darren, you've played in Final Fours, you played against Gonzaga and Oakland. Can you rank this game as far as game pressure in the last five minutes or so and also the atmosphere?
DARREN COLLISON: I think it's been the same every second round game since I've been here. My first year we played against Alabama; it was pretty much like this, and Indiana last year. Like Coach says, the seedings right now, it doesn't matter who we play. Every team is going to give it their best shot. Today against Texas A&M, that's a very good team, it just shows everybody who plays is capable and tough.
Q. Kevin, speaking of your last minute shots there, what your coach called horse shots, describe what goes through your mind as you lean back for a shot like that?
KEVIN LOVE: I'm just looking at the back of the rim just trying to put it through the basket. You kind of dream about shots like that. You know, advancing to the next round, hitting big shots for your team. I just wanted to help us put us over the top any way that I possibly could.
It happened to be scoring. Other times it's passing, rebounding, taking charges. But, you know, what's going through my mind on those, I'm just, you know, praying that I make them and, you know, it goes through the basket.
THE MODERATOR: Any further questions for the student athletes? Thank you, gentlemen. Good luck in the next round.
Questions for Coach Howland?
Q. Could you talk about the difference in the paint between the two halves?
COACH HOWLAND: Well, I thought a lot of their points in the first half were actually off of ball screens, where Sloan was getting into the paint and creating shots for himself and for others. I thought that DeAndre Jordan came in and hurt us around the basket. He is big and long, and it's a really, really good Aggie team.
We knew that last year with our tough experience against them here a year ago, and I think they're better than they were a year ago; at least, against us they were for sure, because we're a better team, and they were handling us for a lot of that game.
Second half, especially the last ten minutes, we did a better job of hedging and staying with our hedge in the middle of the floor, and that's a little adjustment we made, to tell Kevin stay there and hold it longer, because he was just dancing around them.
Then when he got in the paint, we were matched up. Lorenzo got matched up and fell down. Kevin got beat a couple times with Sloan coming at him, so we probably should have read it, should have doubled it, but maybe we'll have to look at that in the future.
Q. They were saying you lost your voice, so obviously it was pretty loud out there. Going back to my earlier question about the atmosphere here and the support you got from this crowd and, you know, it probably did help push you over the top, that's something you guys have used all year as motivation.
Is that something that can reinforce it in the future, if you tell your guys, hey, this is what we're playing for, and this is the result, this is what can happen?
COACH HOWLAND: You want to come talk to our team, Jim? (Laughing). We meet again on Tuesday. That's pretty good. I'm impressed.
Q. I've been coaching from press row for years, so you know how that goes?
COACH HOWLAND: What we talked about after the game was that, you know -- and the same thing's been true, we're getting everybody's best game. It doesn't matter if we're at home or on the road. We've actually played better on the road than we have at home. And, you know, when the backs are more against the wall, and it's us against the world mentality, every game in this tournament is hard.
And that's why this is the greatest sporting event in all of American sports is because anybody can beat anybody. There's the little guy, the big guy, I mean the San Diego win over UCONN yesterday was incredible. The Western Kentucky win, unbelievable. That's why this thing's so great when you just look at following all the scores.
I mean, Belmont comes this close to upsetting a great Duke team. We knew it would be a dogfight. Every game is tough, and we understand that.
Q. Coach, everyone's talked about Kevin's two shots, but could you discuss Darren's two baskets at the end of his drives, and was that planned so he would maybe get fouled and get to the line?
COACH HOWLAND: Actually that was vintage Darren Collison. Driving down the lane, going right, high off the glass, kissing it in. The second one was really a blessing because that thing kind of rolled in had for us. And, believe me, I'm very thankful.
Q. Can you just talk about how frustrating it is when two of your people who you depend on scoring just had off nights, Shipp and Westbrook? They had very difficult times scoring in the first half, and even to a large extent the second half. How do you deal with that?
COACH HOWLAND: Well, you know, you are always going to have games where certain players may have an off night, but when you have a good defensive team, and they both played great defense, you stay in games and you find a way.
And really talking about it, it was Josh's defensive play up to -- at the end of the game, Russell gets a dunk. That's one of his three baskets. Josh made the play down the stretch, and he made a couple of rebounds. Luc did not play well today, and you could tell from a week off, from not playing, especially in a game, it hurts you.
But he steps up and makes big rebounds down the stretch. Russell made big plays down the stretch. So some people only see things from an offensive standpoint; whereas, I see the complete game. And at the end of the day these guys helped us win.
THE MODERATOR: Any further questions for Coach? Thank you, Coach. Good luck in the next round.
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