HOUSTON HEAD COACH Kelvin Sampson
On tempo of the first half
“Yeah our defense was really good until the 15 minute mark. You’ve got to make some baskets. There is a reason why they have that scoreboard up there. It keeps track of the points. We had a lot of good looks. “
Memphis is a talented team. In terms of talent Memphis is one of the most talented teams we’ve played this year. We know Cincinnati, Connecticut, SMU and Memphis are the four best teams in this league. Right now the biggest disparity is the size, the physicality.”
On freshman JC Washington and sophomore Danrad Knowles against Memphis front court
“There was nobody who played harder than JC Washington. JC is 6’4 battling 6’10 guys. He did the best he could. I’m proud of JC. He’s 6’4 and a half; those guys are 6’10. Devonta Pollard is 6’8 200 pounds. They struggle with that. Danrad Knowles played one of his best games so far. His numbers won’t show it, but he had seven defensive boards. Had we not played good defense especially over the first twenty-five minutes of the game that could have got ugly, but our defensive rebounding was good.
On adjustments made during game
“We have certain line ups that we play that we tend to break down with. I’ve got to figure out how to solve that problem. For the most part we battled and hung in there. This team doesn’t give up a lot of three-point attempts because they do not give in to the drivers. For instance you saw L.J. Rose get into the paint and usually L.J. kicks out when he drives, but today he had to finish and his shot was blocked, because they stay attached to our shooters. That’s where that ball has to get on the rim and (we have to) do a better job of offensive rebounding.
Now we shot 33 percent, that’s not very good obviously. Missed a lot of shots. But the thing I’m most disappointed with tonight, even though I’m always disappointed when we lose, but of more disappointed, of all the shots we shot tonight we only had three second chance points. That’s unacceptable.”
On Memphis front court
“This team has great length, great size and great depth inside. They have about four or five power forwards or centers. We don’t have any. We don’t have any power forwards or centers. I’d like to trade with them. Of course they might not want to trade with us. The one thing that is our kryptonite is what teams like this have, and that’s their length and size inside.”
On what he needs to see from his players
“To compete harder. There is nothing in our game that’s overly complicated. I never analyze it. It’s a real simple game. It has been. I was a graduate assistant when I was 23 years old. That was 36 years ago. I said it then, and I’ll say it today: it’s to compete.”
On how important it is to play the best basketball to get into postseason play
“On a normal year it’s important, but I’m not worried about it this year. On a lot of years, that’s been a big focus. My biggest concern is, and I’ve said this from day one, we’re not Memphis, we’re not SMU, Cincinnati, Connecticut or Temple. We’re trying to establish a foundation of culture. We had great practices this week; our best practice. That’s why today is a bit disappointing. We didn’t play better. Devonta (Pollard) is really good this year. Chicken (Danrad Knowles) was really good. L.J., Leron (Barnes), Jherrod (Stiggers) were all really good.
We have weaknesses, they’re apparent. We don’t have much depth and much size. There’s a reason why we’re shooting below 40 percent. We have to overcompensate for those things with the things I want to carry forward with this program. We’re going to get size in here. We’re going to recruit. Going forward, we’re going to flip this thing around and we’re going to be good one day. But this year, I’m not worried about how we’re playing in February. I’m not worried about anybody’s tournament. I’m more worried about when this season’s over, and we go into next season having developed a culture. Our foundation is going to be how hard we play, and I might have to change the lineup four or five more times going forward. That’s more important to me right now than how we’re playing in March.”
On the fans saying he is the guy to get the program back to an elite level and what it means
“Well I would think that’s why they hired me. That starts with (Vice President For Collegiate Athletics) Mack (Rhoades) and (Chancellor/) President (Renu) Khator. Now’s not the time to evaluate that or even ask them that question. This program has not won an NCAA tournament game in 30 years. That’s what we’re dealing with. We have a long way to go, but that’s why I took this program over. I wanted this challenge. Don’t base anything on what we’ve done over the last 4 months. You’re talking about 30 years not having won a tournament game, and we’re sitting here worrying about what we’ve done since November. I don’t care about that. What I care about is getting those kids to understand what it’s going to take.
I’ve taken teams to Final Fours, Elite Eights, Sweet Sixteens. I’ve won a bunch of Big 12 Championships. It was done with a foundation. It was done with a culture. It was also done with multiple, multiple recruiting classes. That will come as we move forward, but for right now, today, I’ve got to get these kids playing harder, get them tougher and get them doing little things for me. That just takes time. It doesn’t work overnight. There’s a thing in the San Antonio Spurs practice facility. It talks about the stone cutter hitting the wall and on the 101st time the wall broke. It wasn’t that blow that made the wall break. It was all of those that came before. That’s the process we’re under right now. We’re hitting that wall every day. It hasn’t broken yet, but we’re going to keep hitting it.”
On J.C. Washington and his energy in the game
“Devonta wasn’t putting the effort that I wanted, so I said J.C. go and give us energy. He gave us great energy. You’re talking, this kid was playing in high school last year, and here he is playing against one of the biggest front lines in the American Athletic Conference. He’s six four and a half those guys are six ten. It just shows you what you’re going to do with effort. That’s what we’re going to build this program on. That’s going to be our calling card going forward. From here to the end of the season. I’m going to play the kids that are going to play hard. That’s it. I have no obligation to anybody. My obligation is to this program. This program comes first.”