HOUSTON HEAD COACH Kelvin Sampson
“First, I want to give Connecticut a lot of credit. Their kids played with a lot of toughness, a lot of moxie. You can tell that their backs were against the wall. They played well today. We played well up until a certain point. Our big turning point in the game was when the score was 49-41. They got a steal, went down and missed it; that was a rebound that we probably should have had. As a coach you want to get that missed rebound because it was there to get. We didn’t follow it up. It was disappointing. Then they made some shots.
When a team is coming back at you, there are certain intervals, certain plays in the game, where it is really important that you do things well; one of those is free throws. You have to make your free throws, it keeps them at bay. You can’t have empty possessions where you work it and get the ball inside and get fouled. You have to make those free throws. When it 49-41, we missed four or five free throws. They are a great free throw shooting team, and we have been a great free throw shooting team until recently. We are up five, we get the ball, come down, get the ball inside, and foul… two free throws. Now you are up seven. We missed the two free throws, they go down and make two and now it is a 3-point game. If you do that a couple of times, then you don’t have a lead anymore. That is important; turnovers and free throws… that is what extends leads.
I felt that this was a game that we would have to earn. I felt that our defense, for the most part, was very good until the last two or three minutes. That is a talented team. They have very talented guards, (Sterling) Gibbs, (Jalen) Adams, (Daniel) Hamilton obviously, and (Shonn) Miller; they have a good team, but I still like my team. We didn’t win today, but there are some things that happened that makes me believe that we can learn from this and get better.”
On Devonta Pollard’s game
“It is hard to score when you can’t make a basket. I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night. He (Pollard) took seven shots, and all seven of those shots were open looks. Those are shots he can make. I am convinced that he was trying to make them, but he just missed them.”
On missing open shots
“I always hate it when the other coach comes in and says that we had all these open looks like the other team wasn’t guarding us. They were guarding us. We did work to get some open shots. We had a lot of good looks, from the 3-point line and from the two. Basketball is a simple game. There is a reason they have a scoreboard. it doesn’t keep track of stops; it keeps track of points. To get that thing to start clicking, you have to make those shots. We’ve been making those shots all year, but we didn’t make them today, and we paid for it.”
On the takeaways from today’s game
“I’ll grab my computer tonight and sit down, watch every play and make notes. I’m sure at the end of the clip there will be some frustration, but there will be some things that I can glean and help us get better. Their (UConn) small lineup was good. it helped take away our bigs. You have to make shots.”
On the speech to team with six minutes left
“A week ago we were the No. 1 team in the league in taking care of the ball. Sometimes when you get down, and maybe we haven’t been through enough wars together with as many new guys as we have, when you get down, there is a tendency to try to do too much; I know I called a timeout for that reason. When we move the ball, the ball is shared, and that is when we are at our best.
We challenged too much tonight in traffic. We didn’t make a lot of shots in the first half either, but our defense was good. We are trying to score in traffic too much, but that is something that we can learn from; those things are correctable.
On moving on and focusing on the next game at SMU
“That is college. This is the difference between college basketball vs. college football. You can lose eight or nine games and still get to the Final Four. The key is to stay together and keep working to get better. We have played five games in the league and we are 3-2. We have been in both games that we lost. It was a 3-point game with five minutes to go in Cincinnati. Today, we had a 1-point lead at the 6-minute mark. We are right there. We could be 5-0 or 4-1, but we are 3-2.
SMU is obviously one of the best teams in the country, and when that game is over, we still have 12 more games. Our season is not going to rest on SMU; it better not. Our job is to continue to work to get better. That team (UConn) had two conference losses, Tulsa and Cincinnati have two conference losses, and so does Temple. We only had one, now we have two; we are like all those other teams now. Temple has a home loss, and Cincinnati has a home loss. We are not a dominant team, I don’t know even know who the best team in the country is, but that is not us. We can lose games, but this is a game that we could have won, and we have to figure out how to win it the next time.”
On UConn’s run at the end of the game
“That is easily explained. We don’t press a lot with our small lineup because that lineup is not out there that much. Our small lineup is what won us that Wyoming game. Wyoming stayed big, and we stayed small. Tonight we went to a 1-2-2 press, and we had our little guys back. Our little guys were going up to where they normally are when we have our big lineup so we didn’t have the hole covered.
I take responsibility for that. That is not their fault. I have to do a better job of making sure our little guys know where to go when we go small.”
On the crowd tonight
“We had a great crowd today. We are slowly but surely building this. This is not a 1- game fix or a 1-year fix; it’s a process. There’s no progress without the process; you just have to go through it. We have to continue to build this. I’m proud of our team. I’m proud of where we are. I was proud of our fans today. We’re going to have some more big games here and, when we are in a fist fight with a really talented team, like UConn, and there are big possessions defensively, that’s when crowds make a difference. You go to these opposing arenas and we were at Cincinnati the other night when it was 59-56 and that place was lit.
“Our crowd did a great job today. We’ll get better at that. We’ll both get better at that. Fans will hear about our team, and we’re going to grow with our fans and our fans will start making Hofheinz a tough place to play. I’m convinced of that.”
On the poor shooting performance
“I don’t have anybody that’s better than them to put it; if I did, I would. Devonta (Pollard) never takes bad shots. Most of his shots are open shots. He has had games where he went 7-for-7. The basketball gods… they’re quirky now; they’ll get you, and they didn’t smile at him tonight. But if we play SMU and he takes those exact same seven shots, it wouldn’t surprise me if he goes 6-for -7because he has before. But he had great looks. He did. He had great looks.
(Damyean) Dotson will tell you the same thing about his looks from the three. Dotson had a lot of great looks. Dotson had the same looks from the three tonight that he had against South Florida, and we wouldn’t have beat South Florida without Dotson’s threes. But we’re doing other things good too. We defended them well. Last two minutes we had some breakdowns; we had some weird lineups out there. But I don’t worry about that; that’s not an issue. The thing is that even with all the adversity we faced, whether it’s not shooting the ball well or not doing our normal job on the offensive board, our kids kept competing.”
HOUSTON JUNIOR GUARD Damyean Dotson
On overcoming the loss
“We competed the whole game. Like Coach Sampson said, we haven’t been in enough wars together. So when our backs were against the wall after (Sterling) Gibbs made a couple of threes, everyone didn’t come together to try and change that. Everyone just started holding their head down. In the locker room after the game, I told my team ‘don’t get comfortable, we really haven’t done anything.’ We just have to stay together because we have another opportunity.”
On fixing the slow offensive start
“Coach Sampson always says, ‘we’re not a great first-shot team’. We were telling each other we need to go get the offensive rebound and get a stop. Just keep attacking and getting good shots, and they’ll fall eventually.”
On being 3-2 in conference
“I’ll just take what we have right now and just keep working with it.”
On preparing for the next game
“I just have to stay focused on defense, keep getting rebounds like I know I can and listen to coach.”
UCONN HEAD COACH KEVIN OLLIE
“In the locker room, our motto was 30 tough, and that means we are tough for 30 seconds. They did phenomenal in the second half, cutting them down. Even in the first half on that last run, it was six minutes to go, and they (Houston) were up by one and then we went on a 16-point run. Sterling (Gibbs) was huge. Phillip (Nolan) made some great contributions, and Jalen (Adams) grew up a little. He had a turnover, but he gave us dimension - moving the basketball, penetrating. Everyone stepped up on the bench, and it was just a great team effort.”
On Daniel Hamilton
“It’s all about those offensive rebounds. He played within himself. He wasn’t shooting the ball great but he was getting to areas that we like him to shoot. He had a little bit more poise even when he got to the baseline, jump-stop, pump-fake – he has a great pump-fake – getting it to a guy, getting to the free throw line. The second half, we were solid. We had nine assist and three turnovers in the second half. That’s just playing solid basketball. We owe ourselves, and we owe our team to play with effort and 100 percent, and they did that tonight.”
On team’s effort tonight compared to the season so far
“This is the best I’ve felt so far. But it’s also the best I’ve felt in practice, because our heart was in the right place in these two practices. I didn’t know what the scoreboard was going to say at the end of the game but I knew our heart was in the right place. I felt that in practice. It can go back and forth but I feel like we can do something if our hearts are in the right place, and everyone is fighting together.”
On keys to holding Devonta Pollard
“Shonn (Miller) did a great job, but we got him in foul trouble. He had two coming out of halftime, and Shonn got his third on him, and it threw his rhythm off. He’s an outstanding player, but that was one of our keys. Also, slowing down (Rob) Gray Jr. He had 12 in the first half and ended with 15. Those were our keys. We followed the game plan, and it was a great win.”
“They were getting all the rebounds. I’m going to throw these guys a party. It was the first time we outrebounded the other team in our five games in the AAC, so I’m going to throw them a pizza party. “
On changes in starting lineup
“We were trying to get something new. Jalen gave us another dimension, and I can get Sterling off the ball. I wanted Rodney (Purvis) to come off the bench and give us energy. He gives us a little more punch off the bench. Kentan (Facey) has been playing great for us. Shonn is kind of foul prone and so is Kentan. Within four games, one got 14 and one got 12 fouls, which is way too many. When both of those guys get in foul trouble, then it does mess up our rotation. I wanted to get Kentan coming off the bench, so if Shonn did get a foul early, which he did, I can just bring Kentan in.
On team success
“We’re making foul shots, but the key was we didn’t turn the basketball over. In the second half, we had nine assists and three turnovers. We had nine turnovers at halftime, and that is just not solid basketball. We cleaned that up, and we started getting shots to the basket, and the defense did phenomenal. That is the toughest defense I’ve seen them play so far. It was just a great victory for us. Just stay positive. We stayed positive in the huddle with the guys, we kept believing, and that’s what it’s all about. I’m very happy with these guys. They showed some fight and some resiliency. It was a great two practices in Houston, and it was a good start.”