HOUSTON HEAD COACH KELVIN SAMPSON
“It’s such a long season, and you have to be able to adjust. You have to be able to figure out what is it we need to do. The only person who can figure it out is the coach. We came in and watched film as a team on Sunday. When we left that meeting Sunday, we knew what we had to do, and that was push the pace. We’re no good when we’re slow because we attack man-to-man defenses pretty well.
Teams were starting to slow us down and make us play in the half-court. Cincinnati is a half-court defensive team. They want the game to be slow. They beat a lot of teams there. There’s nothing to be upset about losing to Cincinnati. Our pace was starting to slow down.
Then we came home and played Connecticut, and our pace got a little bit slower. Then we go to SMU, and we got our pace back up again because they played us man-to-man. Then we came home against South Florida, and we were almost playing backwards we were so slow. The good thing is we figured it out.
Tonight from the get-go, as soon as that ball was tipped, we were on the balls of our feet running. This team is built to run. Again, we’re in a process here. We’re not a finished team. Tulsa has nine seniors. That team is what it is. We’ve been here 18, 19 months.
When I recruited Galen (Robinson, Jr.), I told him we want to run; we want to be a fast team. Galen is not a half-court, slow-it-down point guard. He wasn’t built that way.
Our pace was really good tonight. Our energy level was really good. We’ve been a good team all year, and we’ve lost some tough games. In the four games we lost, really the two losses you look at are just Connecticut and South Florida at home. I’m not apologizing for losing to Cincinnati or SMU. We competed our tails off in those games. We’re a good enough team to have won those two home games, but we didn’t play well enough.
We played well tonight. We figured out how we have to play the rest of the year. Danrad Knowles is not a low-post scorer. Look at how many dunks he got in transition tonight because he can run. Look at Rob Gray, Jr. early tonight. All of his baskets came from transition. Look at what Galen (Robinson, Jr.) was doing every time he pushed it. We’ve got to get the game into an 80-possession pace. It was a good win because Tulsa is a good team, but the thing I was most proud of tonight was how we won. We won playing the way we have to play.”
On the starting lineup
“We’d lost four in a row, so anybody is a starter. I could have started Bertrand (Nkali) at two and been justified. I started a point guard in Galen (Robinson, Jr.) at two, and Rob (Gray, Jr.) at three, and Damyean (Dotson) at four, Danrad Knowles, and a five in Kyle (Meyer). We don’t really have a starting lineup.
The one thing I tried not to do tonight was substitute as early as much as I have been. In the NBA, everybody knows when they’re going to go in and come out; it’s a pattern. It shouldn’t be like that in college because it’s a shorter game. We only play 40 minutes; the NBA is 48. There are four, 12-minute quarters. We have a two minute time-out at the 16, 12, eight and four (minutes). You should be in shape. You get to sit on your butt for two minutes. Not to mention, each coach has four time-outs and these referees blow the whistles like they’re experimenting with them all the time. There are so many dead balls, so get in shape. Play 30 minutes of the game. That was probably Galen (Robinson, Jr.)’s most minutes he’s played, but it’s also the best he’s played.”
On the pace of play
“When you are playing so slow, every shot is under a microscope. There was lethargy, and I said we have to fix that. A good thing is that it is fixable. There are some things that aren’t fixable. We had some things going on last year that we couldn’t fix for obvious reasons, but with this team we scored 105 points against LSU. We scored almost 80 at Murray State and on the road at Temple. We are a fast team, but for some reason, we were starting to slow down. We had to remind our guys who we are.
The film session Sunday night was a start. I had a radio show Monday night, and I told the listeners that Monday’s practice was the best one of the year because that practice was boom-boom-boom, we were getting at it. We came back yesterday and had another good practice.
On his team
I have high-character guys. I don’t really worry about anything with any negativity. Think about it… we are 14-6. Think about the teams that are 6-14; those are the ones that are struggling. We are 14-6 and 4-4 in the league; you can easily make an argument that we could be 6-2. If we were 6-2, we would be in first place. I don’t count SMU because I’m thinking of the first seed in Orlando. That is who we are. We are a team that, when we play with pace, we can beat any team in this conference, but when we don’t, anybody can beat us.”
On the improvement at the free throw line
“Nobody shoots more free throws than us. Just because you work hard on free throw shooting every day doesn’t mean that you are going to go from bad to good in 24 hours; this isn’t instant oatmeal. It is a process. We have worked hard at free throw shooting, and it is starting to pay off now. It doesn’t pay off two hours later or two days later.
Our free throw shooting was a by-product of hundreds of hundreds and hours of hours of free throw shooting. Each assistant coach picks out two or three guys, and they have to make 100 free throws every day. Because we didn’t shoot well from the free-throw line the last game doesn’t mean we are not working at it; it just takes time. Some guys can go from being average to being pretty good, and that might be their window. One of the things that helped us tonight is that (Danrad) “Chicken” (Knowles) only shot two (free throws). He had been shooting eight or nine free throws and has been killing our percentage.”
On second-half run
We didn’t let off the pace. During that stretch, Chicken (Danrad Knowles) had two dunks in transition. Leron (Barnes) had a layup in transition. We had a lot of guys getting easy baskets. Before, we slowed down. We’re not good slow. Maybe we will be next year or the following year. But right now, the way we’re built this year, we have to play with great pace.”
On the play of Devonta Pollard
“When you get 10 or more rebounds, you sign the bubble. He might’ve signed it once earlier in the year. But that’s the best energy that he’s played with in a while. When we were good early, Rob (Gray Jr.) was good. Devonta (Pollard) was good. A lot of guys were good. Go back and look back at the four games we just lost and look at Devonta, Ronnie (Johnson), and Rob’s numbers. If you take Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Andrew Bogut from Golden State and put somebody in their place, they’re not going to be as good.
Your guys have to play. You have to find ways to get them back in the fold. We have high character guys. This is an easy team to coach. I can’t emphasize that enough. I’m lucky that we have really good guys. That carries over to the classroom. There are seven guys with a 3.0 G.P.A. We have a team G.P.A. over 2.8. Everybody passed an average of 14 credits. Think about that. We have good guys. They’re all going to graduate. That’s the kind of program we’re building here.”
On the play of Galen Robinson Jr.
“Less is more this time of the year. I didn’t mind rotating that position because neither one really separated from the other. Neither one had the right to say that I should be the starting point guard. I didn’t see any separation. But one of the toughest environments we played at was at Cincinnati. Galen (Robinson Jr.) was really good there, Ronnie (Johnson) struggled. Galen was pretty good at SMU. So I said, we’re going to Galen for right now. Galen didn’t know it.
I don’t know if you can rotate point guards. Like the old saying, if you have two quarterbacks, then you don’t have a quarterback. But Ronnie and Galen can play together too. When I was recruiting Galen, I loved him the first time I saw him because he was what you look for. He is a point guard. You’re either a point guard or you’re not. There is no gray area at that position. Point guards are point guards. That’s what Galen is. He’s not a two-guard. He’s not a combo-guard. He is a point guard.
As we build this program, he’s one of the guys we’re building around, he’s a freshman. I also love the fact that it’s a part of our future. The city of Houston is important to us. You look at the three kids that were major contributors tonight, Galen is a Houston kid, Damyean Dotson is a Houston kid, Chicken (Danrad Knowles) is from the Bahamas, but he went to high school in Houston, so we’re going to claim him.”
FRESHMAN GUARD GALEN ROBINSON JR.
On the pace of the offense
“The past couple of games, I’ve gotten away from who I am and that is a fast-paced point guard. So I had to get back to playing our brand of basketball which is pushing the ball, getting open shots in transition, and being aggressive.”
On his aggressive attack on offense
“I just came out tonight and just wanted to play aggressive. We’ve been watching film, and it was kind of embarrassing because I was being so passive when I could be making so much more happen for my team. So I tried to come out and do that tonight, and I did a good job of that.”
On making a run in the second half
“Usually, when we have a lead, and they go on a run, we sometimes separate from each other, but we stayed together. That’s what helped tonight. We kept on being who we are. We didn’t panic. We kept on finding the open man, and it just happened to be me tonight, and I was making shots.”