HOUSTON HEAD COACH Kelvin Sampson
"Our kids really competed hard. Our guys have been pretty consistent with that for a while now. We had to learn how to play hard; how to compete. Our focus on defense was outstanding for 40 minutes. They run a lot of unconventional stuff. We defended the three-point line well. We rebounded well, and then we took care of the ball.
We're an offensively challenged team. We're going to be that every game we play. That's who we are. We don't score the ball really well. We don't shoot it great. If you have to ask why, then you're not watching the game. We're just not a great offensive team. That's just what it is. So, we have to figure out other ways to win the game. For us it's defense and taking care of the ball and rebounding. In those three areas tonight, we were outstanding."
On the team's shooting in the second half
"I know we made some open shots. I don't know that our shots throughout the second half were any different than the ones in the first half, but they didn't go in, in the first half. Sometimes we would want to have a big complicated analytical answer, but it's really a simple game. Eric Weary shot wide open threes every time he got it. He was open from the three point line every shot. He didn't make one.
Jherrod Stiggers shot the same shots the first half as he did the second half. He's a streaky shooter. Sometimes he makes them; sometimes he doesn't. First half he didn't make them. Eric didn't make them. You look up and we have 22 points, but they only had 20 because of our defense. That was our focus. We never know when and who is going to make a shot. That's just the way our team's built. We posted LeRon Barnes up a little bit more tonight. That paid some dividends. Mikhail's (McClean) aggressiveness: he took nine shots. I didn't see Mikhail take nine shots in practice the whole year. I'm being facetious.
It's really what makes coaching special. The first kid I signed in Oklahoma, Ernie Abercrombie, came by practice today and spoke to the team. He was my first recruit in Oklahoma. He lives in Houston. He stopped by and I had him speak to the team and then I'm sitting in between two of the highest character kids (Mikhail McClean and LeRon Barnes) that any coach can ever hope to have. You talk about genuine, unbelievable integrity and character. That's what these two kids are. Sometimes when the chips are down it's the good guys. It's the guys that live their life the right way and practice hard every day. They get rewarded. I'm glad that these two guys had good games tonight. It's because of who they are as people, who they are as human beings and how hard they work for this program."
On LeRon's defensive efforts to take Rice sophomore guard Marcus Jackson out
"Coach Alvin Brooks had the scouting report. Coach Brooks did a great job with the scouting report. We came up with a plan on how to guard Marcus Jackson. You can have the greatest player in the world, but if you don't have someone that can execute it. LeRon, we felt like the thing with him was not grabbing his three pointers, it was not giving him any. He shot two threes; none in the half court. One he got blocked out of bounds and one L.J. (Rose) had backed up too far in transition and shot it in his face. That's only two threes he attempted. So that was part our game plan.
You don't stumble into not him having any threes attempted. We did a great job across the board. We defended them pretty good. We looked at them; they played the mess out of Texas. Most people don't remember them playing Texas. I watched that game. Rick and I have coached against each other a lot of years, and I look over at him, and he's worried about that game at the four minute mark. That team's hard to guard because of how unconventional they are. You have to have a plan. We had a good plan tonight and our guys really executed it."
On student attendance
"I'm not used to seeing people in sections. I said "wow that's a good look." But you know what? Get used to it because all the sections will be filled up eventually, and I know where this is headed. I know exactly where we are headed. This place is going to be packed.
Mikhail, LeRon, and all the kids on this year's team, they'll look back, because they are the ones that put the first bricks in the building. You build a foundation. You don't start with a kitchen or the "rec" center. You start with a foundation, and we are building a great foundation this year. We are not worried about making the tournament or how we are doing this or that; our team is getting better.
Last week we had probably the toughest week you can have in our league. We played at Cincinnati and SMU. We were up on Cincinnati at halftime, and with seven minutes left in the game we were down four. Our kids are playing hard. We have a hard time scoring. Now tonight, our defense was good throughout, but we had great production off the bench which we normally don't get. "Chuck" (Cavon Baker) came in and did some good things. Mikhail was our best player. These were our two best players tonight, and L.J. (Rose) may not always have great offensive stats, but it is hard to play without a good point guard, and L.J. was a good point guard tonight."
On the game plan for UConn
"That is our next conference game. We will come in tomorrow and flush this game out of our systems. I'm not sure which assistant has the scouting report for UConn, but I'm sure we'll meet in the morning. This is an important four game stretch for us. We have Rice, UConn, then SMU and Tulsa. It is an opportunity for us. We are going to have some good days at practice, continue to work to get better and see if we can't go get after the Huskies."
HOUSTON SOPHOMORE FORWARD Mikhail McLean
On his performance and what he attributes it to
"I just played in the flow of the offense. I decided to be more aggressive for once, and it paid off."
HOUSTON JUNIOR GUARD LeRon Barnes
On opening up the second half and how they did it
"We were just a little more focused. We've been focusing in practice all the time, so that carried over. Coming out of the half, we were just focused. We were ready to play for 40 minutes. That was the main thing; play for 40 minutes."
RICE HEAD COACH MIKE RHOADES
"It was ugly, ugly on all fronts. We talked about being excited to play, but we had no juice today. It was disappointing. We've been playing aggressive, getting after it and getting after opponents, and we didn't do that today.
Hats off to Houston, They played a good game. They did some good stuff to attack our defenses. When you don't play with energy and emotion it is really hard to dig out of holes, and we did that today. We got desperate at the end of the game. We were in desperation mode. We were so much more aggressive and got some really good shots, but we needed to play like that about 36 minutes earlier."
"We've got the "yips." We are giving them to the other team, and so many of them are unforced. That is not being locked in; that is relaxing. You're a player, and the other team wants to win too, so you have to be on edge all the time, and we weren't today. Our post player can't have four turnovers throwing it out of the post. One of our best handlers can't afford turnovers because the defense is a little bit stronger; it is unacceptable.
This will keep happening until we take care of it ourselves, and sometimes you learn the hard way, and it takes a while. Other times some teams catch it right away. Our guys right now are in a position here where we are going back into league now, and we can play in our league, and we can win games in our league, but if we are going to beat ourselves then we have no shot."
On team's play
"We don't do anything different. There is a certain way we play, and we are going to be aggressive the way we play, but you can't pick up your dribble multiple times, you can't drive in there and jump up in the air and pass the ball and take an off-balanced shot, and you have to play smarter no matter who we play against.
We didn't do it against Houston, but we played some really good teams throughout the year, and we played the right way, and hats off to them. We were just really bad today. I can't sugarcoat it. I love my guys, and we play hard, and they're trying their butts off, but we weren't very good today."
On game planning for North Texas
"I'm not an excuse guy. I'm not going to talk about our roster or guys playing a lot of minutes. We have to get better, and guys have to take care of it themselves too. Whatever game plan you have is fine; players have to execute game plans, and we have done that throughout the year, and that is why we have had some really good games. We didn't do that today, and we have to take that upon ourselves. We will address that tomorrow at three o'clock, and we'll get after it tomorrow.
We are going to have two great days of practice going into North Texas on Saturday. You can't play basketball in a passive mode. It doesn't work. It just doesn't work, because the other team, they want to win too, and they are going to see that, and they are going to go after you. In the second half of Louisiana Tech and pretty much most of the game today we were passive, and it is disappointing because we haven't been like that all year long despite our record."