HOUSTON HEAD COACH KELVIN SAMPSON
“If you’re a fan and you just want to watch a good basketball game, that was a really good game. Both teams were going back and forth, making shot after shot after shot. We didn’t have a lot of juice early. When things aren’t going your way, you just have to keep fighting. Just hang in there.
The first half was very similar to our game against SMU, but our guys are fighters. We have established a culture here where we don’t give in to anything. We just hang in there, keep fighting. Keep looking for something.
We had a hard time with the man-to-man. (Shaq) Goodwin and (Dedric) Lawson, those two guys are outstanding. The thing that makes Goodwin so good is that he can drive it, post it, pass it and make free throws, and that’s a good combination.
There’s certain times where you can tell we need Rob Gray Jr. because he’s one of those guys that can go get you 25 (points). In the first half we needed somebody to make some baskets, but we just kept fighting and hanging in there. Coming into the game, the game plan was to get the ball to Devonta (Pollard) and have him drive at Goodwin, but Goodwin did a good job defending him the first half. Then we just kept moving him around with our different sets. We picked and popped. We picked and rolled. We threw behind, threw it in. Get him on the elbow and make him turn and face.
Devonta (Pollard) has fallen in love with the game of basketball. I can tell his maturity and how far he has come as a player and as a person by how much time he spends in the gym now. Just really proud of him. He’s developed into an outstanding leader. He’s one of those kids you love to coach and be around. A game like tonight, we’re going to give him the ball as much as we can.”
On opening up the floor in the second half
“We put our wings deep in the corner. That gives him (Devonta Pollard) space and opens up our spacing. But if Devonta was doubled, then we knew we had driving lanes. I didn’t necessarilyy say I didn’t want threes, but that’s certainly not going to be the first option. The game plan was real simple. We were going to go to him. Just like you could tell what their game plan was. They have really two good big men. That (Dedric) Lawson kid’s a load. Shaq (Goodwin) is really good too.
The unsung hero on this team tonight was LeRon Barnes because he made those big baskets that kept us in it. He had a 3-point play, a couple of big threes. Then we ran our stuff. We kept running some misdirection stuff, then we would finish with a pin down, and Damyean Dotson would come off that pin down and hit that free-throw line jumper. Our offensive execution tonight was great. The attention to detail was good.
The bottom line is Devonta made shots. He’s good enough to make those shots. They banked in a three in the first half which kind of punctuated how things were going for us, and then Devonta was falling down and chunked one in down there. But we were still minus in that exchange.”
On containing Shaq Goodwin in the second half
“Just guard him earlier. We went in and said we were going to start guarding him at halfcourt. The first half we were running side by side with him and then all of sudden he could pin us, catch it and it was too late. You have to get your work done early against a good post guy.
That’s why I put Bertrand (Nkali) in there. I said Bert, I want you to foul him with your chest. You can hit him with your chest. So we just started guarding him at halfcourt. We’re going to body him all the way down to the block. It just made it harder for him to get it. He just didn’t get as many opportunities. Devonta turned in to World B. Free. He scored and said now it’s your turn. I score, now it’s your turn. He started going World B. Free with (Dedric) Lawson. He scored and then let Lawson score.”
On bouncing back after the loss
“We have very good discipline. It takes a while to develop all this. We have a good team. I’ve said this all along. We have a good team, but we’re not machines. These other teams are good too. We were outplayed against a really good team that was desperate. I liked the way we bounced back tonight.
We’re 17-7 and 7-5 in the league. All we have is an opportunity on Saturday. We have a chance to be 18-7 and 8-5. You just go from there. Our kids are pretty good at sitting down and figuring out what it is we have to do to win the game. Not having Rob Gray Jr, there’s an emphasis on other things. I just like the maturity that this team has. Our discipline has been really good. Galen (Robinson Jr) was good. Damyean (Dotson) was good offensively. LeRon (Barnes), I just have so much respect for that young man. Devonta (Pollard) might have been the best player in the conference tonight.”
On preparing for UCF and the conference tournament
“I haven’t thought about that. These guys need a little bit of rest right now. UCF is one of those teams that is talented; you have to really prepare the right way for them. I don’t think we are good enough to overlook anybody. As far as the conference tournament, just to show you how much I know about it, I didn’t even know what the format is. I haven’t thought about that, and I won’t. We have a big opportunity to win a game on Saturday. That is about all this old coach can think about.”
On the status of guard Rob Gray, Jr.
“We have an outstanding trainer. John Houston is about as good as it gets. Rob is in there every day at 7:15 a.m. for treatment, then he goes to class, and he is back in there at about 10:30 a.m., for more treatment. Finally, he goes to the floor with his functional exercises and balances.
He is in his shoe. He is doing some stuff on the floor. He is not too far off, but I don’t know if he’ll play Saturday or not. There is a better chance that he’ll play in the game at Tulane. It is 50/50 for Saturday. You want him to feel comfortable. I have been doing this for a long time and I know one thing when it comes to kids and pain… pain is an opinion. Some have a high opinion of it, and some have a low opinion of it.”
SENIOR FORWARD Devonta Pollard
On his mindset during the second half
“My whole mindset coming out from the locker room (after the half) was to do whatever I could to help my team get this win. Even if it meant that I had to do everything on the defensive end and not worry about offense at all, or if I needed to make big shots. My mindset was just doing what I needed to do to help my team get this win.”
On pressure of being the main guy on the floor
“It did not get overwhelming. I just stayed with my routine, and stayed in the gym working on my game. I felt like I worked on my game long enough and hard enough to be able to do what I did tonight. When Coach came and made that statement, I did not even have the mindset to come in the game and have 34 points. I just knew that the ball was going to be in my hands, and I would be the guy to make the right plays. My team gave me the shots that I felt comfortable with, and I was able to knock them down.”
On the shot in front of the Houston bench
“I caught the ball and heard the bench, especially Mikhail (McLean) and Eric (Weary Jr.) said ‘shot clock’, and I looked at the shot clock, which had about five seconds on it, and got a peek of the rim and let it go.”
On thought process during the comeback run
“Maybe making around four or five shots, coming back down on offense, when the play was coming down to me in the same spot where I just knocked down a jumper, my thought process was to react off the defense. If they gave me that shot again, then I was going to take it and if they closed down on me, I was going to drive by and let them make plays for my teammates, or score if they gave it to me.”