HOUSTON HEAD COACH KELVIN SAMPSON
“We were good at both ends of the court. I loved our effort and our attention to detail. UCF is a hard team to guard; just look at their games. They’ve played all the tough teams and have won five conference games.
Our defense in the first 30 minutes of the game played really good. Offensively, we played well, shared the ball, took good shots and had great multiple pass positions.
Once you have an identity of how you want your team to play and then your team plays to that identity, it just proves you are getting better. Our team knows who they are. The guys practice certain things that are important for us.
I am really pleased with the continuous improvement at the free-throw line, and I’m really happy for Danrad Knowles. Chicken (Knowles) is a 74 percent free-throw shooter.
It was a good solid game. We won by 24 and scored 82 points which is good this time of year.”
On Tacko Fall’s height
“He makes everyone look small. You don’t realize how big he is until you stand next to him. I stood next to him at the free-throw line to shake his hand, and I felt like a 5-year-old.
He’s had some really good games. We were preparing for him and figuring out what we were going to do. Our perimeter defense needed some work because post defense starts with ball pressure. It doesn’t start with the guy guarding the post-man. If that guy down there doesn’t do his work early then it’s probably too late. You don’t start guarding Tacko Fall or McBride in the paint. You start guarding at the 3-point line and start digging in at the free-throw line. Now your help can come from the perimeter. We had to make some adjustments for both of them, but our kids played hard and really well together with a lot of heart in this game.”
On blocked shots from Tacko
“I looked up the Hofheinz Pavilion record for blocked shots and told the kids this is what it is and we are not going to let Tacko break this record. You have to get the ball up because he is going to goaltend.
When I was with the Rockets, two or three times a game Dwight would jump up and just be too late and knock it out of there.
We did a good job of attacking him intelligently. The deeper you get it, the more you have to pass. If you are going to shoot over him, then that shot has to be almost one step below the free-throw line. Ronnie Johnson and Devonta are good runners, so they don’t have to be stationary shooters. You have to be on the move if you are going to be in the paint, but we also have guys in the corners for our spacing. He blocked three shots today, and every time we play him he only blocks three shots, which is pretty good.
On the team’s progress at this part of the season
“This is the time of the year where most teams are what they are. There’s certain areas where we can get better in. Today, you can tell we’re a lot better today than we were this time last week. Our attention to detail was better, and our connectivity was better. We connected better today.
There were times when one guy got beat and the other guy helped. You didn’t see him trying to take the ball from the perimeter to the basket to get a free throw because people stepped over. We took two or three charges today, and we did a great job of contesting shots. They were 6-for-23 from the 3-point line, but a couple of those were tough.
You go every day to get better. That’s the purpose of practice. We sit down and we think about one or two things we feel like we need to be better in, like defensive rebounding, picking on defense, low post defense, where our help is coming from, protecting the paint, and then ball movement on offense. Basketball is a beautiful game. It’s not a democracy where everyone gets to shoot. Shooting is not an equal opportunity in position. Most games you have to win both ends, and today we were good on both ends.”
On taking one game at a time
“You guys know me well enough. We can be 19-7 next Wednesday; we have an opportunity to win that game. That’s a chance; they have an opportunity to win the game too but so do we.
We can be 19-7 and 9-5. That’s pretty good. That’s our focus. We are focusing on today. Media, fans, my cousins, and my neighbors they’re all excited about the possibilities. Life is not about possibilities. It’s about the reality, today.
We have two days of preparation, one in Houston on Monday and one Tuesday in New Orleans then we play in New Orleans on Wednesday night. We’ll come back and they’ll get ready for Temple. Make sure your kids understand the importance to always get better. I’m more interested in getting better. We got better today, and I’m looking forward. These guys need to get some rest. It’s that time of the year where they’re all banged up.
We need to get Rob (Gray Jr.) back in there. He got a day off today, and he’ll rest Sunday. He should be a lot better Monday and be ready to play. We talk about how we can get better, but when Rob gets in there we will get better. We forget that he’s our leading scorer. Actually we haven’t; other people have.”
HOUSTON SENIOR GUARD LeRon Barnes
On free throws
“We shoot free throws every day in practice and work on staying focused. We were focused today. Danrad Knowles did a great job. Sometimes when he misses he’s mentally down, and today he was focused and positive.”
On his overall game
“I did okay. I messed up a couple times on defense, but I overcame it. In practice we stress defense the whole time… defense and defensive rebounding.”
On the Cougars peaking right now
“It feels good, but we still have a lot of work to do. We can’t get comfortable because we have a lot of hard games coming. We have to stay hungry.”