HOUSTON HEAD COACH Kelvin Sampson
“I was proud of my kids. We fought. We’ve played Cincinnati once. We led them at the halftime at their place. We didn’t play very good in that game. We felt like this was a game we could win. We’re not set up to play without L.J. (Rose). I don’t know if L.J. is the best point guard in this conference. You can make an argument for the kids from SMU, Tulsa and Connecticut. They’re pretty good, but there is no argument that the most valuable point guard to his team in this league is L.J. Rose.
We don’t have another ball handler. We just don’t. I felt bad for Jherrod (Stiggers) and even Wes (Vanbeck) because those guys aren’t ball-handlers or passers. We’ve played this whole year with one guy. When he came back in the middle of December it took him about six weeks to get going, because the middle of January to him was like October. He didn’t get to practice this year.
This year has been a little bit discombobulated in a lot of ways, but I’m really, really proud of my kids. I really am. They fought their hearts out. We were up 10 in the first half, and everything was balanced with L.J. We had a good plan coming in, and our kids were executing. We’re never going to shoot it great.
I’ve made that statement ad nauseam. Look how hard our kids play. Look how they compete. They defend and rebound. Jherrod needs to be on the wing, Eric (Weary Jr.) needs to stay on the wing, and Devonta (Pollard) does not need to be bringing the ball down the court. That’s unfair to all of them, but life’s not fair sometimes.”
On the diagnosis of L.J. Rose’s injury
“They’re doing the X-ray tomorrow, so we don’t have an official diagnosis yet. He felt it pop though. Last time he said he felt it pop it was broken.”
On what they will do now without L.J. Rose
“We just have to figure something out. At least we have a little time. We didn’t have a whole lot of time tonight. Devonta is the key. LeRon (Barnes) is playing with a thumb that could be broken. His thumb is pretty bad. Devonta is the guy that has to play better for us handling the ball, which is unfair to him, because that’s not what he does. We have six guys on scholarship, but the teams we’re playing are all happy. I’d like to have had a healthy L.J. tonight to see what would happen.”
On the quick points for Cincinnati coming out of haltime
“Think about a wide receiver that has never played quarterback before. He goes back to pass, and see’s linemen coming at him. Do you think he’s going to step up in the pocket and focus on his receiver or look at the linemen? He’s going to run for his life, and that’s what Jherrod (Stiggers) did.
Those guys started going for the ball and he didn’t know any better. He’s never done that. He’s never tried to get the ball up the court versus pressure. They’re overplaying the wing. For L.J. it’s like you (a reporter) writing an article: piece of cake. For a guy that’s never done it, it’s a hard thing to do. Until you’ve done something before it’s tough. Especially against a team that’s as good defensively as they are.
But we had a plan going in. Our kids were executing, and we missed a lot of shots that we can make, but I was proud of him. In the second half, they got down, and we made a couple of adjustments and came back. We stuck Chicken (Danrad Knowles) in that corner and tried to play through him.
Nothing in college basketball is going to work for an extended period of time. Teams will adjust, just like we adjusted to them tonight a lot. Our defense was great. They shot 43 percent for the game against us, but they hit some big threes. It’s a tough break. It really is. No pun intended, but it really is. I feel really bad for L.J., and for his family, because that kid is really invested. He had surgery July 7 on a broken foot, and then he broke it again September 26. Now quite possibly he could have broken it again tonight. That’s three breaks in seven months. It’s a tough deal for him: tough deal for us.”
On working the crowd to get them excited
“I’ve done it at other places, but I’ve never done it here. We needed our fans tonight. We’re short-handed. We don’t have our full allotment of players. We’re down, but that doesn’t mean we’re out. We keep fighting. The schedule says we get to play five more times. We’re going to fight our hearts out five more times. Our fans were great tonight. That’s what I mean by culture and our foundation. People say every team does that. No they don’t. A lot of teams don’t play hard now. A lot of teams don’t have a great culture either.
I told our kids a story tonight before the game about Super Bowl XXVII when Leon Lett picked up a fumble and ran 64 yards. Everybody thinks it was a touchdown, but no it wasn’t. On the other side of the field as Leon Lett was running into score, he put his hand out to showboat; to show off a little bit. On the other side of the field a guy ran a pass pattern that saw him streaking down the field by the name of Don Beebe. Don Beebe ran across the field, and as hard as he could he leaped at the end and knocked the ball out of his hands. As he was running 64 yards, Don Beebe might have been running 74. I asked our kids tonight, of those two plays which culture do you want us to have? That’s how important culture is. That’s what we’re doing this year.
We don’t have the personnel. We got dealt a tough hand, but that’s okay. Life isn’t always easy. In the big picture of things this isn’t a big deal, but there are so many lessons we can learn from this tonight. Look at our kids. They jumped out, had all those steals, and got going, and cut it to 51-49. Then we had a couple of turnovers, not because we weren’t trying, but because we have guys trying to make plays, and that isn’t their deal. Until that buzzer sounded our kids fought, and that’s what we’re building this year.”
CINCINNATI ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH LARRY DAVIS
On L.J. Rose getting injured
“The second half when I heard he was in the boot, it was a factor in the game, no question. As soon as I heard he was in the boot I told my guys, “Okay they have no point guard. We have to go after them.” That’s how we came out of the gates so quick. Stiggers is not really a point guard.
They had to resort to having a four man bringing it up. That was the difference in the game. We turned up the pressure, and we got them to turn it over three of four times, and we got fast break layups. That gave us some separation.”
On sophomore guard Kevin Johnson’s offensive game and turnovers
“Even the four turnovers I’ll have to look at. The ones I remember were attacking. When you do that you’re going to turn it over once at least, and that’s okay. He didn’t make silly turnovers where he just throws the ball out of bounds or tries to force a pass to a big guy.
At least his turnovers were aggressive, attacking-type turnovers. When you drive it in there you’re going to get it stripped a time or two. You don’t want to turn the ball over but you live with it.“
On the flagrant foul
“The officials told me they looked at it, and that he made no play on the ball. I haven’t seen it on TV, so I don’t know. Octavius (Ellis) wasn’t trying to intentionally hurt anybody. I think the officials overreacted. They’re going to go the other way.”
On freshman forward Gary Clark’s double-double and his extended minutes on the floor
“Without him we probably would’ve been annihilated on the boards, because we’re so small. Every time out he kept asking, “How many do I have? How many do I have?” That’s the one time as a coach that you want a guy to be as selfish as he can be. Get them all big fella!”