HOUSTON HEAD COACH Kelvin Sampson
“We approached these games the right way. We’re playing good. Because we beat a team by 50, there’s a tendency to demean the game or demean the team we beat. But there are teams in these team’s leagues that are going on the road and beating other teams. Arkansas Pine-Bluff the other night led Oklahoma State at halftime. We prepare our kids the same way no matter who we play, and we play for 40 minutes. We play hard. We play the right way. I could see a lot of improvement defensively from the Prairie View game to this game.
Our defense was a lot better. We foul too much. I have to take some responsibility for that. We teach our kids to play really aggressive. Now, we have to play really aggressive and smart. But we’re two games into this thing. We turned that team over 23 times tonight because of our aggressiveness. Sometimes, you have to let your kids learn by trial and error. That’s obviously something that we’re really going to hone in on. I told my assistants downstairs that, starting Monday, we’re going to bring referees in to starting refereeing our practices and calling tight, so our kids will stop hand-checking.
A lot of it also is due to the new rules. They’re calling everything. Half the fouls that were called against us tonight would not have been called last year. These referees go to clinics, seminars; they get evaluated, they get coached and taught. The powers at be said ‘we want a free-flowing, cleaner, offensive game. We’re not going to allow any contact whatsoever’. We put that team on the free-throw line 30 times; that’s ridiculous. That’s something we’re going to have to adjust to.”
On learning process of new rules and ref calls
“We have to learn that. That team wasn’t a very aggressive defensive team. We will edit every foul. We will bring our kids in, and the assistant coaches will put it on their iPads and show them what they did on this drive. When you lose the first dribble, that means that you are being reactive. If you win the first dribble, now you can be proactive. Now, we have to do a better job of winning the first dribble, and then we have to get into the right spot.
Bert (Nkali) could get four fouls just in stretching. He can go out there and stretch and have three fouls; he is a fouler. I’m not sure if I’m ever going to get Bert out of fouling. Guys that are poor defenders tend to foul a lot. Good defenders tend not to. The guy that could do a lot better is LeRon (Barnes). LeRon had four fouls tonight just on touching the guy on drives. All those things can be corrected. We are talking about areas in the game that we are going to get a lot better in. I saw a lot of improvement in our defense just over two games.”
On what he saw in defensive improvement
“Not as many breakdowns. Some of these kids are coming from programs where they don’t play defense. It is going to take some of these guys probably a month. I see a lot of improvement. Where I have really seen improvement this week was in practice. If you broke down and watched our first 10 defensive possessions, you would have probably seen no mistakes. If they scored, that doesn’t mean they made a mistake; it means that they made a tough shot. We went out one time, and they really contested a three, and they made it. In the first eight minutes of the game they only had five points, but that is the improvement.
The last six points they scored in the first half were on free throws. At halftime they had 20 points. That is defense. You can belittle who we are playing all you want, but this time of year, all these teams are getting beat by people. You have to guard. Whoever is on the schedule, we have to guard that team.
Against Prairie View, it was our first game; we had to start somewhere. That game was in the books. We tagged it, cataloged it, edited it, showed it and we went to practices this week and really worked hard on it. I saw a lot of improvement from then to tonight. Defense is a lot about trust, and we are a defense that is going to create a lot of offense out of our defense, because we are athletic, we get in the passing lanes, we use our length and our active hands, get deflections and loose balls. There were 11 loose balls tonight, and we got 10 of them. That means we are playing hard. That is important.”
On getting a lead and using bench
“At this time year of year, I let them determine it. Galen started at point and Ronnie (Johnson) had a great game last game. I like the way Ronnie practices. Ronnie comes off the bench and only plays 19 minutes, but has 20 points, 4 assist, no turnovers and has two steals. Our two point guards tonight had 12 assists and no turnovers.
Your defense is going to be as good as your point of attack. Your point of attack in football is your quarterback. If your quarterback plays good, you are usually going to be good at that end of the field. If our point guards are good defensively, then that means that we have a chance to be a good defensive team.
Our point guards against Prairie View weren’t very good, but Galen didn’t know whether he was on foot or horseback. His family is here; he is from Houston; he was chasing about three rabbits. If you chase three rabbits, you are not going to catch any of them. He is a freshman; he is coming from Westbury Christian; he is not ready to play in college, yet, but he will be; look at that difference between that first game and this game.”
“Our kids competed tonight. Our effort was outstanding. That is what jumped out at me about our team. We have to continue to get better in that area. If something happens once, it could be an accident; if it happens twice, it might be a coincidence; if it happens three or more times, then it becomes a habit. We are working to develop habits. You can’t develop habits in January and February. You develop habits in October and November; that is when you work to develop your habits.
We are not there yet; no team is there yet. We are two games into a 31-game season. When we get to our 10th, 11th or 12th games, we should be ready to go. We have got to do a better job at getting clean defensive rebounds and getting the ball out to our point guards, because when we get into transition, that is when we are at our best; we are a good running team. We are getting a lot of stops, but we have to learn to adjust to this new refereeing philosophy of calling all the contact. It is not the referees’ fault, because all they are doing is enforcing all the rules. Play defense with your feet, not your hands.”
HOUSTON SOPHOMORE GUARD ROB GRAY Jr.
On difficulty staying focused during blowout games
“No, it's not too difficult at all. Coach Sampson does a good job of staying on us and keeping us focused on the task at hand. There might be a few plays where we're not as focused as we need to, but he can get onto us and get us focused and get us back to the intensity that we need to play at to win."
HOUSTON FRESHMAN GUARD GALEN ROBINSON Jr.
On staying focused during blowout games
“Just stay aggressive and keep playing hard. We have an agenda for every game as a team, and we try to follow it and stay focused."
On his performance tonight
“Very good. Coach told me to go out and play aggressive and play fearless. That’s what I did, and I guess it showed.”