HOUSTON HEAD COACH Kelvin Sampson
“I have a lot of respect for Louisiana-Monroe. I have a lot of respect for that league. Louisiana-Monroe’s picked to finish third and Texas Arlington’s picked to seventh. Well in case you haven’t been following college basketball, Texas Arlington won at Ohio State and won at Memphis. That’s this league. That tells you a little bit about Louisiana-Monroe. I watched their Minnesota game. With six minutes and 35 seconds to go in the game, they had the ball, they had three straight possessions, and they were ahead 51-50. So I knew this was a good team.”
“We’re a ways away from being a good team. We’re not a good team yet. You can tell we’re going to be. On November 28 and after two or three games, we’ll get there. I’m looking forward to getting into a rhythm. If you look around the country, after most teams started playing on opening night and today is November 28, that’s 16 days. Most teams had played five or six games, and we’ve only played two. That’s probably a little bit my responsibility with scheduling, but a lot of that depends on who you can come get to play you. But now we’re getting a little bit of rhythm. We’ll play Monday, and we’ll turn around and play Wednesday, then we go on the road next week. We’re in a rhythm now. We don’t have to play a game and then wait eight days to play another.
“I like a lot of things I saw. We have good guards, but our guards can play better. Ronnie Johnson and Damyean Dotson, you can tell they haven’t found their rhythm yet. They haven’t really played a significant game since March 2014 other than those first two. The more significant games they play against some good games the better they’re going to be.”
“LeRon Barnes was terrific tonight. LeRon Barnes was LeRon Barnes. He’s never going to score very high on the wow-meter but he’s a winner. I’ve been around this game a long time, and there’s a lot of guys that put a lot of significance on making great plays. Basketball’s not a game of great plays. It’s a game of eliminating mistakes, and LeRon doesn’t make many mistakes. That’s what makes him very valuable for us.”
“As you get to see Rob Gray more and more you’ll realize what we know. He’s our best scorer. He was our leading scorer in those four games we played in China over the summer. He’s our leading scorer in practice every day, but he’s going to get better too. He can make baskets, but he’s also a good passer and a good ball handler. So I expect Rob to get better.”
On what he didn’t like about the game
“We gave up too many easy baskets against their motion. The hardest thing to teach sometimes is IQ. Basketball is a game of here is the ball, and where should I be; ball, you, man. Sometimes we got caught chasing our man away from the ball, and they did a good job of emptying out the paint, and now we’re chasing them to the rim rather than coming up the middle.
There’s nothing that happened tonight that we can’t correct on film. If you noticed in the second half, our defense was a lot better. Once we got to the locker room at halftime, we said here’s what they’re doing, here’s why we’ve got to guard it. The first half, we were running around like chickens with our heads cut off, but I thought Devonta Pollard did a great job on defense.
The kid who really surprised me tonight was Travis Munnings who has averaged about eight points per game. He played great tonight. Our focus and our scouting report was on Majok Deng. We put Devonta Pollard on him, and he did a great job. In the second half our defense was good. They had some tough shots including a bank shot in the first half and a bank shot to end the game; that was five points. Other than that, our defense got better as the game progressed. Once we went small, obviously we got a lot more transition baskets.”
On if he was happy with the shot selection
“For the most part. LeRon Barnes never takes a bad shot. He took his first bad shot in two years tonight in transition. He got cross-eyed in that corner for some reason. Some of these guys, like Rob Gray Jr. is a shot maker. Every basket is not going to come off of an assist. In the first half we were taking some quick shots. We want our play fast. That’s one of the things I’ve been impressed with thus far, is with as fast as we play, we’re doing a good job of taking care of the ball. We had single digit turnovers tonight, but sometimes a bad shot is a turnover.
When you can win games and not play well this time of the year, those are great teaching tools. We’ll break this film down tonight. Since we play Monday, we’ll practice tomorrow. Then we’ll go and do it in sections. We’ll say here is where we think are questionable shots or shots that we could have worked to get a better shot. Here are our defensive mistakes. You’ve got to make mistakes in November. Everyone is going to make a ton of mistakes in November, but as you go through the season, once you get into December toward Christmas, you need to start eliminating those mistakes. November is all about making mistakes for 370 teams in Division I and 500 in every level. I’ve coached NAIA and the team has always made a boatload of mistakes in November. We cleaned them up and became a good team as we went, and this team will do the same.”
On the depth of their bench
“The strength of our team is our team. Starting lineup for us is not our five best players. I don’t even know who our five best players are. If we had played five or six games like these other teams, then I would have a better feel. So I don’t know who are starting lineup is. I’d rather not start Rob Gray. I like bringing him off the bench. Rob’s capable of getting 20 points whether he starts or not. Our points off the bench will always be bloated because of him.
Another guy that did some good things tonight was Xavier Dupree. We have seven or eight really good players in our locker, but we just have to get them fit and consistent. But that’s where games come in. There are some teams that play in these exempt tournaments where you get three games in three days or three games in four days. That’s where you start to find out more about yourself. There’s some teams that have played more games in three days than we’ve played in 16 days, because they go play in these exempt tournaments. Some teams play their best basketball in November and early December, and they don’t get any better. This team is going to be a lot better.”
On Galen Robinson’s performance
“Galen is a winner. I may let him shoot free throws blindfolded. Just throw it up there and see what happens. But actually he got a little bit of bad luck. His free throws are right on target. He just missed them. He makes a lot of winning plays. He doesn’t make a lot of ‘wow’ plays, like plays that will get you standing up in your seat, but he moves the ball. He gets the ball up the court fast. He tries to defend his position. Galen is a freshman and Rob Gray is a sophomore. Those are two young kids. As we move this program forward, those are two really good pieces for us. Now all we’ve got to do is find another LeRon Barnes, because you have to have kids like him. You have to have winners. He is a winner.”
HOUSTON SOPHOMORE GUARD ROB GRAY JR.
On coming off of the bench
“I don’t have a problem with it at all. I just want to be in the game and be able to help the team win.”
On having 11 of the team’s 13 points in run during the second half
“It always feels great to make shots. It’s something that I’ve practiced a lot and put a lot of time into with the coaching staff. It feels good for the work to pay off, but it was kind of expected.”
HOUSTON SENIOR GUARD LeRon Barnes
On his feelings about the game
“I just feel like I had to go out and play hard. I could have done better on defense. We could have done better as a team on defense, but we came out and played hard.”
On his six offensive rebounds
“Coach enforces it every day. We’re supposed to get 50% of our missed shots as a team, and I just went to the boards every time.”