HOUSTON HEAD COACH Kelvin Sampson
“When you are not shooting well the game becomes hard. It really does. Good, bad or indifferent, every team is going to be known for something. One of the things that we really emphasize on a daily basis is we literally practice with a bubble on the rim. Although the way that we shot the ball tonight we wouldn’t have needed a bubble on the rim. We really put a huge emphasis on offensive rebounding. That is a big part of our game, and tonight you see why.
Against Prairie View A&M and Florida A&M, we were getting the same shots, but we didn’t make open shots tonight. They didn’t go in; either half. What we did great tonight was offensive rebounding. The next game we play we may make all those open shots, because we are certainly capable. What good teams do, on nights when their shots aren’t falling, is they find ways to win. We missed 39 shots tonight. We got 19 offensive rebounds. That is unbelievable. What if we weren’t a good offensive rebounding team? There are a lot of teams, when they are not making shots, that can’t win, because they have to make shots to win. For us, when we don’t make shots, we try to go get them. We get to the foul line, or kick them out for threes or put them in.
Everything was a struggle for us tonight offensively, but I loved our effort, and I loved our spirit out there. Our kids stayed together. Danrad Knowles came in off the bench and made a couple of nice plays. We had a lot of guys that didn’t scratch tonight, but that is the beauty of our team. We have a lot of depth. We don’t depend on this guy or that guy. LeRon Barnes was arguably our best player in the last game, but tonight he was in the witness protection program: I couldn’t find him. Dotson was better tonight. Rob Gray was just okay tonight at best, but other guys stepped up.
As we go through this season we will get a lot more consistent. We are going to get four or five guys, and that is why this team is going to be pretty good. We have a lot of depth, and we have a lot of guys that can help us win.”
On the close lead throughout the game
“In game four you don’t worry about. This is our fourth game. Dan Hipsher is a good coach. Did you see that Hines kid? Did you see what he did against Miami? Did you see what Kimasa did against Miami? Check their box score against Miami, then you will see, they have good players. J.J. Thompson played here for two years. Hines can play for anybody in our conference and start for most of them. Kimasa is a good player, but for us it comes down to making shots. Those are shots that we are going to make as we go along, but I was really encouraged by a lot of things that I saw tonight.
On improvements coming off of one day of rest
“I like the way Damyean Dotson played tonight. He has really struggled being out for 18 months and Ronnie Johnson too. Those guys are not in a groove. You tend to not know their background like how he you may not know anything about (Shaquille) Hines or (Dan) Kimasa. If you don’t know these guys then you don’t know their story. These guys haven’t played a game in 18 months. It is going to take them a while to get in a groove and to get comfortable. It is also going to take them awhile to get comfortable with their teammates. Until you get in this environment, practice doesn’t do it. Practice is practice, it is important. I view practice differently than Allen Iverson did, but games are what these guys need. It is their fourth game and now it is almost 19 months, but Dotson was a lot better tonight.
Johnson was good early, but he struggles against zone. That is why these teams zone. That is why Northern Iowa beat North Carolina, because they zone. North Carolina lost a game, so what it is November. It is not football. You can lose 10 games and win a national championship in basketball. That is why North Carolina doesn’t overreact to what the score is or if it is a close game. That stuff doesn’t matter. What matters is are you getting better. Do you see different individuals getting better?
Galen Robinson’s stats, tonight, were no good, but he was a winner out there. If you are looking at the scoreboard and judging a team, and looking at stats and judging a player, then you are missing the story here. Galen Robinson was a winner tonight. Dotson was a winner tonight. Devonta Pollard was a winner tonight. It was good to see “Chicken” (Danrad Knowles) come off the bench tonight, but I’m waiting for one of these guys to take a hold of one of these slots: Like Xaxier (Dupree) and Bert (Nkali). I put them in there, and they don’t have the luxury of playing 20 minutes and making a ton of mistakes. That is not the way the thing works in their positions.
We have good guards, and we are going to get to the point where all four or five are going to play good on the same night. Johnson, Robinson, Gray, Barnes, and Dotson. That is five pretty good guards. Our front line is still trying to find itself. Devonta is pretty solid up there, but those other four guys we need a couple of them to step up and be consistent. That is why it is still November. We still have four more months.”
On the momentum shift in the game with Devonta’s run
“That is really the first time this year that we have done it. It is our fourth game. You don’t reach into your toolbox and show everything early. We are still trying to teach what we are doing. You can do a lot of things early and be good at nothing, or you can try to figure out ‘ok here is what we want to be good at.’ I didn’t like the pace of the game. When their point guard picked up his fourth foul, that is when we started pressing. We got a couple of good steals, and we got going and stretched the lead out to 10, 12, and then it got up to 13. Then they hit a three there. The final score doesn’t matter to me.”
On how they could have lost the game tonight
“This early in the season, the team is still trying to find our identity a little bit. There’s a lot of teams, NBA and college, when they’re not making baskets it really affects them at the other end. They’re not mature enough to handle that. They don’t handle adversity well. In an athletic contest, no matter what sport, there is going to be some kind of adversity. When you play a team that you think you’re better than, people judge you by how much you beat them by. That’s not the way this works. I remember coaching at Washington State and everyone thought UCLA or Arizona should kill us. But that’s not the way it worked. Those guys were on scholarship.”
You guys have seen college basketball. You’ve seen the scores this year. A lot of teams across the country won that game we played tonight. We could have easily lost the game tonight had Devonta [Pollard] not stepped his game up or if Galen [Robinson] had not come in and given us a spark. But we did win. That’s why we have a good team.
We missed 17 three-pointers tonight. We missed 39 shots. That’s how you get beat. The scoreboard up there keeps track of points. Because we had a great effort on the offensive boards, and because our guys kept moving we were able to win. They made some tough shots. [Shaquille] Hines is obviously a good player. I’d like to have him on my team and to be starting for us. And Antonio Green hit some threes on us. He probably shouldn’t have got them off. We held them to a 29 point second half, which included a three that didn’t matter toward the end. Our defense was better in the second half. We attacked better in the second half, but if we’d have made 12 threes and shot 52 percent, everybody would be thinking we played great tonight. That’s just the way the game works.”
HOUSTON SENIOR FORWARD Devonta Pollard
On how the team prepared for the game
"I only saw the game from one perspective. We're trying to play the way that our coach teaches us to play. I don't look at the game in my eyes. I try to look at it from coach’s eyes. I try to see the game from his perspective. Because whatever we get done out there it has to be his way. It's his way or no way. It's not what we think about the game. It's about how he looks at the game and the things he teaches us. So our mindset going in is to contain the dribble and beat them to the glass, and we did that."
On if being behind sparked his energy during the game and spurred him to score more
"I don't think I looked at the score when we were down. My energy just came from them scoring too many easy buckets. Coach Sampson tells us every day that he can preach to us or yell at us, but he can't make us do anything. So it was time for someone out there on the court to take the game and change it around, snd I just did the best that I could do."