HOUSTON HEAD COACH Kelvin Sampson
“Our team is getting better. One of the things you learn in coaching is you don’t overreact one way or the other. There were some things we didn’t do so well the other night. We’re not a bad team. We still have a good team. Tonight we did a lot of good things well: doesn’t mean we have a great team. We’re a team that is evolving. We’re in the process of trying to get better. We’re five games into a 31 game season. We’re guaranteed 31 games, and we’re five games into it.
We have so many new guys. Rob Gray (Jr.) is a sophomore, last year he was at Howard Junior College. Galen (Robinson Jr.) is a freshman. Last year he was at Westbury Christian (HS). Damyean Dotson sat out. Ronnie (Johnson) sat out. Bertrand (Nkali) sat out. Xavier Dupree didn’t play tonight, but he sat out. So it’s going to take a while for this bunch to learn to play together.
But until they learn to play for each other they’ll never play together. That’s the thing that I’m starting to see in practice and games. They’re starting to play for each other. Everybody is kind of filtering down to their role. Some guys are giving some consistent effort. I was pleased to see a lot of good things tonight. That team is going to win 25 or 26 games at the end of the year. They won 29 last year. They play in a good conference, so that was a good program we beat tonight. It’s good to be 5-0.
On team’s offensive performance.
“Obviously we put a lot of work in on defense. If you try to be really good at four or five different things, you’re going to wind up being good at nothing. That’s why if you track the teams that I’ve coached over the years, they always get better offensively as they go, because the things that we’re doing a lot better now we’ve just now been working on this.
We had a scrimmage with Baylor. We had an exhibition game with Montana Tech. Prairie View and Florida A&M. Obviously those games were so one-sided, that you’re not working on anything. So Baylor, Montana Tech, Florida A&M, Prairie View, I’m not sure how much we got out of any of that because we didn’t know who we were. You have to figure out who you are before you can really start advancing in the areas you talked about.
Our ball movement was good. Rob (Gray Jr.) obviously is our best scorer, I’ve said that from day one, but we have a lot of other guys who can score. But the thing that we’ve really stressed to our guys is that discipline: when you give up a good shot for a great shot, and we really did a good job of that tonight.”
On first and second half defense
“They had a lot of tough threes in the second half. They have good guards. Offense is like jet fuel. When you have jet fuel in your engine everything works better. We turned the ball over too much in the second half. That is the first time I’ve seen that. We are a single-digit turnover team. Tonight we turned the ball over 11 times in the second half, and they got a lot of points from that. Don’t get misled by how many points they got off of our defense. They got a lot of points off turnovers. They had 19 points off of turnovers. That is not our defense. That is our offense. Our defense was good. We fouled them a little bit too much, but our defense was good both halves. The difference was turnovers. We turned the ball over too much. That is a little bit out of character for this team, but if you take away the turnovers they would probably have 10 or 12 points less than what they had.”
On the 6-day break
“First of all, exams. This is a tough time. I remember talking after the Florida A&M game and saying that we have only played two games in 16 days, and now we have played three in five. This early in the season you have goals, and everybody can see that we have played our best game of the year tonight. We are getting better. We weren’t this good a month ago, but a month from now we are going to be a lot better than we were tonight. There are so many other areas that we are going to get better in. We have a good team, but it is not as good as it is going to be in a month or two months, because we have to continue to identify areas of concern and keep working.
Final exams start Wednesday. Our guys have a lot of papers due. I know we have a big study hall tomorrow. I am really proud of our team academically. LeRon received his degree in May. He already graduated. Rob (Gray) is a 3.0 student, Ronnie Johnson is a 3.0 student, and Galen (Robinson) is a 3.0 student. It is good to know that you are not worried about guys getting eligible, but these guys all want to get close to a 3.0 grade point average. We are going to take a lot of time to meet with our tutors and get their school work done. Then we will get back to work.
Like you mentioned about our ball movement, we’ll work on our inside-outside game and getting the ball reversed. Good offensive teams play on the third side. The first side you come down in on, the second side is ball reversal, and the third side is weak-to-strong and back to strong. We are getting better at that, but we need to keep working on it. We are getting to a point now where we understand what that means, and that is where we get a lot of our good shots.”
On Ronnie Johnson taking over the point guard position
“I have a lot of trust in Galen Robinson Jr. Galen had five assists tonight and no turnovers. He had 13 points. We’re fortunate that we have two good point guards, and we can close games with them. Ronnie is the starting point guard, but usually you have a backup point guard. We just bring in our other starting point guard. We have two starting point guards. They play in place of each other, but they can also play together, and that’s a luxury.”
HOUSTON SOPHOMORE GUARD ROB GRAY JR.
On his 26 points and the flow of the game
“Last game I didn’t shoot a good percentage, so this game I tried to let the flow of the game just come to me and not take any bad shots. I especially wanted to make sure my first couple of shots were just good shots. I just did a good job of trying to do what coach tells me and let the game come to me. I know I’m going to have plenty of chances to score and make plays for other people, so there’s no rush. I just try to let it come to me.”
HOUSTON SENIOR GUARD LeRon Barnes
On Coach Sampson’s trust in him to play almost a full game
“He puts a lot of trust in me. I practice hard every day, so I feel good that I’m going to get them all for my team and for the coach.”
On his position rebounding
“I felt like I just had to go up and get them. Sometimes they came to me, and other times I just had to work to get it. Coach enforces that every day: rebound, rebound, rebound.”