HOUSTON HEAD COACH Kelvin Sampson
“North Carolina Central’s kids played their hearts out. Extremely well coached. Their coaches have them prepared. We’ve been a pretty good rebounding team, but that team kicked our butts on the boards. They drove by our guards and got in the paint. When they shot and missed the offensive rebounded.
If I’m North Carolina Central’s coach, he’s a very good coach, that team has won 25 games in three consecutive years, and they’ve been to the NCAA Tournament all those years, I’m walking away tonight feelings that, my team didn’t win the game, but my team outplayed that team.
We’re thrilled that we got the win. It’s why you played the game. It’s not to get the accolades; it’s to get the “W’. I was pleased that we came back and won. The guy I was most pleased with was Ronnie Johnson. You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. First half he was part of the problem. Second half he was by far our most valuable player. If we can get him to give us that kind of juice, especially at the point of attack defensively, that gives us a chance.”
On if there was a letdown from having a smaller crowd tonight
“Probably. These kids are human beings. We had 8,000 people to keep us juiced the entire (LSU) game, but it’s a maturity game too. That’s not the first time we’ve walked down that tunnel with this kind of crowd. Our guys have to come ready to play. We didn’t come ready to play tonight. The team that competes the hardest usually gets the loose balls and the breaks, and they got a lot of breaks tonight. They earned them.”
On halftime adjustments
“We attacked downhill. We are not a great zone-offensive team, because our penetrators aren’t very good shooters, and our shooters aren’t very good penetrators. It is just the way it is. It is not an opinion, it is just a fact. We didn’t get a lot of help tonight from our bench either. All of our big guys, other than Devonta (Pollard), were in the witness protection program. They just didn’t show up.
Damyean Dotson hit a huge three in that right corner at an important time, and Rob Gray (Jr.) hit another one in the left corner. Those are our two best shooters, and I expect those two guys to make those shots. Those are both two tough kids, Dotson is a tough kid, Rob is a tough kid, but the thing is that we have to get them both better at guarding the dribble.”
On the offense’s slow start
“When Rob (Gray Jr.) engages defensively and gets going, gets his juice from that end of the floor, Rob has a lot of confidence. He is a very confident young man, but he’s also a talented scorer. His shot selection tonight was good. The charge that they called, they’re not use to watching their feet. That kid was clearly in the circle. Offensively in the second half we moved the ball a lot better. Ronnie (Johnson) got in the paint. Galen (Robinson Jr.) got in the paint. They had kick outs. We did a much better job. The big thing, first half, was not being engaged.”
On playing against North Carolina Central’s zone
Our first-shot defense was pretty good. Most of their points came on their second shot. They hurt us with their offensive rebounding. Their bigs were tougher than our bigs tonight. That’s what it really came down to. I went with the small lineup, because they were junking it up. They were playing 1-3-1. They were playing 2-3 zone. They were playing unconventional, but that’s the way they had to play to win. We don’t see a lot of that. It’s been awhile since we really saw zone. LSU and Rhode Island didn’t zone us, so it’s been a while. We don’t zone, so we don’t practice or really work against the zone. Once we get into conference play, there are two or three teams in our league that play nothing but zone, and we’ll be ready for that.”
HOUSTON JUNIOR GUARD Damyean Dotson
On approach to the game
“I was taking the open ones and just going with the flow of the game. If I was open I would shoot it, but if I wasn’t open then I would pass it, and if I got a break on a fast break I scored and got fouled. They just came prepared to play hard. I have to get better on defense. I know that. Coming into the second half I let a couple of guys get by me a bit too many times. I have to focus on that and rebounding. The game will come to me.”