HOUSTON HEAD COACH Kelvin Sampson
“Our guys were ready to play. Defense was a lot more active. We had a lot of breakdowns. Defense isn’t the guy guarding the ball, or the next pass, or ball screen, it’s the entire possession. We defend well for about 15 or 20 maybe even 25 seconds, but our defensive discipline after those 25 seconds isn’t where it needs to be. That’s where our mental toughness comes in. We’re not there yet.
We’re having too many breakdowns on the 10-second mark. Whether it’s not switching up where we should. or switching up on the screen. or taking away a shooter. or not getting a defensive rebound so we can run out. It is a lot of little things. Missing free throws at critical times. We were at the free throw line a couple of times and had the chance to extend it.
We don’t have a great margin of error. Big physical guys are hurting us on the boards. We just have to keep fighting to do little things right. When you don’t shoot well your offense has a tendency to look worse than it is. For the most part we took good shots. For the most part we don’t have a post guy. I was doing a radio interview with Elvin (Hayes) and I told him ‘their offense looked great because of you’. Because a guy like Elvin you don’t need to shoot threes, but if you don’t have an inside presence obviously, we’re a team that has to shoot threes. If we’re going to shoot threes to survive we’re going to need to get better defensively.
On getting players back and JC Washington’s injury
“We keep adding new parts like L.J. Rose in his second game back, and Bertrand Nkali has played 10 minutes this year. JC Washington goes out tonight. Every team at this time of year gets a little nick. I haven’t heard much about JC’s injury yet; I know it’s his right knee. A lot of the stuff we’re doing is correctable. Offensively it’s just a matter of knocking down some open shots.
On if there is something to the slow starts in the first half
No, we have so many opportunities to score in the first half. I look at our shot charts all the time, and go back and watch the film, and we have a lot of open looks. You have to make those shots. That’s why they keep the scoreboards up there. It keeps track of points.
Chicken (Danrad Knowles) had his best game of the year tonight. Devonta (Pollard) and Jherrod (Stiggers) didn’t really score well. They had a tough time shooting. For our team to win, we’re going to have to have four or five guys all play well on the same night. We really worked hard on making better decisions with the ball. We went from 26 turnovers to five. We had five turnovers tonight, so that was something we corrected.
But, I don’t know how you correct shooting. You have to throw the ball in the basket. When they needed a basket tonight they made one. When we needed the basket, it looked like it was going in, but we just didn’t knock it down when we needed to. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing South Carolina State, South Carolina, or Connecticut, you can get open shots against all these teams. You have to step up and knock them down.”
On the team’s size
“We don’t really have a center. Chicken is more of a four or three. You see where his shots come from. That’s just the way he’s wired. He’s more comfortable shooting 15 feet and out instead of five feet and in. Chicken did a great job on the offensive boards today. He had seven offensive boards, but when he gets the ball inside he needs to take his time and finish those. When he jumps outside the three point line, that’s where he’s comfortable offensively.
Devonta is 190 pounds. We struggle against bigger guys. We’re going to have to defensively look at playing a little more zone and maybe trapping more and extending our defense up the floor instead of playing as much half-court defense. We’ll get more creative, because this is a first-year coaching staff and players are learning everything. You can’t try to be good at seven or eight teams early. You have to figure out what it is you want to be good at.
Every game we’ve played, outside of Harvard, we’ve had a chance to win. You could make a case that we could easily be 7-and-1. Sometimes it comes down to defensive mistakes and making shots. As much as sometimes we want to overcomplicate this, it’s really a simple game. You have to make shots on offense, and we’re doing a good job of getting them, but tonight we only had seven assists. The only way you can get an assist is if I throw it to you, and then you have to make the shot. Our shot selection was pretty good except for instances in the game where we forced a couple. For the most part, we took open shots.”
On having junior guard L.J. Rose back
“It’s something that we’re going to have to keep our eye on. We’re trying to get him minutes and get him ready. Now that he’s back there is no sense in putting him on the bench. If he’s going to play he’s going to play. He’s behind. He’s only played two games. The problem is the other guys are kind of out there with him as he’s learning. I don’t know if its hurt us. Sometimes you take two steps back to go two steps forward.”
HOUSTON SOPHOMORE FORWARD Danrad Knowles
On the slow start and having to come back in the second half
“We just have to pick up our energy and intensity from the start, get in a better groove, play faster and rebound the ball.”
On if the defense will improve the more they play together
“We’ve come a long way with our defense. We’re getting better every day. We have to talk more and communicate more.”