HOUSTON HEAD COACH Kelvin Sampson
“That was our most complete defensive performance start to finish. I am not upset about anything on the offense. We scored 75 points and couldn’t hit water if we fell out of the boat from the 3-point line, but we guarded; we defended. The game that I watched this team play in scouting was at Colorado. They were up on Colorado 38-33 at halftime, and in the second half they got two stops to start the half and they scored to go 40-33. Colorado is good now, they were 9-1 after that game.
We have been preaching, pushing, kneading and shoving every adjective you can think to get our team to be more consistent defensively. With conference play starting Wednesday, it is good to see us have a good defensive performance for 40 minutes. Basketball is an imperfect game. Sometimes as coaches we are always seeking perfection, but it is a very imperfect game. You can’t play a perfect game. We tend to criticize the areas that we are not good in, but that is human nature. I was happy with this performance because of our effort, the way we rebounded the ball on both ends, and the way we guarded. Those three things give me encouragement going forward.”
On the satisfaction of the starting lineup
“I don’t know that I get overly carried away with starting lineups. Devonta (Pollard) is going to be in the starting lineup every game, (Damyean) Dotson will too. Ronnie (Johnson) didn’t start against Wyoming, I started Galen (Robinson, Jr.) in that lineup. Over the course of the non-conference, and this applies to every coach and every team, is that by the time you get to conference you want everybody to understand their role. Guys that don’t understand their role usually are the Webster’s Dictionary [definition] of ‘I don’t like my role.’ You understand it, but you just don’t like it.
The thing that I have emphasized to Galen is that we don’t need him to lead us in scoring. One of the things that Galen was doing earlier in the season was that every time he got the basketball he would try to drive it and shoot it. If you noticed today, he had 10 assists, and he had three shot attempts. That is a good line for him. He doesn’t need to score for this team.
Rob Gray goes 6-for-17. That could have easily been 12-for-17. He didn’t take a shot he couldn’t make, he just didn’t make them. He should lead us in shot attempts, because he is our best scorer. Offense is not an equal opportunity position. Everybody has a role. Devonta was 7-for-8 because Devonta doesn’t take shots he can’t make. He is a smart player. Dotson was 5-for-10, but you guys saw him from the 3-point line. Every shot he shot was wide open. I liked our shot selection today. Everybody is filtering down to what they should be. Galen has to lead us in assists, Rob has to lead us in scoring, Dotson has to be more consistent from the 3(point line), but he did a good job of taking good shots; that is why he was 5-for-10.
(Danrad Knowles) “Chicken” goes 3-for-8, but he could have gone 8-for-8, just look at all the layups that he missed. Seventy-six points could have been 105 points. I was really pleased with our effort defensively, because I know that the offense is going to be there”
On Devonta Pollard and Damyean Dotson’s ability to score and rebound
“It just gives you an anchor. Every team that I’ve ever coached, way before people were calling it the “big 3,” I always had a triangle. You have a tip of the triangle and then you have two anchors. Every team has a triangle. The tip of our triangle is Devonta. Our two anchors are Rob and Dotson. Every team has a best three players, every team has a best player, and I have never had a problem telling my team who they were. If somebody wants to keep it a democracy and be diplomatic, I’m not very political when it come to that. The team needs to know who your key guys are. Then it is their responsibility. There is responsibility that goes along with being the best player. You are not allowed to have bad practices.
There are three people that can never have bad practices: the head coach, the best player and the point guard. That is solid. Those three guys have to come with it every day, then come game time it will carry over. Your best player has to be good every night. When you look at teams getting beat in the NCAA Tournament and how this team got upset then go look at how their best player played. When that guy doesn’t play well they have no chance. I have seen a lot of upsets in the tournament. If you break it down, the team that won, their best player had an unbelievable night, and the team that lost, their best player didn’t make any shots or just had a poor night. Best players have to play.
We are going into conference play. Our pecking has been established. That is what non-conference is for. We have had some great wins, and we have had some disappointing losses, but we are 10-2. Starting right now it doesn’t matter whether you are 10-2, 8-4 or 2-10. You are 0-0. Conference play starts Wednesday. We are all the same. We are looking forward to getting off to a good start, but we know that playing on the road in conference play is never easy.”
On the energy of the game with big lead
“I don’t get carried away with that. I keep my thumb on that. That is why I continued to sub. They’re going to continue to play the right way, but if they don’t play the right way then they can come sit on the bench beside me. I didn’t have a problem with anything today. When guys are open and miss shots I don’t get carried away with that. There is a reason why they are open. We are usually moving the ball well, and guys are open. Had we shot the ball well, and scored 105 points, we would be in here talking about the offense, but the story of this game was not about the offense, good or bad, it was our defense.”
HOUSTON SENIOR FORWARD Devonta Pollard
On his performance tonight
“We were just having fun. We were playing the game with a lot of passion and with a lot of love. We were playing the game the way we were coached and the way we know how to play. Like coach said, this game right here was focused all on defense, and everything else other than on the defense end just came to me. I don’t have any explanation for it. It just came.”
On contributing to the team going forward
“It’s more important to the team that I come like I came out today, because a lot of guys feed off of my energy. They feed off the energy that I bring when I’m on the glass, when I’m blocking shots coming from the other side, when we get out of transition, or when we get dunks. As teammates, they feed off that so for me to be able to do those things game after game like I did tonight on a consistent basis throughout the rest of the season is going to be big.”