Jan. 2, 2008
Head coach Ben Braun held his weekly press conference Wednesday afternoon. Below are quotes addressing this weekend's games vs. USC and UCLA.
On his impressions of the USC Trojans, including freshmen O.J. Mayo at guard and Davon Jefferson at forward:
I've been impressed with their team. We've had a chance to watch them play a lot of games, and they're a talented team, they really are. O.J. Mayo is as good as advertised - he's explosive with the ball, he can get his own shot, he's great in transition, he can defend, he's got good size, he competes. He's an awfully talented player. Davon Jefferson, as well, he's a great talent - great quickness, can beat you inside-outside, but he attacks the basketball really well, really attacks the glass. Those two guys give their team a big lift, and they were already pretty talented.
On the differences in size and styles between Cal and USC:
They're figuring out match-ups and we're figuring out match-ups. I don't know how they're going to match up and we're still making decisions on how we're going to match up. That's the uniqueness of their team and probably our team, that we have some differences in size and strength. I think match-ups go both ways, and where we think we might have some problems matching up, they might have some problems matching up. That's what great about college basketball: you've got to play your strengths. If you look on paper, they've got three guys that are pretty much point guards and can handle the ball, distribute it and attack the basket; and then you look at their shooting percentages. That's unique. Most teams don't have that. Usually there's a guy that you can say, "Hey, you can play off this guy." But I don't see that on their team.
On the Trojans' offensive schemes:
They do a lot of things that take advantage of match-ups. They might isolate a player on the block, they might isolate him at the wing, they may isolate him up top. They try to go to guys that have either some size or quickness advantage, and they do a good job of that. I think I've seen (coach) Tim (Floyd) do more of that since he's been back from the NBA than when I played him when he was coach at New Orleans. He didn't seem to do as much of that; of course, he didn't have as many talented players back then.
On who may be guarding Ryan Anderson:
It doesn't really make a difference because Ryan sees a lot of help defense. He can see some double-teams. We understand that's going to be part of what happens. You're going to have to be ready for all those types of defenses, combination defenses, trapping in the post, fronting, attacking the dribble - so many things you can do. Our team just has to be ready to play, make adjustments and take what their defense is giving us.
On the effort to get off to a better first half compared to the past two sluggish starts for Cal:
We struggled early and I thought our opponents did a good job early. At the same time, we've got to able to play through some of the adjustments. Getting on the board early both offensively and defensively would be great - you don't want to have a defensive and an offensive lull. USC is awfully talented, and you can't play giveaway against very talented teams because they'll take advantage of opportunities. We didn't rebound the ball early (the past two games) and we were able to bounce back from that, but against a team like USC, if you don't rebound early, they're going to take advantage of that. They're going to clean it up and they're going to be on the boards, and now you're going to be in a real bind. We were seven down against North Dakota State and you can come back from that, but we had to climb back against Utah from 16 points down, and that was too much.
On what makes USC's defense effective:
They've got great quickness and they're long in the post and at the guards. They cover a lot of ground. That helps them a lot. They start three guards but those are three 6-5 guards, and they're big, they're long and they're agile. Two of their losses have come against the No. 2 and 3 teams in the country. That tells you that they're a good team.
On the team's mood entering Pac-10 play:
We're excited. We've had a grind in the non-conference schedule, and we've been challenged. When you get into conference play, it's kind of phase two. We competed in non-conference and now we're getting on to phase two, and the Pac-10 is as good as advertised, maybe better. I've watched every team in the league and I've been impressed.
On how well the non-conference portion of Cal's schedule has prepared the team for the next phase:
We've faced a lot of different styles, some teams that have some talented players. It's given us an opportunity to prepare. That's hopefully helped out team, but once you get in the league, it's different from what you've done in the preseason. But all you can do is take the games and play a solid schedule. I believe we've played a solid schedule and hopefully that schedule will help us getting into the Pac-10.
On the progress of DeVon Hardin:
I'd like DeVon to get in the rhythm of the game. You don't want DeVon to pick up wasted fouls or silly fouls. But I don't want him to lose his aggressiveness. If he's going to pick up a foul, then let's make sure it's an aggressive foul, and I think we can live with that. I'd rather DeVon be aggressive. I thought he had a better half the second half against North Dakota State - he was active, he got the ball inside, his positioning was better. And that's what he needs to do. He's at his best when he's aggressive.
On the progress of Theo Robertson (hip):
He had a big, spirited practice the day before yesterday. But it's now about what can he do about bouncing back from those practices, what kind of toll does that take and how does he respond. He'll be back practicing today. We're going to look at how his week goes.
On the preparations for UCLA on Saturday:
Our mind can't be on UCLA. It's got to be on USC, whether you're a coach or a player. Subtly in practice you might some things. You might work on some screening situations in your drills or transition defense. But we try to do that every day, not just in preparation for UCLA. We know that USC is the team on our plate, and they're getting all of our attention.