March 21, 2008
Below are quotes from California head coach Ben Braun from a Friday press conference to discuss Monday's NIT game at Ohio State.
On facing a zone defense from Ohio State Monday in Columbus:
A couple of teams have zoned us, and that's obviously a very pertinent question when it comes to Ohio State, but I think our team's done a decent job. A couple of teams in our league zone, and we played some zone in non-conference.
On comparing the two conferences in this Pac-10 vs. Big Ten matchup:
I haven't had a chance to see as many games in the Big Ten. I've seen obviously a few. Our hands have been so full with the Pac-10 this year, we just haven't paid as much attention. Now, we're becoming more familiar. I'm going back and watching some games with Ohio State and some of the teams in the Big Ten. It's really been tough to ascertain, kind of comparing the two leagues, I just think that I've been impressed with some of the players, and I know the coaches in the Big Ten. There's some awfully good coaches in that league.
On Ohio State point guard Jamar Butler:
He's a phenomenal player, and I've just been so impressed with what he does for his team and what he's able to do in the league. In addition to being able to knock down shots, control the tempo and those types of things. You talk about solid at the free throw line. He gets it done there. And look at his assists-to-turnovers. He makes his team go, he had a great year last year and he had a great year this year. I can't say enough about what he's done. I think every coach in the country would like to have a Jamar Butler.
On the importance of Jerome Randle having a good game against an opposite number like Butler:
I'd say it's extremely important. Going up against a player of his caliber, he just does so many things for his team. When you're knocking down free throws, you knock down open threes, you control the tempo, your assist-to-turnovers are as good as his, those are really tremendous stats, so he just does a lot of things for his team. And Jerome, obviously, this is a great challenge for him in his young career.
On what else stands out about Ohio State:
(Head coach Thad Matta) has done a good job of controlling tempo, and they do that very well. They press after scores and that helps their team really get into the tempo of the game. And then when they go back into their zone, I think that also a great tempo controller type, and that's been good for his teams, and they've adapted and played well with that. And they knock down shots. They have a number of guys that can step up, and they're capable of knocking down shots from three, including their big guy (Kosta Koufos), who really knocks down shots from three. So again, they've come on a lot at the end of the year and had some big wins. That's going to be a challenge for us.
On his further thoughts on Buckeyes center Kosta Koufos:
We were impressed with him. I saw him play before he got to Ohio State, and I thought they got a really good player in Kosta. He does a good job, he understands the game, he can step out and knock down shots - that's important, that's huge. At the same time, he's still rebounding for his team and keeps the ball alive on the offensive glass. And he's young. I've just been impressed with what he does. He's a good player right now, but he's going to get even better.
On whether he has ever coached a game at St. John Arena:
No, but I've been to St. John Arena. We've watched highs school tournaments there. It's a great place. There's a lot of tradition there.
On the possibility of flooding in Ohio area by the time the Bears arrive following substantial snowfall:
I miss a lot of things about the Midwest. I don't miss the weather.
On whether he can compare Ohio State to any other teams:
I don't know that I can say they're like any one team. They run a lot of ball screens - that's unique. Coach Matta sets as many ball screens as any team we're faced this year. I don't know that there's any team that we've faced that really ball-screens as much as they do. It's very effective for their team. They do it in transition, they do it in half court, and they do against zones. They just do it really all the time. They're effective at that - get out on you, then scramble back. They do a great job.
On whether he was surprised by Wednesday's turnout in Haas Pavilion for the first-round win over New Mexico:
The students that were there were tremendous. I thought our student turnout was great. I think it's tough sometimes. You have a two-day turnaround, and the game being on ESPN2, late start - you've got to accept whatever it is. I really thought the students that came out were really very energetic and as active as they've been all year. They were great, they were fantastic. I think that (low attendance) is really be a different story if we play that game on a weekend and maybe it's not as late a start.
On what type of Cal scouting report he could offer to fans of Ohio State:
We really improved offensively from a year ago - that's something we worked on. We'd like to be a little bit better consistently with our defense. We've really improved our rebounding, and obviously Ryan Anderson and DeVon Hardin have a lot to do with that. Those two guys have given us pretty good presence. We've improved our free throw shooting, we're No. 2 in the country. We're an opportunity fast-break team - if we can get the ball down the floor we'll try to do that. We have a point guard in Jerome Randle that's really active and aggressive, and some wing players that are pretty good scorers and shooters, and our post guys run pretty well. So that's something we'll try to do. It could be a game of spurts, maybe, with both sides trying to get transition baskets. But I think our biggest challenge right now is defensively. We've gotten better, but we've got to really be good against Ohio State to be effective.