Jan. 31, 2000
BERKELEY - Below are selected comments from Cal men's basketball head coach Ben Braun from his Monday media luncheon. Cal travels to Los Angeles this week to face USC Thursday and UCLA Saturday. The USC game, which starts at 7 p.m., will not be televised, while the UCLA game will be shown regionally on ABC beginning at 12 noon. Both games can also be heard on KABL Radio (960 AM) and KATD Radio (990 AM).
Comparing last year's USC team to this year's:
They had good players. Nobody ever thought they didn't have good players. But they just didn't seem to put it together. They couldn't get a consistency going that they've got going this year. Those guys are a year older and a year smarter. They were a bit up and down in the non-conference, but once they hit the league season, I think a couple of wins gave them some confidence. It could have gone the other way. They got some wins early. All of a sudden, they're up in the league and players are starting to feel pretty good about themselves. They're playing really, really well.
I think everybody who plays them has to be concerned with the match-ups. They're all capable of scoring on the perimeter. They're all capable of putting the ball down and making a play. Their post guys are very skilled players. They're really forcing people to shoot from the perimeter, and they're very agile to the glass.
On USC junior guard Jeff Trepagnier:
He's improved. I think Jeff is a player who has increased his range and his skills. He's an incredible athlete. We all know that. But I think he's increased his range and his ball handling. He's really an explosive player. He's very active. It's made him a better player. It used to be you would play him to drive and encourage him to shoot from the perimeter. That's not the case anymore.
On USC center Brian Scalabrine:
He's playing really well. I think he's increased his range and agility. I saw Brian work this summer at some of the camps as a counselor. He's improved. He gives them an inside-outside threat. He's a highly skilled player. He's a lot better athlete than you think he is, too.
On what Cal needs to do against USC:
I think we have to realize that we have to try to get to the foul line and get some shots inside. We're not going to go out there and just have a shooting contest. I think that's what they're hoping you'll do. I think you've got to be patient.
On the state of the Cal team after splitting against WSU and Washington:
It was an up-and-down weekend. I still go back, without getting over emotional, if we all sat here last week and said we'd hold Washington to 15 points in the first half, we'd be pretty happy. We wouldn't be thinking we'd be missing 11 of 21 free throws. That was disappointing. I think defensively, we're now getting the effort. We have to take advantage of the other intangibles. We just have to stay more consistent. When you get 14-point leads, you have to continue to get good shots. I thought we rushed some shots with that lead. That bothers me, and that's got to be corrected. And we have to secure the ball, whether it's on rebounds or loose balls. Teams in this league are too good if you give opportunities, and I felt we did that. I don't think we gave Washington State a lot of opportunities, I think we gave Washington a lot of opportunities. That's the difference. Defensively, our effort was probably the same. I think we had two good defensive efforts this week. But we didn't have the same consistency in terms of being a little bit stingier and a little bit mentally tougher. We lost our mental edge on Saturday, and that cost us. That's got to be a challenge to our team. It's certainly not going to get easier.
It's still early in the year, and I think we have to put everything in perspective. I said it after Stanford and I'll say it again, we're not far away, but we still have to grow. Growing is playing back-to-back games, growing is eliminating reasons why you lose. Sure, it's nice to get a good defensive effort, but we've got to get that consistency. That's something that comes with time and that comes with pain.