March 10, 2008
Below are quotes from head coach Ben Braun from his weekly press conference with Bay Area media. The Bears next face Washington in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Final thoughts on Saturday's loss to UCLA:
For the record, the officials at our game were good officials. I'll take those three officials at any game we play, and I mean that. I thought they officiated a pretty good game. Unfortunately, it's like playing and coaching: if there's a mistake made in the last minute of a game, it can impact the game, and that's the one that you remember and that's the one that sometimes has a lasting impact. If you make that mistake in the middle of the game, you don't remember it. So that's the tough part. I told our players again, my message is you never want a game to come down to a call. Maybe an offensive rebound or two, we're not even talking about that. When we watched film this morning, that was our focus. Hey, tough loss, but I just want our team to know that they did so many good things, and I'm asking them to do one more good thing - one more loose ball, one more scramble - and we're talking about an awfully big win instead of an almost.
On the team's attitude following Saturday's loss and whether it has the determination to bounce back:
We've taken a number of losses hard this year, but I think that's probably the hardest I've seen our team take a loss. I didn't see a couple of guys in tears, I saw a lot of guys in tears, and I saw our coaches, if they weren't in tears, it was a tough, hard loss. I will say this: I think this is the most resilient group of guys and coaches that we've had. I can't say enough about the resiliency of our players this year. To have bounced back from tough losses this year, to bounce back from a tough loss on Thursday (at USC), to come back and play that kind of game tells me that this is a special group of guys that have character, and no matter how many times they get knocked down or how close our team gets, we will fight back. That's a pretty special trait, but it's tough. It's disappointing and it was hard. It was hard to watch the film this morning. Another indication is, how did our guys come back to practice today? I thought our spirit in practice was as good as it's been all year. To a man, there was emotion, there was drive, it was something.
On whether the emotion from Saturday could fuel the team:
That's our goal is to get into this tournament, and would it be nice to come back and play UCLA again? Yeah, but we're not thinking about UCLA right now. As I mentioned to our team, Washington and Cal, we're both playing pretty good basketball. It's not about our records. If you look at Washington and look at their record you say, well, they're not a very good team, they're eighth in the league, and they look at us and say well, we're ninth - our two teams can compete with anybody in any conference in the country, and we can compete with any teams in the country. That's how competitive our league is, that's why I believe our league should have a number of teams in the NCAA Tournament, because, look at our eighth place, ninth place - we're competitive teams. I've never seen it like this in the league, and that's just a message of what we're facing, the challenges we have.
On the status of DeVon Hardin (hip flexor):
He went pretty well today, wasn't 100 percent, but I thought he gave effort and he's here to practice. I don't think he's going to save himself. I expect him to play Wednesday. I can't tell you today how much that would be and if it would be coming off the bench - I just can't say that today - but when we got him into practice today, he did practice. We only have today and tomorrow morning. He can go up and down (the court). Jumping wasn't a problem, it was stop-start and it was sprinting, and then the quick side-to-side, that seemed to be a problem for him before the (UCLA) game. He was running today this morning, and he seemed to be moving way better than he was on Friday and Saturday.
On the Bears' success playing without DeVon or other injured players in the lineup:
Our team has performed, we've been driven in DeVon's absence or whoever's absence. When we've had injuries this year, our team has responded. That's part of the resiliency that I really admire about our guys, that if there's a player down, if there's a guy out, whatever it is, I think our team has responded. Whoever gets that opportunity - in this case Jamal got a great opportunity, even Jordan and Harper got opportunities - I thought those guys really stepped up and they gave us tremendous effort, and they played with confidence. We've played well, and I think that's a positive sign.
On the match-ups Cal can create with both Anderson and Boykin in the lineup:
It's a fact that when we've had those two guys on the floor, Ryan and Jamal have given other teams hard match-up problems because they're agile, they can step out, knock down shots, they can make plays off the dribble, and they've given us some flexibility. We might miss a little something on the defensive end in terms of some presence, but we do gain something in terms of match-ups, and it's given teams some fits. When Jamal's been able to play kind of an undersized post, he's really used that ability to create mismatches for our team, and that was part of our game plan against UCLA. We had a day prep, but we talked about how important that would be.
On Ryan being named to the first-team all-conference team and a finalist for the Wooden Award:
That's a great honor for any player. To be named first-team Pac-10 in the greatest year in its history, that's got to be a great award, a great honor, and I'm not going to speak for Ryan but I can tell you that he's a deserving player. What he's done in the two years now, he's gotten better, and he's doing it again against teams that are trying to shut him down. I like that he's making improvements in other areas, as well. He's doing a good job - his passing is getting better, his flexibility in terms of inside-outside, he's putting the ball on the deck, he's making plays off the dribble, he's rebounding in a crowd, he's stronger than he was a year ago. He really is, he's really improved, and I think Ryan's going to improve even more.
On whether Jerome Randle reached a new level in his game against UCLA:
I really was proud of his effort. I think the match-up with Collison and Westbrook, and how competitive they are, that drove Jerome, too. And I think he knows, as I said to him before the game, being a guard is the toughest position, point guard, because you're driving the bus. When you drive it well, things are well, and if the bus crashes, we're in trouble. It's hard to drive the bus. It's hard to be the guy that makes everybody else better. But I thought defensively he was really good, he stopped the ball in transition, he kept guys in front of him, he was able to help and get back. He broke the defense down, he was really hard for them to contend with. He really controlled the tempo of that game and he created mismatches for our team. He made almost every right play. Those games are an indication of what he can do for our team. The challenge again is to step up and duplicate that. To have those games every couple of games, a lot of players can do that. But can you do it on a consistent basis when your team needs you to be that kind of player? When he does that on a consistent basis, our team gets better. That's a challenge. It's not easy, it's awfully hard. He's playing against some awfully good players. What a game-changer he was and he was in control. It was clearly one of his best games.
On the challenge of playing Jon Brockman (ankle) and the Huskies on Wednesday:
I expect Brockman to play. He's just so tough. We have an understanding we're playing a team that's as dangerous as we are. They've had some big wins and they're playing at a high level. Washington can play. They're not concerned about anything other than going out and doing what we want to do, and that's extend our season. They're a really dangerous and challenging team. We've been in two dogfights with them, both games were dogfights right to the end. Each game could have gone either way.
On the importance of playing in the postseason and the large number of teams deserving of berths to the NCAA Tournament:
The NCAA has the most parity it's ever had in its history, and only a handful get to go, and that's a credit to college basketball. How many teams in our league are good basketball teams? There'll be some teams that don't make the tournament that any other year would make it. It's important every year you play to extend your season. You want to be rewarded for a competitive season, you want to be rewarded for playing in a great league. I want our players to have an opportunity, and I really believe that if we get the opportunity, we'll make the most of it. That's our goal. We want to get the opportunity and that's what we're playing for.