Dec. 10, 2001
Below are selected quotes from head coach Ben Braun's weekly media luncheon. The Bears host Fresno State Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Haas Pavilion.
Do you expect Fresno State center Melvin Ely to play Tuesday night?
We'll practice with the thought in mind that he's going to play. We haven't heard to the contrary yet, so we're preparing as if he'll play.
What is your impression of Ely and how much of a difference does it make when he's not there?
I think he's certainly a big part of their team, and he's shown some improvement. As good as he was against us last year, he's shown some improvement. But I think their team has shown some improvement in a number of areas and they've been playing good basketball. You take away that they lost a tough game (to Gonzaga). That's not a bad loss, that's a pretty good team they played. They had to play without Melvin at San Diego State, and again that's not an easy place to play, so they've had a great start so far this year and they've played hard defensively.
I think they're playing a little more in the halfcourt than they normally do, but I also think they're playing a lot better in the halfcourt than they normally do. That's what strikes me. They're playing very good defense in the halfcourt . They're making it very tough on their opponents to score and get good looks, and their pressure is still very good. They're pretty big at each position, so they making it tough on you to score. That's a given. They've played some zone, and they've mixed up some zone and man-to-man and they do a very good job of doing that.
On forward Chris Jeffries:
I really like Jeffries. I think he's their guy right now who's playing as well as anybody, and he's a huge key for them as well. He does a lot of things for their team. He's a very agile wing for their team. He rebounds, knocks down threes, he can go to the rim, he can defend. He's a hard match-up, and he's been a hard match-up for everyone who's played him. Very few teams have contained him. He's had maybe one or two games where he's been down. A couple games, not many. But he's a really good player and we've seen a lot of him.
Do you sense any extra emotion from your players since Fresno State knocked Cal out of the NCAA Tournament last year?
It's an opportunity for us. You know, just like we played Saint Louis. It's an opportunity for us to go back and put our best foot forward - or maybe our better foot forward would be more accurate - just to give a better effort. That was the last game of the year and will stick with you and should stick with our players. But they're good. They're a good basketball team and Tark's a good basketball coach. There's no surprise there. They're a tough team. They've been in the Top 20 all year long and they deserve to be there. They're a solid team and they've really played well. This is a huge challenge for us again. I don't think it's enough for us just to have an emotional lift, I can tell you that. We can't just come out and say 'OK, we're going to emotionally get charged up.' You've got to go out there and physically play them. That's why they're good. You can have all the emotion that you want, you're going to physically get tested. You have to be prepared to go 40 minutes. We're going to have to be prepared to go a long time in this thing.
Do you match up better with Fresno State this year?
Yeah, we were matching Sean (Lampley) up with him (Ely). and that was a tough match-up for Sean. Solomon (Hughes) really couldn't get matched up because he got in foul trouble last year. So Solomon is available, Jamal (Sampson) is available, Gabriel (Hughes) is available. We've got a couple of guys who are solid guys who I think can challenge him. I don't think you're going to stop him, but hopefully you can slow him down a little bit and monitor what he's doing.
On senior guard Dennis Gates' performance in the Saint Louis game:
He did everything pretty well except for shooting. But I still believe Dennis will give us the same effort whether he's starting or whether he's not. That's one guy I don't worry about. I don't think Dennis needs to be appeased with the starting lineup, or given a pep talk if he's not. Dennis is so much for the team that he's going to contribute wherever he is. The bottom line is that I like him on the floor somewhere. I like him in the game because he makes us better. He provides a lot of things for us. He's a kind of coach on the floor. He's a spiritual guy. He's a hustler, he's tough, he understands the game.
On Shantay Legans' performance against Saint Louis:
He played with good purpose. He's a big reason we got our break triggered. I like when he's aggressive. I've always liked it when he's aggressive. I think he likes when he's aggressive, pushing the ball.
How important is the fast break?
I think we have to have opportunities. That's what we did last game, we gave ourselves opportunities. We didn't convert a lot in the first half, but we had opportunities. Better opportunities, I thought,. than we'd had in past games. And if we can continue to get opportunities, we're going to take advantage and we did in the second half. A lot of them were the same types of looks and we finished. We've just got to continue to do that and we've got to give ourselves a chance. Our tempo was pretty good.