Feb. 26, 2008
Below are quotes from head coach Ben Braun from his weekly press conference with Bay Area media. The Bears next host Washington State Thursday at 8 p.m. and Washington Saturday at 3 p.m.
On his overall impressions following the loss:
From a team standpoint, there were some individual things. Even though Ryan had a tough shooting day, he still got to the line in the second half. Some of his looks were pretty good; those threes were pretty good. Jerome got him the ball in rhythm about two or three different times and I just felt that one of those could go down. That's easy to say now. But going back and looking at that, he had some awfully good looks and we had chances to tie or take the lead a couple times and those were some big opportunities. I would have at least liked to have seen us grab that lead and see what happens from there. I thought we did a pretty good job in the first half on (Brook) Lopez. Second half, he got out a few times to the rim. But Anthony Goods had a great game. He knocked some shots down.
On Cal's determined but unsuccessful effort to take the lead throughout the second half:
Jerome made some great decisions during the game. I told him his middle 30 was really good. And it was. He had seven assists. He found Jordan, Harper, Devon and Ryan for some easy baskets. But you know, I know he'd like to get a couple of those back towards the end, where you've got to try to get a better look. That was tough. I think Ryan a couple of times rushed his shot a little bit. I noticed in the film that his release was a little quicker than normal. Usually, he gets set, he's confident, but it looked like he was trying to get his shot off pretty quick. I think it was the thinking that Lopez was somewhere around there. As he said to you after the game, when you have a 7-footer chasing you, you probably rush a little bit more than he normally would and that's the kind of effect that they can have. Also, I think he had some plays later in the game to get to the foul line and still posted up. I wish we had established ourselves a little bit more in the first half. If we could do it over again, we've just got to go at guys. We've got to get to the foul line. We're shooting the ball pretty well from there, so we've got to get more fouls. It's nice to get our team in the bonus. Something that would have maybe gotten us over the hump is getting them in foul trouble, getting to the foul line, and being able to shoot free throws down the stretch.
On which players are the go-to guys at the ends of close games:
Jerome wants the ball in his hand. He's not afraid to make a play and that play could be a number of things; it doesn't have to end up a shot. Patrick is certainly comfortable with the ball in his hands and Ryan's comfortable with the ball in his hands. Those are the guys who have proven this year that they can get us a foul, a basket or make a play for our team. I think we have a couple guys who can make that. Last year, it was pretty evident that Ayinde (Ubaka) was going to have the ball in his hand and if Ryan could get a look, those would be our top two guys. But most guys have the ability to make a play for our team. They can get a shot, create separation on the dribble. Ryan can get you in the post, step you up in the block and Jerome can use his quickness to set up a shot for himself or his teammates.
On whether it's unusual for sophomores to be the go-to guys:
Well, it's something they didn't do last year with the exception of Ryan. Even though he was a go-to guy, he was pretty much our post threat last year. It's a new role for Patrick, a new role for Jerome. Of sorts, it's a new role for Ryan now because he is stepping out. But I think these guys have all handled it very well. They've all hit big shots for us and made some significant plays. I wish we would have had the opportunity against Stanford to make those plays down the stretch because I have confidence that those guys could make those plays for our team. I really do.
On how the Bears could have put a little more pressure on Stanford defensively:
We tried to put some pressure on them, we tried to challenge shots, but it turned out to be a free throw shooting contest. That's the danger sometimes of stepping up. But if you go back to the game, I thought Jerome put really good pressure on Mitch (Johnson) and I thought Patrick had some good pressure on (Anthony) Goods. I didn't really think our pressure was the problem. They've got some guys that can make plays off the dribble. Most of their drives came off the double team and pushing it and kicking it out, finding some guys and closing out. Their team has a lot of practice ahead because they're going to face that a lot. I don't think it's just us. Other teams are going at least dig down against the Lopez twins or at least off the block, like we elected to do. A year ago, we helped down off our guards, this year we helped off our post.
On the play Sunday of Cal's reserve frontline players:
I really can't say enough about Jordan and Harper and Jamal. Those guys in a big game played with poise and gave our team a lift. They really got us back in the game, in the absence of DeVon in foul trouble and Ryan spending a few minutes on the bench. We've had some depth in the post this year. We didn't have that last year. That's been a real plus for us. We don't have as much depth in the guards as we do in the post. We are definitely thinner when it comes to guards.
On how he will remember two seniors, DeVon Hardin and Eric Vierneisel, whose last home game is Saturday vs. Washington:
Those guys have been great guys to coach. It has been tough for both DeVon and Eric because they've both battled the injury bug. I probably don't remember a year where they didn't have some challenge. Every year, Eric and DeVon have had to overcome a lot. They have both fought through a lot, not only injuries, but personal adversity, like family. And you know what, they've fought through it. They've been involved in some big games for us this year. They've each contributed to our success in games. If you go back to Eric, I remember him making a big difference in our postseason when we beat USC (in the 2006 Pac-10 Tournament). He had a huge game. That was kind of a must-win game, if you look back at that. There was no assurance that we were going to the NCAA Tournament. That game seemed to give us a little cushion to get us to the next round. That was a huge game to beat USC in LA and Eric was very instrumental in that game. He was instrumental in our win over Stanford last year on the road. He helped us get that win. He has been pretty good for us when we've gone down to Arizona State. They've fought so hard through their four years and that's how I view their performance.
On Hardin's continued efforts to refine his game and remain aggressive:
DeVon and I have spent some time, pre-Stanford and post-Stanford, but it's the same message. DeVon's rebounding total has gone down in the Pac-10 and that's something he has to step up, offensively and defensively. We've talked about what he should do. You know, you can improve rebounds by getting after it on the offensive end as well as the defensive end. So, I think that has been the focus. I would to see DeVon being more aggressive and not worrying about fouls or anything rather than being aggressive and getting rebounds for out team. He has been one of our best screeners in terms of going out on ball screens. If he can be active and do that for us, that can help us. You can't always control fouls, but I'd still like to see him being aggressive. That's the challenge. There has been some time where he has lost that aggressiveness. He has got to get back to where he's being aggressive and not worry about numbers or results. When he's aggressive, he's going to get rebounds, he's going to get blocks, he's going to get points in the paint, he's going to get second chance opportunities. We went through that two-week period of just being fatigued and out and that hurt him and his rhythm. When DeVon has practiced well, he has played well. Getting back to those consistent days is the challenge. When he has been at practices on a daily basis, that has been when DeVon is at his best. We also talked about expectations. I think the key for that is to think a little less of the expectations and a little more of the performance. I think Devon is capable of the things I mentioned, running the floor, being a defensive force, and getting rebounds for us. He can do that and be a factor and a presence for us. Ironically, he has been more of an offensive presence the last couple weeks than defensively. I think he can get back to the defensive presence. That's going to help him and help our team.
On the Washington State Cougars:
They've had a great year. When they're playing well, they're awfully tough. Even when they lose, you have to beat them. Washington State is not a team that is going to come in and give you a game. Arizona played awfully well and beat Washington State. It was one of Arizona's better defensive games. They knocked down shots. Washington State is not coming in and beating themselves. You have to beat them. That's what I admire about Tony's team. You have to take it from them. They're not going to give you easy shots, they're not going to make a lot of mistakes. They take care of the ball, they get back, they're always in position, so you're going to have to work extremely hard. In years past, we have worked pretty hard against them and we need to continue to work hard because this is a huge challenge. They're active. If you look at Robbie Cowgill, he is efficient. He is active, he is all over the place, he helps on ball screens, he gets up and down the floor, he is around the basket, he's a complementary player. (Aron) Baynes has now become a real force inside. They're not as tall, but they're not small post players either. They're tough, tough mentally.
On WSU's effective defense despite a perceived lack of team quickness:
(Kyle) Weaver's pretty quick, (Taylor) Rochestie is pretty quick, and (Derrick) Low is deceptive. They play great position defense. They clog up the lanes, they're in the right place, they're smart defensively. If you isolate, if you take them off the dribble, they seem to have guys. That's why you need to make that extra pass against them. We were really good against them the first time out. I thought our ball movement was our best all year long and they made you play that way. If you don't get touches and move the ball, you're done. They'll destroy any team unwilling to pass the ball. You must make the extra pass or you're in for a long night. They prefer that they're only on defense for a short period because they enjoy being on offense. You could spend a lot of your night playing defense if you're not taking care of the ball.
On Cal's expected approach against the Cougars:
I think each game presents its own challenge. With Washington State, even though you know what you have, it doesn't make it any easier. Our guys know they have to be patient both offensively and defensively. If you become impatient, you're going to be in trouble. They will pick you apart. If you decide you want to gamble and want to get the ball right back, you're in trouble. On offensive, you can't run quick plays or quick hitters to get on them. You're going to have to really be patient.
On the outlook for postseason play with four games remaining in the regular season:
We're a smart group. I think we understand our challenge. I think we're fortunate we're in the Pac-10. In the Pac-10, there's going to be a greater number of teams going to the tournament. We just got to hang in and fight for every game we can. That's the only way we can battle. If you start putting a number figure, no game is more important than the other. If any game is important, it's your next game. You're only as good as the game you're playing. We just have to get out after each game and I think that will take care of itself. We can't think about what we need to do next weekend or the tournament or how many games. A team that can finish in the upper half of our league has a great chance to go the tournament. We just have to fight to be one of those teams. But that's the challenge because everything is fighting to be one of those teams, and there are some awfully good teams. I don't think there's a certain number other than our team going out and playing each game and making it significant. Boy, our next game is a key game. Washington State is a key game. We have a great opportunity to step up against them. It doesn't hurt us to play a nationally ranked team. It doesn't make the challenge any easier.