March 17, 2008
Below are quotes from head coach Ben Braun from his weekly press conference. Cal next hosts New Mexico at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the first round of the MasterCard NIT.
On the New Mexico Lobos:
They've got good team quickness. Their players have a combination of shooting ability and quickness. They're able to get some shots, get in the gaps, create shots for each other, and that creates some problems for you. (Defensively,) they put good pressure on the ball. They do a really good job of switching out on screens sometimes and being aggressive. They're an aggressive team. Mostly man (to man).
On the Lobos' NCAA-leading three-point shooting percentage:
They shoot it well. They have on their team four guys shooting over 40 percent and three other guys shooting in the high 30s. It's a pretty amazing stat when your team can shoot 42 percent from three. They do that well, so that's going to be a challenge for us to get out on their three-point shooters. At the same time, what I like about their team is if you get out on their shooters, very similar to Oregon, they have the ability to beat you off the dribble. It's a similar type of look. They're very effective at that.
On Lobos senior J.R. Giddens:
He's as talented a scorer and explosive a player as we've seen. He does a lot of things for his team. He rebounds, he gets to the rim, he finds openings for his team, he can post you up and he knocks down shots. He's very effective.
On whether Patrick Christopher might draw Giddens for his defensive assignment:
That could be an assignment for him. We've tended to put Patrick on guys like that. But I don't think it'll be just a one-man deal. We're going to have some other answers as well. I don't think he's been shut down. He's done a good job.
On DeVon Hardin's health (hip):
He's doing better. I thought he had a good practice yesterday.
On whether the Lobos' relative lack of size could allow the Bears to have Hardin come off the bench rather than start:
Matching up with them is going to be important, but then, them matching up with us is going to be a factor, so we have to weight the two and see which is going to be in our best interest. They give you that type of matchup challenge. You can go either way - adjust to them early and see how we do, or we can see how they adjust to us early - but be prepared to make changes, because it's a game of adjustments and you have to be able to do that. I've seen it work both ways. One's a defensive adjustment and one's more of an offensive adjustment. We've tended to make more of the offensive adjustments this year than we have defensive adjustments this year. I don't know if that's meaningful or not in this game, but it's something to think about.
On the excitement level on the team entering the NIT:
I know to a man that our team want to continue playing, but I also know to a man that, just like any team, your goal is to get to the NCAA. I don't care what team you are, you have to come with grips with that at some point, and when you can't get in - whether you lose you opportunity in the season or you don't have an opportunity in the Pac-10 tournament - now you readjust your goals. But this is a challenging year in the Pac-10. I think our guys have put it in perspective. They want to continue playing. If you look around the field of the NIT tournament, my goodness, there are some good basketball teams. It's amazing.
On the meaning of a postseason tournament for seniors Hardin and Eric Vierneisel:
Those players didn't want to go their senior years not having played in a postseason tournament. That wouldn't have fit either one of those guys. I think it's great that we have an opportunity to play again. When you're a senior, that starts weighing on you too. Every game could be your last game, so you go out and it's a good chance to get some wins.
On the advantages of postseason experience and success for younger players:
In basketball, it's becoming together to get postseason experience and taste postseason. It's really tough. There have been national champions that are national champs, and next year they're not in any tournament. That's happened. It's not a given, it's not a right that you play. So anytime you can get in a postseason and play a team, a high-caliber team. It's a great experience to play a New Mexico. It'd be a great experience if we had a chance to play Ohio State. It would be a great experience to continue our season. That can only help our team.