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March 8, 2013 at 5:20 PM

After blowout defeat at WSU, UCLA coach Ben Howland vows better effort against UW

UCLA coach Ben Howland spoke with the media today during a teleconference. Here’s most of the interview.

(How much of a relief was it that Colorado beat Oregon?) “Our league is a very difficult league. I thought Colorado would win that game. Colorado is a very hard place to play. It’s hard for anybody to go in there and win against a very good team. And to win without (Andre) Roberson really speaks higher to how good they are. Oregon as we know is a really good team. I think our league is pretty competitive. Anybody can be anybody on a given night. That’s been proven. Washington State handled us. They really came out. You have to give them credit. It’s just not that huge of a difference in talent level between the last-place team and the first-place team. It’s how you bring it every day and that’s been proven. I thought (Brock) Motum was terrific. I think we’ll have a similar-type of fight on our hands tomorrow in that it’s Senior Day. They start three seniors. They’re all very good players. They’re all a part of a really special program over there for four years at the University of Washington. We’re in for a dog fight, no pun intended.”

(Feel like you got a little lucky to still have a chance for a share of the Pac-12 title?) “I don’t know if it’s luck, but we are where we are. We’re tied with a game to go.”

(What makes you sure you’re not going to get same effort as Wednesday’s loss at Washington State?) “The learning. Again, young players. There’s a lot of things that went into why we played so poorly the other day. Most importantly, I need to do a better job of impressing upon them. I’m going to belabor and go into excuses as to reasons why. But I’m very confident that for the remainder of the 2012-13 season, you will never see another effort like that out of our team.”

(Did you watch the Oregon game?) “No. We were at the Cheesecake Factory with our women’s team in downtown Seattle. The game as going on. My assistants were watching it just to follow the score. I think our players (were watching it.). When you sit down to the team dinner, every single player is on their phone. I know some were following updates. But we didn’t sit there and watch the actual game. We’re focused on us. We got to control what we can control.”

(Beginning of the season you thought Pac-12 title would be decided in the last week.) “I think our league is much improved. I (thought) it was going to be a dog fight. I (thought) you would have this kind of a conference race. And that’s what it is.”

(Why has Washington been a tough place to play for UCLA?) “They’re really good. They’ve won either the Pac-12 title at the tournament or the regular season four of the past six years. They’ve had really good players. They’re very well coached. Lorenzo does a fantastic job. One of the best coaches not only in our conference – and the dean of the coaches in our conference – but he’s one of the best coaches in the coaches. He runs a terrific program. It’s a very difficult place to play because it’s really loud and they have great fans. All of the above.”

(Why didn’t you shoot the ball well in the last UW game?) “That was a very hard fought, physical game. I just thought it was a slug fest. We had a six-point lead. … We were very fortunate to win that game. Larry (Drew II) makes a huge shot after we allowed a layup to tie the game with 14 seconds left. I’m very thankful we got out of that game with a win. They have a veteran team. They have a senior-dominated guys. They’re playing well here down the stretch. They’re going to be a problem when they get to Las Vegas for whoever has to face them.”

(Washington wants to push the tempo, do you want an up-down game?) “Yeah whenever the opportunity arises. … That’s how he’s played. That’s what we’ve tried to do all season long. That’s something that we don’t want to allow them to do on us. We don’t want them to push it. We want to try to make them score on us in the halfcourt because it’s harder to do that when you have a team’s set defense. Just like I’m sure they want the same thing.”

(Is UW primarily a man or zone team?) “They’re primarily a man team, but they will play a 2-3 zone.”

(How much of a problem is Aziz N’Diaye?) “He had 18 boards. He’s a man. And his mom is here all the way from Senegal. I saw her when we were reviewing the Washington-Washington State tape. She’s here for his final game so that’s obviously going to be special for him. So you’re dealing with the emotions of the last game ever and a senior. That’s always a special thing for kids. We know that’s going to create even more of an effort and a sense of urgency in their hearts and we got to be up  for that challenge. That’s something that we’ll continue to drive home for the rest of the day and going into that game tomorrow morning.”

(Will Jordan Adams defend C.J. Wilcox?) “Yes. And (Scott) Suggs is playing great. Suggs is playing his best basketball of the year right now. He was wonderful against USC. He had 18 points. He was really, really a problem. I think Gaddy is terrific. I thought the kid #33 I can’t pronounce his name from Louisiana he played really well. And Simmons and Andrews, they both had eight rebounds. The thing they did against SC, they crushed them on the boards. We just got beat on the boards by 23. They just crushed SC by 19 on the glass. That’s going to be a huge factor, our ability to hold our on and block out and not allow second and third opportunities.”

(Why were you so successful against Wilcox in the last game?) “I think Wilcox was hurt in our last game. I remember listening to one of my assistants talk about he was questionable for the SC game after they played us at our place. I think he’s been battling through different injuries. I think he showed a lot of toughness. He’s a great shooter and he’s capable of going off for 25 at any time. He’s averaging 17 on the year.”

(What’s the level excitement around the team knowing there’s a championship on the line?) “We’ll let our results and our actions speak for our words. I guess what I’m trying to say is yeah, I think they are.”

(Are you and Romar friends?) “Lorenzo and I go back to having been acquaintances at the high-school level. He was a great player. He played at Cerritos College. … I have unbelievable respect for Lorenzo and everything he’s accomplished during his career. He’s a terrific person. Great role model for kids. A really good Christian man. We’re competitors, but yes we’re friends.”

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