Mike Montgomery Feb. 24 Press Conference Quotes

Feb. 24, 2009

BERKELEY - The following are quotes from California head coach Mike Montgomery at his weekly press conference with Bay Area media. The Golden Bears host USC and UCLA this weekend at Haas Pavilion.

How big of a deal is the game Thursday?

You know me better than that. You can't look at it like that. If we lost Thursday but won Saturday, it would work as well. I suppose on paper you're going to look at the USC game as one we should win, but it is the next game. We would like to get some more wins. We've got a tough stretch coming up here. We were ahead of USC down there in the second half so we feel like we can compete against them. They do a good job defensively. We're getting a little banged up and it's starting to take a toll on us; everybody's got a little something I suppose, we're not unique that way. But we don't have the depth to make up for it. With Game Day coming on Saturday and everything going on we've got to focus on Thursday.

How are Jordan [Wilkes] and Harper [Kamp] doing?

Jordan is going to get fitted for a mask and he hasn't practiced, Harper hasn't practiced either. We're kind of playing with Nican [Robinson] and Nigel [Carter] as our posts right now. They should be ready for Thursday. Harper strained a muscle in the game on Saturday in his non-injured leg. It was pretty swollen.

When you play USC a second time, they present the obvious matchup problems, but has playing them that first time helped you learn anything to give you an advantage?

Not really, because what they do is what they do and you can't do much about it. Tim [Floyd] kind of has a way that he plays people. He plays a lot of triangle and two, but with our three shooters he's elected not to play us that way although he did again last weekend play a triangle and two against Washington State. Other than that, what he tends to do is take people that he wants to minimize and face guards them. And then the others play help side off toward defense which is why Jamal [Boykin] and Jordan [Wilkes] got so many good looks last time and took advantage of it. Floyd has determined that he doesn't want certain people to beat him. What he does have are athletic wings; ones, twos and threes that are fairly physical and are willing to work hard to keep people from getting the ball where they want it. It's been a little bit of a problem from everybody.

And their size is good too?

(Daniel) Hackett is 6'5' and they tried to post him up with Jerome [Randle] last time. I'm sure they'll try to do that again. They isolate pretty well. (Taj) Gibson's good at the block and they try to get him isolated because of his quickness then they try to isolate Hackett some at the high post. So they do a lot of that kind of stuff. They tend to try and find a matchup they can exploit then they go after it. Marcus Williams hurt us pretty bad last time, we tried to go small some and he ended up being a pretty good wild card for them, but he may not be playing. I don't know if there's a lot you can learn. People have figured out to keep us from getting open looks and it's made it more difficult for us to get shots. It would open up your inside game obviously, and we've had better numbers there, but it's not something we can go to as a steady diet and exploit. It worked against Oregon where Harper had 18. But it's difficult and you're going to have to be more patient and set better screens. Our perimeter people are going to have to set up their cuts better in order to get open and they're going to have to put the ball on the floor a little bit and create something.

What do you do this week, if anything different, to prepare for these two tough teams?

We didn't do much yesterday. Both USC and UCLA play mostly man. USC may throw a junk defense at you but they're both man teams, so you've got to run your man offense. The fact that we had two or three kids hurt and out obviously eroded the quality of our practice. We felt that we were starting to wear down so we decided to keep it a little bit lighter and not push as hard. We don't have the depth where we can run our guys into the ground; they're having to play some pretty significant minutes. I think there's probably some pressure on them. Going into Saturday we were in position that if we won we were virtually going to be in first place. I don't know if the kids had been in that position before. They came out and played hard, but we couldn't make any shots in the second half particularly. So no, we're going to do the same type of preparation. Defend their stuff and try to work our man offense.

You've got 20 wins and you're in the mix here with two weeks left. Are you guys better than you thought you would be?

I think we're better than everybody imagined we were going to be given where we were coming from. I didn't know what to expect so I couldn't predict what they could or couldn't do. When we shoot the ball we're good. When we don't shoot the ball we've not been beaten bad except for one game but we've played everybody tough and had opportunities, but we rely on shooting the ball and it has to go down for us. We're not going to dominate people on the boards. We're not going to dominate people defensively although we've been decent. There's not a lot of things we can do other than just run our offense and try to get the ball in. We're in a position where we still have our destiny in our hands. Coming off an Oregon State loss where one might say, 'Well you can't beat Oregon State how are you going to beat these other teams?' I don't think it necessarily computes that way just because of matchup issues. Sometimes you play better against certain people. We're in a position where if we win we can win this thing and you can't ask for much more than that. The reality is that you should expect that if you're going to compete for the top couple spots you're going to have to play against the best teams and beat them and that's who we've got.

After Saturday, Jamal [Boykin] said that this was an opportunity to play these four teams down the stretch. Do you get the sense that your players are thinking that and not just that they've got a tough schedule?

It is what it is and it doesn't change what is going to happen. They know that it's a tough stretch because it is; it's against four of the better teams. The reality, though, is that we've put ourselves in a position where we've got something to play for. That in it of itself is an opportunity. You still have to go out and perform and that is the dicey part. You're playing against good teams and it makes it more difficult because they're capable of doing more things that will cause you problems because they're talented.

Is UCLA somehow different than they were when you first saw them? Earlier this season they we're shutting people down and squeezing a lot of turnovers. Recently they gave up 82 points to WSU and over their last four games they're giving up almost 80 points a game.

They squeezed a lot of turnovers out of us. I know in the first half in particular. I'd have to go back and see who they've played. I know the case could be made that they had to go and play the Arizona teams on the road. The WSU game was surprising, I watched the game. Klay Thompson shot they ball exceptionally well and Taylor Rochestie shot it very well also. A lot of times its no more complex than, for example: Calvin Haynes went 7-7 in the second half against us. If he doesn't do that, or if we have a guy who does, it's game set and match. But we didn't and they did. So Rochestie shot it in against them. I would have said that early on, UCLA had (Nikola) Dragovic going for them on the pick and pop and he had all those threes, but Dragovic had 20-something points against Washington State too. So it is hard to put a finger on it. I know UCLA has always had the ability to ratchet up their defense and be more competitive. You know they can do that because defensively they're physical and they do a very good job. I think there are just ebbs and flows as the season goes on. It also can depend on who you play.

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