Ben Braun Press Conference Quotes

Nov. 29, 2004

Below are selected quotes from head coach Ben Braun's Nov. 29 press conference. The Bears host UNLV Wednesday at 8 p.m. then play Fairleigh Dickinson Saturday at 7 p.m. in Haas Pavilion.

On UNLV's ability to pressure the ball:
Obviously, UNLV will come in here, and that's what they do. That's going to be, again, another challenge for our team because their pressure is intense and we know that. They'll put great pressure on the ball, and we're going to have to handle that pressure. We know they're very aggressive and there's no secret about that.

You can put that together in practice, but it's going to be a different scenario in the game. It's always hard to simulate that. In practice, they're going to come after it.

How important is it for Marquise Kately to help Richard Midgley with ball-handling duties
I think it's important for all of our guys to be strong with the ball. We know they're going to try to put pressure on Richard and they do a good job of keeping the ball out of other guys' hands and denying them. I think all of our players, whether it's Marquise or (Dominic McGuire) or other post guys, when they have opportunities to handle the ball, they've really got to be strong with the ball.

I think Martin Smith will be a factor, certainly. He's a guy who's a pretty good ball-handler. He's going to have to be available and ready to support our team.

Did you make the decision that you can't afford to start Martin Smith because you need a ball-handler coming off of the bench?
I think our team feels better starting who we do because we have a few more extra options coming off the bench. Martin can come in for pretty much any of our guards; that's pretty flexible. He's going to come in with some energy. We're a little bit bigger at the wing now, so that helps us defensively.

On Martin Smith possibly receiving more minutes:
He played about 24 against BYU; he played some pretty good minutes. Could he play more? Yes. We're not averse to putting Martin in the game. He started for us in the second half of the Southern game. And, I thought, did a pretty solid job. He's going to be huge for us in this game, and I think it will be a great challenge for him.

What's your impression of UNLV?
They're quick, they put great pressure on you, and they make plays off of the dribble really well. That's hard to simulate in practice. It's not about plays; they can take you off the dribble. They have some very good scorers. They're a difficult team to defend.

Are they any different than last year?
I think they're better, in my opinion. From the short time I've seen them, they look like they're pretty solid.

Are they doing anything differently?
They're going to be a little more aggressive than they were a year ago. And that's not to say that their team wasn't aggressive last year. They were aggressive. But I think they could be more aggressive this year. They're a little freer offensively. They're capable of putting some points on the board. They really hurt Oregon State. They jumped on them pretty well.

You mentioned that UNLVi s pretty good off the dribble, but you have some pretty good ball-defenders, don't you?
We're going to have to be good. That's going to be a challenge for us. Our biggest challenge now is rebounding. We really have to do a better job. One of their strengths is that they go to the offensive glass. They do that really well and make an effort to get there. We have to do a good job against them because they really go up and get it. They're good at follow-ups. This game is a tremendous challenge for us.

On DeVon Hardin's performance at BYU:
I thought he played aggressively. He was on the boards for us, and that's one of the reasons he was starting. We said that, per minutes played, he was our most productive post player in terms of rebounding and that's something we needed desperately. I thought he came out and really did a good job on the boards for us. He did a good job, actually, on both boards - offensively and defensively. So, if we cane get that kind of performance and effort from DeVon, which will really help our team. He's really given us that. With Rod being in there, that's giving us two aggressive post players when we start the game and that's pretty good.

Hardin has been playing well in practice. It's just a process more as a first-year player making strides, but he's shown improvement and he's improved a lot from the beginning of the year. I think as more time goes on, he's going to improve some of his skills and some other things. But he sure played with aggression and confidence. He's practicing well. It's like with Ayinde. He's was practicing well, so that's why he was playing so confidently. And players tend to play better if they're practicing with confidence and they're getting it in practice. You don't get that without showing what you can do in practice and he's done that.

So, based on how he's improving, even if Ubaka didn't get hurt, would Hardin still be playing the minutes he is?
We were toying with the idea earlier, but I think he's really made use of his opportunity. If you stat our practices, he's always one of our leading rebounders. That's pretty consistent. He goes after the glass and that really helps us. I think our post presence really stepped up last game and we hope it can continue. When your guard goes out right now, you can either fill in at the guard or you can decide to put another post guy in. I think our post guys made a big difference in the game.

On Cal's post game versus BYU?
It's been awhile since we've had guys combine for 30 in the post. I think it's a good sign. David had a couple of scores. (Forward) Kevin (Langford) should have had some scores. I thought we were getting some good looks in the post. I know UNLV doesn't want us to get those kinds of looks, and they'll work hard to see that we don't. We have some decent quickness in the post and we're encouraging our guys to continually play hard in transition. That could be a plus for us if we can continue to do that. We got that going against BYU. I was concerned a little bit about how long it would last because it's a tougher place to get up and down, but they did a good job.

On Cal's overall defensive effort this season:
We have to make defense a priority for us. I say it every year, but I don't think it's ever been truer than this year: we're going to have to defend for us to be successful. For us to be competitive, we have to defend. That's usually the best way to judge a team's competitiveness - digging in and having some pride. We need to solve our defensive rebounding. I have not been happy with that. That's really an area that concerns me. A lot. Our team needs to be more focused on that area. There were opportunities we let them get back in.

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