Pac-12 coaches teleconference: Monty isn't too impressed with Cal win
Previously No. 1-ranked Arizona fell to the California Golden Bears this past week, but neither UA coach Sean Miller nor Cal coach Mike Montgomery are making much of a big deal about it. Montgomery even found room to criticize Justin Cobbs and his game-winning shot. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are moving on without forward Brandon Ashley, who injured his foot and is out for the year.
California's Mike Montgomery
Montgomery liked Justin Cobbs' tough step-back jump shot that helped the Golden Bears down the No. 1 team in the nation this weekend. Ever the perfectionist, the Cal coach used the play to criticize Cobbs, who according to Monty, doesn't use his legs to get off jumpers enough. “We've been trying to get him to do it all the time,” the Cal coach said. “He gets lazy. Obviously they forced him to jump and he was focused. For Justin, I think it was a good shot.”
Montgomery has been here before, so he wasn't overly boastful about beating a ranked opponent. “It certainly helps your RPI and it gives you a win maybe others aren't going to get,” he said. “The matchup was decent for us. You're only as good as your last game.”
Montgomery fears that some of the many Pac-12 teams that he'd consider deserving of an NCAA tournament bid could be snubbed, which is why you can forgive him for not taking too much stock in one win. “You probably need to get yourself in third, fourth to guarantee yourself a spot,” he said.
Arizona's Sean Miller
With Brandon Ashley's season coming to an end because of a foot injury, the next man up is freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who Miller said will start. The forward has taken many steps forward in developing a jumper from 15 feet and in, but he still has room to grow. “Rondae's very instinctive with the ball, he drives it, draws fouls,” Miller said. “Big picture, he's got to become more skilled as a shooter. He doesn't always see (the right play) because, again, he's only played in 22 games as a college player.”
The Wildcats' first loss only came by way of a well-defended step-back jumper by California guard Justin Cobbs, and Miller said neither the play nor the loss bothered him too much. “He made a great shot. The game was eerily similar to eight or 10 games we've played this year,” Miller said, adding that his Wildcats were just on the other end of making the plays to win.
Miller on getting center Kaleb Tarczewski more involved: “I feel like sometimes we haven't been doing as good of a job in getting him the ball. I think it's in our best interest offensively to get him the ball.”
Colorado's Tad Boyle
Coming off a gutty overtime win against Utah, Tad Boyle's Colorado squad hosts the Washington schools this week hoping to alleviate turnover problems. It's the fundamental ones that are easier to fix. “Sometimes it's a matter of footwork and fundamentals,” Boyle said, adding that those can be taught. “Other times, it's decision-making. That's where hopefully, watching film with players and getting them to understand situations and reads will really help.”
Boyle called center Josh Scott the most consistent player for the Buffs thus far in 2013-14. And since guard Spencer Dinwiddie went down with a season-ending injury, Scott has grown as a leader more than anything else. “A little brighter light is shining on Josh now with Spencer being down. I think his leadership and his understanding of not just himself and how he's playing, but how his teammates are playing, has been more apparent to him,” Boyle said.
Boyle said his experience in moving past Dinwiddie's injury – and any advice he'd lend Miller in dealing with Brandon Ashley's – comes in handling his players' emotions without being callous. “You've got to walk the fine line of understanding he's out for the year and being sensitive about it to the team,” Boyle said. “As a coach, you have to be careful about how that message is relayed. You don't want his teammates to feel or the kid to feel, 'Oh, we're moving on without you.'”
Stanford's Johnny Dawkins
Stanford had a nice first crack at dropping the then-No. 1 Wildcats this week, but the offense went cold down the stretch as the UA pulled away. Dawkins is mostly glad his team didn't close shop for the week after the difficult defeat as the Cardinal rebounded to beat the ASU Sun Devils. “I thought we played terrific for 35 minutes,” Dawkins said of the Arizona game. “We move to the Arizona State game, there's a big concern about the let-down. I thought our kids showed a lot of character. It was very important we didn't get swept at home.”
Next up for Stanford is a rivalry game against the California team that ended Arizona's 21-game winning streak. Dawkins isn't concerned about what the Golden Bears learned in a big victory. “It's about our system and we want to stay with that,” the Cardinal head coach said. “We just need to keep preparing. It's more about us.”
On Stanford's depth: “We've never been as concerned with our depth. I think our last game we played, I don't think we had a player play more than 36 minutes.”
Oregon State's Craig Robinson
Robinson said making players understand the importance of fighting for positioning in the middle of the Pac-12 standings is difficult. “They don't look at anything other than NBA stuff,” Robinson said. “All of us who are fighting for this middle section of the standings, it's critically important. The more games you can win on the road this year, the better you will be at the end.”
Oregon State recorded a huge victory against UCLA this weekend, and that might have made his team believe it can win every game. “I'd like to think we can play with any team in the conference. That hasn't been the case in the past. I think that's a really good (UCLA) team. I thought they were on the verge of being ranked or should have been ranked. That makes you think you can be up there,” Robinson said.
On what has changed the most for the Beavers in the last month, excluding the return of forward Eric Moreland: “I think our defense is better than it's ever been, and I think it's a big reason why we're playing better. The other thing is, I think we just have a sense of urgency about us. It's interesting to see, once you have experience winning these games, you want to win more. Watching my guys prepare each week has really been interesting from a coaching standpoint.”
Utah's Larry Krystkowiak
The Utes have lost three games in a row, but as Krystkowiak has maintained throughout his time as head coach, it's about taking the “baby steps” rather than panicking over the lack of results. “The reality is we've lost a number of close games in a variety of different ways. My message to our guys is we've learned a lot of different lessons,” the Utah coach said. “We remain confident. It's not like we have to change a whole lot.”
Washington is up next for Utah, and Krystkowiak's squad, which lost 59-57 against the Huskies on Jan. 8, knows that it comes down to stopping a very effective offense. “It's a pretty well-oiled machine. They execute their man offense as well as anyone in our league and know how to get their guys shots,” Krystkowiak said.
Washington State's Ken Bone
A rusty DaVonte Lacy returned to the court last week, and though he scored 10 points and went 2-for-10 from the floor, the Cougar guard impacted his team enough to help them top Washington. “DaVonte gives us a lift in terms of confidence,” Bone said. “When he's on the floor, I think we just rise up a little bit as a team in regards to our confidence level. The game the other day was indicative of that.”
WSU big man D.J. Shelton's role has flip-flopped between playing inside and outside a few times in his career while on the court alongside DeAngelo Casto and Brock Motum, Bone said. Finally, the forward is getting comfortable as the Cougars' most effective big man, who also has the ability to selectively take three-point shots. Shelton went for 20 points and 18 rebounds in the win over UW, and he's hit 8-of-14 three-point shots in his last three games. “I think he's improved getting the ball inside and being productive of late,” Bone said.
The Cougs take to the road this week with their first game Wednesday at Colorado.The Buffaloes are down Spencer Dinwiddie, but Bone knows they're still in the process of recreating themselves without the starting guard. “It's not over until you get to the conference tournament. I think their better days are down the road,” Bone said.
Oregon's Dana Altman
The Ducks host the Arizona schools coming off a split against UCLA and USC. Altman has implemented a pressing defense in hopes of adding another dimension to a unit that doesn't have a lot of interior size. “Because of our lack of size, the press does give us some advantages. However, you still have to play defense in the halfcourt. Our communication seems to be better. Hopefully that will continue,” the Ducks coach said.
A brutally honest analysis of UO's Pac-12 play thus far: “We lost a few games and we got rattled. I don't think there's any other way to put it.”
So why are the Ducks such a good foul-shooting team? Oregon is hitting 78.2 of its free throws, and three players are pushing 90 percent individually. “If I had a secret on that, I'd sell that for a lot of money,” Altman joked.