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Lute Olson Press Conference Quotes
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: February 23, 2006
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Feb. 22, 2006


Opening Statement:

Last weekend, we got off to a horrible start at Cal, but from that point on, I thought we played well.  We got it down to five but never seemed to get over the hump.  A lot of that had to do with (Leon) Powe.  It just seemed like every time we would make a move at the lead, he would find a way to get us, either at the line or from the field.


Sunday, I thought we played pretty well throughout.  I wasn’t happy with the way that we finished.  We made some very bad decisions on some passes.  When you are in that situation time and score is the most important things.


I thought, defensively, it was hard for them to score.  Offensively, we had good ball movement leading to good shots.  The on-the-ball defense was excellent on their guards.  They had to work every time to get the ball down the court and that had an effect.  (Chris) Hernandez had a big game scoring wise, but he did have five turnovers.  Those numbers were unusual for him in terms of turnovers.  The number that we forced on the team (15) made a big difference.  We did a nice job of getting back into the passing lanes on penetration.  We had to double (Matt) Haryasz all of the time, but I thought our perimeter guys did a nice job of getting into the paint and passing lanes, and picked off a lot of passes. 


Our reserves came away with seven steals and only two turnovers.  I think that was key.  It was definitely a case of where a lot of guys contributed from a defensive standpoint.  Ivan (Radenovic) did a great job not only in passing and rebounding, but was 8-of-10 from the field, so he was efficient in everything that he did.


Sometimes people ask if it’s good to have a break at this time and I’d say yes.  We’re just cutting back on their time and making sure that their legs are still springy.  We’ll start on ASU stuff tomorrow.  Today will be strictly the things we need to do better offensively.


The league is getting down to what we said earlier that it was going to be very competitive from top to bottom.  You’d better not take a night off, whether it’s at home or on the road.  USC and UCLA was a game that I don’t thin anyone would have ever predicted that with (Gabe) Pruitt out for USC.  I thought they would have a hard time winning any games from the time that they lost him because he is so critical to them.  But they have played great defense and caught UCLA.


If you take a look at it now, there are four teams within a game of each other.  With us having three homes games, the schedule certainly favors us because Cal and Stanford have to go to Washington this week and then finish up with UCLA and USC.  There are a lot of things that are going to happen in the next four games.


Talk about the break.  Is there a fine line between rest and sharpness?

No.  Right now, they need rest more than anything.  That’s the reason when we play the first round (of the double round robin schedule) against ASU we schedule another game in there.  The second round we want them to get a little more time off.


I check with them all the time.  (I ask) “How are your legs?”  If their legs are getting tired, then we try to take that into account in the practice situations.  They still continue with their weights.  We ask our weight guy (Steven DiLustro) to do just maintenance-type things right now (on the legs).   They are required to lift twice a week.  That third day is optional and in most of the cases, they want that third day because they need to have enough to feel strong.


What are your thoughts on Kevin Kruger?  He’s the heart of that team.

Yeah, he does a very nice job at the point position.  He’s a good leader, a very competitive young man.  It gives them a great perimeter threat which leaves a lot more space in there for the big guys.  Last year when we played them with (Jason) Braxton at the point a lot, we just took his guy and put him in the middle of the lane and dared him to shoot it.  With Kruger, you need to be there when he catches.


You can tell that he really understands the game and plays within his capabilities.




How is ASU playing right now?

Well that was a great win for them there (California).  If you look at how’ve they’ve played most of the teams, they’ve been very, very competitive.  If you gave them a few more points, that record could be very different. There have been a lot of games decided in the last minute or so with them.  They are very capable, as Cal found out.


Over the last couple of years, they have played us tougher at home than they have in Tempe.


They play very hard and our game with them is always a big game.  It’s not just the in-state rivalry


In our case right now, regardless of who we are playing, we need to keep our nose to the grindstone.


Talk about how Ivan is playing right now.  He seems to have gotten better at creating?

Now when takes it on the drive, he’s more under control than what he was a year ago or earlier this year.  The fact that his is the threat that he is from the 15-17 foot mark opens the drive up for him, too.  We’ve been doing a lot of things through him.  We’d like to get the ball to the middle of the court anyways.  If you are on the wings, you are eliminating some of the areas you can get the ball to.  We’ve been trying to get him a touch.  I would guess in that game (Stanford) there weren’t a whole lot of times where he didn’t get a touch.  He’s a good passer.  He really put a lot of pressure on their perimeter guys.  We run that dribble handoff series.  He’d fake the hand-off some, and turn and face and get the pass to the guy cutting to the bucket.


With Kirk’s (Walters) presence inside, it’s not a case where their post man can just stay in the middle of the lane.  He has to pay attention to what’s going on with Kirk.


How instrumental was Chris Rodgers to your ability to force turnovers at Stanford?
He just put a tremendous amount of pressure on the ball.  We just told Chris to pick up whoever was bringing the ball down.  He’ll get the ball stopped fairly close to the center line and it takes at least one pass before they can get it into the operational zone.  He did a great job of pressuring.


What makes Chris such a good defender?

Quick feet, strong, very active with his hands.  What Chris is doing this year that he didn’t in the past, is he’s putting a lot of pressure but get a reaching foul.  He’s let them off the hook with a reaching foul.  You are not seeing the reach very often now.  He’s very quick, he’s strong and he loves to defend.  He really enjoys making it tough on other people.


Do you pay any attention to the bubble talk?
No.  At this time of the year, it’s going to be something that’s a primary concern to everyone.  We’re just trying to get better every game and I think we are doing that.  We’re in a position where if we do the job at home, we could have some real momentum going in.


If the NCAA pays attention to the teams that play tough schedules as opposed to the people that play really weak non-conferences, then I don’t see any way that they can say that we are a bubble team.


The whole thing that we try to focus on is to get better.  This is the time of the year that really counts.  We don’t talk about our streaks.


We’ve played good teams.  If we do our job in the last three games, I don’t think there will be bubble talk.

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