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Lute Olson Press Conference Quotes
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 02/14/2006
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Feb. 13, 2006

 

Opening Statement

We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, we’ve got the momentum going now that we hoped we could get from those two games.  The Oregon game was a battle and the thing that almost cost us was the stretch in there where I didn’t feel we played like we needed to play.

 

Against Oregon State we started out well like we did against Oregon and then had maybe a five minute stretch in there where we didn’t play as well as we felt we could.  I think the second half was a case of where it was 20 minutes of consistent basketball on both ends of the court.  It is good to see that the inside game is beginning to develop, (which was) a weak spot, I think now is becoming almost a strength for us.  Certainly at least a balance with the perimeter.

 

I thought Saturday also gave us an opportunity to use Marcus Williams at the point a little bit and have Daniel (Dillon) come in at a position that he feels more comfortable (two-guard).  Daniel had probably his best game as a Wildcat.  With Fendi Onobun in practice situations, (we’re) trying to work on him in the three as much as we can because eventually it’s going to be a case of where he will be a swing forward.  But in games he feels more comfortable, and we feel more comfortable, with him in the four position, but when the game got totally in hand we did use him at the three and gave him some experience there.

 

In looking back we feel good about it.  The tapes, I think, certainly showed what we saw in the game situation.  There were more live minutes in the Oregon game where we weren’t playing at our best, but those minutes were few and far between in that Saturday game, so it was a good week for us.

 

 “Now, going up to California, there is not a much more talented team in the league than Cal is.  (Leon) Powe, when he is healthy, which he is, is the most effective power forward in the league.  He does a great job on offense, defense, rebounding and shot blocking.  (DeVon) Hardin gives them a great combination with him, because Hardin is a pounder on the boards, he’s a big-body guy.  He does a good job defensively, shot blocking, challenging people that come to the lane and their three perimeter guys, when we played them here, have a combined three point shooting percentage of about 50 percent.

 

We have been so busy with our situation that I haven’t kept up a lot, but Ayinde Ubaka is at 39%, Richard Midgley is at 43% Omar Wilkes is at 48%, Theo Roberston, off the bench is at 33%.  That’s an outstanding array of three-point shooters and when you’ve got the inside presence that they have it is hard to do the double teaming that you have to do against a guy like Powe, as to whether or not we do that this time we will see.  If we come along well enough on the inside that we can handle things individually we’ll look at doing that in effort to keep three-point shots out of the perimeter guys. When we played them here we did a really good job on the perimeter in terms of cutting down on the three-point opportunities.

 

Just in going a step further as far as Stanford is concerned, I think it’s a break for us that we have two days in between that game, where we have a chance to do a lot of work and preparation for Stanford, they require a lot of work because of the way they play. Matt Haryasz is the best big guy in the league, all you have to do is look at his stats and you’ll see that.  He, like Powe, can score inside, can score facing up, and can put it on then floor.  (Chris) Hernandez has always been a problem, for everyone that plays Stanford and I am sure that their home crowd is going to be just like it has.  They’ll be a tremendous inspiration for them as a team.  It looks to me that Dan Grunfeld is feeling much more comfortable now after the new surgery last year, he is more active and more of a factor on the boards.  So that game will certainly be a challenge, too.

 

I was a little concerned when I heard things about the (NCAA Tournament) bubble, and there is one fact that has been left out of that.  Stanford is up somewhere in the 50’s and Cal’s way up there and yet with the bubble thing I didn’t see that we haven’t been higher than 18.  To me, that is a negative approach, to throw us in the same bubble.  It’s a very different bubble based on the RPI, and I think in fairness to our kids, that should be pointed out.  It is a big weekend for them and a big weekend for us.  I think there is more pressure on them than there is on us.

 

Talk about Cal ability to win close games:

I think Poe’s presence has a lot to do with that, but I think Ubaka has had a big influence on how they have done down this stretch.  He has done really well and he has been an excellent under-pressure point guard.  Midgley is a very experienced player, Wilkes had a year at Kansas and then a redshirt year, so they have good experience on that team.  But I think that anytime you have a go-to guy like Powe it is a little easier in the final stages when you get it done.  If you take a look at Stanford and how they have come through to win games it has usually been a combination of Haryasz and Hernandez.

 

Comment on the recent play of Kirk Walters:

Oh, he is playing great, compared to when we went into those games, however many weeks ago.  Kirk is a very different player right now than he was when we played them the first time.

 

You are taking the team to two difficult places to play...:

Well they are tough places to play, but I think that if you look at the history at Haas Pavilion, I think at one point a couple years ago Cal had lost two or three games since Haas Pavilion had been built and we were the only team that had beaten them at Haas.  At Stanford I think we have beaten them four out of the last six.  We lost the last two years, but we had a four-game wining streak against them.  We have always played well up there, and I think one of the reasons is because the fans are great and we like playing in that kind of environment.

 

I know our guys really feel good about Saturday’s (Oregon State) game.  They feel it was a game where we maintained what we wanted to do most of the game, the longest stretch that we’ve had, and they like the fact that the inside was so effective.  At this point I think we’ll be going on the road a much more confident team and hopefully before long we will be what I said we would be by the time we got to the middle of February.  So we’ll see how close my predictions are that I set.  I said that by the middle of February we could be as good as last year’s team, so this weekend will certainly be a test if we have made that kind of progress.

 

Talk about the play of Fendi Onobun:

It depends on the game.  If it’s a game where the other team is changing defenses and stepped up things, he’s not quote ready for that.  I say he wants to be a three man but he is much more (essential) to us as a staff that he is in that four position in the game situation as much as possible.  In the practice situations, other than today, he’ll take the part of Powe because we need some body that can shoot the perimeter shot, and also Fendi needs a lot of work on his right hand, he’s fired up about being in that position.

 

On the number of shots for the big men:

I had said 20-25 shots from the inside people, and we have iced down Ivan’s (Radenovic) right arm so I think he’ll be ok.  After so much activity you need to use ice on it (smiles).  Including Fendi’s shots and Bret Brielmaier’s shots we actually got 35 shots out of the inside guys and that is miraculous I guess.  The good thing is the perimeter guys loved it, loved getting the great assists, and now we have a presence inside and out that people are going to have to worry about, I’m not sure now that teams can let Kirk get the ball without doubling and I am not sure they can let Ivan get the ball without doubling, and as soon as that happens the perimeter shots end up being much less challenged.

 

On Oklahoma State Head Coach Eddie Sutton:

Yeah I am just shocked, Eddie has been a friend for a lot of years and a great guy.  Sean Sutton has a contract that once Eddie gives it up, Sean would become the head coach, and I know there were people who said that would be the case at the end of the year.  I know Eddie’s concern was that he didn’t want to leave him with an inexperienced team otherwise I think he might have turned it over.  But I am sorry to hear about him.  He is a great person and has done a great job in coaching.  I don’t think there is anyone who has done a better job of coaching the talent that he has had over the years.

 

On the Return of Chris Rodgers:

The other thing that I was going to say is that Chris Rogers will practice with us today, as to whether he’ll play this weekend or not I don’t know.  But he will be back on the court with us today.  He has fulfilled the various responsibilities that have been set up for him to get back.  I visited with all the guys individually today to discuss that situation and they are all very much in favor of him being back on the floor.

 

When will the decision be made about Chris playing on Thursday?

When do I decide when anyone is going to play?  Once I see the practices and see how things go.

 

He has stopped by the office a number of times and said he just wants to do anything to help the team in whatever capacity.  He’s maintained a very positive approach to things all through this.

 

With some of these incidences I think the good thing is (that) Chris has recognized, that, yes, this has been a hard time.  But I think that five years from now he is going to look back and feel this is part of his growing experience.  His teammates felt that it would be a good idea to have him back.

 

Will his role with the team change?

“I can’t tell you that.  I’ll see what happens in practice.

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