FROM LAS VEGAS -- Ken Bone spoke with reporters inside the media workroom at the MGM Grand Garden Arena tonight. Here's a transcript of his comments.
(Does playing UW add anything to the game?) "Probably does add a little bit to it. I really haven’t thought about that. We played Washington two years ago after beating them twice and then they beat us at the Staples Center. But it probably adds a little bit to it because it’s a rival game. Any time you see them, it’s on."
(What do you remember from that game?) "I remember them beating us in a tough game. That’s the main thing I remember. It was a great ball game and they got us in the end."
(How do you win four games in four days?) "Stay healthy, play really good basketball, play your best basketball of the season, which fortunately for us we probably are. We’re not 100 percent healthy but we’re as healthy as we’re going to get at this point, so go out there, play as hard as we can, play together like we did this last weekend and see what happens."
(What was the difference last week?) "I think we did not have lapses during the game where a lot of games this year we’d have three, four, five minutes during the course of the game, a number of turnovers, missed free throws. It was just different mishaps and didn’t give us a chance to finish off the game, really, and win it. And I think last week against UCLA and USC, our concentrationlevel was high. It helps playing on your home court and I think we performed pretty well for 40 minutes both games."
(Is it a coincidence that you've played well with guys injured?) "I believe it’s a coincidence. We’d love to have every guy out there, but it’s crazy how that happens. Certain guys are missing – Colorado was missing a really good player last week and they played a great game. We were without two really good players and we beat UCLA. It does happen sometimes, those other guys get an opportunity and they know they’re going to play, they’re not looking over their shoulder, they know they’re going to play their 35 or 40 minutes because there’s not a lot of choices, and maybe sometimes that helps them without wondering hey, am I coming out or what’s going on."
(How did Mike Ladd come out of Saturday's game?) "He came out good. He didn’t come out of practice today very well, but he came out good after that game. Today he took a charge and chipped his tooth. He’s fine, but poor guy. It’s always something."
"He looks better now than he did before."
(On playing UW) "We need to be able to handle the ball. They do a great job of pressuring, so we need to be able to complete passes, be strong with the ball and do a great job on the boards."
(On rebounding) "Really it’s been a point of emphasis all year long because of our personnel. We are not the biggest and strongest team out there but it’s been a point of emphasis most every day in practice. We work hard at it, we chart it, we drill it and fortunately a few games we’ve done really well in that area."
(On Desmond Simmons' defense of Motum) "Simmons continued to deny Brock the ball, front him in certain situations and Simmons is a very good defender. We’ve got to be able to deal with that."
(Did Motum let the game come to him better last game against UW?) "Yeah, he did. That’s a great point. He has done a much better job, I think, as of late, of letting the game come to him and allowing his teammates to set him up for opportunites instead of early in the year, that was like two and a half months ago almost. He was a little too anxious at that time but I think he has settled down and played better basketball."
(Is this a better location for the tournament than Los Angeles?) "It’s hard to tell so far. We haven’t had any games but I’d find it hard not to think that it’s a great situation for the whole conference. Vegas is a very attractive place to come. I think there will be more fans here. That makes it a better game environment, more enthusiasm. So I think it’ll be a very good situation. I’m anxious to see what it’ll be like tomorrow."
(On Mike Ladd's knee) "If I had to guess I’d say 90 percent. ... I’m not sure again at what degree, how sore it is. if you didn’t know he had a bad knee I’m not sure you could tell watching him play the other day against USC, but again I’m guessing it’s probably at 90 percent."
(The way you played last week, is this the same team that's been losing, or is it night and day?) "I think it’s pretty close. I think it’s pretty close to the team we’ve had if I understand your question. I just believe during the course of the year, too many times we panicked. We literally panicked at certain times of the game. I believe Royce Woolridge is playing really good basketball right now. He’s not on an all-conference team or even honorable mention or anything and I understand why and he understands why. But he’s playing pretty good basketball. He’s handling the ball, he’s comfortable and fortunately, because Mike Ladd was at the point position and then he’s out. Royce stepped back in and this time it’s about three months later and I think Royce is playing with a lot of confidence and making better decisions."
(Why have they flipped the switch now and not earlier?) "I don’t really know exactly. Again I’ll go back to Royce Woolridge. I think Royce is playing about as good as he’s played all year and when I say that I don’t mean just scoring, although he is scoring 15 or 16 a game in the last 10 games. He has shot the ball better, he’s driving to the hoop. But he’s handling the ball better, he’s not really turning it over. I think he’s just comfortable out there. It was a long layoff. He goes to Kansas, he hardly plays at all. He comes in last year, he redshirts, and that’s a long time off from his high school glory years and so he’s had to fit into a totally different role. Mike Ladd’s played good ball, Brock Motum I think is playing good, D.J. (Shelton) plays a unique role for a big guy who last year was in the paint. He never shot one 3 all year and now this year, especially the last 10, 12, 15 games or whatever, that’s about all he shoots. So I think we’re just finally starting to play the way we’re capable of getting the most out of the guys."
(Have you done anything as coaches to help them stop panicking?) "I think the only thing we’ve done is maintained a level of confidence with the guys letting them know we believe in you guys, we like you guys, you’re a great group. And that’s not going out of our way to say. It really has been a fun group to coach, and we have felt for them. So we have done everything we can to stick with them when we’ve lost game after game after game, bring them in the office, show them video, talk to them, encourage them and that probably hasn’t hurt the situation."
(On having a senior like Brock Motum but still panicking late in games) "I think that’s helped us. And I think that’s helped us stay in games. But at the end of the day I believe you better have a guard or two out there that really knows the system, what to run, when to run it, which direction to run it, all the intangibles of the guys that have the ball in their hands. Maybe that’s just under me but that’s the way I’ve done it for years so it could be my fault. Maybe I should give Brock the ball and let him be the point guard. We’re not going to go there, so we need to depend on our guards to make decisions. Like I said, I think they’ve done a good job and they’ve gotten better."
(What would a win tomorrow mean?) "What I’d be most happy about is just the fact that I feel like these guys deserve as many wins as we can get. They’ve been a great group. They’ve been a fun group to work with. It would just be neat to see them be able to continue their season."