I'll just open up by saying that's the team we felt like we found over in Hawaii. All of us were down, disappointed a little bit in our effort the first half of USC. Taking nothing away from them; I think they're a terrific team. I'm happy that the crowd stayed with us after the USC game because they allowed us to get back to playing hard. We were really good in practice yesterday. Guys were anxious to get to the floor and I thought that was a very, very good effort we put together against a really good basketball team. Playing smart, playing heady and playing tough defensively and just really getting back to who we found over there in Hawaii. It's good to get that done at home and get that win. That was a big win for us.
(Why did you start the game with a small lineup?)
The reason we went smaller was we wanted to create tempo and pace. We wanted it to be fast. And we wanted Junior to run and run their bigs. I felt like Junior was excellent defensively. I wanted Junior and Josh to really show a ball screen clinic in terms of how to hedge it, and how to trap the post, as well, for Conor to see and Val to see before we put them in the game. This was really, really quick, it got us running and mission accomplished there. When Junior got into foul trouble I felt like the pace slowed down as we ended the first half, and then we picked up the pace again and it really gave us an opportunity to control tempo in the game. Even though they came back, I felt like we were still in control of the game.
(Is Josh Hawkinson more comfortable playing alongside Junior Longrus?)
I think Josh is comfortable as long as he's on the floor with somebody who understands the game. Him and Conor work well together, because Conor can score and you can't double-team Josh. Junior, you can kind of sag off Junior at times and clog it up. But Junior understands the game and our system so well, it allows Josh to play freer. I don't know if he's more comfortable with one or the other, he's comfortable with anybody on the floor, I think.
(Knowing UCLA played double-overtime on Friday make you play faster?)
You know, it was. But when you think about it, back in the day we played Friday-Saturday games. And we played Friday evening and then a Saturday afternoon game. AS much as you want to think teams are fatigues, they had an opportunity to play Friday, day off Saturday, come back Sunday. We wanted to sped the game up, however, for that reason, but also for us. We need to get back to playing up-tempo basketball. We're better that way.
(Was this the game you wanted from Renard Suggs?)
He's been getting better ever since the break. Where school's over. He really struggled early on and it's just nice to see him get more comfortable because he gives you another piece to the puzzle, and can really help us. As a team it's really nice to see all these guys staying together, figuring things out, wanting to be successful and really responding to challenges. WE had a big one today and we needed this win and we were able to get it done.
(Could you see Josh Hawkinson protecting the rim like this?)
Not last year. I think this year because of Valentine. I think Valentine has established that we can be a defensive team that blocks shots. Josh blocks them, Junior blocks them. We're just better this year defensively against a bigger team. This was a good matchup for us because our bigs could paly. Conor to go 5-for-5, it's difficult for a high school player or a JC player to step in at this level and play that caliber of talent in their Pac-12 opener, against SC and this game and I'm just proud of the way he responded well, too.
(Why have Junior Longrus' minutes increased?)
We do it opponent based and we do it just in terms of feel and what the game plan is and what we want to get done. Junior's been really flexible, really coachable to allow us to go big when we needed and go small or go fast when we needed as well, too.
(Is Ike Iroegbu 100 percent?)
He's definitely 100 percent. I just thought was as a game – he had seven assists in the game, we had 20 assists on 31 buckets, five guys in double figures – I'm proud of the fact he felt he didn't need to score. He needed to defend and distribute the ball and he did an outstanding job defensively and an outstanding job distributing the ball. His games will come. His points will come. He'll put up numbers but I was happy to see him allow Renard to score, Q to score, Josh. Other people were scoring. Conor. We didn't need Ike to score. We needed him to defend and get the ball up.
(Was it important to win to get momentum heading into the UW game?)
Yes, but more importantly, you open up at home for three games. You didn't want to go 0-2 to start Pac-12 play. That 's just not good. We'd like to win them both. The fact we won them both, and especially since we learned so much from the first game, we just have to take it and move on and get ready for next week. That's going to be a tough ball game. They're playing really, really well and obviously with a lot of confidence with what they've been able to do.