The theme of coach Lorenzo Romar's postgame comments after Washington beat Long Beach State, 92-89, in double overtime: Defense is a concern. Mike Anderson is good.
Yes, the 49ers shot 50 percent from the field, even after they made just three of their 14 attempts in the two overtime periods. They were around 61 percent early in the second half, and it wasn't as if they were just making long, contested shots. Much of their damage came in the paint, where they scored 54 points. Guard Mike Caffey got in there too often. Forward Dan Jennings scored too easily. UW foul trouble didn't help.
But thanks to Anderson's 19 points and 16 rebounds, Romar was able to lament those problems after a victory. Here's what he had to say.
(Opening statement) “Hats off to Long Beach State. They played Kansas State twice, once there, they played at Arizona, they played Michigan, who is ranked, they played VCU, who is ranked, they came on the road and played us. Then they’re headed to Creighton and playing North Carolina State. That team will go in their conference and I think they’re going to be a really good basketball team. You look at their record and not knowing who they’ve competed against early, you may not think they’re that good. But they’re a good basketball team. Give our guys a lot of credit in this game. Just moved the chains. As we’re getting healthier mentally and physically, this was a great character win for us to pull it out. Mike Anderson was just sensational. Sensational. Thirteen rebounds in the second half. Rebounds when we needed them. Big putbacks. He was very good. Andrew Andrews went out there and competed at a high level. That last loose ball he got, he was just determined to get it. It was great to see that. And we were able to get this done while only shooting 38 percent from the field. So on to the next one. Give Long Beach State a lot of credit.”
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(Did you think they might finish first half with better percentage than Montana?) “Wow. Those weren’t 3s though, but still. The second half was worse – in the beginning. When we finally knuckled down and started to defend, it helped, obviously.”
(On defensive issues in first half) “In the first half, it wasn’t anything to do switching. In the first half, it was just guys beating us off the dribble, which we have been working on preventing and stopping. In the second half, we just had a lot of blown assignments, early in the second half.”
(How are players understanding defensive changes?) “Understanding, pretty good. Applying, not very good. I think any one of our guys could tell you what we’re attempting to do. We just have to get better at doing it.”
(Is this what you expected when you recruited Anderson?) “We just expected Mike to be a jack of all trades, like he’s been doing. I wouldn’t have told you he could go out and get 19 and 16 in a game this early. Junior college kids a lot of times take a little longer to do that. He’s been rebounding like crazy but he just gave a Herculean effort for us tonight. Something he did in junior college. He just helped wherever needed. He’s playing out of position and I keep saying he’s a guy that’s not saying ‘you’re messing me up for the league, man. I’m not a 4.’ Mike just wants to play basketball and compete, and it’s something how those guys a lot of time end up coming out on top.”
(Surprised by how he’s played?) “No. We knew he could be a playmaker, we knew he rebounded the ball, he rebounded it in junior college. We knew he could hit open shots. We knew he could put the ball on the floor and make plays. We knew he was a good defender. We knew he was tough. That’s why we recruited him.”
(Tough playing overtime with a short bench?) “It was pretty tough tonight when you look at these minutes. Several guys played plus-40 minutes, it could be tough. I thought Darin Johnson came off the bench and gave us some good minutes to help give some of those guys a rest. It made it a little tougher when Perris got in foul trouble and he had to sit for a while.”
(Did you think you had control at any point?) “Yeah, then it went into overtime. Then it went into overtime again. So when the horn went off at the end, again, Mike was our savior tonight. He just came up with a couple of and-1 putbacks, he came up with a big rebound to give us another possession down the stretch. He was really good.”
(More on Anderson) “You know, Mike is one of the rare guys that you can tell he was kind of raised and played on the playground. Guys raised on the playground, they just know how to do little things like that. They just know how to get the ball somehow. They know how to get the ball to the basket. They have great skills in that area. But he’s one of the guys that has those playground instincts but yet understands how to play within structure, also. Some guys play on the playground but once the structure’s there, that’s their kryptonite. He can do both and little situations like that allow him to make plays like that.”
(Where did you first see him?) “He was in community college. Coach (Jim) Shaw saw him and Coach Shaw said man, it’s been hard, I think this is the one that fits us. And he was right.”
(Big-picture assessment at this point?) “I’m concerned about the number of layups we gave up. I want to see the film to confirm my concern. In the second half, some of those layups we gave up, or what I thought they were, that’s a concern. But I’m also looking at bi picture. Again, you always hear the cliché you’ve got to take it one game at a time. With our team right now, that’s what we really have to do. We kind of have to do it with smoke and mirrors until we at least get Desmond (Simmons) back, until some other guys are more experienced, until as a group we kind of understand what we’re trying to do, conceptually.”
(What will Simmons give you?) “We’ll be a better rebounding team right away. I think we’ll be a grittier team, and that gives you extra possessions right there. We’ll get more loose balls, and could be the difference between winning and losing a game.”
(Where’s he at in his rehab?) “He’s same. He’s making good progress. We expect him back the last week of December. I believe we have six ballgames left between now and then. We just have to find a way to keep playing hard and get him better.”
(That means playing the last week of December?) “We expect him back playing by the last week of December. It’s Mississippi Valley State and Hartford, those two games, the latter one at a minimum, we would hope.”
(Most challenging first seven games you’ve had?) “I think so. our first two years the first seven games were difficult because we weren’t playing really good basketball. We weren’t playing good basketball and we’re not playing good basketball now. But going in you knew what you had. Here, we thought we had something and then it was taken away from us. We’ve never had a situation where we had to improvise on the fly like this. So that’s made it a little more difficult. But I give our guys credit, we just kept scrapping tonight.”