Here's everything Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar told reporters about his team's 49-36 victory over No. 13 San Diego State at Hec Edmundson Pavilion on Sunday night.
(Opening) “Man, that team is hard to score on. Goodness gracious. Several times we had guys open, but we hesitated to throw it because about a 9-foot arm was in the way, and it would have been an interception. Still, in all, I thought our guys guarded, too, and defended with a lot of confidence and purpose, and I thought that was the difference in the game. San Diego State’s a heck of a team. We talked all week about them on the backboard, and they still got 21 offensive rebounds. Just relentless.”
(Where did defensive confidence come from?) “I think it’s something we’ve been stressing. I think it’s something we’ve been talking about a lot, trying to explain that if we’re going to be successful at all, it’s going to be on the defensive end. We explain that every year, but some teams grasp it more than others. Some teams embrace it more than others. This team has embraced it."
(Why?) “I just think the makeup of this team is not the makeup of a team that’s going to question a whole lot. And I think we’ve had two years where we’ve been mediocre. And guys don’t want to be mediocre anymore, so we’ve got to do it.”
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(How encouraging is it to win a game that was largely played at a half-court pace?) “Very encouraging, because we want to run and there are going to be games like this where it’s going to be slowed down. We weren’t able to make shots, but again, defense is what can sustain you. And I think that’s another valuable lesson for our guys tonight. Even when you’re playing and the ball’s not going in the basket for you, if you defend, you still give yourself a chance to be successful.”
(On what he saw from his team that impressed him) “The toughness and resiliency, but in different ways this team has showed me this in several games. Down in Anaheim, several games, I think our team showed it. Even at Seattle U. I mean, we couldn’t make a basket until Quevyn Winters got hot in the first half, and we win. But just this team’s, right now, this team’s toughness and buy-in level is something I’ve been real pleased with.”
(How much of that is Mike Anderson?) “A lot of it is Mike Anderson. Mike right now is playing this season like, ‘I don’t care how many points I score. I don’t care how many times my name is in the paper. I want to go down as a winner. I want to leave here as a winner. And whatever I have to do, and whatever is necessary, that’s what I’m going to try to do.’ And I think that rubs off on the rest of this team, especially when you have your co-captains, Andrew Andrews and Nigel Williams-Goss, coming out and competing like they have.”
(Ever coached a team that held opponent to 36 points?) “I think I’ve coached some where our team didn’t. But I don’t think we’ve ever done that against the opposition. In times past, when we had our really good defensive teams, they pressured you into many turnovers and we’d get a lot of run-outs. I think this team plays defense an entirely different way. We try to contain the ball and not give you a whole lot of layups. We try to make you shoot over a hand. And with our length, we’ve been able to do that. That’s been the difference so far.”
(Did you think this could be a really good defensive team?) “Potentially. But I think we told that to our team before we even started practicing, that potentially we could be a really, really good defensive team. We talked about that early. And we kind of challenged them. The question was asked earlier, why is that? It was a challenge from day one and these guys have accepted it. But I do. I think this could be a special defensive team.”
(What made you think that?) “Length, first of all. Length. You have shot-blockers, more shot-blockers, as opposed to last year where we were so small, you get near the rim, we wouldn’t make you pay for it. This year, we make you pay for it. The guys that play have totally bought into the defensive end, an they don’t make a whole lot of defensive mistakes. And finally, this is a system that we put in after several games last year. We started over, reinvented our defensive from the pressure defense that we had been playing for years, and now we’ve had a year to learn it, too. So our guys understand it a lot more. Along with being able to go back and play more zone than we’ve ever played.”
(Where did the new defensive mentality come from?) “Honestly – people say honestly, they wonder, ‘OK, what’s the rest of the things you’re going to say? (laughs). This is the first thing you’ve been honest about?’ (laughs) … Just evaluating, watching a lot of film, watching how teams score, what could work, and just kind of put it together. I remember Louisville’s teams when Denny Crum coached, how they had guys who were like-sized, and they switched everything. So we began to do that. We began to really try to run teams off the 3-point line. Just how we were defending the ball-screen. A number of different things we kind of put together that would fit this personnel. And that’s kind of how we came up with it.”
(Make a statement tonight?) “If there’s any statement to be made, it’s to our team. It’s to our team that if we buy in and do at a high level what we’re supposed to do, we have a chance to be successful. I think that’s the biggest statement that I’m concerned about.”
(Any point you really thought you guys had something special tonight?) “I thought that from the outset, we came out ready. But we’ve done that before at the outset, and we’ve dropped off at a certain point in the first half and maybe in the second half. But we didn’t drop off, first TV timeout, second TV, third, and we still didn’t drop off. And we got back in the second half, same thing happens. So it wasn’t one moment where I thought we were ready to go tonight. I just thought as we continued to play that we were playing at a high level defensively, and we need to continue to do it.”
(On Robert Upshaw) “He’s doing a really good job for us, obviously on the defensive end. We were able to go down to him down low a little bit. Shawn Kemp as well. Him and Shawn have given us an entirely different look this year. I think that’s a big difference with our team after seven games, also.”
(This feel a little like the old days, with a little better crowd, big game, etc?) “It felt better, but it’s not close to what it felt like before. We’ve just got to try to keep winning and doing our part. But when this place … it’s definitely not the same as when San Diego State came in here the last time 10 years ago.”
(Can you get back to that this season?) “I don’t know. And again, we have to worry about us. We have to worry about us playing the best that we can play and hope that people follow.”
(Ever gone that long in a game without the other team getting to double-digits in made field goals?) “I’d have to go back and remember, but I don’t think so. Not a team of that caliber, for sure.”
(Will you harken back to this game as a reminder of what good defense can do?) “We will, but when we play next Sunday against Eastern Washington, I guarantee you they’re going to score more than 36 points. They’re a much more explosive-type team. San Diego State is just a different team. They’re more deliberate. They pound you on the boards. They’re tall. They guard you. If Eastern scores 36, then I might just get real arrogant then.”
(What’s the basic description of the way you play defense?) “We try to pack it in and we still try to apply pressure on the ball. And with our length, I think it helps.”