On road trip mindset: I think we’re excited about the opportunity to go on the road and play a really good team in an NBA venue. Guys have learned a lot from the times we’ve been away from home. They did a really nice job for the vast majority of the game against Michigan. We just didn’t finish it. This will be a really good test for us because Arkansas’ got a really good team.
On the team having an “a-ha” moment: I hope so, but I think what I’ve learned over the course of time is that it’s more of a process. Maybe different guys figuring it out at different times. It’s kind of like the movie Hoosiers. The basket is still 10 feet and the rules are the same. It just happens to be in an NBA venue. But for us, the focus has to be on the things that we know are going to go into success for us. When we’ve had stretches of play on both ends of the floor, we want to duplicate that for longer stretches. That will go into winning.
On what he likes so far and what needs to improve: We need to be more consistent. I’d say that’s the biggest one. Over the course of a 40 minute game, I think consistency is something that the best teams show. That’s one of the things that goes into winning, is being able to, whether it’s on the offensive or defensive end, sustain stretches of doing things that go into success. In terms of stuff I like, we’ve had some guys that have had some very good moments. Some guys that have grown and have made a lot of progress. Particularly our younger guys, our freshmen and sophomores. But there’s a lot of growth still to be made. Tevin Mack’s played really well. He’s obviously been our best offensive player. He’s done a great job of hitting the ground running. He’s also been very good on defense.
On the trip back home for Houston area players: We count Shaq [Cleare] as well just because he played at The Village [School] in Houston. We say three. We’ve got a couple more on the way. Obviously, it’s a very, very important area for us. We’re excited for those three guys to get a chance to play in front of some friends and some family. It’s a great opportunity. I’m really glad that we were able to schedule this game. Something we want to do in the future is play in different places in the state of Texas. Obviously, we have a lot of Texas alums and Texas fans in Houston and in different spots around the state.
On team understanding the offense more: We have more carryover on that than we did in New York. We’ve made some progress with that but we still have a ways to go with that. It’s something that we practice a lot. It’s a matter of, you go out there on the floor, having a clear mind to go do exactly what you practiced, whether it’s when the ball goes inside, or when you come off a pick and roll. Sometimes, in the game, there’s a lot of other stuff going on. If you’re mind’s not completely clear to carry that over, especially for the younger players, sometimes they can struggle with that.
On if he’s waiting for a turning point game like UNC last year: That was just a huge, huge moment. I think they were No. 2 or 3 in the country at the time, so it was as big a win as you can have. Sometimes it’s a turning point, but not as momentous of a turning point. I thought us coming back and winning that Alabama game was big for our guys, confidence wise. We need more games like that. A lot of times, it’s a matter of guys feeling like ‘hey, we can do it. We did it, now we can go do it again.’ What was really tough was as soon as the Michigan ended, it hit me that would have been a really good one to point back at and say ‘we finished this one out and that’s a really good team on the road.’ You can learn from it the other way as well. We need more games like you’re indicating that we can point to and feel good about.
On Mareik Isom: He’s running. He’s shooting. He’s not practicing live, yet. They haven’t really given me a timetable. He should be back, we’re hoping later on this month. It’s not going to be for this game of probably for the next game.
On Jarrett Allen: He’s learning. He’s learning about what goes into being aggressive. One thing that he’s really doing is he’s putting a lot of extra work in beyond just practice. I think that is really, over time, going to pay off for him. The reality is, I think for any freshman, you kind of get hit after several games with the fact of ‘this is maybe harder than I thought.’ It’s an adjustment to the college level and I think his response to that has been really good with the work he’s put in. I just think it will only be a matter of time before that carries over. Right now, what he’s learning is ‘where are different places on the floor where I can get the ball and be effective?’ Right now, what other teams are doing is giving him a lot of attention when he gets the ball on the block. He’s made some really good passes. He’s done a great job. It’s part of why we came back and won the other night, him passing it out of the post and Shaq passing it out of the post and people being able to attack from there.
On Arkansas: Coach Anderson does a great job. I’ve been a big fan of how he does things for a long, long time going back to when he was at UAB. He did an awesome job at Missouri. Now, you can see the growth that they’ve made as a program at Arkansas. I’d say the biggest thing they do really, really well is they play with great aggressiveness and pace. They’re always coming at you on the offensive end and the defensive end, and that’s the way that his teams thrive and always play well. They’ve got really good personnel. They’ve got some guys that have been around there for a while, they’ve got a lot of juniors and seniors. They’ve got, I think, a good balance of inside and outside, which as a team scoring wise, that makes them dangerous and tough to defend.
On the rivalry between Arkansas and Texas: These guys weren’t even alive really. I don’t think that that’s really in their minds. I think the more important thing for us is having the awareness of the things that Arkansas does well and the way that they’re going to try to play and the aggressiveness with which they’ll play. With us being the best Texas we can be to counteract that, then just being excited about the opportunity. This is a great opportunity for our guys. It will have been a week since we’ve played. As a player, you want to be itching to get out there on the floor and be out there for the challenge. I’ve had some people tell me all about it. It’s something that I have a lot of respect for, just looking back at past teams and looking back at the old conference.
On the Arkansas program: I’m a big fan of Nolan Richardson and what he did there. I think a ton of people were. He’s really a guy that, when I was at VCU, I really looked up to him in the way that he did things from a full court pressure standpoint. We tried to emulate some of that. They really played with as much aggressiveness as probably any team ever. They had a swagger and the confidence and almost an arrogance about them in a good way. Personally, he’s just someone that I respect because of the way he really stood up for his guys and was a good mentor.