Steve Alford Discusses Illinois @ Iowa

Iowa Head Coach Steve Alford discusses the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Illinois Fighting Illini before Wednesday evening's Big Ten match up. Among the topics discussed by Coach Alford are the emergence of Erek Hansen for Iowa, whether or not he will use a zone against the Illini, and how he will defend Illinois' sophomore guards, Dee Brown and Deron Williams.

Question: If Michigan State loses at Michigan, and you beat Illinois, you're only one game out of first. Is that what you guys are looking at?
Steve Alford: We've just got to keep going one game at a time. What we're looking at is an Illinois team that is fighting for first place and a very good RPI team – the best team as far as record and RPI that we have left in our schedule. We compare it to our Wisconsin game, in that if you get a win over a team like this, it's really going to help you late in the year. You've got to get key road wins late in the year, and you've got to get some really big home wins. This obviously falls under that home win.

Question: Is this [game against Illinois] the biggest game that you have left this year?
Alford: No. It's the biggest up until Wednesday. Then we'll look at Saturday. From here on out you're going to be saying that. Every team that you look at, every game is huge. There's an awful lot that can happen in a two-week frame. We can go anywhere from battling for the whole thing to end up being 7-9 and not being in any of it. So, each game is huge. And this next one is obviously big for us.

Question: The Illinois game was kind of Erek's breakout game. How has he improved or changed since then?
Alford: He's always been a tough kid. He's always run the floor extremely well. He's second in the Big Ten in blocked shots, and he's only played about nine Big Ten games. What he's done has been amazing through about nine games. Where he's starting to improve…if he could just knock down a shot or two, his confidence would just go out of this roof. He is skilled. He's got some very good moves down there. It's hard to block his shot because he's got such good lift on his offensive moves. For whatever reason, he hasn't had a lot of those drop. If those drop, he'll be able to take it to another level. We've told him just to relax and not worry about those things because he does things a little bit too quick. If he'll run the floor, guard and block shots, that's what we need more than we need his scoring. But what he's been asked to do under the circumstances that he's been asked to do it, there's no bigger key to us right now. If Glen gets in foul trouble, if Bru gets in foul trouble, he's got to play extended minutes. He's done a very good job when those things have happened.

Question: Where do you want him shooting from or what kind of range does he have?
Alford: Erek can actually go out and shoot the ball. In the role he's playing, I don't need him shooting three's. We're leading the Big Ten in that area without him shooting them. I would just as soon see him tip dunk the ones that don't go in. As his career evolves, he's going to be a guy that can screen, pop and shoot the ball out to 20 feet. I don't think he's really ready for that, at least yet on this particular team. But we're not telling him to only shoot it from two feet. He knows that he's got the freedom. But shooting and scoring is not something that he needs to be burdened with right now. If it happens, it's a bonus. But the way that he guards, the way that he changes shots…for instance, Ohio State went at us early. They got in a rhythm. He's inserted. Now, Radinovic gets 12 in the first half and hardly does anything in the second half. Dials was the same way. The guy that changed that was Erek Hansen.

Question: Do you put Pierre on Brown or Williams?
Alford: That's the difficulty in playing against Illinois. They're big time guards. Head hurt us in the first game. You've got some big issues there of just who you put him on. You're going to see Pierre guard a combination of Brown and Williams because you pick your poison. One game it's Brown. The next game its Williams. You just hope you don't get a game where both of them are 25 or greater. Then, you've got big time issues.

Question: Penn State seemed to give [Illinois] problems with a zone. Does that make you think about using the zone more on Wednesday?
Alford: I don't think that there are any secrets with us. Because of our depth, you're going to see man and zone. I don't necessarily think that it's going to be any more zone or more man. We've got to keep doing what we're doing. That first game, Jeff had four fouls with 14 minutes to go. Brown took it to him. Jeff will respond.

Question: How has Illinois improved since that game?
Alford: Any time you can win six in a row in the Big Ten, you've done some good things. Three of them have been on the road. So, it's not like they've had a five-game home stand. They've done a much better job of learning Coach Webber's motion offense. Any time you get some winning, that breed's confidence. They're playing very confident right now. They're a little bit more confident, and they're playing in more of a rhythm than maybe they were the first time when they were coming off a loss at Purdue. Augustine is healthier than when we played them the first time. It takes time. Coach Webber's system is different than Coach Self's. They're buying into it much better than they were a month, two months ago. It's a game that ought to be a lot of fun for the people that will be in Carver on Wednesday. You're going to see two teams that are confident, and two teams that are going to give it everything they have to try to get a win. would like to thank Rob Howe and Jon Miller of for allowing us to use these quotes about the Illinois @ Iowa game from Steve Alford's Press Conference on Monday.

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