Bob Sundvold Q&A

Iowa State recovered from a slow start to beat Texas A&M Wednesday night and improve to 3-2 in Big 12 play. However, the Cyclones face an even bigger test Saturday afternoon at Hilton Coliseum. That, and other ISU basketball issues, were discussed on KXNO Thursday afternoon when assistant coach Bob Sundvold joined our publisher on the radio.

Deace: Nineteen road losses and counting now in a row in the conference. Is it a mental thing now?

Sundvold: I think what happens is we get into glorifying road and the difficulty of winning on the road. As you're doing it and you're talking about it, there's a little bit of subliminal or psychological impact on whether or not you will perform up to your capabilities.

There's a challenge there and whether or not it's being on the road or neutral or at home, the challenge now is that you're in the Big 12 conference and there are a lot of good teams with a lot of good players and coaches. That's the challenge.

The game Saturday, the home game with Kansas… that's a challenge. I'm hoping we can get away from glorifying these road games and making such a big deal out of them. We do have to figure out a way to win one and that would be nice and everyone could quit talking about it. There's a little bit more about you prepare and how you go in and play than whatever superstition or whatever you might think about going on the road.

Deace: I've heard some of your fans on our message boards or calling the show that are wondering if the reason that you guys can't win on the road is because the team is just a little bit soft.

Sundvold: First thing, soft is an easy thing for people to type or to write, but I don't think that that's indicative of our team because Jared Homan's performance last night wasn't soft. I think you move away from that. I think that more importantly, you have a group of guys that have to learn that when they're on the road, there's a certain level that has to be obtained. What we've talked to them about is not only physical toughness, but mental toughness.

I'll give you an example. If you're a player, you have to have some respect for the other coaching staff and their ability to scout and break your weaknesses down and teach their players. But, let's say that you're a player and they've found out that you're pretty good on the drive, but you don't shoot the outside shot. You go on the road and that team backs off of you, are you tough enough to turn that shot down or are you going to shoot the shot that they want you to shoot, hoping it goes in.

In the end, on the road, those are the ones that you don't make because you truly shouldn't of shot that ball. That's part of the toughness that we talk about with our team, if you're not going to make it, can you get fouled inside? Can you go to the free throw line? Can you put more pressure on their defense? The other thing is, on the defensive end, can you execute what we've talked about when we're trying to guard them? Can you make that post player that doesn't turn to his left shoulder very well, do that repeatedly? At home, you have a little bit more confidence and you're able to do some of those things.

Deace: It sounds to me the buzzword here is aggressiveness. You just mentioned confidence. When the crowd is behind you, you know every bounce of the rim. You know where the soft spots are in the gym floor. It's easier to do that, not so easy to push the envelope and manage the tempo when you're on the road. Is that basically what you're talking about?

Sundvold: That's a good way to look at it. If you look at our Colorado game we were really aggressive in the first half and probably the first ten minutes of the second half and then for whatever reason, we hit a wall, Colorado had a spurt and we were never able to recover. I thought we had a good aggressive tone at the start of that. We pressed and got after some of their players. Yet, at Baylor, I don't think we had that same energy. That's something we'll be looking at next week.

Deace: You mentioned Jerad Homan's effort last night. Watching that on television last night, they showed that bruise next to his ankle where he badly sprained it against Iowa. That thing looked like the birthmark on Gorbachev's head! I can't believe he was out there playing like that. I can't imagine a kid any tougher than that.

Sundvold: It was a great performance. I think that part of it was spurred on because Jared was with us at Baylor feeling really bad about not having an opportunity to help win the game. Realistically, he had to have three treatments on Sunday, three treatments on Monday, practice very sparingly on Tuesday and then Wednesday, we weren't quite sure of everything that we were going to get.

We wanted to start him because we didn't want his ankle to go through warm-ups and then sit on the bench and get a little stiff. Once he got in the game, we just watched how he played. I kidded him earlier in the week that he'd had some difficulty finishing against Iowa and took some off-balance shots. I said, watch, because of this ankle you're going to slow things down and you're going to make some better decisions and that really was true.

He did some great things offensively, moved the ball for us. Probably turned down some shots, which is really good. That showed some patience. He was really good around the basket in finishing. He had a little spell when he wasn't making free throws and then last night has an outstanding performance of 14 of 17 from the line. A great performance and that's what the guys talked about in the locker room. What a gut check he had and he was a great example for all of our players.

Deace: Have you ever seen a guy make an uglier free throw than Damien Staples last night?

Sundvold: The glory of that was that he would laugh with himself. A lot of guys get embarrassed and this happens quite a few times in basketball, but Damien got a good laugh out of that.

Deace: Were you nervous about that game going into last night. I've got to tell you, as a broadcaster looking at that game and that fact that you had a disappointing showing at Baylor, would there be a hangover for a young team really going through it's first upset loss, the look-ahead game for Kansas and that's always rally around the flag time at Hilton and this game smack dab in the middle of that as a sandwich game, against a team that was 0-4 in the league, but that I think lost every one of those games by single digits.

Sundvold: You must have coached in another life because that's exactly what happens. As a coach, you are nervous about every game. You have a respect for every team. I like A&M's talent. They have a collection of players that are very good. In recruiting, we see all these kids coming out and where they're going, so you follow it and A&M's had our number except for last year's Big 12 tournament so we have a lot of respect for them.

In coaching, there's a couple things I've always thought. If I could walk in a gym the night of a game and know that our team is going to play as hard as they could, and also that they would accept the roles that they have within the team, you'd really have a good feeling about playing that night. That's the big thing about 19-22 year old guys, is that you don't know until you hit the floor, what you're going to get. You practice it, you talk about it.

Wayne did a great thing before the game. He eliminated a lot of the things that we talk about. He said we've got two goals, we're going to play harder than A&M and the other thing was about rebounding. That tells you where we were. We wanted to make sure that we played hard and probably in the first half we didn't see everything that we needed to and the guys made some adjustments by themselves in the locker room and talked about it. I thought our senior leaders did a great job of visiting with our guys about what needed to be done the second half. We had a great first five minutes as far as energy and effort and it gave us a chance to get away from A&M.

Deace: Well, of course, this is kind of the end of the preliminaries. Not to undermine the schedule you guys have played, but the games were kind of spread out a little bit so you guys could get the ground underneath your feet settled a little bit. Now Saturday, starts what is going to be an incredibly tough month for you. You're basically going to play the who's-who of one of the top leagues in America almost every night.

Fans are already looking at Kansas State as a potential road win for you to possibly break that streak. They played Kansas tough last night. I don't know if any game is going to be a breather. It starts with Kansas at Hilton on Saturday. One thing that concerns me is their physicality with Graves and Pagent and their ability to crash the boards. That has been an area that you guys have been scrambling playing that zone defense. Or sometimes, it happened with A&M too, you guys get hurt on the offensive glass. Is that a concern for you guys on Saturday?

Sundvold: Well, Kansas is a very good team and the coach is changing a little bit of the way they're playing. They aren't playing as fast, but you have to go into the game knowing that Aaron Miles is a very good point guard and he'll push every opportunity.

Their game is dictated by their high low offense and that's getting Simeon or Graves at the block. You're concentrating on that and their outside guys can make plays off of that. So, they are really putting that together. The one thing that I like is their defense is really solid.

The challenge for us is to get Jared recovered for the game and to get Jackson to where he's mentally tough enough to turn down one or two of the fouls he'll get. That's a challenge and if we get that done and those guys are on the floor for a lot of minutes, we'll stack up fine. Jackson and Jared are physical players and they'll be able to handle that part of that.

Deace: Is the basic game plan to pack that zone in and make this team prove that they can beat you from the perimeter?

Sundvold: We've watched all their games and someone will say that Kansas can't shoot from the outside. Early they were shooting fairly poorly and their offense wasn't in sync and guys like Langford and Miles were being guarded. A lot of teams were playing them man-to-man and they were being guarded and they weren't shooting very well from outside the three.

Well, they get into the league and they're playing a few teams that have thrown some zones at them and Langford is shooting 42%, Miles is shooting 40% and J.R. Gittens, a freshman, is shooting almost 40% from the three line. What's happening is they're seeing some open looks and they're knocking them in. They've got a total game they're putting together and I think with Langford they've got the most explosive perimeter player in the league and you've got that on top of you also.

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