Wayne Morgan Q&A

On Tuesday, Iowa State men's basketball coach Wayne Morgan spent some time on 1460-KXNO with our publisher talking about the thrilling win over Texas and what the Cyclones need to do to finally win a game on the road.

Deace: There has been a lot of magic at Hilton Coliseum over the years, but I would imagine under the circumstances your thrilling win over then-No. 11 Texas on Saturday has to rank right up there among the all-time great wins ever in that building. Especially with the emotion of seeing the names of Gary Thompson, Don Smith, Jeff Grayer, Jeff Hornacek, Fred Hoiberg, and Pete Taylor being immortalized in the rafters, how your team was struggling coming into the game, and the adversity they overcame to win it.

Morgan: It was a great win for our club .Anybody associated with our club has to be excited with the way our kids played and the result. At the celebration afterwards the Hall of Fame honorees there told me that was one of the top three games ever played here. Texas didn't get to be No. 11 in the nation not being a great team with a good coach. They're one of the premier teams in the country right now.

Deace: How concerned were you about your team's mindset going into the game, given the three straight blowout losses you had suffered beforehand?

Morgan: To be honest with you, I was much more concerned about my mood than I was their mindset. I wasn't very happy to be honest. It's really interesting how the media wants to tell our kids they've lost 21 conference road games in a row. That's kind of starting to bother me that everyone wants to attribute that to this group when guys like Curtis Stinson and Damion Staple weren't even here for all of those losses.

Deace: After you guys got off to the great first half start, Texas made a run to close the gap right before halftime. What was the mood in the locker room at that point, and was your team lacking in confidence?  

Morgan: Our mood was that we've got to keep trying to play well and make the adjustments that we need to make. Our kids know they can fight back. We have a pretty confident group, and they're pretty fearless. It's just a matter of how well we play. If only we can pack that toughness we play with here at Hilton and take that with us when we're away.

Deace: What were some of the individual keys to that victory?

Morgan: John neal was spectacular defensively and did a great job for us. Curtis Stinson and Jackson Vroman were great. You take away Jared Homan and Damion Staple and we don't win that game. Everyone contributed to that win, even the kids on the bench.  The crowd contributed greatly. You take the crowd away and we don't win that game. You can see it on tape when Brian Boddicker went to the free throw line that he had a look of "this is some serious pressure here" on his face.

Deace: And Jake Sullivan hit some clutch shots.

Morgan: Jake hit some unbelievable shots. The one he hit from the top of the key, especially. He leaned back because their guy was in his face and hit it at a 45-degree angle. That was unbelievable.

Deace: I would imagine the mood in that post-game locker room was in stark contrast to the one after the Kansas State loss last week.

Morgan: You're right, Steve. Everybody was jubilant. Everyone was absolutely happy to win a game of that magnitude.

Deace: What's the latest on Marcus Jefferson, is the door still open for him to return to the basketball team?

Morgan: Based on his situation the door is open but we're pretty sure he won't be back.

Deace: Damion Staple is really beginning to come and showed some explosiveness around the basket against Texas that we hadn't previously seen.

Morgan: Especially on the last dunk that gave us the final lead. He's grown, worked hard, listened, and been patient. He comes in and tries hard every day. He didn't have a great game at Kansas State, but before that he was getting better and better. He's strong and rebounds the ball, and communicates well on the floor with his teammates.

Deace: Are you an NCAA Tournament team? Are you on the bubble? What do you think it will take for your team to earn a bid?

Morgan: I can't be involved with the politics of that. When you're in a position of leadership you try to control the things you can control. But I can't control that, so I can't worry about that. I'm not on the Selection Committee. I do think we have the talent to play in the NCAAs.

Deace: Would it be a huge morale boost for your program to finally end that 21-game conference road losing streak?

Morgan: No, it wouldn't because it's you and your colleagues in the media that keep talking about it and I'm tired of it. I'm not going to duck it. We have not played as well as we need to on the road and we need to play better there.

Deace: What's it going to take to finally end that 21-game conference road losing streak? Have you tried different approaches to road games?

Morgan: You have to play harder than the home team to win on the road, I think. You've got to have experience, and we did a study here in the office and found out in terms of minutes played we're like second to last in experience in the league. Almost all of our experience lies with Jake Sullivan. We've done a lot of things differently on the road that I don't have an hour to go through. As we fill up our recruiting classes with guys that can play the system we want to play and gain some more experience, we'll win a lot more road games. If we could one or two this year it would mean lot for our younger kids to pass down to the incoming freshmen.

Deace: Well, regardless of what your team eventually does or doesn't do on the road, Cyclone Nation has to be satisfied with we're you're at right now. Seven months ago, with the way things stood then, if I would've told any Cyclone fan their team would be .500 in the league and control its own destiny for the NCAA Tournament with three weeks left in the regular season, they would've taken that.

Morgan: Seven months ago people thought we'd win five or six games. Most of our fans would've taken 14 wins. These kids have shown tremendous heart.

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