Did you feel like the Hawks escaped with one against Eastern Illinois?
It occured on that Tuesday night when a lot of teams around the country lost. When you started to get those scores in in the broadcasting area, you looked up at the scoreboard and we were down by six points. A kid, a can't remember his name, banked in a 3-point shot. You had that feeling that, "Oh no, this is not going to happen to us here." I'm sure that the players felt the same way that you can't let this happen. This would be a devastating home loss.
We dug down deeper and got a little tougher and started to play better defense. We started to control the boards. The offense started clicking when the defense got going. Jeff Horner made some big shots. I remember the big 3-pointer right in front of the Iowa bench when he turned and looked at one of the coaches. I think it was Greg Lansing, who has been working with Jeff a lot on his shooting. He got kind of a nod of approval there. That carried them.
Eastern Illinois, no one gave them a chance. But they had been playing good competition. They didn't seemed scared coming into Carver-Hawkeye or intimidated by any stretch. They put up a good fight.
The teams that nobody gives a chance to are often the most dangerous.
Absolutely. This time of year you're preparing for the Big Ten. Anytime you get a victory, you go away from it congratulating the opposing team and move onto the next one.
Iowa played well at Missouri in the first half, then let it get away from it in the second half. What happened there?
Coming off (Missouri's) loss to Belmont, you had this feeling that either this team was really going south or that you were running into a buzz saw. I kind of took the other opinion that they weren't playing very well, and this was a real winable game for Iowa if they could come and stick it to them early. The opposite happened. I thought that they stuck it to us early. Quin shook up his lineup. The freshman Gardner gave them a push. The kid (Young) that started for Arthur Johnson really played strong inside. But we took it to him. Jared got the ball on the blocks. He scored the first five points of the game. He really kept it close there. I just kept saying, "Feed the big fella on the inside." Their pressure on the outside was smothering, at times.
Missouri got ahead by 11 and then Horner sort of got that mindset that enough is enough and stepped up and made two big 3-point shots. I thought that could have been a turning point in that basketball game. We got it to within five at halftime. They had to feel good. As bad as they had played, they were hanging in there with a team that probably throught they played pretty good. They held Ricky Paulding without a field goal. Arthur Johnson really was a non-factor. And then to start the second half, Brody came up with a steal and knocked down two free throws. Now, you're within three. Then, the 3-point barrage came. The kid Gardner hit the one 3-pointer, and then McKinney hit one. Then Travon Bryant, who I thought was real active in the game, got more involved from the outside. Their 3-point shooting and our turnovers and missed free throws during that stretch really pushed that lead to 20 points.
This was the first time all year that I saw Iowa real frustrated and down. Not so much giving up, but it just looked like there wasn't anything left. They didn't have any charge left. I thought maybe there could have been a time in there, we're not a pressing team, but you try something different. You try to fullcourt press or three-quarter court press. But if you're not a pressing team, that's sort of pressing the panic button. We didn't do that. We just played it out. I thought it was a very disappointing loss in that a lot of people felt bad after that game because they didn't see the fire, didn't see the emotion. I saw a lot of frustration from the kids.
I saw Jared sort of struggle with getting his lift off of the floor. Now, we come to find out that he's got a bad right foot. That explains why he wasn't able to explode to the basket. He dunked the ball a couple of times, and actually fell down a couple of times. That was puzzling as to why he couldn't stay on his feet. But I've had stress fractures and foot problems during the course of my career in college and my first couple of years in the pros. It feels like you're stepping on a sharp, pointed stick every time you step down. You really don't have that lift or elevation. Hopefully, now that they have it diagnosed correctly, they can go about healing it. They need to keep him involved. He's still the key. He's one of the stars of the team. An old coach of my Frank Layden, used to say, "You don't look at your .200 hitters. You've got to look at your stars. You've got to look at your .300 hitters." Jared is one of those guys. Glen Worley is one of them. And Jeff Horner is another one of our big time players. So, those guys have to give us a lot of our scoring punch in addition to Pierre. Pierre was fantastic against Missouri. There was no quit in him. He continued to attack. He was the only athlete that we had on the floor that could match the athleticism of Missouri. He stepped up and made his free throws.
Jeff, to me, looked frustrated. There was a question that I asked Steve in the postgame interview about Jeff having fun. That was the wrong word. Heck, he's not going to have fun when he's losing. Really what I meant is that he looked frustrated out there. He looked a little bit shackled in the halfcourt offense. Somehow we've got to find a way to free him up in the open court or inside of the motion offense. We need to set some on the ball screens to try to get some mismatches where he's being guarded by a bigger player, and he can use his quickness to get around him. We need to get him in the lane where he can drop off some passes for some easy baskets.
Is this team too quiet or do they not talk enough out on the floor? Is it still looking for a vocal leader?
I think so. And I think they're looking for the right guy to do that. A lot of times guys will talk a lot, and they're being tuned out by the other players. That's where I'd like to see our point guard, that would be Jeff, be that vocal leader. I'd like to see him grab these guys by the jersey and say, "Come on. Enough of that. Let's run. Let's pick it up defensively a little bit." But sometimes, that's not a kid's nature. It's hard to pull that out of them. Glen Worley tries to do that. His lack of practice time and not being with the team early sort of cuts into that a little bit. He's got to remain the vocal leader in the right way and not by getting on guys when they do something wrong like a turnover or a foul. He needs to offer some encouragement and rally that team around him. Sometimes you've got to huddle up and come together. Someone has got to do it. They will.
If you looked at this nonconference schedule at the beginning of the year, you probably would have picked 7-3. That would have been acceptable. I think that that third loss came in a disappointing manner because of the lack of effort in the second half. That's why everybody is down a little bit. But let's move that aside and look ahead to the 16-game Big Ten schedule. With the Big Ten being down or being equal in a lot of respects, you've got to find a way to win on the road. Everybody believes that Carver-Hawkeye Arena is an extremely tough place to play. So, you should hold your home court. But you've got to find a way to go out on the road and grind out some victories. And what I mean by grinding it out is by making it ugly. You've got to play defense. You've got to get after the loose balls. You've got to step up and make then pay by getting fouled and making your free throws. You've got to cut down on your number of turnovers. Ands you've got to execute your offense to perfection.
Are these must wins this week?
Yes. It's hard to say that, but I think they are for the confidence of the team, for the confidence of the fans and for the outlook of the NCAA Tournament. These are winable games, but you can't overlook anybody. Purdue is a team that's a littl ebit like Iowa in that they struggle in the halfcourt offense. They're going to put good defense on you and force some turnovers. You have to live through a certain amount of turnovers. You can't let them outrebound you. We should have an advantage inside in terms of the kid Chris Booker being out with academic difficulties.
Pierre Pierce had been doing a fantastic job defensively. He'll be assigned to Kenny Lowe to try to keep his numbers down. He's going to get a certain amount of points, but you don't want to have him break loose and have a big night. Then, you've got to D-up on everybody else. You really have to concentrate on covering the 3-point line. They'll throw them in every now and then. And when a team starts making a few 3-pointers on the road, their confidence will just build. The area that we got beat in against Missouri was the 3-pointer. And our 3-point field goal percentage defense has been good up to that points. So, get back to that. Get back to helping each other out. And get back to being on the basketball court. It looked like it was work. It looked like it was a struggle to be out there on Saturday.
You talked about them being down after Saturday's loss. Is the psyche fragile at this point?
Everybody's psyche in a certain way is fragile. Everybody wants to do well. They're not out there going through the motions or in the NBA, collecting a paycheck. They're out there competing to the best of their abilities. When it doesn't go your way, you do have a tendency to get down. That's where you have to have teammates helping each other through the tough times. You can't look to the coaches on the sideline or the parents to make you feel good. You've got to find that band of brothers inside that locker room to carry you through. That's ultimately who you're playing for. You're playing for your teammates. Then you're playing for the fans and everybody else. When it gets down to it, you're playing for that group of guys wearing that Iowa uniform. You look back that some of the good times that we had in college, and Iook at those four years and those four team pictures, and you only remember the victories; the great wins that you had along the way. You think about how you did it and what it took to get to that point. Those are the things that create lasting relationships and friendships for a lifetime.
This team still has a chance to do some good things this year, right Bobby?
There's a ton of basketball to be played. The entire season lays ahead of them. All that really matters at this point is how they play in the Big Ten. I still have a tremendous amount of faith in them. They've got a lot of pieces to the puzzle. Now, the puzzle has got to come together and play like a team. Phil Jackson used to talk about foregoing your individual glory and production for the good of the team. That means making the extra pass. That means sacrificing yourself on the defensive end. Someone else will pick up the scoring. Someone else will pick up that loose ball or rebound that's laying down on the floor. Everybody has got to do their job. They've got to know their role. You've got to trust in each other and play for each other.