We talked about it for a couple of weeks. Whether some believe me or don't believe me, it came to fruition tonight. The difference is foul shooting. When you can make free throws, you're offense looks a lot better. Your kids feel better about themselves. And the game doesn't look quite as ugly. I don't think we've been that far off. Our guys have really competed. They might have taken it to another level tonight just because they got some success there. But the difference was that we made foul shots. We finished shots inside, and we made foul shots.
The staple of what we've been all about this year was still there tonight. We really guarded. We took a very good basketball team and held them in the 60s and held them to 37 percent shooting. So, I'm very, very pleased with the way that we defended.
You got loose balls, too.
Yeah, but we've done that. This has been a team that for two years has done that. we've got guys laying it our every night. Even when they're frustrated, they're laying it out. Jeff Horner feels awefully good about himself, but he was still 1 for 5 (from the floor). But he gets 10 rebounds, and he gets to the free throw line nine times and his team wins. And that's what Jeff is about.
When you're getting beat like we got beat at Missouri, I don't want guys smiling on the floor. I hope they are upset. And they really did a good job of responding tonight against a very good team.
Did you change your offense and move your post up high?
No. Not really. The only difference was tonight we ran more triangle, which hadn't been very good for us this year. The guys did a very good job of running triangle. We probably ran more of that in the second half than we have all this year and mixed up who we put in it. I thought we gave them some trouble in how they were trying to guard it. That was really the only difference in what we've been doing.
When you needed it, you really got a lift from Henderson and Sonderleiter.
Mikey has been distracted a lot with academic issues. He did a really good job of staying focused tonight. He gave us a big lift. He's a strong point guard that can get by people, and he really concentrates defensively. He helps us with what we do in our backcourt defensively. That's the big thing that Mike does.
Sean was huge in the second half for us. It was nice to see Sean do some things that he's been doing for us the last year and a half. This was, by far, his best game. We had a lot of guys do a lot of good things tonight.
What gave you the confidence to stick with Pierre after he picked up his third foul early in the second half?
Pierre's tough, and he's a competitor. I was just hoping that he wouldn't commit a dumb foul just like I told him that I don't want dumb shots. He didn't commit the foul. Late in the game, he probably took one of those ill-advised shots. We just switched off. That was a key that was as big as anything defensively. When Pierre was in foul trouble, Jeff did a tremendous job of trying to wear down, a little bit, Lowe. That's a hard guy to defend. He still got 19. But we made things difficult on him. He had to really work for it. He's a 90 percent foul shooter, and he missed two free throws. I'm hoping that has a lot to do with fatigue because we did make him work hard.
Do you think you forced them into taking so many threes?
I don't know. That's hard to say. I'm glad that they only made six of (26). The nice thing that we did is that we didn't foul them. They're a very good foul shooting team. Only three guys shot free throws for them. We did a good job of playing good, strong team defense without fouling. When that happens you can get pushed out a bit and maybe start shooting some ill-advised threes.
Steve, can you give us an update on the status of DeWitz and Hansen?
No. I don't know of anything right now. Fred Mims has been working with that in regards to handling our academic situation. He's told me just to send everything to him at this time.
So, they're not eligible to play right now?
I'm out of the equation right now. I've had to deal with it for two weeks. That's about as long as I want to deal with it. So, it's in the hands of administration in terms of what takes place with the academic scenario.
If you have to be an eight-man team, are you happy with what you've got?
The eight guys that did some things tonight were very good. But I don't think it's an eight-man team. Kurt Spurgeon was huge last year for us in a big win over Ohio State. He has practiced very well. I had all intentions of playing Kurt tonight because he's really practiced well. He's in shape. He's been working hard to stay in shape. That's a senior that can give us spot minutes.
We hope that Ben Rand can continue to develop. Ben is working hard. I just don't know if he's ready for extended minutes. Jack Brownlee, you watch our practice and there's nobody that controls the ball and runs our offense any more solid. So, I don't think it's about just eight guys. Does that mean we're going nine guys, playing them 15 or 20 minutes? No. But we can still go nine or 10 deep and spot those guys minutes when we need it if all of a sudden we get into serious foul trouble. You're going to see some guys like Pierce and Horner that aren't going to be out of the game very much.
Did you see this kind of game coming?
They've been frustrated a little bit. I haven't been frustrated in their effort. I've been frustrated in that we just couldn't make an uncontested 15-foot shot, and we couldn't finish layups. Seriously. If that's taking place, it's quite easily that we're sitting here 10-1 instead of 8-3. The one common thing that's happened is we've yet to have a game where we haven't gotten to the line. We've yet to have a game where somebody's taken away the in-tight shot for us. The offense has done those two things for us. Tonight, we just executed. We made layups. We made foul shots. Now, the offense looks better.
Assuming that the team was struggling in recent games. How big of a boost could these be psychologically and emotionally?
Well, we hope huge. But then you've got a team like Northwestern that comes in and wants to play junk defense and the Princeton offense. So, immediately it can mess with you again. We've got to do a good job of enjoying this win tonight and getting back to work. We talked about it. It's a 16-game journey. Tonight looked like the team that I saw in Australia, as far as putting it all together and just doing a little bit more chest-bumping, a little bit more talking out there. That's good. Hopefully, we can build on this. This is a good start. That's what it is, a start. But getting out of the gate at 8-3 with the schedule that we played, we're very pleased.