STEVE ALFORD, OPENING STATEMENT
Well, that was a really big win for our guys. We've been playing some pretty good basketball the last couple of weeks. That defense, we've had some slippage there. The defense goes hand in hand with turning the ball over. Tonight was a season low eight turnovers, and our defense was a lot better. We got back to holding people to 36 percent shooting. If you take away that last, preventive, NFL defense in the last four minutes, we probably hold them in the 50s again. I was really pleased with how our guys competed on the defensive end. And we made shots. Our offense has been clicking lately. We've been playing teams that mix up defenses. I've got some young guards in Pierre and Jeff. They're starting to do a better job of recognizing defenses. And we've played some pretty good ball through this stretch. So, this was a good, key win for us.
What did you think of Brunner's play tonight?
It was a lot better. When he came out (of the game), I told him, "Welcome back." He's trying to dunk the ball again. He had one or two dunks tonight and then another one that was a monster try. He played like a power forward. We've go to have that. He's got to try to be the best sixth man in the Big Ten. He's capable of doing that. He's very, very talented. We got seven (points) and eight (rebounds) out of him. I think we're going to get more out of him. This was a good game for him to build some confidence from.
You have the zone going on with Horner shooting, too.
Our zone offense was good tonight. The thing that I was most pleased with was the maturity of Brody. We've had a lot of games in the past, and maybe some games this year, where Brody has been held scoreless or had a very poor half, and that's the way the game ends; a lot of zeros. I told him at halftime, "This is where we have to have some maturity. You've wore them down. They've had to really pay attention to you in their zone. Now, let's have a big second half." He just had a tremendous second half for us. That's what good scorers do. You're a relentless cutter to where you might be guarded for 10-15 minutes, but then you eventually wear the defense down. I thought they lost track of him in the second half.
This is the third game in the last four that Jeff Horner has had 20 points or more. Is this becoming, more and more, Jeff Horner's ballclub?
No, I don't think it's one guy's club. He's the quarterback of our team because he's the point guard. But I don't think it's his club in any way. It's not one guy's club. This has been a team the last two years. There's obviously been an enormous amount of things thrown at this club, and they've done a very good job of doing it together. We've had some tough losses here in the last couple, but we've played well. It's always been a team effort. Jeff would be the first to tell you that he'd just as soon score two points as long as we get the win. He had 26 at Iowa State, and there wasn't anybody more frustrated than he was. What he's doing now is taking better shots, and he's knocking down shots.
How were you able to contain their inside players while still being able to contest their outside shots?
We just wanted to be active. I just didn't think that our man defense has been as active as I'd like for it to be. And we took care of the basketball. When you turn it over 23 times, you give your opponent a lot of chances for easy scores. Other than that last four minutes, we didn't give up very many easy scores. A thought a key tonight would be who presented themself early inside. Fortunately, we did that in the first 20. Then, I was a little worried because at the start of the second half, they did a very good job of establishing a low-post presence, not so much through points, but through fouls. Thankfully, our guys did a good job of recovering in the last 15 minutes.
Did you sense that the crowd was really into it and pulling for you guys tonight?
Our crowd was great. We've had really good crowds. They did a very nice job of helping us tonight. It was a large number crowd that was very active. The crowds over the last two years have really appreciated how these kids have competed. We've always been very appreciative of our home crowd.
You have to be happy with all that has happend to be sitting on 10 wins.
We told them that one of these teams was going to walk out of here with 10 wins, and we wanted that to be us. This is a Buckeye team that has had their way with us. They won three in a row in here. We've had that on our locker room for the last two days. Our guys were very determined. I'd have to look at the film, but I think we pretty much led this from start to finish.
Were you making fun of Pierre that he slipped on the dunk?
I told him at the end that Jack was being very unselfish at allowing him, a more athletic kid, to get a dunk. I said, "Hey, Jack could have done that. (laughter) Jack is not going to get a lot of opportunities to get baskets. If you're going to do that, just let Jack get the two points because you're going to have a lot of opportunities to get layups."
Look at Jeff's line. Did he do anything wrong?
No, he's playing well. I congratulated him on the thing that he wanted to see which is his assist-to-turnover ratio. That has not been up to Jeff Horner standards lately. To have a 7-to-2 ration, that's more like Jeff. He's just a solid player. He guards. He really competes. He did a really nice job on Fuss-Cheatham. What's really helping us is moving Pierre to the point some.
JIM O'BRIEN, Q&A
Did you anticipate 3-point shooting would be that much of a factor?
We thought that they were a very good three point shooting team. They took 29 threes against Iowa State the other night. We expected them to be perimeter oriented, especially with Reiner not playing. That's exactly what happened. Their guards scored 54 of the 79. We had a hard time guarding them. We were not suprised. Boyd has historically been a good 3-point shooter. Horner has certainly improved his perimeter shooting. He was not nearly as effective from behind the line as he is now. That's a credit to him.
Do you feel like you're kind of taking this team over?
I don't know about that. I've just had a couple of good shooting nights. I really feel like we have a lot of guys on this team that can score night in and night out. It just happened to be me the last two games. We're pretty sound because next game I could score zero and you could get 20 from Brody or Pierre or Sean or Glen or Bru. We can pass the ball to a lot of people that can score.
You wanted to protect the home court, and you did.
It was a huge win for us. We couldn't have another home loss. We came out ready to play tonight, and got the victory.
Are you just more comfortable now?
Yeah. My shot just feels a lot better. My teammates are finding me out there. It's just been a lot of fun lately. When we get some more wins on the board, that will make it that much better.
Is it in the shoes? I noticed you had some sparkle on the white out there.
I had to get some new shoes because with those Shocks I sprained my ankle a little bit too much.
How about the sparkle? (laughter, this is Bob Brooks' line of questioning. It might not translate as being funny in type. But trust me, it was.)
Hey. I look pretty slow out there. So, I need all the help that I can get.
What helped you guys open up the lead?
I thought our transition game was awesome. We got out and started running. People were knocking down shots. Brody came back and did a great job in the second half after not hitting a shot in the first half.
Did Greg seem a little bit more comfortable?
Oh yeah. Greg has been a lot more confident this week in practice. He just need to get his confidence up a little bit. This was the game to do it.
How challenging was it to get a rhythm in the second half with whistles going off every second?
(Laughs) I was pretty scared to play defense in the second half. (laughter) We had a lot of guys in foul trouble.