It seems like some of the fans have given up on this basketball team. Can it still win with the players that it has?
Absolutely. I like the starting five that you have. That starting five is going to compete with anybody in the league. The athleticism is there. Greg stepped in there and did a real nice job of blocking out and going after the rebounds. What you had was everybody chipping in. I think all of the starters got at least five rebounds. Then off of the bench, Ben had four and Erek had four. Even though they were outrebounded by Penn State, Penn State took a lot more shots. There were more offensive boards available to them. The kids did a good job of hanging in there. Jeff Horner is one of the best rebounding guards in the Big Ten, if not the country.
Now, going out on the road, you've got to take care of basketball and get high percentage shots and play some defense. That's what the road is all about. It's all about mental toughness and battling through a lot of things that are going to be thrown at them. There's disruptive travel; anything that can happen to you. You've got to block everything out and be single-minded in your purpose. That's to go out, play well and win the basketball game.
As a former player, where does fatigue fit into this and how do you overcome that?
At this point, their conditioning has got to be at the top that we're going to be. You're at the halfway point in teh Big Ten season. You're going to have the little bumps and bruises. But as far as fatigue goes, you're not going to be getting tired and winded. Toward the end of the game, your body is going to get a little bit tired. But I've always been a believer that your mind can overcome that; the mental state that you put yourself into, and the focus that you have out there.
Jerry Sloan used to talk about it all of the time. You can't allow yourself to get tired. That's hard to do. And it takes training. Look at marathon runners. They certainly run through obstacles all along that 24 1/2 miles. Ultimately, some of them face death. Yet, they continue to push through it. The mind and the body is a mysterious thing. Your brain can tell your body that you're tired or not tired. If you think that you're not tired, you can play through that.
There are times when you've got to take a break. But in the course of the basketball games anymore, with the timeouts coming every four minutes, it gives you more than enough. The extra timeouts that you get on top of that should be more than enough time to get rest. The sports drinks that they have are putting back in the electrolytes. They do a good job of rehydrating themselves before the game and the carbo-loading they do four hours before the game. If you go and watch them and look at what they're eating, they've got pancakes and spaghetti and baked potatoes. They've got all kinds of carbos that they're loading up on. All of those things help to get through the fatigue and short numbers.
And as a player, when you know you're going to have those extended minutes, you prepare to play them. You get your rest. In practice, they're cutting back the intensity of the workouts. When you get down to five players, (fatigue) might be a problem. But we're at seven, eight, nine guys right now. That should not be a problem.
This team likes to run. Can it still do that?
Yeah. You have to with the players that you have. Jeff Horner plays a lot better when he gets out in the open court and can hit the runners with passes out on the open floor. Pierre, obviously, that's his game. With the smaller lineup with Worley and Brunner, they can run the bigger players that are going to be matching them. Brody just sort of hides behind these guys and trails it up and stings you with a 3-point shot.
That's the style that pretty much every basketball player wants to play. Now, you've got to run on opportunities. When you get out on the road, you just can't run blindly and kick all around. That gets the other team into it. You've got to pick your spots a little bit more selectively when you get out on the road. But you certainly have to continue to be up tempo.
They get to watch the tape. I don't get the luxury of watching tape and seeing really what he does. But the little bit I've seen Michigan State play, when he has a bigger player on him, like against Purdue with Kartelo, he took him outside and drove. I don't think he's going to be able to do that against the Iowa defender, whether it be Worley or Brunner or maybe even Pierre Pierce. If he goes to the low block, you got to run somebody off him if he starts to hurt you inside with one or two moves. You've got to swing him back into the middle where you've got some help. You double-team him and force him to pass the ball. You take your chance in the worst outside shooter.
Michigan State's problem is that they don't have a true point guard. Hill, Torbert, Brown and Anderson are all in the same mold. They're slashers, athletes, runners. They do a lot of good things. But I don't think they have the really good ball handler. A good way to exploit that is to find the worst shooter in the bunch. Come off of him and take your chances. And then, defensively you've got to get up and pressure them a little bit more than usual and force them into some turnovers.
A trip to Indiana is coming up on Saturday. How do you attack the Hoosiers?
We were together at the John Wooden Tradition in Indiana. People around Indiana were not real happy at that time. They thought they were playing bad. I've always like their talent. Their guards are really tough, starting with Bracey Wright and Donald Perry. The kid A.J. Moye, I've always liked his toughness. He's strong. He does a lot of things.
They lost Leach in there. That's when they were struggling. But when he came back, he really brought that inside toughness that they were missing.
Indiana, you've got to match their toughness because they're going to come at you with everything they've got. They've always done that. Again, limit their offensive rebounding. Limit their scoring opportunities. Try to take some time off of that clock. Shorten that game down a little bit. They'll get a little bit nervous, a little bit antsy and try to score on you quick. They're a good team when they're patient. But if you allow them to get out and go, they can give you some problems. The crowd gets right on top of you and really get into it. But you've got to match their defensive toughness. It will be a grind over there.
It's been another season where players are gone for various reasons. You're around the players quite a bit. Do you get a sense that they're frustrated?
No. I don't. You've got a great bunch of kids with tremendous character that are left; those nine kids that will be in uniform. As they all understand, things do pop up. You're a college athlete. There are rules that you have to get done on the academic side of it. When it doesn't get done, then they're not going to play. These kids are the ones that have done the work.
This is an unbelievable group in that they're always upbeat. Whenever you talk to these kids, they're always looking forward to the nest game, the next challenge. After defeat, they're down. That's going to happen. But when you see them in pregame or you see them warming up, they're doing their work. They're going about it very businesslike. This is a group with two seniors left that have seen an awful lot. They're resilient. The opportunity is there for them to get a lot of minutes and get a lot of playing time. That's all any kid could ever ask.
Do you get any sense that Steve is frustrated?
No. Steve is not going to tell me or anybody that. He's got a job to do. That's to take care of his kids and prepare them the best he possibly can. He's been down lately, and that's because of his grandmother (passing away). When he got that news before Michigan, you could tell that he was down. But that's to be expected.
He knows what he's into. He's realized the magnitude of Iowa basketball in the state of Iowa and what it brings with it. He's up to the challenge. This kid is a competitor. I really got to know him a little bit in the NBA (at Sacremento). He came to practice every day ready to get after it. There isn't a lot of goofing around. He just does the job.
So, you've got to play with what's dealt. There's nothing you can do about spilled milk. It's a horrible cliche, but you can't worry about that stuff. You've got to move forward and not look behind. You have to keep your eye on that prize. That prize is winning basketball games and trying to get to the NCAA Tournament and fighting for a Big Ten title.