Monday Press Conference and Practice Notes

We're taking it one game at a time. They're thinking about March, but they're trying to set up March. Four of the next five games are at our place before we hit March. We have to do a good job of taking care of home, and then we've got that one road game. They know they've got a break in there. We've got three games here, and then they get a break." -- Steve Alford. Read more of Alford's Monday press conference in this story, plus Rob Howe's observations from practice.

STEVE ALFORD

What happened to Wisconsin at Northwestern?

The same thing that Northwestern can do a lot of teams. They play a different kind of zone and, obviously, have a much different kind of offense. If all of a sudden things aren't clicking, and you don't make some early shots and get some confidence against them, you're going to start standing around a lot.

Saturday was one of those strange games where (the Badgers) didn't make some shots that normally make. And Northwestern ended up doing what they like to do. They ended up cutting them up; getting some easy looks; got ahead at home; and then were able to keep them at bay, which isn't easy to do.

Wisconsin has been a team that's been whistled for fewer fouls than any other Big Ten team. DO they foul less or is that a function of their defense?

That's hard. They're very sound fundamentally. They do a very good job of guarding. Why in the past several years that they've been whistled for fewer fouls than anybody else, that's a hard one to figure. But they do a good job. They jam things up. They build a fort. They keep hands high and move the lower body. I still think there's got to be attention to both. Verticality is straight up and down, not one or the other. ---

You said all along that you felt Jeff Horner was going to develop into a good player. Is he ahead of the curve now?

What I've said all along is as far as his shooting. That's what people questioned. He was a heck of a player last year, and obviously, he's getting better. Several of the guys are in that mold, but Jeff can supercede all of them just because of the way that he works. He's a relentless worker. He was Big Ten Player of the Week, but his mentality won't be any different today. If he doesn't get enough in what we do in practice, he'll stay after and do more. That's just the type of player he is. He's reaping the benefits right now of an awful lot of hard work paying off.

He's shooting it at a high rate. He's leading the Big Ten in free throw percentage. He's got to be near the top if not at the top of 3-point shooting. He's just really doing a lot of good things for us right now.

How can Jeff keep improving?

He still has so much room to improve on learning how to cut without the basketball. He's never had to do that. He's very similar to what I was in high school. I was a coach's kid. I had the ball in my hands all of the time. I created shots for myself. I created shots for teammates. I got to college, and I really had to learn to move without the ball; how to play the game without the ball. ---

We were talking about the amount of minutes he played on Saturday. He almost seemed upset that two of the Indiana guys played 50, and he missed a minute.

Well, he won't miss too many minutes. He's knows that. I say it tongue in cheek about substitutions, but that's what these guys are here to do. They're here to play. I took Pierre out early in the first half because I thought he was a little out of control. Sometimes I just have to let him sit there. He made a point each time that I walked by, "I'm ready. I'm ready. I'm ready." I just looked at him and said, "Player control almost stopped walking by you to where you can tell me you're ready."

Those guys know they're going to be on the floor a lot. What we do between games, we know we're Wednesday, Saturday. Taking Sundays off. And then with not having a lot of depth, we're not going 5-on-5 hardly any. It's about staying sharp and preparing the way that we want to prepare, but then knowing that you have an awful lot to give on Wednesday and Saturday.

Do we make too big of a deal of this minutes thing? These are 18- and 19-year-old kids. They should be able to play 40 minutes, right?

It's something each year, whether it's media or fans, you look at different things to try to look into. It never bothered me any. I played eons ago.

Yeah, but you didn't play defense. (Laughter)

That's true. But people had a hard time guarding me, Randy. I averaged over 38 minutes for four years. As a freshman, I was getting 38 minutes a game. I never really understood it because you get a 2-minute break every four minutes. Guys that are tough-minded and in good shape, I don't think it bothers. Guys like Pierre and Jeff can run all day. Brody because of size, he can get wore down. We've got to watch him. And Bru is learning it. Bru is a little bit of being a big guy and being young and still maturing. But he learned he could play 45 minutes (at Indiana). That's the most he's ever played in his life. And, he gets 23 (points) and 14 (rebounds). That's why it was a good game for him to be out there that long because he proved that he can go beyond where he thinks he can actually play. That's all part of the maturing process.

We're just trying to condense it. We're just trying to get to that 10-minute mark of the second half with hopefully three timeouts. We spend a lot more time talking about possession arrow on loose balls more than we ever have in the past. If we get on the floor and get a loose ball, we want our guys to know where the possession arrow is so we don't call timeout. If we can get to the 10-minute mark with three timeouts, we can break it into 2-minute games and get some rest. Normally, I would only call one timeout in the first half. Now, there are times, depending on the flow of the game, where we need to use two timeouts. You're seeing us do more at the 6-minute mark or right before the media timeout at the 4-minute mark. We get a 30-second blow, go out and play for about another :40, now we're going to get another full timeout. We're pretty rested for that last 3 ½-minute game.

With these minutes, are you looking ahead to March?

No. We're taking it one game at a time. They're thinking about March, but they're trying to set up March. Four of the next five games are at our place before we hit March. We have to do a good job of taking care of home, and then we've got that one road game. They know they've got a break in there. We've got three games here, and then they get a break. For the first time in my career, we'll probably take two days off in that break. We could take three days off; not in a row, but we may take Thursday and Friday off after the Ohio State game. They know they're going to get the ample rest. But they know that there is no mark if they don't do what they need to do in late February. That's really what they're focused on right now. ---

Jared has been out 3 ½ weeks now. Is there any update on how he's doing?

The only thing that I see with Jared is that he's had about five different casts. He can't figure out what model he wants; the all black, the all gold, white with black stripes, black with white stripes. We were giving him a hard time about the casts, but he said this is the last one because it's coming off soon. Obviously then there's extensive rehab. You have to hope that after the cast comes off that the X-rays show that things are healing properly. (According to Trainer John Streif, Reiner has a doctor's appointment on Thursday. He will have a CT done at that time to see how his broken bone has healed.

Do you encourage Jared to go on the road trips?

Definitely. It's like I tell Jared, "Hey, if you're going to eat training table, we've got to get something out of you." (laughter) But no, Jared would be the first to tell you that he wants to be there, especially as a senior. This is his last go-around. He's a leader of the team. It's not a great role because injuries are hard. But he's sitting on the sidelines and encouraging an Erek Hansen, who struggles a little bit. He was in a hurry against Indiana. He's never played in a place like that. It's good for him to sit next to Jared. And Jared can say, "Hey, settle down. This is what you need to look at." That's invaluable. (Jared) is rooming with somebody on the road every time. So, he's able to talk to the younger players that way. And it keeps him sharp. It keeps him involved and a big part of what we're doing. ---

Glen needs three more points for a thousand. What would you say about his career?

There's been a lot on Glen. A lot of it is because he's a local. He won two championships in this state, so there was a lot of pressure when he came here. But you look and some 3,000 Big Ten players have come through in the last 25 years, 3,000 of them haven't score a thousand points. He has done some very good things. He's had to battle through some injuries in the last couple of years, this year in particular. He's a power forward that can beat you off of the dribble, but he's a very good screener. He knows how to get people open, but he knows how to knock down shots. Any time that you've got a skilled four like that, that really helps you out. He's had a very good career, and we're hoping that he really finishes hard here in the next month and a half. ---

With four of the next five at home, do you still feel you're in the Big Ten race?

There's no question. We thought that a split in last week's road trip would at least set up the rest of February. If you don't get a split, it's not like you're out. But it's very demanding and difficult to get back in it. Now, you're playing to get to the upper echelon. We know our next five games are difficult. But they're games that we know if we play well, we're going to have a chance. There's been a lot thrown at them. We've just hung in there. We got a long way to go. But I like the demeanor of the team. ---

You've played nine Big Ten games, and it's win-loss, win-loss, win-loss…

We've got break that pattern. We haven't put a string together yet. We talked about that briefly in the locker room in Bloomington. We've got a chance here. ---

NOTES

Practice was pretty much confined to half court drills and foul shooting. Guards worked a lot on screening and popping out for shots. Big men worked on receiving low post feeds and interior moves.

Iowa watched film for the first 30 minutes of practice on Monday. Players arrived early to get some light weightlifting in.

Mike Henderson looks much improved. He really struggled with some fundamental things for a good part of the early season. But he has gotten better at those and makes better decisions.

Rich Walker and Brian Jones worked with the big men. Greg Lansing ran the guards through their drills. Steve Alford stood at midcourt and coached both.

Adam Haluska should be a tremendous addition next season. It's fun to watch him match up with Pierre in one-on-one drills. Haluska is a little bit taller than Pierre, and he matches P's strength. He's a very good defender.

Greg Brunner was asked if he has been happy the whole season and if ever considered giving up and leaving Iowa. He said that he loved it here. He loved the coaches. And he loved his teammates. The response was less than convincing. And his mood definitely changed when asked the question.


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