The Agony of Defeat

Just days after a thrilling win in Bloomington, the Hawkeyes lost a heartbreaker to visiting Wisconsin, 54-52, Wednesday night. Saturday's hero Jeff Horner had a chance to win it with a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Instead, the shot fell just short: "I shot it, and I missed. Right then, I knew it was over. You just kind of fall to the floor. It's just tough to handle right now."

STEVE ALFORD

Opening Statement:

Well, I can't fault either team's effort. Both teams played with an awful lot of effort tonight. I'm really proud of our guys. We really battled. I like how we defended playing six, seven guys and playing man defense most of the night. We outrebounded them. We kept them off of the free throw line. We held them to 39 percent shooting. We did a lot of good things. We just didn't...there's a sign in our locker room (that says) "Victory favors the team that makes the fewest mistakes." We just didn't make the fewest mistakes tonight. Nineteen to 13 on the turnovers, that was the difference in the game. It was a very even game except for the mistakes of handling the basketball. And we had two crucial ones inside two minutes.

Inside one minute, we did exactly what we had hoped to have done. We got a good three on a set that Glen knocked down. We went down and got a stop. We didn't want to foul because we had three fouls to give. That's a lot of stoppage of play. Now, the clock gets way down. We wanted to defend, get the stop and run without calling timeout. The guys did a tremendous job of doing everything. And we got a great look. If we had to design anything up again, that's who we'd want to take it and that's where we'd want him to take it from. You make some and you miss some. And Jeff will make more than he misses. Hopefully, he can keep his head up.

Q&A

What did you think when the ball was in the air?

Well, I always think it's good because he's so tough minded. He wills a lot of them in. Harris is an outstanding defender. And that's the respect that Jeff has garnered here over the last two weeks. Of all the guys that could have guarded him tonight, it was Harris. Harris is maybe the best defender in our league. He and Pierre are the best on-ball and off-ball defenders in the league. He made it tough on Jeff. Yet, in the end, Jeff had a great look. And this will be a good tape for Jeff. More than the shot is there haven't been too many teams shut Jeff out in the assist column. That's what I want Jeff to look at more than anything tonight.

How do you think your team held up physically after Saturday's double-overtime win?

Well, they got six points off of their bench. We got two off of ours. They were terrific. We outshot them. Sometimes you look at shooting as a fatigue. We shot better at the line. We shot better overall. We shot better from the 3-point line. It doesn't matter what distance that you look at other than maybe layups. We missed too many layups. And then, we just had too many turnovers. I don't think it was fatigue. In the last 16 minutes of the game, they scored 12 points.

Hanson got away from you a little bit in the first half. Was that a suprise?

Well, he's a very good shooter. He came in and got hot right away. I wouldn't say it was a surprise because we knew he was a catch-and-shoot guy. He's a kid that you've got to make bounce it. And we didn't make him bounce it in the first half.

Can you win when Glen and Jeff struggle that much on offense?

Obviously, we don't have a big margin for error. So, it's hard when two of our starters combine for 4 of 20 shooting. What I want them to learn and continue to look at is that they've got to get to the free throw line; they've got to rebound; they've got to get assists. Glen rebounded a lot better in the second half than he did the first half. Unfortunately, two of our better shooters just had off shooting nights. You've got to give Wisconsin's defense a lot of the credit.

If you win the ballgame, you're one game back in the Big Ten. If you lose it, you're three back. What's it going to be like from here on out?

As I said before, that's the hardest thing in sport. We've got to do a very good job. There's going to be pressure on the coaches. There's going to be pressure on the players in the next two days to get ready for Michigan. They're very athletic. They're deep. They can throw a lot of bodies at you. They scored 90 on us in the first game. It's going to be a very demanding game. This game is demanding, but by style of play Wisconsin shortens the possessions. Michigan plays at a different pace with a lot greater athleticism. It will be a very demanding game physically. We've got to make sure that we're ready for it mentally. That's going to be a tough assignment because we've got a lot of guys that are upset. They all knew what could happen if we would have gotten this one.

Turnovers, Pierre had eight; a couple of bad ones in the last few minutes. What do you have to impress on him to get those down?

Well, he's young. He's a sophomore. He's got the ball in his hands a lot. He did a great job on Harris all night. He really made Harris work for all of his points. They were having a great battle. The difference was that Harris had fewer turnovers. Peirre has to pick and choose. Sometimes he goes in transition against too many guys. Most of the time it's forcing it too early in the possession when he gets in trouble. But other than that, he had a terrific game.

You got 13 rebounds from Brunner.

Yeah. Bru battled. All of our guys battled. You look at our stats. You go across the stat line, we win all of the stats until you get to turnovers. That's the difference in the game.

PIERRE PIERCE

Did you guys feel like you were going to pull it out again at the end?

We had a chance to win it against the top team in our league. The guys gave a terrific effort tonight. We just came up a little short.

You had the ball in your hands during the last possession. What was your thought process?

We wanted to get a screen up top and see if they helped and I could kick it back to Glen for a three like we did before. But they didn't help. I kicked it to Jeff. That's a good shot. We'll take that nine out of 10 times. It just fell a little short tonight.

How does this feeling different from Indiana?

It's definitely two extremes. We were coming off of a high playing Indiana on the road. Everybody was excited. Then, to come back here and lose by two at home, against a great team...Wisconsin did a great job tonight handling the ball. We beat ourselves tonight with turning the ball over, especially me.

Are you going to be able to pick it up against Michigan?

We've got to. That's how the Big Ten is. You can't drown in losses too long. You can't celebrate wins too long. Saturday is going to be here quicker than you know it.

GREG BRUNNER

Will you guys be able to bounce back from this tough loss?

Oh yeah. This team is very competitive. Nobody is going to let these losses take affect. We're going to come in tomorrow and put it behind us just like we put the Indiana win behind us. It's part of basketball. It's how you get from game to game.

Jeff looked to be in agony after the shot. Did you see him?

He's such a competitor. He had tears in his eyes all the way from when I saw him walk out of the locker room after the game. It's just the way he is. He's got to know that he's such a great shooter. I personally don't want the ball in anybody else's hands. I know that he'll make 8 of 10 of those shots because that's what he's known for.

Did you think it was in?

I saw it all the way until it hit the rim. I thought that it was in the entire time. I saw the angle. It looked perfect. It just missed. I actually think the back part of the ball hit the front iron. It's just a tough break.

How much effort did it take to get back in the game?

we had a big heart. Pierre is screaming down the court, "Dig. Dig. Dig." Everybody was feeling a little fatigued. Once he started screaming that, the adrenaline kicked in and we all came together.

We you guys a little impatient on offense at times tonight?

Yeah. We weren't screening. We were just cutting the entire time. When you don't screen in a motion offense, you don't have anybody that gets open. A lot of that falls on us bigs because we didn't do a very good job of screening tonight. That's what we've got to do.

JEFF HORNER

You looked like somebody punched you in the gut there when you missed that shot. Can you talk about the emotion?

I shot it, and I missed. Right then, I knew it was over. You just kind of fall to the floor. It's just tough to handle right now.

Did it feel good when you let it go?

Yeah. It felt really good. I thought that it was in all of the way. It just came up a little bit short.

It seemed like to guys rushed the offense tonight. Did it feel that way?

Yeah. We were pretty pumped up coming out and playing the conference leader. We just wanted to come out and play very well. We outshot them. Our turnovers just hurt us again. Unfortunately, our offense was the best in the last three minutes of the game when we needed it. We just need to do that all of the time.

You kind of saw both ends of the agony and ecstasy in the last to two games.

It's kind of been like that the whole season - win, lose, win, lose. If we want to get to where we want to be in the Big Ten, we've got to put a string of wins together.


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