It was just a gritty performance by our guys. They really hung in there. We made very few substitutions in the second half. That's the first time with a depleted roster that we've gotten in serious foul trouble. We really had to do a lot of shifting around.
Glen did a super job of playing the second half without foul trouble and being productive. Then Bru and Erek really handled foul trouble well. Both of them have not had to handle foul trouble for a long time. It affected us on the boards because we got really beat up on the boards. But I really like the way that we guarded. This was a team shot about 55 percent on us in the first game and scored 90 points. They come in here today, and we hold them to 61 and 32 percent shooting. That's a drastic turnaround. I'm very appreciative of the effort that we got out of our guys.
Our bench was huge. Spurg came in with some big free throws; big rebound. More than the free throws, it was the rebound that was big. Erek (had) four blocks. They did really some good things. And then, Pierre, you saw just how talented he was. We really challenged him, and he comes in at 8-3 for assist-turnover ratio. That was a big plus for us tonight.
You got the threes when you needed them.
We started hitting them in the second half. We shot way too many in the first half. We did a much better job in the second half against their zone and their man of making sure that we were going inside out first. We're not near as big as we used to be, but I don't want to change our attack. Our attack has got to be inside out. Bru is somebody that can score inside. Erek is improving every day with that jump hook. And Glen, obviously, is somebody that can score inside.
When they got in foul trouble in the first half, their zone affected us. I thought kind of the reverse in the second half. Our zone affected them in the second half.
When Bru fouled out, you kind of looked and maybe double-clutched before you put Spurgeon in. Was that right or was I just reading you wrong?
Well, I mean we shot fake. We pass fake. (laughter) You've only been with me a year now Randy, but I've learned that I've got to fake you a little bit, too. The question was we were on a free throw blockout, and that's something that Erek has struggled with because Robinson had already gotten two on him, and he's not the free throw shooter that Spurg is. I just opted to move Pierre down and let Pierre block out Robinson and go with Spurg so we would match all of their guards in the game. That was the indecision of whether we wanted to go big or small there. It worked out well because Spurg does go after rebounds and he can make free throws.
I can't think of anything harder, to be honest with you. To sit most of the game, and then in a clutch situation, come in and bang two free throws down, that's a...that's a hard role to play. Kurt plays five minutes and gets four rebounds. He was real productive for us.
Their zone really affected you in the first half. Did you guys just move around a little better in the second half?
In zones, it makes you play passive. It makes you play soft. And it forces you to get closer to the timeline. That's what we did in the first half. We were out closer to the timeline than we were the 3-point line. Now, our drives and kicks, Brody and Jeff are out 25 feet. We really talked at halftime, "You've got to attack at the 3-point line so that the drives and kicks are from 20 feet, not 25 feet." We did a much better job of guards attacking, bigs cutting. Bru hid a lot behind the zone instead of flashing. Our movement was a lot better (in the second half). It forced them to come out of their zone. I thought we could do some things against their man, especially with them being in foul trouble.
You had Horner guarding Robinson. How did you come up with that matchup?
I still think that the key to that team is Horton, and our best defender is Pierre. Jeff had a big game. Jeff scored well. Jeff did a great job on Robinson. But, I thought the difference in this game was how we guarded Robinson and Horton versus the first game. We got Horton in foul trouble, and we hold Horton to one field goal. I think Tommy would tell you that if Horton gets one field goal, it's hard for them to win. It's just like if a Pierre Pierce or a Jeff Horner for us gets one field goal, it's hard for us to win.
Was Jeff more active against the zone in the second half?
Yeah, he kind of stood at 25 feet in the first half. In the second half, he drove and kicked to Brody. Brody made his shots in the second half. Brody didn't practice (Friday). He was banged up a little bit. He saw the effects of that in the first half. In the second half, he really played the way that he's been playing, and that was big for us. With the zone, if you don't ever make a three, they're just going to keep doing it. It was fortunate that we got a couple to go early in the half.
Do you sense that this crowd is really warming to this team after all that it's been through?
It's very similar to last year. Last year's crowd understood how hard that these guys competed. The crowd tonight was tremendous. And they've been like that all year long. It hasn't been a sellout like it was today, but we've had great crowds that have really supported the team. I would hope that most the fans would understand what we've gone through and appreciate how hard that our guys are working. We've won two out of our last three games and had a shot to win the other one playing seven guys. One of them has played close to eight games in the Big Ten in Erek Hansen and a walk-on in Spurgeon. They've got to appreciate how these guys are fighting. Worley, Horner, Pierce and possibly Boyd played all 20 minutes in the second half.
Can you talk about Jeff always being in the place to make a big play late in the game?
Well, he's a very hard-nosed kid. That's the one guy whose hands we want the ball in because he doesn't turn it over very much. He knocks down free throws. And he can make big shots. He did that in the last two and half minutes. Our offense broke down. We went late-clock play when we were trying to milk some clock, and he had to go off on his own and make a big shot. The rest of the way, we did a good job of not turning it over in the press and getting to the free throw line. And he made big, key free throws for us. But, nobody was more frustrated than he was after Wisconsin. I told him, "You've already made one game winner for us. You've made big free throws for us down the stretch. You're going to be somebody that's going to make more for us down the stretch." He did that. That's the true guy of who he is. He's not afraid after missing a game winner to come right back and want the ball, want to shoot it, want to shoot foul shots down the stretch. He's a very key part to what we do.
Are you having a lot of fun coaching this team; being creative with your subs and so forth?
(Laughs) Yeah. I got to creative trying to do the double (out-of-bounds) play. Having a deadball was a bad decision on my part. We wanted to just get them off of us because they were denying so hard. We had one timeout left and there was still, oh, about 30 or 40 seconds left. If we could get in one more time, then if we don't get it in, we still have a timeout left. I don't want to be empy-handed there. They're so athletic. They're so long. They do a good job of that fullcourt denial. I really botched that one because I did not realize that it was a deadball. I thought we called a timeout, and we're going to have a live baseline there. So, I didn't know that. Sometimes I get too creative.
But, yeah. It's a fun team. With the expection of about an 8-minute spurt in the first half where we were really lazy in our zone, we were lazy offensively, the other 32 minutes was a lot of fun to watch.
Are your guys talking NCAA Tournament?
That's been our expectation all year long. We obviously didn't know what was going to be dealt to us during the year. But we've talked every day in our locker room that is doesn't matter. We know the job that we've got to do. We've got one more hard game left before we get a week off to get well. We've got to come back and play a very difficult team on the road, take a week off and then we've got four games left. If we can get the one in Columbus, it would get us to 7-5 and being in a decent situation with four games left. So, they're attention has been that all along. Nobody is pulling for them any harder than I am because I know what they've been through. It would be a great reward to them. But, we've just got to keep plugging away, and working and trying to get better. ---
How about the free throws that you hit out there? Those were pretty big for the Hawks today?
Hey, it's just like we shoot them in practice. You just have to concentrate on shooting and focus and have confidence in yourself.
But you've been on the bench for a long time. That's got to make it a little more difficult?
Yeah, that makes it more difficult, especially of you haven't really shot much in the game either. But you've just got to go up there and be confident in yourself that you're going to make them and hope that they go in.
What was the key to the Hawkeyes turnaround in the second half?
Jeff really stepped it up in the second half, starting to create shots for people with the drive. Everyone, overall, stepped up the defense. We had a little bit there where we weren't really playing defense too well at the end of the first half. Once the second half started, everyone was playing more urgent.
Your rebounds were pretty key in the second half as well.
I've always been pretty good rebounding wise. I can jump and stuff like that. So, I just grab the ball. That's the only way that I can really help us is by getting rebounds. We're missing a lot of big guys. ---
This was an important win.
Definitely. After a tough defeat Wednesday, to come in here and get a hard-fought victory, is definitely a good feeling.
What was the key in that second-half turnaround?
We cut down on our turnovers. We only had about four. We played really good defense towards the end of the stretch, and we got some of their key guys in foul trouble.
And you were more active in protecting the ball.
That's something that we've been stressing the whole year. We came out in the first half and committed 11 turnovers. We did a good job in the second half of not committing turnovers.
And the threes.
We did a good job hitting some key threes. Jeff has been doing it all year long, and he did it again today. Brody hit a lot of key threes. We did a good job on defense. We did a little bit of it in the first half, but we really clamped on them in the second half.
Win, lose, win lose...you've got to break that trend a little bit.
We've got to get on a little streak and try to get into the NCAA Tournament. It's going to take about four or five (wins), so we've just got to keep pushing.
And some road victories.
This is definitely a big victory, and each game is going to be a key for us. "You've got another 40 minutes for the NCAA," that's what been saying. That's our goal to get to the NCAA Tournament. We've just got to understand that every minute that we come out there that we're fighting for a tournament bid.
Was a conscious effort to take away their run-outs?
Yeah. Definitely. They're a very athletic team. Our turnovers definitely fueled their transition; we didn't do a good job of getting back in transition up there. We gave up 90 points. We did a good job tonight of playing good, hard defense. ---
We heard that you were a little under the weather (Friday)?
Yeah. I was a little under the weather. I had gotten hit before the game against Wisconsin. Jeff hit me across the jaw. I kind of felt pretty dazed for a couple of days. I sat out. It wasn't nothing big.
Did you hit him back?
No, I didn't. We need him. So, I'm not going to touch him. (laughter)
When you guys started hitting the threes in the second half, was that sort of the place where sort of broke open the game?
I think so. We tend to get away from that. If we're not making our shots, we're not going to get back to it. We missed a ton in the first half, but we relied on it in the second half and it worked for us. Anytime we're making our threes, we're going to be a solid team. But it wasn't that tonight. It was our defense that really got them.
What were you doing so well defensively?
We were talking. We were more active. We got a lot of deflections, a lot of steals and just getting after it on D.