Crushing Blow

Needing victories to enhance its NCAA Hopes, Iowa fell at Northwestern, 51-49, Wednesday night. The Hawkeyes lost leading scorer Pierre Pierce to injury in the second half, then lost the game on a last-second shot. "It's like a stab in the heart," forward Greg Brunner said. "It's hard to swallow right now. There's a lot of sad people in that locker room."

Radio postgame interviews conducted by Hawkeye Nation Basketball Expert Bobby Hansen as heard on the Hawkeye Radio Network and Learfield Sports.

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HEAD COACH STEVE ALFORD:

BH: Steve, what can you say? March Madness is right here. The kid is 0 for 9, Vukusic is, and makes his last two shots. Again, the Hawks just can't catch a break.

SA: That's what's hard Bobby. We just can't catch a break. Our guys are working as hard as they can. They gave another incredible effort tonight. Pierre goes down with a scratched eye and can't play in the second half. Erek came up big for us. Spurg gave us some good minutes. We made free throws down the stretch. We made plays down the stretch. We came up one play short. And a guy that was 0 for 9 comes in and makes his last two. It's just unfortunate we couldn't get a good break down the stretch.

Can you update us on Pierre's condition?

No. I don't know. I just know that it was scratched really good. He couldn't see out of it. You just can't risk that. So, we had to sit him the second half. Hopefully, it will heal here in the next couple of days as we get ready for Purdue.

Coach, there was a point there in the second half where you looked fatigued or you just couldn't get a field goal; just one field goal; outscored 13-2. What happened in that period?

It's hard to say. Our zone bothered them. Their zone obviously bothered us. And we didn't have our creator in there. You know this was the first game we played without Pierre, who can really create offense for others. He had four assists at halftime. He's the one guy that can really go off and make plays on his own. We stood a little bit, and that probably had a lot to do with fatigue. We tried to rotate some guys, but our three best shooters didn't have good shooting nights. Glen, Brody and Jeff, I think, combined for 5 for 22 maybe. That makes it hard when all three of them have poor shooting nights.

Steve, where does this put the Hawkeyes now in the big scheme of the Big Ten?

It comes down to a big game on Saturday. We can go anywhere from fourth place to sixth or seventh place. I haven't heard the scores tonight. So, I don't know what's happened. But we still control things. I don't think that anybody is ahead of us after tonight. It really comes down to that last game. It will be a very difficult game because Purdue is a very good team, especially on Senior Night in their building.

What do you tell your team, maybe not so much tonight, but when you get back to practice tomorrow? How do you get them back up?

Well, they've been relentless all year. They've done a good job of being resilient and bouncing back. We haven't lost two Big Ten games in a row, regardless of whether it's been at home or on the road. This was a tough one to swallow because they gave us incredible effort. We've got to do a good job tomorrow of just getting back and bouncing back like we've done all year and know that we still control things. We can still get this thing to 9-7. It's going to take an incredible effort again. Hopefully, we shoot the ball better than what we did tonight.

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GREG BRUNNER:

Greg, just another incredible effort by a depleted Hawkeye team. What are your thoughts on the game?

It's tough. It's like a stab in the heart. It's hard to swallow especially in a game where we could have guaranteed fourth place. (Let's out a big sigh). It's hard to swallow right now. There's a lot of sad people in that locker room.

Take us into that locker room. You say sad, but you've got a big game coming up on Saturday. How, as an athlete, do you get yourself back up?

You can take tonight and just mourn over this loss; just sit there and think about it. But you've got to get rid of it. You've got to get it out of your head and get onto the next game.

Vukusic 0 for 9 up to that point. He knocks down a big 3-point shot, and the game winner over pretty good defense. Take us back to that last play.

There was about six or seven seconds left when he got the ball. He faked baseline. I jumped baseline and then I came up to him. I thought that he was going to try to go a littl ebit deeper middle, but he pulled back on a fadeaway shot. I contested it. I was just a little too far away to block it.

Greg, another incredible performance by you. You seemed to have your way inside. I though that maybe we'd try to go to you a little bit more.

I thought that the team did a great job of getting me the ball inside. I feel like I missed some opportune times when I could have posted a little bit harder. But the team did a good job.

Purdue coming up. Thoughts on Purdue?

They're a great ballclub. And it's their Senior Night, so it's going to be tough. They're fighting to get a .500 record, and we're fighting to get to 9-7. It's just two teams fighting for that bid right now. It's just going to be a hard-fought game.


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