CLUTCH!!!

With its NCAA Tournament hopes hanging by a thread, Iowa captured a much-needed victory at Purdue Saturday. The Hawkeyes clinched fourth place in the Big Ten with a 9-7 mark, the first winning conference campaign in the Steve Alford Era. They will open up against fifth-seeded Michigan on Friday in the Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals. Read what Coach Alford, Greg Brunner and Pierre Pierce said after bowling over the Boilermakers.

Interviews conducted by HN.com Basketball Expert Bobby Hansen as heard in the Hawkeye Radio Network and Learfield Sports:

Greg Brunner:

How about that? On the road, you finally get a break, and you come up big.

Yeah, it's nice to catch that break. We've lost two games where things didn't go our way. But it's nice to catch it at the end when we really needed it the most.

Talk about inside the locker room, the feeling amongst the team.

All besides Jeff because I don't think that Jeff remembers anything right now. It was just a good time. Everybody was screaming out. It was just the atmosphere of a great win.

You said that Jeff doesn't remember those free throws or how he got into the locker room?

He got hit in the head pretty hard. He's got a hard head, but he's got to get hit pretty hard to knock the sense out of him. He didn't know he made the free throws. He asked me whether we were on offense or defense with 11 seconds left. I knew we were in trouble then. I looked at him and was like, "Oh no."

What did you think with the game winding down, was it like "Here we go again or do we got to find a way to win this ballgame?"

We weren't going to lose this game. We've had too many heartbreakers like that. You could tell in everybody's faces that everybody wanted this one bad. We got it because of it.

Talk about Pierre that made a good, hard move to the basket; goes to the line for two. You're down by one, and he knocks down two big free throws.

I told him three or four times that I believe in him. I do. I think that he's a great player. He's a phenominal player. He does a great job. He works as hard as he can. It's amazing what he can do.

You guys win the battle of the boards 37-31. Talk about inside play.

It was a fight in there. They have some big boys in there. It was just a battle the entire time.

This was the "Battle of the Bye." You're now 9-7. You get an extra day off to recover. You'll probably play Michigan in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. You're thoughts on the regular season winding down here and postseason play?

Michigan, they're a good ballclub. It's going to be a battle. They're so athletic. They can put the ball in the hoop. The can run up and down the court. It's going to be a fight.

Pierre Pierce:

Take us back to that free throw line. You're down by one, a good hard drive to the basket and you've got to go to the line and put the Hawks up by one. What was going through your head?

They switched down on my, and I saw that Kartelo was guarding me. I wasn't going to settle for the jump shot at that stage of the game. I said I was going to drive him to the hole. I tried to get the and-one, but it didn't go down. I got the foul and went to the line. I just had a lot of confidence. Coach had confidence in me. He always tell me to just have confidence and everything will work out. I couldn't hear myself think it was so loud. But I was able to come up big for the team, and that's what you always dream about; last seconds on the road with everyone booing for you. It was an ideal situation for me. I love to be in a situation like that. It was just great to come out on top tonight.

You and Kenneth Lowe were locked up all afternoon long; just a hard-fought battle. Talk about playing against Lowe.

He's about as tough of a player as they come in the Big Ten. This was a Big Ten game; physical. Purdue gets up into you; the defensive pressure. This was just that kind of game with two guys competing. This was his Senior Night. You know that he didn't want to lose tonight. I wanted him to lose. He wanted me to lose just as much. It was just a battle of two competitors. We got a little tangled up at times, but it's all just part of the game.

You look back at the start of this game, it was 9-2 then 13-4 (Purdue). What did you guys do to get it back to almost even at halftime and stay in this game?

We were quick shooting a little bit too much. We weren't moving the ball as well, setting a lot of screens. Once we got passed those couple of runs, we started getting layups on backcuts and that type of stuff. We eased up pressure with the back screens and coming up to the bigs. Once we eased that pressure, we were alright. And Jeff hit some huge shots in the first half. He really paced us in the first half.

And once again, your zone defense, you probably used it 90 percent, was certainly key in slowing down Purdue.

We've got to do what we can do to get the win at this stage. We knew it was going to be tough, and it was going to be a dog fight for 40 minutes. And that's what it was. The guys battled. Purdue hits the glass real hard. They send big guys after big guys at the glass. We did a great job of just trying to control them and play our tempo.

Talk about the game coming up on Friday.

We know that this is probably the deciding game to get into the NCAA Tournament. It's the 4-5 seed (game); both teams looking to get into the NCAA Tournament. We just know that we've got to take one game at a time. In the past, we've been good in the Big Ten Tournament.

Steve Alford:

I never saw you so down as you were at Northwestern. And then to see today, you guys certainly deserved a victory and deserved a break, and you got it.

Bobby, as you know in this profession and being a player, you have your ups and downs. This team has been able to stay even-kiel. Incredible things have happened to our team; out of our control for the most over a two-year span. Yet, these kids just battled and battled. We're in severe foul trouble tonight. Pierre doesn't play the last 25 minutes over at Northwestern. That could have turned out. We were so down, Bobby, because we had a chance to win 10. Then we find out that Michigan won at Northwestern. So, as soon as we run out on the floor, we told our guys "Hey, you know what? You've got one last opportunity because we're the only team that can get to nine wins. Let's go, once again, give it everything we have." Bobby, this team has been incredible. They have given incredible effort night in and night out under some very adverse situations. I really appreciate their efforts.

You've played through a lot, but it's the heart; a heart of a champion that will pay dividends down the road.

We had some tough breaks go the other way during the game we had to play through. We had to play through an incredible amount of foul trouble. This is the most foul trouble that we've been in that I can remember. Erek fouls out with 13 minutes to go and Glen's wanting to go in. I said, "Glen, I can't because if you commit a foul here in the next three minutes, and we're real thin." So, we really had to buy some time. Kirk Spurgeon, he doesn't show up in points. Ben Rand in the first half doesn't show up in points. But just coming in and solidifying things and keeping things calm and stable was a big, big help for us tonight.

Erek Hansen with those three blocks will put him as the Big Ten shot block champion, and then Brody Boyd, the steals champion.

Those are two great individual awards. We have to wait and see what happens, but Jeff made all four free throws. He's going to be close to the free throw champion, although Lowe, I think, made all of his tonight. Pierre could end up being in the Top 5 in scoring. The big one that we're proud of is that we've got a chance to lead the league in scoring. And depending on what happens tomorrow because Purdue was first going into today's game (in) field goal percentage defense; we shot 46 tonight and we held them to 36. We've got a chance to lead the league in field goal percentage defense, which is something we really always strive for.

Coach, talk about your sophomore class. Look what they gave you.

It was pretty phenominal. Fifty point and 27 rebounds, that's a heck of a class. They're doing some great things. I thought Glen came up big late in the first half, and then in the second half when he had to play in foul trouble. It was huge what he did. And then Brody, he didn't shoot it well. But he did a lot of good things for us. I really appreciate the effort the guys gave.

Take us through you're down by one Pierre Pierce drive to the hoop.

We wanted to attack, and Pierre is so good at that. He's so good in the open floor verus just being in a set. He almost got an and-one. That's the toughest thing in sport. You know Bobby. He had been a a tremendous free throw slump, 5 out of his last 20, I think. For him to go to the line with the Gene Pool going crazy and the game's on the line and knock down both of them speaks volumes of the kind of toughness he has. Tow big free throws, and then Jeff steps up and hits the next two.

And he doesn't remember it.

That's right. He took a pretty good hit. We're thankful that we don't play until Friday. We can get some guys some rest.


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