One and Done

In a battle of bubble teams, Michigan knocked off Iowa, 79-70, in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. The Hawkeyes' late run fell short, and they're likely headed to the NIT for a third consecutive year. "There are only two teams after the conference play is done that can win championships," Pierre Pierce said. "That's a team in the NCAA and one in the NIT. It would be great to end the year with a championship."

Interviews conducted by Basketball Expert Bobby Hansen as heard on the Hawkeye Radio Network and Learfield Sports:

Steve, a frantic comeback fell just a little bit short, but the Hawkeyes certainly showed a lot of character.

The guys have worked hard all year. Obviously, we're frustrated and disappointed because we wanted to make the NCAA Tournament. We've had a lot of things stacked against us. The guys in the last six weeks have done some really good things. We really needed to get these sophomores experience. I really like our sophomore class. If you told me at the beginning of the year that a sophomore would lead us in scoring in 25 out of the 28 games, I probably would have thought that you were crazy. We've got to get some experience now in the NIT, and try to build from there.

At the start of the game a 14-4 (Iowa) run, and then a timeout. What did they do differently that caused you problems?

They went zone, and we just stood around. That became very frustrating. It's almost like our backs are against the wall, we're down a large number and now we're going to start attacking the zone. For whatever reason, we kept going over it in timeouts, we couldn't get anybody other than Pierre to penetrate gaps. We just wanted to stand out on the perimeter and match up to them. It's very unfortunate because I thought Pierre had a tremendous game. He got rewarded with big numbers tonight because he was the one guy that attacked.

Coach, fast forward to the point of the second half where you were down by 21 points, and Pierre scored 20 of his 28 points. What did you guys do differently to get them going?

I'm not for sure, Bobby. We just kept trying to push button after button, and nothing was working. Obviously, when you have a very thin bench, we weren't able to do a lot of substituting. At the end of the first half, Ben and Jack came in and gave us a good minute there. And then in the second half, Jack came in and did what we wanted him to do. But it was really about in this particular game Pierre just put everybody on his back and said, "I'll be the goat or hero here." And he played with a lot of courage. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough guys playing with the amount of courage that he played with today.

At 68-63, Brody has got a great look at the basket from 3-point range. He makes that, I think the Hawkeyes win.

He had two. But you're right. We were down 5 twice, and he had two really good looks. It's unfortunate because then he hits one later. He struggled offensively. Jeff was really out of sinc offensively, and that was frustrating. Those two guards really struggled. Pierre gave us a good lift, but it wasn't enough.

Glen Worley really struggled in the game, but Erek Hansen is getting better and better.

Erek has been terrific through this five-week stretch. We've got to really look at him as we go into postseason. That might be something we need to look at as far as a change. Erek gives us a shot-blocking presence that really runs the floor. His offense is starting pick up. He made two really good shots today within our offense. He's starting to pick up is rebounding. He missed a key free throw blockout, but other than that he excites us a little bit. The guys really enjoy playing with him. He's athletic. We've got to look at a way to get him more minutes.

So what does the future hold for the Hawkeyes; just kind of wait and see on the NIT?

Yeah, we'll wait on Sunday and get some kind of word Sunday night. We're frustrated now, Bobby. But we are excited in that we've had two years here now of a lot of things being thrown at us. Yet, there are a lot of teams that are done the 12th of March. We know we're playing still. It's not the postseason that we want. But we've had a string of two years in a row where we've won more Big Ten games. We've won more Big Ten road games. Now, we've got a challenge ahead of us to try to win more postseason games as we enter the NIT on Sunday night.



Pierre, your thoughts on the game?

We came out really good. We started 14-4. Guys were really ready to play. Then Michigan stepped their game up, and we couldn't match their play. They pressured us a lot. The got us to turn the ball over; quick shoot a little bit. Then, they got the ball inside. They did some great things. As that lead got bigger and bigger, we could have just gave in. But it was our resilience just to fight back. When I got a no-call on that dunk, it kind of energized us. I saw coach real energetic. That kind of wears off on us. We got it down to single digits. We got a couple of good looks for Brody. It just didn't fall tonight.

Why was it so difficult to score in the halfcourt?

They went to the zone, and we got standing a little bit. You look at Michigan, they've got a lot of long, athletic kids. That kind of got us standing. I tried to penetrate and get easy shots for us, but we passed it around. We've got to penetrate the gaps a little bit more. In the second half, we got doing that with drives and kicks for open shots.

With this sophomore class, the future looks awfully bright for the Hawkeyes.

It definitely does. But we know this season is not over with. We can't throw it away now. It's a tough pill to swallow. We've got to play in the NIT again. That's something we're just going to have to use as motivation in the summer. Never take a day off so we don't get to the point where we've got to win three games in three days or winning two games here and there.

Pierre, talk about the NIT. Everybody looks at it as a downer. But the prize at the end of it is a trip to Madison Square Garden.

A lot of people look at the NIT as the "Not Invited Tournament." Just by that, a lot of people don't want to play in it. But we've played in it now for two straight years. It's something we don't want to do as a program. But with the right attitude, we can come in and try to win a couple of games and take it to Madison Square Garden. Why not end on a high note? There are only two teams after the conference play is done that can win championships. That's a team in the NCAA and one in the NIT. It would be great to end the year with a championship.

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The following quotes are courtesy of the Big Ten Conference

Head Coach Steve Alford:

"I want to congratulate Michigan. I thought their kids did a great job executing. I want to congratulate our guys, I thought we really fought. We went through about 20 minutes where we were stagnant offensively, and that was the time when we missed a majority of our free throws, which is our Achilles heel. All year, in games where we have struggled, for the most part, have been at the foul line. That was the case today. We got outscored by 17 points at the foul line."

On the play of Michigan's Dion Harris:

"He started the last game and he has played well against us. He is an outstanding player. We were hoping he wouldn't get 23 (points) on us. He is a great shooter and he got open and went 6-for-8 from the three-point line and that is his strength. I didn't think we found him well enough in our zone defense, and he really hurt us when we were in zone."

On playing in the NIT:

"We just have to wait until Sunday. I will tell you that we are very frustrated right now and it's a down moment now. Looking over what has happened the last six or seven weeks, the way this team has performed, I am really proud of all they have accomplished. The things that have been thrown at us during a two-year period, there would be a lot of programs who wouldn't make any kind of post-season, let alone winning seasons. We have been able to have back-to-back winning seasons and get to the post-season each time. We just have to figure out a way, come early next week, to get our guys excited to play again because they had their minds set to play in the NCAA Tournament."

Sophomore Jeff Horner:

On Iowa's second-half comeback:

"We hung tough and made a great comeback, but we did not get some of the breaks late in the half. We cut it to four (67-63), but Michigan got an offensive rebound on a missed free throw, which enabled them to run some of the clock off. We played tough, but just came up short. It's hard to lose a game like this after jumping out to a big lead to start the game."

Sophomore Pierre Pierce:

On his play late in the second half:

"I knew there was a lot of time left on the clock, and I looked at the scoreboard and knew the score was not pretty. I knew we were not going to give up, and after watching the college basketball season this year, I knew anything could happen. I knew we had to push the ball up the court to create a lot of scoring opportunities. We had our best shooter wide open, Brody (Boyd) with two three-point attempts late in the game, but they did not go in. We just didn't get some breaks at the end of the game."

Michigan Head Coach Tommy Amaker:

Opening statement

"Certainly coming in, both teams recognized the significance and importance of this game. We had to hold on for dear life when they were on the charge but we played well. Our free-throw shooting was excellent and Dion Harris was accurate from the 3-point line."

On Iowa's comeback:

"Give credit to Iowa. They held their heads up and fought through. They made the plays. It wasn't something we necessarily did to ourselves but we were tentative and played on our heels. When Chris (Hunter) came back in the game, that gave us some experience in there and we weren't as tentative and we settled down."

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