Iowa Trounces Centenary

The Hawkeyes shook off some early rust to crush Centenary, 88-53, in the opening round of their Challenge Tournament Friday night. Pierre Pierce led the way with 19 points, while Greg Brunner added 14. In a related story, Larry Eustachy's S. Miss team lost in the other opening round game. The former ISU coach was pretty entertaining in his postgame comments. Read what he said, plus thoughts from Coach Alford, Jeff Horner and tidbits from the night in this Notes and Quotes Package.

Shaking it Off: Adam Haluska picked up two quick fouls, which forced him to the bench. The sophomore game back midway through the first half and knocked down two big threes in helping break a 17-17 tie and send Iowa on a 10-0 run.

Bouncing Back: Iowa guard Mike Henderson took a lot of heat from Iowa Coach Steve Alford Tuesday night at Drake for inconsistent play. The sophomore also contributed with a bucket and an assist in Iowa's key 10-0 run in the first half. He finished with 8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and no turnovers in 23 minutes.

Play of the night: Iowa guard Jeff Horner stripped Tyrone Hamilton of the ball and tapped it ahead to Pierre Pierce. While falling to the ground, Pierce pushed it up to Doug Thomas, who took it in for a thunderous two-handed slam.

Homecoming: Larry Eustachy returned to the state as a basketball coach for the first time since being dismissed from his job at Iowa State in May of 2003. He took over the Southern Mississippi program this season.

The Golden Eagles faced UNC-Greensboro in Friday's opener of the Hawkeye Challenge. Although most of the crowd waited until the Iowa-Centenary game to near before arriving, all the seats were filled behind the Southern Miss bench. His ex-wife and kids attended the contest.

Eustachy raged up and down the sideline like old times, and even picked up a technical foul in the second half. Southern lost 79-78.

An Evening With Larry: Eustachy made a throng of media wait for nearly 45 minutes before delivering his postgame presser. It turned out to be worth the wait, as the coach filled the room with memorable zingers.

Eustachy opened his act by asking if DM Register reporter Tom Witosky was in the room. Witosky broke the story about Eustachy's off court issues that led to the coach's firing at ISU.

"I thought he might like to check what's in my Coke. Are you sure that he doesn't want to take it to the lab? I'd welcome it."

Some more from the show -

Asked if he was moved my the crowd of people from Ames sitting behind his bench:

"Yeah, those were all my friends from my 12-step club. I probably need to meet with them right now. I might need to have a special session tonight."

Asked why he changed his look:

"I'm single now. I've got to try to get a date. That black turtleneck didn't quite do it."

Asked if he was disappointed that he wouldn't get a chance to face Iowa:

"I'm sorry for that. It would have been a nice environment for the state. But once it went up, I'm not sure it would have been the best thing that could have happened from a fans' standpoint. Coming in here and losing to Iowa again wouldn't have been fun.

"I really think they're a special team I really like what Steve has done this year. And you go through the roster, they've got everybody back. They're going to be really good."

Tip-Ins: Walk-on Ryan Kennedy dressed for Iowa for the first time this season…Iowa employed a 3/4-court press off and on…Centenary's Curtis Tillman was whistled for an intentional foul when he tackled Pierce on a breakaway lay-up...Doug Thomas didn't pick up his first foul until the 11:30 mark of the second half…Greg Brunner, who struggled a little bit with foul trouble in the early season, performed very well Friday and left the game to the cheers of "Bruuuu." His coaches all stood up to greet him when he got to the bench…the crowd was announced at 9711, but there were more empty seats than that. The crowd looked to be about 8,500…Carlton Reed came up with a beautiful baseline drive resulting in a sweet reverse layup that lit up the crowd…Horner lofted a pretty alley-oop pass to Brunner late in the game…Iowa sat its starters for the last five minutes of the game.

STEVE ALFORD

Opening Statement: This was a really good game for us. It was key for us toget in the championship game of our own tournament. But you always worry about that first home game when you've been away for awhile.

We showed a little bit of that in the first half, although I was really impressed with the way that we guarded. That's what we've really focused on.

Our offense in the first half, we haven't played against man-to-man in awhile. We were a little bit stagnant. It got kicked into high gear in the second half.

But it was 40 minutes of pretty good solid defense. That's important for us. That's what we've been working on.

Q&A

Can you be a little bit more specific about what you guys did well defensively?

We guarded the shot a lot better. We were in the passing lane more. We took three charges, if my memory is right. We outrebounded them. We gave them 11 second shots. Most of those were late.

We took care of the ball. It does help your defense when you're turning the ball over nine times versus 19 times. That's 10 fewer times you've got to play defense. In talking about our defense, we've talked about taking care of the ball; value the ball and you're not going to have to guard as much.

You wanted improved play from Brunner. Did you see that tonight?

Yeah. He was real active. From the field, he misses one shot. He got six rebounds in 21 minutes. He was much more active defensively.

And the thing I loke most about Bru, he was vocal. He really did a good job of talking.

Our three captains, in a game where, you know you've got to win to get to the championship game of your own tournament, were very unselfish. They did a lot of good things. They took high percentage shots.

Jeff made the extra pass all night long. Jeff has been averaging close to 20 points a game. He takes five shots. He distributed the ball well tonight and got everybody involved, and that's good to see.

Are you at all disappointed that you're not going to get to coach against Larry Eustachy again?

Nah. Our big thing is get to the championship. It's our own tournament. We've only lost one game in our tournament. We know we're going to get a very good opponent in UNC-Greensboro, and we're going to have to play better than what we did tonight.

The crowd tonight was 9,700, which is even less than you had for Western Illinois. Coming back from what you did in Hawaii, were you expecting some kind of increase?

We were hoping. But the motto has been Hold the Rope. We know the rope that we're holding in the locker room is those 13 individuals. They're doing a very good job of doing what they're supposed to do.

We're nationally ranked. We're 5-1. So, the guys are going what they need to be doing.

You know, you've got a Friday night with a lot of high school games in the area as well. For whatever reason, it's unfortunate that the crowd was down.

The thing that I've liked is it doesn't matter if we're in a gym in Maui of 1,500 or we're on the road at Drake with 7,400 or we're here in a building where we're hoping to play in front of 15 and we play in front of nine, it hasn't mattered to our team. To me, that's what's important.

We've worked for a long time of getting our guys convinced of it's about what you need to do together as a team. And they're doing a very good job of that.

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JEFF HORNER

Could you break down how you thought you guys played tonight?

It was definitely a good defensive performance tonight. We held them to our goal of 55. We started out not so hot in the first half, but we kind of came on in the second half and kind of put it to them.

Defensively, what was the difference tonight?

We just got up in them. Our help defense was pretty good. Our big guys are getting in there helping. Our guards are out there denying and helping each other out. That's what we need.

It looked like the two teams were playing at different speeds. You guys were running up and down, and they had trouble getting shots off. Is that what you wanted to do to them?

We wanted to come out and establish home court.

Brunner got six rebounds and you only got four. What's going on there?

That's OK. I'll get him tomorrow.

There were only 9,700 fans. You went down from Western Illinois after what you did in Hawaii. Does that surprise you?

We're going to come in here and play hard every night no matter who's here. I encourage fans to come out here and watch us. We're going to be exciting.

I can see from a fan standpoint, we've done this the past two years. We started off very good and kind of faltered in the end.

We have to establish ourselves a little bit more, and more fans will come.


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