Gary Dolphin: Maybe it wasn't pretty, but it was a win and you're 11-1.
Steve Alford: We're excited about it, Dolph. These games always scare you; coming off break; coming off a huge win against Big 12 opponent. You come back and play a system like Air Force. It's a difficult system to play against with the backdooring, the popping for threes.
We're a very good 3-point shooting team. The thing against playing teams like Air Force and Northwestern is if you come in and shoot a lot of threes, you're not going to get the ball back for awhile. We knew they wanted to shoot a lot from 20 feet. They take 36 threes and we take six. That's a huge key because you take 30 more shots from 20 feet than you do from 2 feet there's a huge difference.
That's why we shot a high percentage. We got the ball in the paint. We beat them 48-14 in the paint. I may be wrong here, but I had free throws as points in the paint. So, that's another 14 plus for us. We really did a lot of good things offensively. I was just upset with how guarded in the last six minutes.
GD: You took the backdoor cut away for the most part. Many of the threes that went in were at the end of the possessions. That was their only option more often than not.
SA: And I think we gave up one backdoor layup all night.
Bobby Hansen: The way your defense switched really gave them a lot of problems and took a lot of time off of that clock.
SA: Yeah, we haven't played that system that way. looking at Northwestern, we've never had that big of a problem guarding the system. It was more that matchup zone defense, the crazy stuff they do defensively that we've stood a lot. I was really worried more offensively than we were defensively.
It was nice for our guys psyche and mindset to be able to come out and score 73 points. Scoring 73 points on these guys really equates to 90 or 95.
BH: Part of that abilityto score was your unselfish passing. Pierre Pierce had six assists.
SA: Yeah, other than about a 2-minute stretch, Pierre was terrific. He did a lot of great things defensively. He was really, really good.
Erek Hansen, there are not a lot of games when he goes with no blocks, but he's guarding pretty much a guard-forward at the top of the key. Another big key was his defense on Nick Welch, their leading scorer. He didn't get his first basket until there was about 6 minutes to go in the game.
GD: Coach, not a lot to pick at. There was a 7-minute stretch in the first half where you got one basket yet still maintained a double digit lead. You then get it to 24 in the second half before another offensive funk. Was there anything in there that you were displeased about?
SA: We got that big lead and we got a little careless with the ball. This is only the second or third game all year where we've had more turnovers than assists.
I don't think Jeff was typical Jeff Horner tonight. He got frustrated and didn't do the things that he usually does. I don't know of too many games in his career he's had six turnovers. That was uncharacteristic. That kind of flowed over to everybody else to be a little careless with the ball.
BH: For the most part, would you agree that your team looked sharp tonight considering the holiday break after a huge victory?
SA: Yeah, I'm very pleased because these games scare you. Playing a system like this it can really be a fight.
We did a good job of controlling the first half. We came out in the second half and really grabbed control of the game. It really stayed there until the last six minutes where it became a 3-point show or a rocket flare as the good Gary Dolphin refers to.
I couldn't be more pleased. The guys are playing at a high level. They're really concentrating. We wanted to do all of this switching tonight, which is a little different than what we do. They handled it extremely well.
GD: Second game in a row that you posted a double digit difference in rebounding.
SA: And we get rebounds out of everybody except Henderson. It's encouraging because two weeks ago that was a major, major concern that I had. We've always been a good rebounding team. That's got to be something that we continue to work on, but I do like what we're doing a little bit better on the backboard.
BH: Now we've got Gary going down to Orlando, kick him out of the booth, and we've got St. Louis coming in here.
SA: Yeah, this is big for us. Being at 11-1, that meets all of our expectations through 12 games. To have St. Louis coming back into our building, the team that knocked us out of postseason play, not happy with how we got knocked out, we're pretty excited. And for our fans, this is a good game for us. For us next year to go into St. Louis and be in that market, it's like Chicago for us from a recruiting standpoint. And it's a New Year's Eve game.
It's a great way to kick off what potentially could be a great weekend where we could get our 12th win and then hopefully the next day the football team winning a big bowl game.
GD: Well, I hope you can get it done without me.
SA: We're going to do everything we can. Our film sessions will change a little bit with you being absent. But, we'll do everything to prepare our team without you, Dolph.
BH: There will be more food available, won't there?
SA: Yeah, we did it (tonight) without (Phil) Haddy. So, maybe we can get this one without you. (Laughs all around)
Gary Dolphin: This is a tough style to play against.
Pierre Pierce: Oh yeah. Definitely. They like to slow the ball down, and they're going to use 35 seconds of the clock every time. It's good prep for us because Northwestern, they run the same stuff offensively and defensively. It was going to be one of those game with low possessions. We had to grind it out at the end, but we've got to work on finishing the game.
GD: Yeah, really two stretches, midway through the first half, their one field goal in seven minutes. And of course you're up 57-33 with 7:59 to go in the game, they end up with a19-5 run. Now granted, a lot of those are desperation threes. But hey, they all count and they get it to 10. What was going on there?
PP: We just started standing around a little bit too much and we weren't penetrating like we were doing to get that lead. There were a couple of turnovers by me. On defense, we've got to get out on the shooters because they made some deep threes.
Bobby Hansen: Pierre, one of the keys to basketball game was the start of the first half and the second half. What did you guys do that got you off to such a good start at both halves?
PP: Coming into the game, coach really emphasized going inside because they were not very big. Their biggest guy was 6-8. So, we had to go inside to Bru, get him touches and just try to make them guard us down low each half.
GD: Good defense overall in both halves tonight even though they made 14 threes. What was the mindset?
PP: We were practicing that all week and they hit two or three threes with the buzzer going off in the first half. They could have had less than 10 points going into halftime. They end up with 17.
BH: You guys were going a lot of switching out there. Was that part of the game plan?
Definitely because all five guys out there were pretty much like guards. They all wanted to shoot it. No one wanted to go in there and post.
BH: Another thing I was impressed with is how unselfish you guys are.
PP: Yeah. It's just coming as we keeep playing. We're getting more comfortable with each other and we're starting to do things the right way. We've got one more nonconference game coming up against St. Louis. They ended our season last year so we're really going into that game with a lot of motivation.
GD: You guys really did take the backdoor lay-up away. This offense is predicated on backdoor cuts and layups.
PP: Yeah, you can't fall asleep whether your on the weak side or they're driving right at you. We did a good job of taking it away, but they kicked out for those threes and we just have to get out there a little bit quicker.
GD: The team has really stepped it up rebounding.
PP: That's one of our strong points since Coach Alford has been here. We've got to keep on pounding the glass. Coach Walker always emphasizes it. We've got to hit the glasss whether it's a guard or big.