Opening Statement: Needless to say, it's a huge win for our team. I couldn't be happier with the way that our guys responded. We were coming off back-to-back losses for the first time and were a little snake bitten with our confidence. Minnesota came in here winners of 10 in a row and highly confident. We knew this was going to be a struggle, and our guys did a lot of good things.
Seth Gorney was tremendous. He gave us a big lift in the second half. And a guy that just continues to get overlooked as one of the more dominant guards in this league, Pierre was just outstanding again. Grier has been in double figures every game this year except tonight. That was a big key. Night in and night out, (Pierce) is just a guy that gives you big stat lines all the way across.
Defensive intensity and that?
Yeah, we worked all week just trying to get our energy and spirit back. I'm not sure what it was. We just seemed to lose that edge of what we'd been all about early. That was getting to loose balls and diving on the floor and taking charges and blocking shots and getting steals.
We got back to doing that tonight. We two charges in the game. We had 10 steals and blocked seven shots.
We didn't have as many assists as turnovers, but that was more of an indication of us not being careless but we just didn't make the shots. We got some open looks and we moved the ball very well. It was just a game where we didn't make a high percentage of shots.
What about the post defense with Hansen and Thomas getting all of those fouls against Hagan?
It was frustrating. Erek got into early foul trouble. The neat thing about college basketball is that Erek plays 14 minutes, Doug plays 12 and now Gorney plays 11. And if you have to evaluate those three guys, Gorney had a much better game.
From a coaching standpoint, you like those things because of anything should get Erek and Doug's attention it's a guy named Gorney. They've got to understand that we can't have our starting center playing 14 minutes and having his biggest stat line five fouls.
And of couple of (fouls) were tough. I realize that. But we've got to have him playing with a little bit more zip and doing the things that he needs to be doing in the middle. But it was a big positive having Seth come in and do what he did.
Are you surprised when you win a game when your last field goal is at 10:46 of the second half?
I hadn't even looked at that. We must have shot a lot of free throws in that last 10 minutes.
That's probably our worst shooting performance of the year at 34 percent. We've been reallly shooting at a high clip even in our two losses.
When you concentrate on getting your energy back defensively, that' been our focus point and that's what we did tonight. Our energy was tremendous. We got after things and did a lot of good things to take things away from them. We won tonight because of that. It wasn't because of our shooting.
Were you getting the shots that you wanted?
Yeah, I mean, I've got to watch the tape. There are a lot of times in a game where you sit there and are like, what are we going to run because we're not getting what we want to get. I didn't sense that flow tonight. It felt like we got the shots that we wanted. We executed offensively.
Our screening was a little better. We've still got a long way to go in screening. Our transition game got good there in the first half. It was just a game where we didn't make a lot of shots.
You've got to give them credit for their defensive performance, but I don't think I'm that upset with how we ran our offense. It was just a night where we didn't shoot the ball well.
You talked about Pierre's offense. What about his defense?
It was incredible. I wish we could just go review tape after tape with everybody of what he does night in and night out defensively. He takes the leading scorer and he just frustrates him. He did a very good job in a great player in Grier. Grier came in here with high energy and an awful lot of confidence and he gets one field goal.
Pierre was just tremendous defensively. That was probably our catalyst of getting us going defensively.
Does this set you up for Illinois?
Well, it's better than losing. (Laughter) We know we're going into a great environment. They're No. 1 for a lot of reasons. They don't have any weaknesses. They're on a big time roll in the Big Ten dating all the way back to the last 10 they won last year.
They just don't have any weaknesses. They're strong. They're athletic. They've got incredible experience; championship experience. They don't lose at home very often. It's the toughest environment in the league. They are a lot of positives this year in Champaign.
So, we've got four or five days here to get ready. But we know that's a tough task. It's a tough week because we have to play Thursday night and turn around and play very early on Saturday. We've got make sure we're ready to go.
The last thing that I want to say is a big tahnk you to our '80 team. That was an era where I was in early high school years and had a lot of fun watching the matchups of Ronnie Lester and Isiah Thomas. That's a very special team.
It's our last Final Four Team; great guys. For them to all come back, we really appreciate that from our staff. We're excited to go out to the hall of fame and have our guys be a part of them and hopefully rub some magic on our guys.
But that was very special team for a lot of reasons. And we're thankful that they came back tonight.