Inside Iowa Basketball with Bobby Hansen's resident basketball expert looks back at last week's action and ahead to big ball games this week against Purdue and Illinois. Bobby also analyzes improved bench contributions, the play of Alex Thompson, Adam Haluska and Greg Brunner, and more in this premium Q&A.

Last week, they came pretty close to putting together two solid games together for the first time in a while. What are some of things you saw that allowed them to do that?

Wisconsin, defensively, at the start of the game, they were really sharp. They were intense. Jeff Horner had that look in his eye; he'd come to play. Brunner was unstoppable at the beginning of that basketball game.

And then, they really got good contributions from everybody. You got a lead in that game, and you knew Wisconsin was going to make a run at you. You hoped that Iowa would withstand the run, but there were just too many free throws down the stretch and some good long range shooting.

Defense was good on the kid. He just knocked down some tough 3-point shots. He really had a tough shooting night against Minnesota.

But that game gave the kids confidence going into the Northwestern game where they were very solid. They withstood a run by Northwestern in the second half and came back.

I like Mike Henderson showing confidence after having a rough start to the basketball game. He contributed two nice baskets in a 13-2 run in the second half after Northwestern had closed.

Yeah, that was a must win and they responded to the pressure with a real nice victory. It sets up this week, which obviously could go a long way in the eyes of the NCAA committee.

It looks like Adam Haluska's game has opened up a bit since Pierre's dismissal.

Yeah, he seems to the guy that's been the beneficiary of Pierre's absence, no doubt. He seems to be playing a lot more loose. And he feels like he's got a little more freedom to create; more freedom to use his speed and quickness to get his drive to the basket.

That opens up a lot for him. It will open up his outside shot. And he'll be able to go the free throw line and take advantage of the fact that he's a very good free throw shooter.

When other players see a teammate that drives hard to the basket, goes in with that determination, it gives them confidence. It puts you in the attack mode, which I like from any basketball player. You've got to be going forward. You can't be taking steps backwards.

Adam brings that and he's got good size so he can finish at the rim also.

They still need to get something out of the middle. Alex Thompson showed would be could do out there in a starting role.

What do you like about Alex's game?

He plays with intensity. He's got that young hunger. He looks like a guy that's going to make mistakes at times but he's going to do enough good things to play through them.

He'll make the errors because he's trying to get something done. He's going to do something like go over somebody's back or maybe make the inappropriate pass, but at least he's doing something, again, in that attack mode.

He's going after the ball. Or, he's trying to block a shot or something. He's giving it everything that he's got out there. He seems to be a player that's not afraid. You get him around good players and he's going to learn. He has that eager look in his eye.

He's got a nice shot. I like his offensive capabilities out to about 17, 18 feet.

Steve really went deep into his bench against Northwestern and gave some guys more of a shot than maybe they've had. Can that unify a team in a sense?

Absolutely it can. I was talking to J.R. Angle on one of the road trips to tell him to be ready. You never know when a coach will turn to the reserves a little bit deeper on the bench. Those are the guys that can provide this unbelievable spark if they do something positive.

And it doesn't take much. All it takes is a good pass or pick up a loose ball and get fouled, just to contribute in any way because players know that those guys are putting in the same hours, the same hard work and they're not getting the glory of the spotlight out on the court. But when it does shine on you then it seems like it does lift up everybody.

You look back most recently to a guy like Jason Smith that contributed to the run in the Big Ten Tournament. He was seldom used and here he's put into a big time role and you produce and certainly it provides that energy that a team needs.

It looks like this could be a dangerous spot for the Hawkeyes in West Lafayette. They're expected to handle a Purdue team that has struggled but has won it's last two home Big Ten games by more than 20.

I agree. This is a game that we need to win. You need to stop their inside game.

Carl Landry, he didn't have a very good game against us in the first one. He got into some foul trouble early. But he's certainly a player capable of putting up big numbers if you don't pay attention to him.

We've got to attack him on our offensive end. We've got to make him play defense and don't just give him a free pass that he's going to be out there for 40 minutes and not have to play any defense. Whoever he's guarding we've got to make it a point to try to go at him to take a little bit of starch out of him.

You've got to cover their perimeter, also, Teague and McKnight. They're capable of bombing away.

This is a tough game, but when you look at it this is a game that you should win. To get to the NCAA Tournament, we must win the games that we're supposed to win.

Can you talk a little bit about Illinois coming up on Saturday? It's another opportunity at the No. 1 team in the country.

That's why this week is so important. By the end of this week, you'll probably know whether you're going to be in the NCAA Tournament or not. Two victories this week certainly goes a long way towards solidifying your position.

Our players know that we can play with these guys. They'll look at the videotape of the first game and see what you did so well.

Erek Hansen played pretty well in the first half of that game blocking some shots and really affecting Roger Powell's inside game. The perimeter play stepped up and forced some tough shots.

Now, Luther Head was a key to their victory over their. He had a big night. We've got to contain him a little bit better and focus our defensive attention on him.

You've got to slow their transition game down. You can't give them easy runouts. And you've got to control the tempo of this game and try to shorten the game down.

Greg Brunner wins Big Ten Player of the Week. Has he hit his stride as a college basketball player?

Yeah. It's all about confidence. He's gotten to that point now where he knows he can get it done against anybody. It doesn't matter if it's Purdue or Illinois or Wisconsin, he's just playing within himself. He's taking whatever the defense gives him. He's not taking any prisoners. He's just banging away.

He's calling for the basketball. He's really posting up well and giving the guy making the entry pass an easy target. He's making himself big. He's making his 3-point shots. He's just s tough matchup for whoever is guarding him.

So, it's a well deserved honor. Hopefully there will be a few more of those.

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