Iowa and Kentucky had the most fans there, and I think Iowa had the edge in noise, but a small one. It was a great environment for college basketball, to be sure. It felt like an NCAA tournament, what with two closely contested games. Steve Alford and Greg Brunner were very complimentary of the Iowa fans that were in attendance. There may have been 2000 of them there and they were very, very vocal.
After the game, Tubby Smith was very complimentary of Iowa's defense, and singled out Mike Henderson. Coach Alford did the same, saying the other four guards in the game for both teams did not have good nights offensively, and that Henderson was the only one. Smith also praised Henderson for his ability to get to the basket when he wanted to.
"The kid who really hurt us was Mike Henderson," Smith said. "We just couldn't contain him."
Jeff Horner and Henderson did a great job of guarding Rondo. When his first bucket comes with less than 6 minutes remaining, that is a great job. It probably took something away from Horner on the offensive end, but a win is a win. To beat Kentucky when Horner and Adam Haluska are a combined 3-18, that is a very good thing. Horner will have his hands full again tonight with Texas' ultra quick guards.
"Both teams played defensive games and when you play a defensive game it's not always going to be the prettiest thing out there." Horner said.
Steve Alford talked a lot about defense back in October and hew as pleased with his team's effort on Monday.
"We beat a very good team tonight and we did it by guarding. They guarded us well, too. These are two good defensive teams for the third week of November." Alford said.
As I said all summer long, Tony Freeman was going to surprise a lot of people with his poise for his age. You saw some of that again last night. His rip on Kentucky's second to last shot attempt, one that would have been a three point shot with Kentucky trailing by three, was one for the career highlight tape.
Erek Hansen's defense in the second half, and his ability to stay on the court with foul trouble were keys to the win. His block on the dunk attempt was fantastic, and it was clean. I had a great view of that play. Great job by Erek.
One of the things you don't see so well on TV is how well Hansen and Doug Thomas run the court. They are the first guys down to the other end on a lot of occasions. Thomas is always looking for the outlet pass, and Iowa's guards look for him. Thomas had 6 points and seven boards in 21 productive minutes, including three blocks. Iowa had nine blocks as a team, with Hansen tallying five of them.
At the break, Iowa had just two offensive rebounds. They finished the game with 11, with many of them coming in the first eight minutes of the second half. Iowa was very aggressive under the glass coming out of the break. The Hawkeyes outscored Kentucky in the paint by 14 points and they were +5 in second chance points. Iowa had four fast break points to zero for Kentucky; that might be the stat of the night for Iowa's defense. Iowa was +5 in points off turnovers.
The game featured 15 lead changes and was tied on 13 other occasions. That type of game should pay dividends over the next few weeks and months as Iowa travels to Cedar Falls and Ames for what will be intense games.
Though Jeff Horner scored just five points, he hit two clutch free throws and he had eight assists to two turnovers against a good defensive backcourt. Jeff would be the first one to tell you that it's not about his stat line; it's about the win.
In the post game interview sessions, Alford and Brunner were joking with one another quite a bit. As Brunner left the podium, Alford said aloud that Brunner did a much better job of speaking to the room full of mostly male reporters than he did when he was stuttering after the game when he was interviewed by ESPN's female sideline reporter.
ESPN's Andy Katz said to Alford in the post game interview session, "Steve, you are Mr. November." Alford beat #1 UConn in his first game at Iowa in November of 1999. Last year, Iowa beat highly ranked Louisville and Texas in the Maui classic and they beat ranked Louisville in November of 2003 in Indianapolis.
Iowa vs Texas
I told my brother in law before the game that I felt Iowa would win by four. As for tonight's game, it's going to be a tough task. Horner played 36 minutes last night, Haluska getting 34 and Brunner logging 33. Mike Henderson played 31 minutes.
However, Texas' starters logged even more minutes, with guards Daniel Gibson and Kenton Paulino playing 38 and 34 minutes, respectfully. Center LeMarcus Aldridge played a game high 39 minutes, quite a load for a big man. Forwards Brad Buckman and P.J. Tucker played 36 minutes apiece. Texas' bench scored 17 points against West Virginia where Iowa's scored 15.
Texas dominated West Virginia 41-22 on the glass. They were +15 in second chance points against the Mountaineers. Texas also committed 24 turnovers on the night.
Iowa will have to hold its own in the paint; keeping Erek Hansen out of foul trouble is a big factor tonight, because his ability to block and alter shots will be key. Brunner will once again be called upon to be a workhorse on the blocks, and Iowa will need better nights from Horner and Haluska on offense.
Henderson and Freeman will once again be called upon to do some dirty work on defense as well as penetrate and kick to the wing players.
I think that Texas' interior game might be too much for Iowa, but it should be a great game. Look for the neutral fans to rally behind Iowa in this game, especially the Kansas City natives that are KU fans; there is no love lost between them and fellow Big 12 rival Texas.