Coach Alford Presser: Valpo

Iowa bench leaders talks about Iowa's 72-59 victory against Valparaiso Saturday night in the championship game of the Hawkeye Challenge.

STEVE ALFORD

OPENING: We knew this was going to be a very difficult stretch with an ACC opponent. And then two opponents, one who we didn't know a whole lot about in Fairfield and really presented some different types of problems because they didn't have a post guy, and then we really felt that Valpo would be in the championship game because of their experience coming back. It's a very good Valpo team. They'll challenge to really win their league. It will be interesting because they've got some key matchups with some big opponents; Charlotte and Marquette coming up. I just really like their basketball team. So, to get through eight games and have seven wins and be ranked in the Top 15 our guys have done a lot of good things. Like I told them in the locker room, the neat thing about it is that we're in that position and we still have a long way to go as far as improving. Our team can really improve in a lot of areas. That's nice to know. We haven't come close to reaching what we're going to end up reaching. We're pretty excited about it. We know we have a very difficult week ahead of us playing two very good opponents on their home floors and they play very well in their buildings. So, we have two very difficult road tests coming up Wednesday and Friday.

QUESTIONS

Over the weekend, the team seemed much better in transition than in the half court. Does that surprise you? No. We're a transition team. So, we're going to be pretty good in transition. Tonight, we were pretty good in half court. Most of our turnovers were when we were getting in a hurry. That's what we've got to work on. We've got too many guys that are in a hurry when they catch instead of catch, pivot and look at what's going on. Those things are all fixable. But as we've gotten into some slumps shooting the ball, now we're trying to hurry ourselves out of it. That's not how you do it. You become more patient and you get better shots. Jeff, for instance, tonight gets to the line 12 times. That's how you get out of it; getting to the line; getting layups; getting high percentage shots. Our half court offense was better tonight than it was last night.

Did Mikey's play kind of give you guys a lift? There's no question. We get another guard that gives us that kind of lift, it's big. He did it against Kentucky. He did it again tonight. I just told him that I don't want to go every fifth game. We've got to find that consistency there. But he relaxed. He was really good defensively. He got three key baskets in a row for us and really got is to where it was a six, seven point game to a double digit game and made it a lot tougher on Valpo to get back in it late. He was a big key for us.

Coach, just looking ahead a little bit, how much does a game like UNI mean to both teams? Well, It's going to be a hard fought game. You know that. Both teams do have a lot of in-state kids. Both teams are returning basically their entire team from a year ago that did a lot of good things. I haven't heard what they did tonight, but they're going to come into the game with maybe one loss. We're going to come into the game with one loss and nationally ranked. So, you're going to have two teams really fighting. We're anticipating a game very similar to NC State. It's going to be a slugfest from the opening tip. That's the way that it should be. It ought to be a lot of fun for fans throughout the state. I have one comment because it didn't get asked. I know all Hawks can't make all-tournament team as much as I'd like to see all six awards go to the Hawks. I'm not that naïve. But Erek Hansen in a two-day period did as much for our basketball team as anybody. Jeff, Adam, Bru, all were all well deserving. But Erek, in my mind as the coach, did an awful lot for us this weekend. If we can keep getting him playing at that level, it really helps us out.

Coach Drew said that he is the key to your defense. Would you agree? There's no question. There's absolutely no question. He had 10 blocks in two games. He probably changed another 10 shots. He runs the floor for us. We've just got to pass the ball to him more. He can do a lot of things inside. We've just got to get him more touches where he's getting fouled; getting to the free throw line. But he's rebounding now. The last five games, he's averaged over 5 rebounds for us. His blocks just continue to rise. He's really playing at a high level right now.

Des Moines has a new arena. Would you mind a series like UNI moving to Des Moines? Every other year it would be great. (Laughter) Every other year would be super. We'll play them here and then the next year in Des Moines. Ask Greg that, if he'll go along.


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