COACH STEVE ALFORD
Opening Statement: What a great win for our program and our seniors. They've worked so hard to get to this point. It doesn't make the season, but it sure puts a good light in it. We really tried to look at this as our mini series. We're playing four teams here in a row that we only play once. This quarter of the Big Ten season kind of sets up the stretch run. We needed to get that first one. It was against a ranked opponent that's really, really good offensively. The guys did it again. I don't know of (Ohio State) has had a half where they shot 27 percent. Our defense, again, rose to the occasion. We dominated the glass. They had no offensive rebounds at half, four in the second half. Alex Thompson hits his biggest shot of his career. That was a huge three. Mikey came up big. Doug was tremendous on his effort against Dials. Jeff really struggled shooting the ball throughout the entire game. He hasn't had too many games where he's had no field goals. Yet, he goes to the line and makes two big free throws; he and Adam. I couldn't be more pleased with our team.
Was Tony out with the ankle injury?
No. He strained a calf muscle Thursday in practice
Can you talk about Wieck coming in?
He did great. He got is a rebound and got us a point. You know, in practice he's our best foul shooter. Adam and Jeff are always giving him a hard time because of on all the practice boards he's at the top. They go at it back and forth and say it's practice but what about the game. He goes 1 for 2. So, that's the first thing that Adam and Jeff let him know. You might be 90 in practice, but you're 50 in game play. (laughter) But he hasn't played much all year and this is a large, large game and he came in and did a lot of nice things.
Your defense was really good in the last seven minutes. They only scored four points.
That was a big key. Both teams got a little bit tired. They had had a week off. We obviously were concerned with that. Our conditioning and stamina was very good down the stretch. As potent as they are offensively, to hold them to one or two field goals in the last seven minutes of the game speaks volumes for our guys' effort.
Did you do anything different on Dials after he scored a bunch right away?
We knew we were going to shuffle the bigs on him. Seth did some really good things in the first half. Doug was tremendous throughout the entire game. Erek came and went with it. That's a big body to get around and front. Dials did a good job of using his strength against Erek. Erek was much better in the second half. We tried to make some adjustments on the ball screens involving Dials. That's about the only adjustment we made was far as guarding him.
Besides Jeff, the team's shooting has really been improved the last few games.
We had a 51 percent shooting first half. Both teams got a little bit tired in the second half. But it's really about our defense. We know that we're not going to shoot the ball great every half or every segment. But this was a team that came in averaging 80; a team coming in shooting the three ball every bit as good as Indiana. Both teams that we played this week were 80-point game scorers. We hold one to 60 and one to 62. Our defense has been pretty consistent throughout the year.
Ca, you talk about being part of the logjam up there in first place?
It's a great feeling. Our guys have worked awfully hard to put themselves into this position. Now, we've just go to keep going. It's a key road game coming up Wednesday at Purdue. They're playing very well. They're playing hard. Matt (Painter) has really got them playing at a high-effort level. They beat us in there last year. We led most of the game and then the last eight minutes weren't very good. That becomes a pivotal road game now. Then, you come back and play a Michigan team that might be as hot as anybody in the league. But through seven games, it's nice to be up there at the top and it's nice to control your destiny. The last few years, we've been looking uphill through seven games. This gives our guys a lot of momentum, a lot of confidence going on the road.
Did they do anything different on Haluska in the second half?
I don't know. Something happened. (laughs) He was lights out the first half. It's a learning process. Adam is really starting to learn and grow. He gets to the free throw line five times. He got seven rebounds. He spent a lot of energy defensively. He had Foster some. He had Sullinger some. He had Lewis some. He's doing a lot of things for us. He might have gotten a little bit tired there in the second half. But he was awfully good the first half. And even when you're not scoring, your presence out there makes them guard. That opened up some things for some other people.
Yeah. We're pretty pleased with it. I don't know if that clinches a winning season or not. I haven't done all of the math for that. But we're getting close. It's been a good stretch. We haven't had a stretch like this since basically when that group (The Fabulous Five) that we're celebrating now was back with us. It's been that long since we've had a stretch of consecutive winning seasons like this. So, the guys have worked through an awful lot of adversity, and I'm very proud of them and everything they're achieving right now. They deserve it because they've worked awfully hard with it.
Can you talk about the crowd?
Well, it's big time. Our crowd keeps getting better and better. Obviously, winning helps. The student section has been incredible. They're getting behind what we're doing defensively. They're getting just as excited about the defense was they are Doug getting half-court lobs. (laughter) That's a pretty exciting thing. And I know our guys really enjoy competing in front of their peers.
FULL HOUSE: In recent years, a person could set out for Carver-Hawkeye Arena from the east side of Iowa City, oh, about a half an hour before tip and make it in his seat without missing a dribble. If that person tried that on Saturday, he would be stuck in traffic and have to run into the facility to make it in time.
The place was jammed, loud and fun to be in. The announced sellout crowd of 15,500 lifted their team early in the game, but fell flat during the middle of the game only to come through in the critical final minutes. The student section performed well all night.
PLAY OF THE DAY: Doug Thomas swatted away an Ohio State shot. The ball bounced out to Jeff Horner, who began the Hawkeye break. Thomas raced down the left side of the court and made eye contact with Horner, who lofted an ally-oop pass from midcourt. Thomas caught the ball well above the rim and threw it down two-hand tomahawk style. The two teamed up for a similar play in the second half.
Thomas really aided the Iowa cause after starting center Erek Hansen was sent to the bench early after picking up two quick fouls. Thomas scored eight quick points with a pair of thunderous dunks and two mid-range jumpers.
HOT HALUSKA: Adam Haluska opened the game like a man possessed. The junior guard scored 12 points in the first 6:30 minutes of the game. He finished with 16 in the opening half on 6 of 10 shooting from the floor to go with a team-high six rebounds, and two assists without a turnover.
Haluska was held scoreless in the second half until hitting two crucial free throws with :25 remaining in regulation. The tosses gave Iowa a 65-62 lead.
SIDELINED: Freshman guard Tony Freeman missed the game with a calf injury. He suffered the setback on Thursday. In his stead, former walk-on Justin Wieck served as the Hawkeyes sixth man. The senior played 6 minutes and knocked down one of two free throws in the second half.
SCORELESS: Ohio State had shut out Horner for the first 19:43 of the game. The Mason City native connected on two foul shots with :16.8 on the clock to push the Hawkeyes lead to 67-62. The two points represented a season-low for Horner.
TIP-INS: Iowa shot 51.5 percent (17-33) from the floor in the first half…reserve Alex Thompson drained a huge three-pointer with 7:45 left in regulation with the Hawkeyes down three and needing a spark…Hansen knocked down both ends of a one and one with just over five minutes to go to give Iowa a one-point lead…Iowa Assistant Craig Neal hopped off of the bench several times to wave his arms for the crowd to make noise…after the final buzzer the Iowa team walked in front of the student section to thank them for their support. The joint erupted…