Opening Statement: This is a game where I couldn't be any more happier for our guys. To get a win like this and play so well is a great credit to them. They just really put it all together on this afternoon. We shot the ball extremely well. But after the first 10 minutes, the last 30 minutes of the game was our defense again. That defense allowed us, as it has all year…if we don't shoot the ball well, we probably win this game in a grinder just because of the way that we shoot free throws down the stretch and how we defend. It was a game where we really made a lot of shots and allowed out guys to have an awful lot of fun. They're very deserving of it. This was a lopsided win against an outstanding team. Michigan came in with as much momentum, as much confidence as we had, and for us to do the things we were able to do today is very pleasing from a coaching standpoint.
After the hard screen on Horner and you had a discussion with the officials, your team really rallied and never looked back.
I mentioned this on the radio, it's the same thing that we'll see (on Sunday). If the Seahawks start talking stuff to (Jerome) Bettis. You'll see the Steelers rally around their leader and win ring No. 5. And everybody knows (Jeff) is our leader. He got popped in the nose pretty good and you saw a group of guys really rally around him. We get a four-point play after that. And from that point on, we really did a lot of good things.
Can you talk a little bit about the play of your bench?
I couldn't be more pleased for our bench. Guys like Alex and Tony, they're young guys. They're a freshman and a sophomore on a very good basketball team, a team that's 18-5 and battling for the top of the league. You're not going to get 25 or 30 minutes. We're asking them to come in for 10-15 minutes of playing time and make shots and make plays. That's hard. That's why we've really tried to tell both of them just to defend. Whatever you get offensively is great, but really just try to guard. But these guys are players. They've been frustrated because they haven't been making shots. It was just really refreshing to see Alex have some fun offensively and Tony to make some shots because these guys work awfully hard in practice every day.
Have you ever had a team shoot like that?
I don't know. I'd have to look it up. That's a lot of fun.
Did Jeff getting hot on Wednesday become contagious?
That's hard to say. But any time your leader busts out like he did, you can ride some momentum there. But I was just impressed because in the first 10 minutes, they really came at us hard and got an eight-point lead. But during timeouts, I wasn't looking at guys that seemed like they were overwhelmed. They knew what they had to do. They relaxed. They sharpened up defensively and then they really started to defend. Once they started making some shots, they really took it from there. And that's a good lesson for them to learn.
You had 32 baskets and 27 assists. Is that the defining stat?
More than a team shooting that well, to have a team have 27 assists is a phenomenal stat. We thought we were selfish defensively against Purdue, especially in the first half. We were really into our man. And we're not a selfish defensive team. But we had 52 points in the second half against Purdue. We had another 52-point half against a very good Michigan team. We're really sharing the basketball. That's always fun to watch.
Do you see a turning point for this team over the last six or so games?
No. I just think it's the way we've responded after losses. The way our guys responded after a loss is really the tell tale. To get a four-game winning streak after a 30-point loss really speaks volumes about the kind of character that we have in the locker room. I don't know if that's a turning point but it's character of what you do after a loss.
After Horner got hit in the nose, he came right back and played well. Can you talk about that?
He's a tough kid. He was over there telling our medical staff to stuff everything they could in his nose to get it to stop bleeding. (laughter) That's Jeff. He doesn't want to miss anything. In the second half, the official said he had blood and he wanted more stuff crammed in there. He just doesn't want to leave the floor. That is what you appreciate. We've got seniors on this team that are going to leave a lasting impression. What Mike and Adam are learning as juniors, what these freshmen are sophomores are learning, you're going to see the benefits of this senior class long after this year.
Where does this tenaciousness come from? Have you experienced this before? That's pretty ballsy.
That's an interesting way to put it. This is something that we've been trying to build to. It really comes down to the guys that you have. If you look at Greg and Jeff in particular, that's who they are. They're not afraid to get on the floor for loose balls and put their bodies out there. When the other guys see the best players doing that, it's easy them for the role guys to step in and do the same thing.
You've had your share of hard knocks here over the years. You see this – the full house, you win by 28 against another ranked team. How does it feel?
It feels great. And hard knocks you learn from. You learn how to handle those things. You learn how to grow and mature. That's what you've seen the team do. The program has done it as well. I've been on some national shows here this last week and say with everything that's happened to us we've still been able to have winning seasons. I credit the players for no matter what has happened they never one time collapsed. They never all of a sudden had a 10-18 year. They still had winning seasons. We've always had high expectations. That's who I've always been about as a player and as a coach. I want to go to the Final Four every year. We didn't meet those things but with the hand that we were dealt our guys did some pretty special things. When I look around the league, when I look around the country, team that have been hit with about the same or even less have had losing seasons. Our guys haven't. Now, we've gone distraction free (chuckles) and hopefully that can continue.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Michigan started the game with a tough man to man up in the shirts of the Hawkeyes denying passing lanes. After two of their starters picked up two quick fouls, the Wolverines applied a zone. Iowa fared better against that defense, with Mike Henderson knocking down a back-to-back threes and Jeff Horner converting a three moments later. Haluska and Freeman also fired three-point darts into the visitors' zone defense.
BENCHMARK: The Iowa reserves that have supplied up and down performances throughout the season turned in a fine body of work on Saturday. The Hawkeyes' subs outscored Michigan, 26-15.
Freshman Tony Freeman hit all three of his first-half shots including two 3-pointers. He finished with 10 points on 3 of 4 shooting from the floor to go with four assists and two steals.
Sophomore Alex Thompson, who has struggled of late, finished with seven points, 3 rebounds, one assist and a block in 13 minutes. He seemed much more under control, scoring on two nice drives to the basket.
Doug Thomas added four points, six boards and an assist.
LOSING IT: Iowa Coach Steve Alford screamed at officials during a timeout at the 4:04 mark of the first half. Alford, normal calm with the referees, was upset when Jeff Horner got knocked to the deck on a hard screen from Graham Brown and no foul was called. The Hawkeye guard suffered a bloody nose on the play.
TIP-INS: Iowa took its first lead, 28-27, at the 5:16 mark of the first half on a Horner three…the Iowa student section let Michigan guard Daniel Horton have it when he shot fouls shots, yelling "Choker" repeatedly in reference to his legal troubles a year ago…New York Governor George Pataki watched the game with Iowa AD Bob Bowlsby. The governor was in Iowa to help kick off a Jim Leach campaign…Iowa shot 61.5 percent from the floor in the first half, while the Wolverines hit at a 50.0 percent clip…the Hawkeyes were 7 of 9 from beyond the arc before the intermission, including Mike Henderson and Tony Freeman each shooting a perfect 2 of 2…the game was an announced sellout of 15,500 and the crowd was loud from start to finish…Alford cleared the bench with three minutes left and a 25-point lead…Iowa beat it's sixth ranked opponent of the season, the top mark since 1991…Iowa connected on 13 of 19 3-point attempts, and in the last three halves of basketball, the Hawks are 21 of 30 from behind the arc. They made eight in a row during one stretch on Saturday…Iowa's 14 consecutive home wins this season is the most ever at Carver and the 15 wins in row dating back to last season in Iowa City ties the arena record…Iowa shot 65.3 percent from the floor Saturday, including 69.6 percent in the second half.