Opening Statement: Well, obviously, this is a tremendous win for our program and for our team. We're in the midst of a special journey and trying to win something. I'm very proud of our team knowing the last couple of years they've been battling like crazy with a lot of heat on them to make the tournament this time of year. I think they've solidified that. They know they're playing for something even more special, and that's a conference championship. We're talking about the best league in the country. We got her to nine. We've got four left. It's going to be an incredible battle. This was a big hurdle. We beat an outstanding basketball team, tonight. I'm very happy for our guys.
With the crowd and everything, it was kind of a refuse to lose.
Our guys are just playing really well. When you're playing in this league, you're not going to go through it undefeated. We knew at the beginning of the year that you had to take care of home and you had to try to get some road wins. We've got the most road wins in the league and nobody has won any more home games than we have. We've got two weeks here where we only play two games. So, rest, practice and do the job on the road is the key. That sets up the March run. The guys have really done a good job of understanding getting better each week.
How do you reverse a 30-point loss?
A lot of people made a lot of that. If you remember right, we just didn't. We got in foul trouble. Our whole game changed. Our team changed. They haven't been a great shooting team all year, but in our game they hit everything. Everything clicked for them at home on that particular day. We had different lineups. If you look at our stats from that game, it looks nothing like any other game.
Can you talk about the difference in Erek Hansen in East Lansing and Erek Hansen tonight?
Well, he got in foul trouble. Again, Erek is having a phenomenal year. He's had a very good year. We've played 26 games, and you can't just single out Erek for having a bad game. Jeff's had a bad game. Mike has had a bad game. Erek has had a bad game. Erek had a bad game in East Lansing. But he bounced back the next night and played extremely well against Indiana at home. He's really matured as a player. He was huge tonight. He did a lot of good things for us and he really battled Davis.
At the beginning of the game and the second half, Michigan State gave you some pretty good shots and you responded.
That's Michigan State. That's how they are. They're very, very good. And we didn't respond up in East Lansing in the second half. Now, they hit us a little bit harder up there. But you're right. They scored 10 points in the first four minutes of the game and 11 points in the first four minutes of the second half. After that, I don't know if they scored seven or more in any of the other four-minute games. If you have 10, four-minute games and you can hold them to six or fewer points in eight of them, you've got a chance. We did that tonight.
Can you talk about beating them team many considered the favorite to win the league?
I just thought it was two very good basketball teams. Michigan State, until somebody proves it otherwise, they are the class of our league. They're getting everybody's best shot. We gave them our best shot tonight. Fortunately it was good enough. It separates us by two games. That's pivotal. This game was a separation game. Tomorrow there are some games to be played So, maybe they'll be more separation. But we separated ourselves from a very, very good basketball team by two games with only four left. That was a key.
Jeff set the assist mark and hit some big threes in the second half. Can you talk about his performance?
He's just a special player. There are going to be a lot of these guys that go down as great players that have played in a Hawkeye uniform and Jeff is one of them. Think about all the great guards and all the great players that have played here and he's the career assist leader and he's till got a lot of games left. It's a special tribute to him. But as I told him in the locker room that on a night when he breaks the assist record, it might have been his best defensive effort. He did a really good job on Shannon Brown. He's getting back to guarding the way he was early in the season. That's only going to help us defensively.
Can you talk about how Doug lifts you guys emotionally?
I've got to thank Coach Neal because there was a loose ball and I called timeout. If I don't call a timeout, he probably shatters the backboard at that other end. (laughter) So, I had the whole arena mad at me because they didn't get to see it. Coach Neal drew up a very good lob play that he was able to get a lob dunk on out of that timeout. So, I could just sense that everybody was saying that everything was fine. We won't be so mad at coach now. But that's Doug. He energizes us. He's very athletic, and obviously the crowd loves it.
STRONG SUPPORT: The students filled their section as well as I've seen in my nine seasons covering the team. There appeared to be in the neighborhood of 4,000 students. They were cheering early and often. Three guys painted their bodies pink with white letters spelling B-R-U.
HIGH-FLYER: Doug Thomas has delivered plenty of jaw-dropping dunks during his days at Iowa. None were more spectacular than the slam he threw down Tuesday. At about the 12 minute-mark, right out of a timeout, Jeff Horner tossed a pass well above the rim from the right side. Thomas rose up from the left, seemed to keep rising, grabbed the ball with his numbers above the rim and flushed it through with authority. He later traveled coast to coast for a rim shaker that wasn't to shabby either.
JUMP UP: Michigan State attempted to disrupt Horner's ability to see the open men on his team. The Spartans doubled off on the Hawkeye point guard, even if only for a brief hand swipe to get in a passing lane. Horner did a nice job of allowing the double to pass and finding the open man. He tallied six assists on the night and became Iowa's all-time assist leader passing Andre Woolridge.
TIP-INS: Former Hawkeye and current Green Bay Packer lineman Colin Cole attended the game…Shannon Brown picked up his third foul at the 16:27 mark of the second half…Paul Davis picked up his third foul at the 14:43 mark of the second half…A third starter, Matt Trannon, picked up his third at 13:15…Iowa defensive back's coach Phil Parker attended the game with his son. Football players Jason Manson, Albert Young, Miguel Merrick, Charles Godfrey and James Cleveland also were in the house…Iowa went to a 2-3 zone.