Coach Alford: Monday Press Conference

Iowa Men's Basketball Coach Steve Alford met with the media on Monday to discuss Tuesday's much-anticipated showdown with intrastate rival Northern Iowa. Read what the Hawkeye bench boss had to say about the Panthers, the health of Mike Henderson, how the Hawks will defend Coleman and Stout and more in this HN.com Premium Q&A.

How's Mike?

He's good. We were able to get some confidence out of this weekend. Practice today was really good. We're slowly seeing some improvement. In Mike's regard, this practice was a lot different than before the classic. That's why it was good for him to get in the game and get that (discomfort) out of there. He was really good today in practice.

Do you see him playing significant minutes?

Oh, I think so. With him, now it's nine deep and we can still go deeper than that with Brett. He's definitely going to be in that rotation now a little bit deeper.

Is it just strength in his shooting hand that he needed?

Yeah, it's strength. It's still not 100 percent. It's strength but it's also confidence. It's a sore muscle right now. I'm sure someone that's had their hand in a cast for a month, it doesn't just feel like a sore muscle. Once he gets over that mindset, he's going to be fine.

Are Gorney and Looby ready for that match-up with Coleman and Stout?

Well, I mean, that's why we're playing. They're going to have to be. They don't have neat the experience that Stout and Coleman have. But we have had the opportunity to play Sumpter of Villanova. We played Davidson at Alabama. We've played some big time, big men. Some of those big men have gotten us in foul trouble. We have to show some maturity up front. And I don't think it's just our bigs. Our guards had a lot to do with our bigs getting in foul trouble. We've been real passive. The last several games, our guards have done a much better job with doing what they have to do defensively.

You have faced teams with a good big man, but they seem to complement each other.

Well, you're looking at two guys that have been in three NCAA Tournaments. They've been at the top of the Missouri Valley for three years. They've beaten us twice. So, this is a very confident front line and then you throw McKowen in it. Those are three very confident young men that are going to be coming in here. We've got to be able to play to compete against that.

In terms of match-ups, you guys are taller but maybe you want to go smaller to sort of keep up with them.

Well, we're versatile enough that we can do what we do. We're not going to change what we're doing because we're playing Northern Iowa. We're going to do what we've been doing. Hopefully, it's good enough. If it's not, then you take your hats off to the opponents that you're playing. We've gone big, and we've gone small. We'll continue to do both of those things.

How does Mike factor into that?

It just gives us more versatility. Now you can have Mike and Tony and Adam and Tyler out there all at once. You can have Mike and Tony and Adam in there like last year, which hasn't happened yet this year.

What's happened to Brooks McKowen now? Is he looking for his shot more?

Well, when you've got Crawford and Jacobsen and that crew, there are not going to be as many shots. Those were two very talented offensive guards. He was younger. Jacobsen and Crawford were the vets. That's what happens in college basketball. Your role constantly changes. His role this year is much more of a scoring role. Last year, they didn't need for him to score in double figures. I don't know if they need him to do that yet this year. Ben could tell you that more than me. It obviously helps them take off a little pressure of their bigs if he is doing some scoring.

Do your newcomers have an appreciate for the intensity they're going to see this week?

Well, we'll find out. It's going to be three games here in a row of instate rivals. That's always an issue with new guys. But I hope it's not about our opponent. I would that whether we're playing Alabama, Coppin State, Northern Iowa, Iowa State, our guys are going to play at a very high level all of the time. You really set yourself up if you're always playing the opponent. If we start talking about having the instate teams in here, does that mean we're going to play differently in a few weeks when Texas Southern and Cornell are coming in here? You set yourself up for failure when you do that. It's not playing the opponent. It's the game of basketball. It's about trying to get better at both ends of the floor every time you go out there. The intensity and passion should be there all of the time. If it's about who you're playing, sooner or later that's going to catch you.

What do you see from Iowa State so far?

Well, our attention is on Northern Iowa, but a lot of that tape is Northern Iowa playing Iowa State. We've been able to watch both of them and it was like winning a practice because Northern Iowa and Iowa State did the same things with Greg and Ben being out of the same mold. Iowa State is probably a little more athletic. Northern Iowa is a little bit more seasoned. Northern Iowa has got more experience than we do. The teams are similar in their offensive and defensive schemes but a little bit different in personnel.

How is Tyler coming along?

He's been really good. He's only going to keep getting better. He's strong. He's somebody that's very well conditioned. He's just learning how to play 40 minutes at this level. For a freshman to be getting nearly 14 and 5, is pretty impressive. When that experience kicks in, you're looking at somebody whose numbers are only going to go up. He passes the ball extremely well. A lot of his turnovers are because he over-passed. He's passed up shots to make a pass and that's created a turnover instead of taking his own shot. We've been really pleased with where he's been.

How do you get a guy to shoot more?

He comes in with all this hype, but he's really an overly unselfish kid. That's a great trait. It's a tremendous trait, and we're not really wanting to change that trait because he really has a great feel. He sets people up. He passes well. It's not about being more selfish, it's about knowing your role. And he is one of those go-to guys. He's just got to continue to learn that. You try to fit in. Well, his fit in time is over. He's one of our go-to guys. He's got to understand that he's got to be the man and not just be the man 20 out of the 40 minutes he's playing. When he's in there, he's got feel like he's the man and do those things. That's till hard as a freshman. You can say all of that, but it's still hard to do as a freshman.

You guys had some trouble defending the inbounds passes in pervious games but you see to have corrected it. What was going on there?

Just being able to emphasize it a little bit more from a coaching standpoint and, again, inexperience. We've talked all season long about OBs being special teams' situations. Transition defense, transition offense, out of bounds situations, out of timeouts, I always throw the free throw line in there as well, those are special teams situations that you can parallel to football. Late clock is special teams. We haven't been very good at that. There is so much that's being thrown at our guys because there are so many new faces that they were a little bit careless with their understanding of out of bounds situations. We got beat at Arizona State by three and we lost the OB game by six. Once that hit them, we were able to emphasize that there's your difference. It's slowly kicking in and we still have a lot of work to do with that.

Is a matter of not understanding the assignment?

No, it's concentration. It's like timeouts. They think shooting a free throw is a timeout. You get to rest. An OB play is a stoppage of play. You get to rest. Coach Buckley is always talking about being first ready. Before the official hands you the ball, you have to be first ready. We're getting a little bit better than that. We've still got a long way to go.

Can you talk a little bit about Adam's performance Saturday night?

You're going to constantly see the maturing of a very good leader. At Arizona State he had 25 points with nine minutes to go and didn't score any more. He learned from that. We're in a tight game with eight minutes to go against Coppin and he scores about 12 points in two minutes. It's not always going to be his scoring. He's got to be able to do the other things. You're seeing that maturation process with Adam.

Seth's minutes have fallen off. What would you like to see him do?

We just wanted to relieve the pressure from him after Virginia Tech. His minutes were going to be up against Texas-Pan American. Coppin just really had no true center. Coppin was playing with 6-7 post guys that were really almost big guards. There really wasn't a low-post game. Kurt and Seth's minutes were down because of that. You see that a lot in the non-conference season. When you end up playing teams that don't have a true center, that happens. When you play teams that have a true center, those minutes are going to be up for him. It's not really anything that he's not doing or we're unhappy with, it's more of a match-up situation.

Is there a match-up problem inside with Coleman's quickness?

He's a concern. He got 16 and 11 in here as a sophomore. He's hurt us every time we've played him. And we've had the likes of Greg Brunner and Erek Hansen, who was the defensive player of the year last year. So, yeah, he's a tremendous concern as is Stout. These are two very good big men. They're going to give the Missouri Valley a lot of problems. The Missouri Valley is going to be loaded this year. That's going to be a fun league to watch this year. It's a concern. I do think we've had some good prep with the big guys we've played to date. But those two are a handful. Our guards have to able to take some of that load as well. I just don't think you can guard them one on one.

Do you see this year as maybe a little bit of the changing of the guard with UNI and Drake beating Iowa State?

Well, I hope not. We haven't been part of that guard yet. We'll be able to tell here in the next two weeks. We've got two weeks to play three in-state teams. It's a fun time. It's a fun time for fans. It's a fun time for players. In the case of Northern Iowa, these are guys that are around our guys all summer long in the Primetime League. Drake and Iowa State are around each other in their summer league. We've just got to do our best to make sure we take care of business.

Was it Coach Neal that picked up that second T on Saturday?

Oh yeah, it wasn't me. I'd have been gone. I thought that I was gone anyway. I didn't know the new rule. As I told Coach Neal, you just need to know that in my technical, they got one point. In your technical, they made both free throws and the basket inbounded. So, it was 4-1. If you're going to get a technical at least defend the technical. I at least defended my technical a little bit better.

What are the things that you guards can do to help you posts on defense?

We have to have ball pressure. We have to be active whether we're trapping the post or digging in the post. We just have to be really active. We had over 24 deflections in both games of the classic. This team coming in is better. It's going to test our defense a lot more. I want to see a group of five to six guards really imposing their will defensively. That's something we've struggled with a little bit.


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