Lickliter, Iowa Prepares for Purdue

So much for celebrating a big win over a top ranked opponent. Iowa's 43-36 win against Michigan State is now in its rear view mirror, and Purdue is up next on Iowa's Big Ten slate. Coach Todd Lickliter was asked several questions about the MSU win on Monday, and he answered every one. But as he said to open things up, Iowa is back at it, preparing for the Boilermakers.

Todd Lickliter Opening Statement

There is no rest. Back at it. We did take Sunday off and everyone seems to be 100 percent and ready to go. We got together this morning and we will start working towards Purdue. I thought Tony said it well; it was a very nice win, it was a great team effort, but pretty quickly you have to move on and prepare for your next opponent. People have asked me about the four games we have had. Incredibly difficult opponents, but that is what you expect in the Big Ten. I think Purdue is playing really well. To beat Ohio State the way they did, doesn't surprise me. I have always had a lot of respect for Matt Painter and what he does. They are a very nice team.

Q: You know that your system works, the people at Butler know it works. With what happened Saturday, does that validate what you have been saying, in the eyes of the Iowa fans?

Todd Lickliter: I don't think so. I don't think the system needs any validation. Now, are we doing it quick enough? That is up to constant evaluation. It's never good enough if you don't get the job done. We played with greater purpose on Saturday. We didn't need any more motivation than Michigan State, but you shouldn't need any more motivation than Ohio State but we didn't do it. I don't want to take anything away from what our guys did, but let's be honest; Michigan State wasn't on top of their game. Did we affect that? Possibly, but we are not that good to hold a team 40 points under their average. It was a combination. If we would have let them get comfortable, we would have had our hands full, so give our guys credit for playing with the kind of focus and purpose that is required against a team of that nature. But I don't feel like I have to validate…I think you could flip on the TV on Thursday and see that Butler team to see that it works. They are a nice team, and it's similar. Our guys are working hard to make it work here.

Q: Is that as close as you have been to the system thus far?

Lickliter: I thought we were more consistent throughout the game. I think there have been times where we have executed that well during segments of games…things have to go right. They have to go your way. We have a lot that we can do better, there is no question about that. I thought that executing a game plan, our guys were about as in tune as we have had them. I thought against Ohio State, we were quite far from that, which was disappointing. So to respond the way we did, I think shows the kind of guys we are working with.

Q: At one point late in the game, I thought you were going to blow a vein. You almost ran out on the floor, yelling to them to slow it down. Tony didn't look over, he just did it about half court.

Lickliter: I think he felt it. He could feel the vibe, you know? I think that playing to win, and when I say that, you are not thinking about the final score. You are executing the possession to be successful. You know things that are going on in the game. Let's face it; we don't know where the lines are all of the time. We have been out of bounds, we step on the line on the three-point line, we have done things like that. I have struggled to understand it. You need to know the parameters of the game. You need to know the time, the score, your teammates strengths. You need to know these things and be able to take them in during the game, while somebody is disrupting you. Then you become a very good team. When to go and when not to go, at what point to work a shot clock, those things are important. Unless you are just so good at every position, that you can overcome a casual mistake. I just don't think there are many teams like that. You can't be casual.

Q: Did you have a sense of personal relief of any kind, getting your first Big Ten win?

Lickliter: At Iowa, this is our first Big Ten win. But this isn't my first Big Ten win with a team. We have played other Big Ten teams and won. We have played really good teams and we have been successful. Other teams, I am talking about. I thought we had periods of time this year where we have been successful. I was so disappointed with the score, not being able to beat Indiana, but I also mentioned there were periods of time when we were good. I know we can do this. Can we do it by just showing up and hoping it happens? Absolutely not. But by being tough minded and disciplined and executing, we could be tough to play against. It is gratifying to see guys pull together and to do things that make a team strong. I have said this, I don't know if I was ready to pop a vein, but it's hard not to be emotional and not care, and when you put your heart into it, not express it. This is important to me. I love this, I love the challenge of competition. There is great satisfaction in that, yes.

Q: Do you need to win this week to validate the upset over Michigan State so folks couldn't say it was a fluke?

Lickliter: We need some wins this week because we are playing other teams. The most important game to me is the next one. That is the challenge at hand, I want to win that. I am not trying to do anything to validate anything. I hope Hawkeye fans love the way we play, I hope we are able to give them something to cheer about and be proud of when we win. What we are doing is seeing how good a team we can be. Can we be a really good basketball team?

Q: Jake Kelly has not been getting scoring numbers, but it seems like he has been playing within the system and has not been forcing shots.

Lickliter: I have been most pleased with Jake's eagerness to defend. If you watched him play in high school, as most high school guys do, he was a natural scorer, a terrific passer, a very offensive player, but I don't think he was asked to defend the way that we have asked him to and he has embraced it. I appreciate that. He will get better at that as he gets stronger. I agree, Jake wants to win.

Q: Does it make a difference for the Hawkeyes to show up on Sportcenter in a positive light, for national awareness?

Lickliter: I think there is a natural awareness. We have struggled, but as far as the Iowa Hawkeyes, there is a national awareness and appreciation for what this program has done in the past. We have to live up to that. I don't think Sportscenter is where we will do that. We have to be competitive in games and compete for championships then we will be where Iowa should be.

Q: Is there a player that has stepped up in the last four games in Jarryd's absence, or has it been a collaborative effort?

Lickliter: It's a collaborative effort, without question. Jarryd is absent from the floor, but what a great guy and teammate. He is a terrific example to people as far as if something is taken away from you, don't pout. Be a positive role model in another way. He is in here, he goes to the weight room, he cheers for us in practice. I would love to have him on the court, but he is a great teammate.

Q: What have the other big's been doing to replace his presence?

Lickliter: What I saw Saturday was a willingness to play to strengths and to compliment one another. We went over the top to Kurt. Cy, we hit him on rolls and duck ins. Seth spotted up and passed the ball. These guys compliment one another. I don't think I saw one bounce pass to Kurt on Saturday. That is meaningful. If you look, I think we had ten turnovers. That is a huge aspect of this. Michigan State is absolutely terrific in transition, which most teams are when they have numbers. If you can control the ball and they don't get that, that alleviates a lot of offense for teams.

Q: What did you think of the crowd Saturday night, considering your previous game at Ohio State? It's not like they waited to support you, they were into it from the opening bell.

Lickliter: Absolutely. I have heard that we have great fans and that is what I have seen. I would not debate that. I think we do have great fans. I think great fans are ones that say we are going to help you, not just wait on you. After Ohio State, we needed a lot of help. So we appreciated it.

Q: Jake has been struggling with his shot as of late, how do you handle situations like that?

Lickliter: If a guy can shoot it is struggling, it means he is taking tougher shots. He is shooting the ball some down at the end of the shot clock. It's not fair to him. There are a lot of times when we have held it, Jake gets it and those are tough shots. It's not his fault. We need to find ways to get him more comfortable early, and if we ask him to go create a shot, not expect him to make all of them and he may struggle. But that is a big part of it. He is having to make plays at the end of shot clocks quite a bit of the time.

Q: Saturday night, the 79 total points were the lowest composite score for an Iowa game in 60 years. Did you get any feedback from friends that you set the game back a little bit?

Lickliter: Nobody said anything about it. I have heard positive comments as far as being able to bounce back. Somebody asked me what is the perfect score, I have said all along, as long as we have one more than the opponent. I don't worry about tempo or pace. It's incredible that you would think that they would get 36 points. I said that to the staff, they were averaging 77 and I don't take all the credit for it, things have to go well. But Tennessee scored 44 against Butler one time. I think you can make it tough. I am not saying that is the way it was, they missed some shots they make. Still, even if they make some of those, you are still talking a low scoring game. You are still talking about defending with pretty good purpose. I did have people tell me that it was not a boring game, it was an exciting game. Those were a lot of Hawkeye fans that watched the game and said it was an exciting game. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It was a beauty to me.

Q: Is it possible that the struggles you had at Ohio State helped you against Michigan State, your players being more focused, or maybe Michigan State maybe didn't take you seriously enough?

Lickliter: It's hard to read a mind. You would be speculating. I don't think that is out of the question. Players are young and human. I am sure that they look and view and I know Tom well enough that he is telling them that is not the case. He said they went into Purdue last year and got beat badly. I know it happens in this league, I didn't appreciate it or like it and we didn't look good. It wasn't a plan on our part. We were not trying to lull Michigan State to sleep; we didn't execute at Ohio State. All of those things are parts of competition.

Q: You have Purdue's attention, Purdue has your attention. They beat Ohio State, and your guys know that.

Lickliter: I think everyone will have our attention. I think we fully understand how tough this league is and how good the opponents are. We know we don't have a great margin for error and that we have to play well. We will go from there. I don't know what their mindset will be.

Q: Did you try to slow the game down the other night? Work the shot clock?

Lickliter: Not if they will let us shoot it quick. If they let us get open shots that we can make or get to the basket, we are shooting them. Mississippi State a few years ago, we played them in the first round of the NCAA tournament and the final score was 49-48. Two days later we beat Louisville 78-70 or something like that. Same team a day later. The reason was that Mississippi State and Butler defended with great purpose and it was tough to get great shots. Louisville likes to extend the floor and give you open shots, and we are going to shoot them. We are not milking it, we are looking. If they give us shots that we can make early, we will shoot them. What I am hoping for is that we will have the willingness and poise to say that we are not shooting shots that we don't want. If it takes us 30 seconds, we will play for 30. We want the shot we want.

Q: Does Tony Freeman deserve any extra credit for what happened Saturday night? He scored more points than Morgan and Neitzel combined. Tony seemed determined, win or lose.

Lickliter: If I was going to give Tony extra credit, it would be that he is becoming comfortable with being a part of this team. If Tony could balance to shooting jump shots to putting the ball on the floor, to shooting the jump shot is more important, then we would be in business. Tony Freeman would come in this gym every day and shoot and shoot and shoot. I know that because I see him. If you are going to shoot that much, then that is what you should do. He has to learn that balance. It's not that you are just a jump shooter. If you can make them that is a wonderful thing to be. He can make them. He is raising up and shooting shots that he can make. We are trying to find him and he is really effective when he does that.

Q: When you get upset with him, maybe you committed a turnover under your basket, he doesn't sprint back on defense.

Lickliter: He wouldn't be the only guy I get upset with. That should not happen. He knows this, every guy knows this. Sometimes in the other league, the pro league, guys have time to talk about things with the referee. We don't have time for that. We have to move on. I don't know what that is, I have never been in that league. With us, OK, I am thinking that you might get fouled sometimes and it might not get called. We have to move on to the next thing. We have good officials, but they can't see anything. So to try to explain it to them while four are trying to guard five is not a good thing. It's not just Tony. It's everybody. This is not a game where you huddle or you have time between pitches. It's a continuous game and you have to play continuous.

Q: Tony's defense, he played Neitzel pretty tough.

Lickliter: Yeah, I think he did do a good job on Neitzel. But he is not alone. If we will play defense together, you can't leave a guy on an island. We are not good enough to do that.

Q: Were you saying earlier that you prefer Tony to shoot jump shots as opposed to driving and going to the basket?

Lickliter: I would love for him to shoot jump shots. He just makes them. I like shots that go in. I really enjoy that. He can really make them. Tony is strong, he is capable of getting inside and he has probably always done that and he needs to adjust his game and he is doing it. He is adjusting it. Now, when he is shooting it in the way he has been, he will have to go by people because they will get up in him. He really shoots it well.

Q: The TV announcers were giving you credit for not allowing MSU to reverse the ball. Is that something you work on was it more against them?

Lickliter: They may have not been correct. No offense to them or anything. Maybe they saw something we didn't know. What they were talking about is we hedged out on a lot of the things they ran. We really didn't try to keep the ball on one side of the floor. We wanted to maintain position. If you can do that with Michigan State, then possibly you have a chance to rebound. If you don't, you have no chance to rebound. They are aggressive rebounders. They are terrific at it.


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