The Iowa State men’s basketball team will host top-ranked Texas on Wednesday night. In preparation for Iowa State’s first Big 12 game of the season, head coach Greg McDermott met with members of the local media this morning to talk about all things Iowa State basketball. Below is the transcript from McDermott’s press conference.
If Texas isn’t the best team that we will have played in my four years at Iowa State, they are certainly right there. I think that they are extremely talented and I think that they rate right up there with Kansas’ national championship team a couple of years ago. The reason I say that is because they have experience and they have as good of depth as anybody in the country. They just keep bringing guys at you. A guy like Gary Johnson was a McDonalds All-American in high school is coming off of the bench. That guy would play 35 minutes a game for anybody else in the conference. He is playing 19 minutes a game for Texas. They are deep. They are unselfish. In my opinion, the biggest change from last year to this year is how good they are defensively. They really try to disrupt what you are doing defensively and give you a lot of different looks with how they are defending ball screens and some run and jump actions that they will throw at you. They are just a very, very talented team. It is going to take everything that we have got to hang in the game. I know that our guys are very excited about it. We had a spirited workout this morning after being off yesterday. I like where we are at today. Hopefully we can back that up tomorrow with another good one as we prepare for Wednesday night.
Will Justin Hamilton start on Wednesday?
GM: He will go back into the starting lineup if he is healthy. He got through practice this morning and we will see if he is symptom free again tomorrow before we start tomorrow. It was good to have him back out there. Without question, that hurt us on Saturday. He is just our most consistent defensive player. He is our biggest body. We are going to need him against Dexter Pittman on Wednesday.
With as tough of a week as the last one was, does that give you guys an opportunity to play that ‘jump up and bite’ somebody role?
GM: Our message today at the start of practice was that it is a new season. Anytime you start a conference season, it is a new beginning. Everybody is 0-0 to start. Obviously, we have got the number one team in the country coming to our place to start the conference season. That adds an element of excitement to it as well. Our guys were happy to get out of there with a win on Saturday. They understood that we certainly didn’t do everything that we are capable of doing on either end of the floor. We worked to try to correct some of those things this morning. They were engaged and focused and really competed hard this morning. As long as we can continue to repeat that, we will move forward.
So how do you go about to try and beat this Texas team?
GM: It’s not easy. They have guys who shoot it better than others and you have to make sure on the fly that you are able to recognize who you are guarding. You don’t want to run at Balbay (Dogus) and let him drive by you. You want to close out short at the same time. You don’t want give Lucas (Jai) a good look at the 3-point shot or Hamilton a good look at the 3-point shot. That will be a big part of what we did this morning and what we will do tomorrow and what we are doing with some film this afternoon, is recognizing personnel and what their strengths are. They are running guys in and out of there constantly. If you lose track of who is in the game and who you are guarding at that time or if there is a switch, you have to understand the strengths of the person you are guarding. That is one thing and we have to pick and choose our opportunities to turn this into a track meet. This is a team that you know at times, when you watch them on film, they make North Carolina not look like North Carolina. They made Michigan State, not look like Michigan State. They were the dominant team for periods of those two games. You have to try to avoid that eight to 10 minute stretch where they’ve just completely dominated their opponent. They have done it 15 straight times so that is going to be a challenge.
Is Marquis Gilstrap healthy?
GM: He was much better today. Obviously he wasn’t himself on Saturday and that impacted a lot of what he was able to do, particularly on the backboards. I think that is where it showed the most for us. He was back there and feeling good this morning.
How do you get Craig (Brackins) back on track?
GM: It is a process. Craig is seeing a double team almost every time that he touches the basketball. The problem with that is that even when you don’t get a double team, you are thinking that it is coming so you are a little bit tentative when you catch the basketball. Part of our film work today is to show Craig that there were opportunities on Saturday to beat that double team. He had the ball. He could have made his play before the double team got there. That is part of the reason you double team. Even when it is not there, you want them to think of the possibility of it coming is there. Obviously that is affecting him a little bit mentally right now. It is something that we have to get him through. At the same time, we have got to get some better movement off of the ball when Craig is being double-teamed. Craig is very capable of making teams pay for that but if the other four guys don’t follow their responsibilities and get in the right place, it is hard for Craig to make the play that he needs to make.
How is Chris Colvin responding to the suspension?
GM: He had to sell us that he wanted to be a part of this team. He did a good job of that. Up until this point, we have had a couple of practices and just one game, he has been really good. His actions on the bench the other night were exactly what I had hoped they would have been. He was encouraging to teammates constantly. When one of his teammates made a play on the floor, he was the first one to pop off of the bench cheering. He just needs to learn that that is how it is supposed to be when he has his uniform on as well. Everybody grows up at a different time in their life and something happens to them where they have to do a double take and look in the mirror and say maybe I do need to change my behavior. It is my hope that Chris understands that now. But so far, I have been pleased with the way he acted.
What do you guys have to do to handle Texas’ pressure?
GM: We have to take from the Duke game, the things that we did where we really handled the pressure well. We have plenty in our offensive package to play against pressure. It’s just that you have to be in the right place and you have to move at the right times. At times against Duke, we were able to do that. We were able to create the spacing that allowed us to get dribble penetration that allowed us to score a lot of points in the paint against a good defensive team. At times, we were out of sync. We have to make sure that is not the case on Wednesday.
How much better has Dexter Pittman gotten throughout his career?
GM: He has changed so much. Anybody who saw him three years ago would have never projected that he would be the player that he is today. His ability to run the floor, his footwork. He has always had great hands. Anything that you threw his way, he was always able to snag. He was a good rebounder because of that. But now, his technique down low, his footwork, what he is able to do defensively has grown so much. He has totally transformed his body from somebody who was never going to be able to play college basketball to somebody who will have a long career in the NBA.