Depth will be the key issue surrounding the Iowa State men’s basketball team for the rest of the season. That was one of the hot topics during Greg McDermott’s weekly press conference that took place today in Ames. Iowa State will head to Oklahoma on Wednesday. Read about that and more in today’s press conference transcript, with more coverage coming later today in a Williams blog.
“Oklahoma’s two guards are very good players. Willie Warren did not play against Texas Tech on Saturday with an ankle injury but the word that we are getting is that he will play against us on Wednesday. There is a reason why he was on a lot of people’s All-American teams in the preseason. He’s very talented, can score in a lot of ways. He was really, as I felt the difference in our game last year with the way that he shot the 3-point shot. He has not shot the 3-point shot well in conference play and we’re hoping that he doesn’t come out of that on Wednesday. Tommy Mason Griffin, I think is one of the best young point guards in the country. He can score it. He can distribute. He shoots the threes. He has a good pull-up game. He really, singlehandedly kept them in the game against Texas Tech when they were shorthanded without Willie Warren. Along with that, they have some experience back in Tony Crocker. Cade Davis has played for them in the past. Tiny Gallon is giving them an imposing figure inside who can score out to 15-feet. Our hands are going to be full. They have been a very good team at home. They have been right there on the road, with the exception of that first game there at Baylor. They had opportunities to win at A&M and the Texas Tech game was close the whole way as well. We are going to have to figure out a way to slow down those two guards defensively. That is going to really be important. We have to find a way to get some points on the board. Obviously, with some of the lineup issues that we have right now, it is hard to score points at times. We just have to keep moving Craig around and then attempt to make them pay when teams go at him with the double and triple teams.
Last year Oklahoma was a frontcourt led team. Now, their primary players are on the perimeter. How does that change the way that they play?
GM: They are just playing different. They are shooting it quicker. They are shooting far more 3-point shots then they have shot in the past. Tommy Mason Griffin has taken 62 shots in five games. That is their point guard taking a lot of shots. Tiny Gallon inside has only taken 33. Their focus has changed. They still try to get it in there at critical times of the game, to make sure that they have him involved. The guards really spend a lot of time with the ball in their hands.
What do you feel Scott Christopherson needs to do to be a successful starter?
GM: I think that he has already been successful. He has been one of our most consistent defensive players throughout the season. He is shooting 50 percent from the 3-point line. I would like to see him down a few more of those. He did some things off of the dribble that were impressive the other night. We just are asking a lot of Scott. He has got to guard Sherron Collins, yet I expect him to score. He’ll guard Willie Warren but Scott, I need you to score some points as well. It would be nice if there was enough offense around him where we wouldn’t have to rely on him so heavily. He has to be that guy who is going to create some things off the dribble and hit some 3-point shots to loosen up that defense inside.
You talked about moving Craig around. Where can you move him?
GM: You try to get him to catch it quickly off of a pin down or sometimes we move him to the high post some to let him operate from there. We try to occupy the defense on the week side the best you can so they can’t get there as quick. I tried to explain to Craig, it is probably not going to get any tougher than it did against Kansas because you are being guarded by one of the Morris twins who is 6-foot-9 or 6-foot-10. Then, you have Cole Aldrich coming on top of you at 6-foot-11. That is a tough trap. That is a tough trap to find an opening quickly enough to take advantage of what they are doing. I don’t think he’ll see any tougher traps than what he saw against Kansas. The reality of it is, it is frustrating. It is hard to play the game the way we are asking him to play it right now. Because he knows that he needs to score for us. We have got to have him score more than the 12 or 13 points a game that he is getting in league play. He knows that. But at the same time, he has to remain patient against that double-team. That is easier said than done.
Is he pressing too much while trying to get back on track?
GM: There are times maybe where he takes an ill-advised shot but I want him to go try to make plays as well. I want him to be aggressive. I don’t want him to be passive against these double teams. As soon as that becomes the case, then he is really going to become an ineffective player. He needs to maintain his aggressive play and some of those shots that aren’t falling for him right now, I think will begin to fall.
Is your team discouraged from all of this or are they getting mentally tougher?
GM: I was proud of them yesterday. We decided to practice yesterday so that we could get a workout in with Marquis. It turned out that Marquis couldn’t practice because his knee was bothering him. But their attitude and enthusiasm was really good yesterday. I sensed it in the film room before we went out on the practice floor. We had a 75-minute workout where they were really in tune and worked hard. There was a lot of energy in the gym. That is a good sign. That was a great sign. It certainly would have been easy to hang their heads. We had no Marquis yesterday and Scott was out due to illness. It was a short roster yesterday.
Is Marquis going to be rusty on Wednesday due to the lack of practice?
GM: He will take part in the shoot around on Wednesday. His knee is bothering him so frankly, these couple of days might be good for him to get a little bit of rest. He has got an understanding of what we’re doing. He’ll be fine.
Kansas or Texas…who is better?
GM: They are both really talented. I think that they are both also very deep. We saw that out of Kansas. Coach Self went to his bench early and often. We are going to see a steady diet of that probably because we have a short roster right now. It is going to be a heck of a game. They are both athletic. They both can score on the inside. They both have solid point guard play but in a different way. They are both really talented on the wings. It will a heck of a game. I think that both are very deserving of a top 10 ranking.