The Iowa State men’s basketball team beat Iowa 81-71 on Friday night in Hilton Coliseum. With the win, the Cyclones snapped a three game losing steak as finals week is approaching.
After the game, Iowa State head coach Greg McDermott met with members of the media. Here’s the Q&A as McDermott addresses the Iowa win and the state of Iowa State’s program.
What did you see differently from Craig tonight than what you saw from him last year in this game or even over the last couple of weeks?
GM: He really practiced well this week. Our practices were competitive. They were enthusiastic. I think that the guys understand the areas that we have to improve upon if we want to come close to reaching any of our aspirations. We got back to some of that. We had a chance to work on ourselves this week. We haven’t really had an opportunity to do that because of the number of games we played in a short period of time and all of the prep that we had. This week was certainly more about us than it was about Iowa. I thought that we were back to playing the way that we were capable of at least for some pretty good stretches tonight. It certainly is not a finished product but we will get there.
Was that trip to Cal maybe the wake up call that this team needed?
GM: I don’t know if that was it. I think that it was a culmination of how we lost the Northwestern game when we had a lead and a chance to put it away. How we led virtually the entire Northern Iowa game and let that get away at the end. That is tough on any team. It is really tough on a team that is trying to find itself. Then, the Cal game, we had opportunities and didn’t finish the half. We got down six or seven and let their experience really get to us in the guard court in the second half. Without a question, there was some reflection that took place as we entered practice on Monday. We spend the first hour and a half in the theater room just talking. No TV on. No film on. Just everybody having an opportunity to talk everyone know how they feel. Coaches and players, it was a good way to start the week. We were able to build from there.
Can you describe how the atmosphere tonight helped your team out?
GM: It was awesome. We had some guys flying around. I was at the women’s game last night and Denae Stuckey didn’t score a point but she impacted the game more than anybody I have ever seen without scoring a point. Our fans appreciate that. We have a lot of hard working people who buy tickets to our games and they expect to see hard work on the floor. I think that happened today. Lucca Staiger was diving around. Charles Boozer, Chris Colvin came off the bench and gave us great energy. LaRon Dendy and Marquis, the way that they were flying around. That’s the stuff that has to be a constant. The fans can feel that but I would rather us feel the fans with out energy.
Do you feel the pressure personally when the heat is on you on the Internet? How do you respond to that and how do you react to that?
GM: Well the first thing I’ll say is that we don’t read the Internet stuff so I am not aware of that. Usually, often times, sometimes that is accurate, sometimes it’s not. You are never quite as good as people say you are and you’re never quite as bad as people say you are. That’s the way that I feel. It is important when you are in an environment like we are where it is a public situation that there are some things that you have to keep within your family. You have to figure them out within your family and you can’t take your laundry outside. You’ve got to sort it out in the room. That’s what we were able to do. This is a good group of guys. They really care about Iowa State. They care about each other. Nobody’s expectations on the outside are bigger than what we have within that locker room. We are more disappointed than any one of our fans because of what transpired over the past couple of weeks and that’s why we worked hard to fix it this past week.
Does winning a game like this help ease some of the pressure?
GM: I don’t feel that. I really don’t. I am worried about getting my team ready. I don’t feel that stuff. I never have and I never will because if you do as a player or a coach, you’re going to allow it to impact your job. You can’t let outside influences affect the decisions that you make or you aren’t going to be in this profession very long.
Will this win help bring the team’s confidence back?
GM: It helps, without question. I think there will be a bounce in our step that we haven’t had. When you lose games in the fashion that we lost them, it can shake your confidence. To these guys credit, they persevered. They worked hard and were able to come out of it and play some pretty good basketball for stretches tonight.
That hour and a half meeting on Monday…Can you elaborate what it was like?
GM: Everybody had an opportunity to talk about how they feel and about their role on the team. About how they feel they need to do better. If they had problems with their teammates, that was the time for them to air those problems. I think what came out of it is that we just realize that nobody is perfect. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I make mistakes in the way I treat players sometimes. I make mistakes during the course of practice or during games just like any coach does. Nobody is claiming to be perfect. But let’s try to sort out our imperfections and try to correct them the best that we can as a unit. We took strides in that area this week.