As he does each and every week, Greg McDermott met with members of the local media on Monday to discuss the state of his basketball program. Iowa State will travel to Texas Tech on Wednesday evening and look to win their second Big 12 road game in a row. Below is a transcript of today’s press conference.
With the week that we had to start the Big 12, I am pretty pleased to be 1-1. When you have to play the number one team in the country at home and then go on the road to a team that has only lost one game at home to the number three team in the country, we knew that it was going to be a tough task so to come out of it 1-1 and find a way to win a grind it out game at Nebraska, which is something that we haven’t shown that we are very good at this season with a loss to Northwestern and Northern Iowa in games very similar to that, I was very pleased and happy with our guys. It is a great shot in the arm confidence wise having played well against Texas, leading them at halftime. It was a four-point game with 10 minutes to go and anybody’s game. There was a lot of positive that we could take out of that. The fashion that which we were able to win against Nebraska, we got off to a big start with a big lead, gave it away and then were down five with 10 minutes to go. We were able to find a way to come back and win that game. From a confidence standpoint, I think that we are in a pretty good place. Obviously, with only eight available scholarship players, the playing time issues kind of go away because everybody kind of gets to play. You don’t have to spend much time thinking about different combinations and rotations that you could possibly have on the floor because guys are tired and they need a break more often than not. I am good with where we are at. I feel good about our mindset going into Texas Tech. Texas Tech is a team, like Nebraska that has only lost one game at home all season. That was an overtime loss to Missouri. They play with great confidence and energy at home. Robertson, I think really makes them go with his ability to score in transition and shoot the 3-point shot and create for his teammates. Everybody saw what Singletary did in the Big 12 Tournament last year against A&M where he scored 29 straight points. That is what he is capable of doing if you lose track of it. Those aren’t their only two scorers. It is going to be a heck of a challenge for us but it is something that I think our guys are really excited about. It can put us in a pretty good position if we can find a way to go on the road and get another victory.
Has Marquis Gilstrap been what you expected him to be at this point in the season?
GM: Probably that and some more. I probably wouldn’t have guessed that he would rebound with the consistency that he has rebounded with at this level. To open up the Big 12 portion of his career with two double-doubles, you don’t see that very often. He has been more aggressive going to the offensive glass than he was earlier in the season yet he continues to be a solid defensive rebounder for us. He has proven he can score in a lot of ways. He has hit some timely 3-point shots. He picks and chooses his spots there. There are times where he lets one fly in transition where I kind of cringe. But for the most part, he has been able to decide when and where it is a good shot for our team.
You found Gilstrap while scouting Brad Reese. Is that how that happened?
GM: Yes. We had had Brad Reese visit us in March after his freshman year because Brad was a high school qualifier. He talked of possibly coming out and having three years left to play. Then, Brad decided that he was going to go back to school. In July, Brad had second thoughts and contacted us. At that time he was saying that there was a possibility that maybe he would still come out if we had a scholarship and at that time, we did. We watched Brad play a little bit more in July. We were very up front and honest with Jay Powell, his junior college coach, as to Brad’s contact with us and then he did contact us. Here is a guy who is supposed to be back on his campus in six weeks. Through those conversations, Jay made us aware of Marquis Gilstrap, that he had seen him play somewhere and recommended that we find a way to see him play. We had an opportunity to see him at a junior college event outside of Atlanta. Coach Robinson was able to see him play as well. Then, we found out the connection with Kantrail Horton. It kind of just fell in our lap from that standpoint. It was through our recruitment and the relationship that our staff developed with his junior college coach that allowed us to land Marquis. Both guys are good players. Brad is getting better every game for Texas Tech and obviously Marquis is doing some great things for us.
Will you try to run with Texas Tech at all? They’ll try to run on you won’t they?
GM: I don’t think there is any question that they will. We have to pick our spots because there are some opportunities to score in transition. I think that much like the Texas game, when the opportunity is there; we have to take advantage of it. In the first half verses Nebraska, we had some opportunities in transition a few times where we score and a few times where we got put backs in transition. That is the way our guys play the best. We have to allow them to do it. We have to be careful that when it’s not there that we grind a little offense and if we are going to rest, we rest a little on the offense and not the defensive end. In the Nebraska game during that second half where there were no TV timeouts until the under 12, it was 11:30 when we got our first TV timeout, in some ways that was a blessing in disguise for us. There were two TV timeouts and Coach Sadler took a timeout in that stretch that allowed some of our tired legs to maybe get refreshed.
LaRon Dendy is playing much better basketball now than he was coming off of that injury. What have you seen out of him?
GM: He is more consistent both with his focus and his effort. I think that the effort thing is more consistent because he is in better shape. When it looked like he wasn’t playing very hard before, I think that fatigue was a huge factor. He has gotten in better condition and as a result can play for longer periods of time with that energy that he brings to the floor every time he comes on. He is just one of those guys who is going to make a mistake but he can also recover and make a play after the mistake. He has been able to erase some of his teammates mistakes. Not only blocking shots but there was a key point at the end of the Nebraska game where Craig Brackins went for a shot fake on Ryan Anderson. He took one dribble and LaRon got off of his man, got a hand up and changed the shot. That ended up being a big miss and a huge play in that game.
Are you going to shorten practices for a while?
GM: We will go a little bit longer two days before the game but we are keeping it really short the day before a game. Frankly, the fact that we are practicing in the morning on Tuesdays, the day before the game, that little extra rest time I think is good for us. With Martin Luther King Day today, we are going to practice this afternoon. Tomorrow, we will go from 10 to 11:30. Then, the guys almost have a full day and a half of recovery time before we play.
Is your team mentally tougher now than they were two weeks ago?
GM: I think so. I think what transpired at Nebraska helps you get mentally tougher. We were spending a lot of time on rebounding before. We spend even more time on it. We have gone backwards and taken an even more elementary approach to rebounding in practice. We are seeing some signs of that paying off. We rebounded pretty well against Texas. We outrebounded Nebraska by eight or nine. That is something that we weren’t doing. If we are going to have a chance to succeed in this league, we are going to have to find a way to stay even on the backboards. We have done a good job of keeping our opponents off of the free throw line, expect for the end of the Texas game where we had to put them on the line. We would have shot more free throws than they attempted as well. Texas Tech is a team that is making 20 free throws a game. We are a team that our opponents are only making 10 free throws a game. Something has got to give there. I hope that we are mentally tough enough to keep them off the free throw line. That is going to be a key stat to that game on Wednesday.