Iowa State will look to win two in a row on Wednesday when the Cyclone men head to Baylor. To preview this game, head coach Greg McDermott met with members of the media earlier today. Here’s the transcript of his press conference found only at CycloneFanatic.com.
Opening Comments We did win. Which was great news. I was really proud of the way that our guys battled back. Obviously, we have some issues to starting games that we have to figure out. I know that we have to make some changes in our preparation or make a change in our lineup. Those are really the two options. Obviously, Scott Christopherson is new to the starting lineup. That is going to take some time to get used to because he is a guy that was giving us a lift off of the bench. I still think that from a personnel standpoint, that is the best way for us to go. We will continue to evaluate that as we move forward. If we have to go to the bench quicker than we have been, then so be it. We will try to get that fixed. There were some really good stretches in parts of that game both in the first half and in the second half, plays that we made on both ends of the floor. We defended Colorado very well. They were scoring a lot of points. They get back-cuts every game and we were able to limit that, which means that our guys are paying attention to the details that we give them in practice as we prepare for a team like Colorado. That one is in the rearview mirror now, ready to move ahead to a very good Baylor team. As you look at the conference standings, there are always teams that’s schedule has favored the and you think that their record is a little bit better than they really are. And then there are other teams you look at and say that they’re a little bit better than their conference record. I think that Baylor is one of those teams. As you look at who they have played…they lost a close game to Colorado. They played Kansas as close as anybody has played Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. And then lose a really close game to Kansas State that could have gone either way. And then winning at Texas, which is very difficult to do. They are as athletic and long across that front line as anybody that we will see all season. With that, you have two experienced guards in Tweety Cater and LaceDarius Dunn, who are scoring at a really high level. They are really committed to this 2-3 zone and they have caused havoc with a lot of teams they have played because of their ability to turn you over with their length. That is something that is difficult for us to simulate in practice with the roster that we have now but we have to do as good of a job as we can over the next couple of days to prepare for that. I think that it is going to be important, like as it was against Colorado’s zone, that we get into the teeth of that defense and try to establish Craig down low. I think for us to go and win at Baylor, we are going to have to shoot it better than we did against Colorado. Scott had some good looks from the 3-point line that he didn’t knock down. I think that we are going to have to shoot a little bit better if we want to be successful in Waco.
How are you going to change your preparation to avoid those bad starts?
GM: We just have to mix something up. Sometimes it can just be as simple as changing your pregame routine, when I talk to them…maybe we talk to them a little shorter and get them out there quicker. Maybe we change what we do when we get out there. That is something that we are working through right now. Sometimes just a change in routine in itself will cure the problem.
How do you adjust with Scott Christopherson’s illness?
GM: What you have seen so far is what we are doing. He obviously told you that he has mono. We got the word the day before Kansas. He was probably playing with it for a week to 10 days before that. He didn’t want to tell anybody because he was afraid that he would get shelved and not be able to play. It is amazing that he is playing through it. I’ve had it. I had it when I was a freshman in college. I was in bed for five weeks. I didn’t do anything. So to think that he is able to do this is a testament to how tough he is and how bad he wants to be on that floor for us. If he is going to wear himself out on game night, then we have got to really cut back on what he does in practice. Basically, if we practice four days a week, he is practicing two of those. In those two days that he does practice, those reps are at 25 percent of the time. We have to keep him as fresh as possible. Yesterday, he was begging to get into they gym to get extra shots up. I told him, “You’ve got to stay away.” We have got to get him though it. As you know, it is a four to six week deal. We aren’t close to the end yet.
Chris Colvin has been playing well hasn’t he?
GM: I have been very pleased with Chris. Obviously, I wouldn’t have lifted the suspension to start with if I wasn’t happy with the place that he was and the progress that he has made. He was told, when I lifted the suspension, that he’d be the last guy off of the bench and that his minutes would depend on game situations. That’s been the case in the three or four games that he has played in. I couldn’t be prouder of the way that he has been practicing, his attitude on the bench when he comes out of the game, how he has interacted with his teammates on the bench and on the floor. I would like to think that what we hoped the suspension would accomplish, has been accomplished. He values more his opportunity to play college basketball and wear the Iowa State uniform. Those are the changes that I wanted to see and at least until today, that has been the case.
What about progress on the floor?
GM: I think that he is just playing with more confidence. I think that before, he felt the weight of the world on his shoulders. He had to go out there and he had to produce because he was a backup. If he didn’t produce, he was coming out of the game. I think that led him, maybe to go down a road where he was trying to create things when they weren’t there. He was trying to make defensive plays that were outside of our defensive plan for that game. I think that he has learned to trust us a little bit more, trust our system, trust our plan and understand that there are plenty of opportunities, as we saw the other night, for him to make the plays that he can make, with what we are trying to do. It was encouraging on Saturday to see Craig Brackins get easy baskets as a result of what Chris was able to do. Those easy baskets are going to fuel the other part of Craig’s game. Chris had his eye on him the entire time. When we needed a basket, Chris made sure that he got him the ball.
Some say that when working around a double-team, if the guy can pass it back out, and then get it back again, that is sometimes effective. Are you guys doing that well enough?
GM: Probably not. Part of it has been, we’ve turned it over some when we throw it in there against the double-team. Some of the turnovers are because Craig is maybe a little bit too quick to react and not allow his teammates to get in the spots that they need to be to make the defense pay for it. And often times, it is his teammates not being in the right spot. It is important when you are double-teamed, that you know where your teammates are on the floor. You don’t have time, and a lot of times, you don’t have good enough vision to know exactly, if guys are cutting around, where the defense is. If you know that one of your teammates is cutting to the basket and three are spacing the floor or you know where they are going to be, you can get it out of there and make them pay for it. There hasn’t been enough times where it has gone in there, we have been double-teamed and we’ve thrown it back. A lot of that is because Craig has dribbled away from the pressure and left the block. That gets back to the point of being a little bit more patient when he catches it in there.
Has the frustration been growing, when he gets double-teamed?
GM: I think there was a point where it was continuing to grow but I have seen a change in him over the course of the past three or four games. He is a little bit more at ease with what is going on. He understands that he can impact the game in other ways if he is not scoring because of the double-team. That was never more evident than in the Oklahoma game, where we were struggling in the first half and he was the first guy to pop off the bench and was encouraging the guys in the huddle. His actions at halftime in the locker room when we had not played well, were exactly how you would want your leader to act. He seems to have made a transformation in that regard. I think that the Colorado game was good for him. It was a boost of confidence that if I get opportunities, if I work hard, my teammates will get me the ball and I can beat some of those double-teams. Colorado was coming with double-teams but often times Craig was able to make a move before they got there.
Is what you are getting out of Justin Hamilton, exactly what you had envisioned?
GM: I probably envisioned this at the start of the season. He probably didn’t get off to as good of a start as I would have hoped. As I look back, sometimes when you play those teams in the non-conference, they don’t have a true center. Often times, they have a 6-foot-6, power forward and sometimes more of a small forward that is playing center for them. That just becomes a difficult matchup for Justin on the defensive end of the floor. As a result, maybe you can’t play him the amount of minutes that you’d want to get him in the flow of it. Since we have started playing after Christmas, our competition has been pretty good. Since the Christmas break, he has played his best basketball. I really thought that his energy at the start of the game kept our ship from totally sinking because he was continuing to make hustle plays and getting his hand on basketballs and getting rebounds. He his a good free throw shooter and he picks his spots offensively very well. I couldn’t be more pleased with the way that he is playing. He is making progress at a level that we hoped he would. I think that our fans are seeing that he has a chance to be a pretty special player before it is all over.
Do we feel like he should be better forgetting that he really got a late start?
GM: He hasn’t played a lot of basketball in his life still. You know, there are things that come naturally to a lot of players that he is still learning because he didn’t grow up playing AAU basketball in sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th grade. He learned to play the game when he was 15-16 years old. As a result, he doesn’t have a lot of terrible habits. There were not a lot of things that we had to break. There are some feel for the game things that you get, over the test of time by playing a lot. Some of those things are still coming to him. He is much better than he was a year ago. He has assumed a leadership role on our team, which has been good to see.