Iowa Trying to Keep Smiling Before Purdue

Jan. 6, 2004

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Head Coach Steve Alford is trying to restore the smiles to faces of the Iowa squad. After a four-game stretch that’s yielded just one victory against a team with a 1-7 record, the pressure to produce has become a bit of a hindrance in the mind of the coach.

“I think one thing I hope we’d get back is maybe some more smiles and have a little bit more fun,” Alford said in his press conference on Monday. “I think for whatever reason the team’s been tense.”

Senior guard Brody Boyd agrees with the coach, but he put it another way.

“The more enthusiasm we have out of each player, slapping each other on the butt after a point scored or a D-stop. You know, if you do those things, you’re a better team,” he said. “Hopefully, we can get those rolling again.”

The end-of-preseason emotional crevasse has made both players and coach believe the Hawkeyes need to regain the chip-on-shoulder mentality that led them to a 6-0 opening run before they start Big Ten play at home against Purdue Wednesday at 7 p.m.

“Very much so,” sophomore forward Greg Brunner said. “The beginning of the year we had it and then we started winning games, and then it moved away from us a bit. Now that we’re losing these games, it’s starting to come back and the intensity is picking up a lot in practices.”

“There was a lot that’s happened,” said Alford. “We’ve had a 13-day layoff with Christmas and finals. Then we’ve had the academic situations that we’ve been through. And I think the point of losing a game. We went 6-0 and lost a game, and we were deflated a little bit and started questioning it a little bit.

“Let’s get the freshness back, because it just hasn’t happened,” added the coach. “We’ve worked awfully hard, but we haven’t had that enthusiastic fire we had in late November.”

According to Alford, Iowa hasn’t played its own form of basketball in three weeks, essentially letting opponents control the tempo and direction of the games. So the coach has written two words on the whiteboards inside the Hawkeye locker room: Concentrated Toughness.

“That’s been on our board for three weeks,” Alford said. “Concentrated toughness on both ends. And on one end, it’s been a lot better than it has been on the other. We have to get a lot more concentrated toughness on the offensive end like we’ve had on the defensive end.”

Offensively, concentrated toughness means improving lay-ups and free throws, according to Alford. Iowa has hit 63.7 percent of 218 opportunities, while opponents have converted 69.7 percent for 152 points.

“Our lay-ups and free throws have just been atrocious through the last three or four games,” said Alford. “That makes the offense look uglier. If you don’t make free throws and lay-ups, it makes it really hard on you, especially when you’re playing really good teams.”

Like the coach, Brunner feels the disappointing lay-ups and free throws are the result of a lack of concentration.

“Basically, if you’re lacking in concentration it shows,” he said. “Free throws, lay-ups, everything we’ve been doing wrong, that’s where we use concentrated toughness. We make those things, that’s part of being tough.”

Although Alford was clear about what he wants the team to work on, he was quick to point out the good the Hawks have done recently – another effort to keep the smiles.

“I’ve watched the tape, and we’re doing some good things offensively,” said Alford. “It’s just the finish. If your offense can get you lay-ups and uncontested 15-footers, the offense is doing its job.

“Now you’ve just got to be able to execute those things.”

Barry Pump,