Nov. 10, 2004
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IOWA CITY, IA. — On Monday, Head Coach Steve Alford made a promise. He guaranteed that the score at Wednesday’s exhibition game against Upper Iowa would be higher than the 27 points Iowa scored against the Peacocks in the 1901-02 season.
He was right. The Hawkeyes opened the 2004-2005 season with a 84-43 win over Upper Iowa in the 2004 Miracle Game.
However, it took a little effort in the first half.
Upper Iowa struck first and kept a two-point lead through the first 10 minutes of the first half with eight points from John Banks and five apiece from guards Eric Ritter and Aaron Carter.
But when junior Jeff Horner made a driving layup at 9:27 to tie the score at 15, the Hawkeyes pulled away with a 20-0 run with Pierre Pierce grabbing nine points and freshman Carlton Reed adding five more.
Pierce went 5-of-12 for 13 points in the first half, and Reed had eight for a 40-24 Iowa lead at halftime. Pierce had a game-high 19 points.
“We finally picked it up and matched their intensity,” Horner said. “We knew they were going to come out and play really hard. We needed to do the same thing, but finally something clicked with us and we started to run and our transition game really picked us up.”
Alford said his starters were anxious to get the season underway in their first game against an opponent this season.
“They just didn’t seem as sharp as we would have liked, and we were awfully sharp in practice yesterday,” the coach said. “I just thought that it took about eight minutes to get our legs and wind underneath us.”
The coach also said that the offense was helped by the entry of Reed, a guard, and junior transfer Doug Thomas at forward.
“In the locker room I told the team that I thought our subs were a lot more patient offensively than our starters were,” Alford said. “I thought the subs came in and really settled us. Carlton was terrific in the first half, and Doug had a great game for us in 19 minutes. He did a lot of good things.”
Thomas went 7-of-10 from the field for 16 points and eight rebounds in 19 minutes, which “sparked” the team according to Pierce.
“I think I played fairly well for how many minutes I got,” Thomas said. “I just look forward to being the Ben Wallace – the beast, getting the dunk, the occasional rebound or good play and get my teammates involved. I’m not a selfish person, if I get my points I get my points, but I’m looking to get my teammates in the game.”
Thomas said he had been working on hook and jump shots prior to Wednesday’s game and that his practice paid off.
“Everyone knows I can get a dunk in, but I think I impressed some people with my jump shot and my hook shot,” the 6-foot-8, 245-pounder said. “I’ve been working on a lot of things with Coach (Brian) Jones. And Coach Alford has been telling me that my strength is to go inside, so the hook shot can be a good shot for me, and I really tried to hit everything and get those shots down pat.”
Alford said that Thomas’ role will be one of the lead “energy guys.”
“I think that’s got to be one of his roles,” he said. “I think he’s an electrifying type of player. I thought he did that tonight. He made great post moves and ran the floor. He rebounded well, and I had been wanting to see if there was a carryover from the Black and Gold Blowout and there was. I really liked what he did.”
“I think he’s an electrifying type of player. I thought he did that tonight. He made great post moves and ran the floor. He rebounded well, and I had been wanting to see if there was a carryover from the Black and Gold Blowout and there was. I really liked what he did.”
Head Coach Steve Alford on Doug Thomas
Iowa’s defense, though, really slowed up the Upper Iowa offense after that first 10-minute stretch. For the game, the Peacocks mustered just 17 baskets and five free throws.
“I thought their help defense was really good,” Upper Iowa coach Dave Martin said. “There was always a defender there, and they’re long and athletic and it makes it tough.
“(Coach Alford) is going to have a nice team this year,” Martin added. “There are a lot of weapons on the floor.”
Horner said the defense really keyed the first-half run.
“We just came out and decided to play defense, and that’s why we ran away with it,” he said. “We finally got into them and gave them some pressure and forced a lot of turnovers. That was definitely a key to the game.”
“The defense was pretty solid through the 40-minute game,” Alford said. “I can’t remember a four-minute segment where our defense was really bad. I thought it was pretty good throughout.”
Alford reported Wednesday that guard Adam Haluska looks ready to go by Sunday’s second exhibition game against Laval University on Sunday. Freshman center Seth Gorney, however, will be ready by the middle of next week, according to the coach.
Iowa will play one more exhibition game, against Laval, before opening regular season play against Western Illinois at 7:05 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 19.
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com