By NANCY ARMOUR
AP National Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — This is one victory Steve Alford won’t savor.
Alford got his first win over former coach and mentor Bob Knight with No. 17 Iowa’s 83-53 rout of Texas Tech on Tuesday night, and it was just as strange as Alford imagined it would be.
“Coaches have many, many players, but players only have one college coach,” Alford said. “So I’m happy for the team, I’m happy for the players. But it’s a little bittersweet for me. I still much more enjoy being on Coach Knight’s side than going against him.”
But “The General” has obviously taught his prized pupil well. Iowa (10-1) handed the Red Raiders (5-3) their worst loss since March 9, 2002, when they lost 90-50 to then-No. 1 Kansas in the Big 12 tournament. The 53 points were their fewest since Jan. 11, 2003, when they lost 68-44 to Kansas State.
Iowa had a double-digit lead less than 7 minutes into the game and didn’t let up the rest of the way, harassing the Red Raiders offensively and defensively. Texas Tech shot less than 36 percent and had 21 turnovers, 16 in the first half alone.
Adam Haluska matched his career-high with 21 points, Pierre Pierce added 15 and Erek Hansen had six of Iowa’s 10 blocks, one shy of the school record. It was the seventh straight victory for the Hawkeyes, who won despite an off night from leading scorer Jeff Horner. Horner finished with a season-low seven points, nine below his average, on 3-of-14 shooting.
“Steve’s team, I think they’ve done a really good job with it,” said Knight, who shook hands with his former player after the buzzer sounded.
At least Knight can take comfort knowing that he’s had a hand in Alford’s success.
The two have been intertwined for more than 20 years, since Alford played for Knight at Indiana from 1983-87. Alford helped Knight win 92 games and the 1987 national championship, and played for him on the U.S. team that won gold at the 1984 Olympics.
Though the two didn’t speak at length for almost four years after Alford became head coach at Iowa in 1999, any rift has long since been repaired. Alford said earlier this week he has the “utmost respect” for Knight, and he often seeks his mentor’s advice, sending him tapes of his team or asking the best way to deal with certain players.
“He’s helped me in a vast number of ways,” Alford said. “We’re trying to emulate a lot of what they do.”
The two downplay the ups and downs of their relationship – Knight went into a profanity-filled tirade when an ESPN reporter asked about it before last year’s game, later apologizing – and there’s a picture of them shaking hands in the Texas Tech media guide.
They smiled and laughed as they shook hands before Tuesday’s game, and Knight draped his left arm around Alford’s shoulder while they talked. At one point, Alford patted his old coach on the elbow.
Still, for all of Alford’s love and respect for Knight, the Hawkeyes wanted this win for him. And wanted it badly.
“That’s Coach’s mentor, and it’s always big to beat your coach,” Haluska said. “It’s just a tribute to Coach Knight and what he has done and what he has passed on to Coach Alford.”
Iowa didn’t waste any time taking control of the game, with Haluska leading the way. He hit a 7-foot jumper three minutes in, grabbed the rebound on the other end and made a 3-pointer. He then poked the ball away from Jackson and took it in for a layup, drawing a foul in the process. He made the free throw, capping his own 8-0 run.
Next he fed Pierce on an 8-foot bank shot, then made another 3 to give Iowa a 15-6 lead with 13:59 left in the first half. Texas Tech never threatened again.
“It’s a big win, a huge win, for our program and what it means for our team, getting 10 wins with the schedule we played,” Alford said. “Personally, it’s probably more uncomfortable than it is comfortable right now.”