Nothing Good Comes Easy


March 10, 2006

Final Stats | Box Score (PDF)

Editor’s Note: will provide live and free coverage of each post-game press conference featuring Steve Alford during the 2006 Big Ten Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis. The link to the video will be inside Hawkeye All-Access, the multi-media area inside, the official world wide web site of the Iowa Hawkeyes. To get there, click HERE.

INDIANAPOLIS – Jeff Horner led the Iowa Hawkeyes to a hard-fought 67-57 victory over Minnesota in quarterfinal play of the 2006 Big Ten Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament Friday in Conseco Fieldhouse.

Horner scored 26 points on 8-of-13 shooting – a total that included six three-point buckets – grabbed six rebounds, dished out six assists, nabbed five steals, played 40 minutes and, when UM’s Vincent Grier – the game’s leading scorer with 29 points – threatened to take the contest into his own hands, the senior from Mason City asked to guard the Gopher star on the defensive end of the floor.

“Jeff has done it every night out for four years and he did it again tonight. He was tremendous,” UI Coach Steve Alford said after guiding Iowa to its 11th victory all-time in Big Ten Tournament action.

Five points by Horner was the turning point in the game. Trailing 45-41 with 10:33 left to lay, Horner dropped a pair of free throws. He then gave Iowa the lead for good when he sank a three-pointer on the Hawkeyes’ very next possession.

Those five points sparked a 14-4 run by the Hawkeyes, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, who, admittedly, survived a scare from the Gophers, the tournament’s No. 10 seed who had earned the chance to play Iowa by defeating Michigan in first round action Thursday.

“This was hard win and a good win, a very good win,” Alford said of the Hawkeyes’ 23rd win of the 2005-06 season. The win also gave Iowa the season series with the Gophers. Each team had won the regular season game played on their home court.

Alford said he asked his team to give a better effort on the backboard in the second half. Iowa responded by outrebounding the Gophers in the final 20 minutes. They also turned up their defense another notch, an effort that resulted in Minnesota shooting just 38 percent from the field for the game.

Horner was one of only two Iowa players to score in double-digits. Greg Brunner chipped in 16 points. Surprisingly, however, Iowa’s all-time leading rebounder didn’t have a board against the Gophers.

“Jeff has done it every night out for four years and he did it again tonight. He was tremendous.”
UI Coach Steve Alford on senior guard Jeff Horner

Erek Hansen added nine points and a team-high eight rebounds and Adam Haluska added seven points.

Minnesota had 19 more field goal attempts than Iowa, a statistic that was a reflection of the Gophers’ work on the boards and the Hawkeyes’ 18 turnovers. The game’s final outcome might have been different had the Gophers done better than 2-for-16 from behind the arc.

Iowa opened the game with a traditional three-point play from Hansen when he took a loose ball, jammed it and sank the free throw. The Hawkeyes took that lead and built it to nine when Horner knocked down his fourth three-pointer in the first half, giving Iowa a 25-16 lead with just less than six minutes to play.

Minnesota outscored Iowa 14-5 from that point, tying the game at 30-all when Zach Puchtel dropped a lay-up with 18 seconds to play before intermission. The Gopher comeback was sparked by energy from Grier, who scored 12 points in the half, and a 21-13 advantage for the half on the boards.

That advantage resulted in eight more field goal attempts for the Gophers – who needed the extra tries because Iowa’s vaunted defense was in high-gear. Minnesota shot just 39 percent from the field and was often forced to attempt their shot with time running out on the shot clock

Iowa will play the Michigan State in the first game of Saturday’s semifinals. The Spartans defeated Illinois, 61-56, Friday night.

The Iowa-Michigan State game will tip at 12:40 p.m. Iowa time and will be televised live by CBS Sports.

The Hawkeyes split a pair of regular season games with the Spartans. The home team was the winner in all both contests.