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March 9, 2007

Steve Alford

Adam Haluska

Tyler Smith


COACH STEVE ALFORD: We obviously didn't play very well, and I think Purdue had a lot to do with that. So my congratulations to Purdue. They were the better defensive team today. It's almost a reversal of the last time we played them. I thought we did a much better job the first time against their bench, and this time it was 25-to-8, their bench dominated us. I thought our defense, our guys did a better job in game one defending, and this game Purdue was the better defensive team. We couldn't make a free throw, couldn't make a three, and I think that ended up making for a pretty lopsided outing.

Q. Adam, you've had two tough games now against Purdue. Any difference?
ADAM HALUSKA: No, I just thought they defended well as a team. I thought for the most part they got after all of us, and it's just one of those things where the ball wasn't going down. But it started on our defensive end. I thought we did a poor job, and it definitely wasn't a good performance overall for our team.

Q. Tyler, do you think you guys were nervous? Was there any reason why Purdue was kind of the aggressor today?
TYLER SMITH: I don't think so. It's just their defense. They get up into you, and we had no pressure for them today.

Q. Adam, just talk if you could about kind of your thoughts walking off the court, your last Big Ten game.
ADAM HALUSKA: It's disappointing. I think we had high hopes of coming in here and doing some damage. I was definitely looking forward to playing tomorrow and going on and playing on Sunday, as well. But with an effort like that it just wasn't very fun out there to give that kind of effort. We definitely played bad, and it's just not one of our best efforts.

Q. Talk a little bit about how are you guys going to rebound now and kind of regroup for an NIT.
ADAM HALUSKA: I think first of all, we've just got to come in and have the right mindset. It's the next step that's going to be our next game, and our next opportunity to win a championship. I think this team is highly capable of going in there and trying to win that thing. It wouldn't be bad to go in there and end the season on a win, I'll tell you that. There's only two teams in the entire nation that's going to end with a win. I wouldn't mind doing that, especially my last year.

Q. Adam, what's been the difference with this team between home and road? You know, last week looking so good against Illinois. It just seems like on the road this season it's been consistent and it's been a struggle at times?
ADAM HALUSKA: I think that's a mystery we've got to figure out ourselves. Coach alluded to it in the locker room. We play so well at home, and it seems like when we go on the road or even at a neutral site, the energy is not there. I think especially our defense. Forget the shooting; if you can't guard you're not going to win games.

Q. Tyler, how tough was Carl Landry today? Seemed like he really did a good job of setting the tone down there in the paint.
TYLER SMITH: Yeah, we did a great job on him at home. We knew he was going to come back today and try to give us his best effort to our big man. We just wasn't helping him out a lot.

Q. Did you have any sense in practice this week that this was going to happen?
COACH STEVE ALFORD: No. I think Purdue really played well. Sometimes you've got to congratulate who you play. I think they played -- they came out, they made shots. You're on a neutral site, a place you haven't been in, and they make shots early and we don't, and they got a ten-point lead early and then really it never went -- we got it to nine or ten, they got it to 13 a couple times.
It got to the position it was real late in the game when we were fouling. But it was really the first five, six, seven minutes. Once they got their lead, it really stayed there throughout. One team had a good start to things and the other team kind of got on their heels.
You've got to give credit to Purdue. Their defense was very solid, they were aggressive. But I think the first half -- we're down 13 at half and we really should be down about six or seven.
But our foul shooting was atrocious today. That's something that has been really good. We were 10 for 19 the first half with two front ends that were missed, so that's really 10 for 21. That's really bad foul shooting, and that's something that's been really good for us all year. If you shoot 19 free throws in the half, it's hard for me to be upset with our offense because we got to the free throw line, we just didn't make foul shots. We had guys miss two in a row. I think that lets the air out of your offense a little bit.
And then their two big guns had big nights. I think, what did they combine, 35 and 19 out of their two big guns. (Tarrance) Crump was better tonight for them, their bench outplayed our bench. So there's a lot of reasons but nothing that we saw in practice. We practiced well, we're healthy. I think it was a situation where one team got off to a better start and then we just couldn't catch them.

Q. It seemed like you sensed the team was not in the right mindset early in the game. You called a time-out and gave it to them pretty good. What could you tell about how come they didn't respond to that?
COACH STEVE ALFORD: Well, I never called a timeout. My first timeout was with 25 seconds to go in the first half. I didn't call time. Maybe I should have (laughing). But I just thought that we were on our heels and then we talked about that all week, that we don't -- you can't come into a one-and-done setting and be on your heels.
You've got to give Purdue credit. They were the more aggressive team today, and because of their aggressiveness they got a win.
I think our inexperience, you look at some of the guys playing in their first Big Ten Tournament, and it was pretty telling. Other than maybe Kurt (Looby) and Tyler (Smith), the other guys kind of struggled with things. Mike (Henderson) never got in the flow being a senior, and playing in his fourth tournament. I don't think he got in the flow very much.
I liked what Tony (Freeman) did. I thought Tony did some good things. I thought Kurt really battled. I thought Kurt did some good things for us.

Q. Talk about the NIT a little bit looking ahead. Talk about the differences in the tournament now. In the old days you guys had probably known you would host a game there, with the seating and the way things could go now, you guys could end up with quick turnaround travel. Talk about the differences in the NIT.
COACH STEVE ALFORD: Well, it's a lot better now than what it's been five, six, seven years ago. I think having a 32-team field and having it bracketed, the way they do things now it's a lot better than you play a game and then you try to figure out where you're playing again and who you're playing. It's much more organized by a group that I think has been in college basketball and I think understood college basketball. So I think that's all helped this tournament.
This is going to be a good tournament for our guys, it really is. They're down right now, we're down. We were a bubble team coming in, and that pops our bubble, so that's never fun.
With that said, this team has done a lot of good things. I look at what they've done in the league this year. To finish fourth in the league, to get a fourth seed in the tournament. Nobody ever likes to play one game in this tournament, but we lose in the quarterfinals. We played ourselves into a quarterfinal match-up. It was our non-lead that got us. Play 14 games, you go 8-and-6, Mike was never in the flow because of an injury, that really affects, and we're so young.
We had some losses that hurt us. Obviously the loss at Drake hurts, the loss at Arizona State hurts, the home loss to Northern Iowa. Those were losses that they end up -- if you get those back, now you're sitting here at 20 and 11, a little bit different scenario after finishing fourth in the Big Ten.
We understand that, but all in all, I'm very pleased with what this group of guys were able to do. They've been great to coach and a lot of fun to see how they've advanced during the course of the year. Hopefully we'll be upset for a while, but we're not going to find anything out until Sunday evening. So we'll probably take tomorrow off, practice Sunday, and then late Sunday afternoon into the evening we'll find out who we're playing.
That's part of college basketball, you've got to move on. We get beat at Penn State, we've got to turn around and beat a very good Illinois team. We did that. We beat a good Illinois team. Got to turn around and play a good Purdue team, we lose. We have to get up off the floor and try to get another win.

Q. This team looked like it grew up a lot between the middle of December and middle of February. What was that? Was it simply Tyler or are the young guys all in unison because you knew what you had in Adam?
COACH STEVE ALFORD: I give a lot of credit to Adam (Haluska). There were a lot of question marks at the beginning of the year of just his leadership because he's such a great guy, and sometimes when you're in a leadership role there's times you've got to be a bad guy.
That's what I'm most appreciative of. I think the key was Adam's leadership. You lose Jeff [Horner] and Bru [Greg Brunner] and Erek [Hansen] and Doug [Thomas] and Justin [Wieck], those were all guys that not only were getting to play, Justin wasn't getting to play a lot, but he's on our staff now, and he's just a kid that everybody respected, and that group was really respected. Adam was that one guy coming back.
(Henderson) was going to help but Mike's injury kind of slowed things. So I think a big key was Adam.
And then the Michigan game. I don't know if they -- they had nothing to build on because a lot of these guys weren't here last year. They had nothing to build on for success away from Carver. Now, I will give them credit, doing what they did at Carver against the competition we did it against was very impressive. On the road they've struggled, but I think the Michigan game kind of turned them around and we were able to get them a win at Minnesota, play well at Wisconsin, play well on the road, so I think that was probably the turning point of the season, but I think Adam's ability to lead was a big key for us.

Q. I know you have the NIT, but talk a little bit about the future of this program in terms of Tyler. You mentioned Justin a little bit. Talk about going forward now.
COACH STEVE ALFORD: Well, I think our young guys are getting better. Obviously there's some of them that didn't perform well tonight, but all in all, we got our entire front line back. And all of our front line, really including Seth, was going through their first tournament experience here. This was their first tournament experience.
(Carl) Landry is a fifth year senior. I mean, he understands what it's about and he understood about trying to get to the NCAA Tournament and having a chance to do that. But I think having that whole front line, having a spring and summer and fall to work and continue to get better.
You have David Palmer who's practiced with us all year, and he really gives us an inside presence that can score because he's got a great scoring mentality. You have Jared Cole and Josh Crawford, who continue to develop. So all of a sudden we go from being kind of an inexperienced front line to not only having experience but being big. It'll be a big team.
And we have to try to fill the void of Adam Haluska. That's never easy, but I think you see Tony starting to emerge as a scorer. I think Justin will score more, Tyler will be asked to score more, and then obviously we have some of these new guards coming in. We're still out there I think trying to get another point guard.
So I think all in all, we're pretty excited about that. I'm probably most excited about the experience they've gotten so far this year and seeing how they're growing and maturing. Now the trick is to try and get some postseason play out of them. The more games we can play, the better, and that's something we've got to work on here once we find that out on Sunday.

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