Q. Talk about your team’s resolve. You found a way to pull this out.
COACH McCAFFERY: Well, you know, I think the thing that really impressed me tonight about this team, and I think what ends up happening is we tend to in a game like this focus on that point to the end. Down 10, then what happens?
It’s a 40‑minute game, okay? The way we defended in the first 10 minutes is the best we’ve defended since I’ve been here. We get up 15‑3. This is a good team, phenomenally well‑coached team. You know they’re going to come back. They made it hard for us. Mixed in a little bit of zone. We adjusted.
Then the second half starts. We score three right away, get back to even. They hit some shots to go up 10. We out‑rebound them, commit one turnover in the second half. We didn’t panic when we got down 10. We whittle away at it, plenty of time.
We made the plays we had to make out of the stretch and we rebounded out of the zone, which oftentimes when you’re running flare screen action, spreading the floor, that’s problematic. But I thought Aaron and Zach in particular and then our guards got in there and Marble and Matt really made some plays. And I thought Cartwright was excellent.
Q. How would you describe the play‑making you had down the stretch with Marble?
COACH McCAFFERY: Well, you know, it’s interesting. They were switching so we ran one action to try to create the switch. Marble just took it down and dunked it. They got a little separated. Then when we got the stop, we’re thinking, Okay, are they going to foul, let him play out? I think it was a six‑ or seven‑second differential. They let it play out.
Dev just went and made a play. At that point in time, you got to go make a play. They were scrambling. We’re in a double bonus. It’s going to have to be a pretty good foul to get a call there, but you have to put your head down and go. What a great play he made. Great finish by Matt. Then defensively we did what we had to do.
Q. Talk about the spark you got from Mel off the bench.
COACH McCAFFERY: I thought he was terrific both halves. His energy level was really good. We needed an athlete in this game. This is a very athletic team. They’re bigger than we are. We needed the length of Mel and his athletic power. And he gave it to us in a big way.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH McCAFFERY: He’s a really good player. He did the same thing up there. We had like a seven‑point lead. He kept hitting shots. He’s sacrificing himself to play the point guard for that team and doing a great job of it.
In the zone, he’s a great catch‑and‑shoot three‑point shooter. A couple of times we would have liked to have been a little bit closer to him. We marked him and we were there, but we weren’t far enough ’cause he’s just going to catch it and fire. Fortunately we had enough left.
Q. Eric May’s back situation?
COACH McCAFFERY: He couldn’t go yesterday. He went Monday. He couldn’t go yesterday. He just said he didn’t think he could get anything done.
I appreciate his honesty. A lot of guys would have suited up and tried to go. I would have put him in there because he’s always played well against these guys. He didn’t feel like he could go, so we’ll give him some rest.
Q. After Sunday’s game where you obviously weren’t happy with the defense, after two days of practice, they come out and play with a lot more intensity.
COACH McCAFFERY: You know, they’re a group that has great character. They want to do what we’re asking them to do. They want to be successful. They make mistakes sometimes. I get on them. Everybody sort of assumed Monday was going to be this phenomenally intense screaming and yelling session. There was a little bit of that.
But it’s a teaching opportunity because it’s not all toughness, it’s not all lack of concentration. On some level it’s got to be a technique, a fundamental. That’s on us. So we’ve got to go back. We broke down every aspect of defense, kind of like it was the first week of practice, five minutes here, seven minutes there, six minutes here, reteach it, make sure we’re doing it right, then force them to come with the intensity level you need to be successful in this league.
That’s what they did, so…
Q. How much did you like Devyn’s maturity?
COACH McCAFFERY: That’s what Devyn Marble is. He’s a playmaker. He’s really, I think, becoming somebody that really understands what that situation was and how to be successful possession by possession, what do we need. Did we really need that three there? Yeah, we kind of did. We were down five. We just missed two free throws. That changed everything. Now we got a stop, then a dunk.
They were so worried about switching, taking away any open shot, switching is an opportunity to drive because the X is on the O. So we tell our guys, whenever they’re switching men, put it on the deck and go, especially when you’re in the double bonus.
He knew that. He goes and makes a play. He knew that on the last possession. In a situation like that, they really don’t want to foul him. He just made a great pass and a great finish by Matt.
Q. Regarding the toughness, something you questioned after the game Sunday, how would you describe it after tonight?
COACH McCAFFERY: Well, I would say that we were phenomenally tough and it shows you that we’re capable of playing like that on a regular basis. We talked about toughness. We also talked about consistency. What I said was, we have been tough at times. We have not been consistently tough. We have been tough in games, but not necessarily in the next game and the next game.
I think that’s the challenge. That sort of epitomizes this league. The teams that can rev it up every night, now you have a chance. It just goes to show you, we have played that way, we’ve played that well.
We played that well in stretches on Sunday, but not enough.
Q. A lot of good plays out of inbound plays tonight.
COACH McCAFFERY: And everybody wants to give me credit for that. I’ll be honest with you. We put the formation in, then the guys have to read it. It’s timing. It’s spacing. It’s screening. It’s when to screen, what angle to screen, when to deliver the ball, who you deliver the ball to.
I would give them all the credit for that.
Q. Bryce was kind of inconsistent shooting, then has a steal at the end, drives it to the basket to draw the foul.
COACH McCAFFERY: I don’t worry about his shot, as long as he is taking what I consider to be good shots from him and he did. I don’t want him pulling up from three, one on four on the break. If he’s shooting pull‑up jumpers, driving the ball to the basket, pushing the ball in transition.
A couple of forced turnovers in the first half. It was coming easy. 15‑3. He threw the one over Aaron’s head, then he coughed the one up trying to split somebody. Those are the two he has to get out of his game. To me those are the only two mistakes he made, not the shots he made. I thought he was great.
Q. What about the steal he made.
COACH McCAFFERY: If I have him in there, he’s going to make those plays. Once Sampson goes to the ground, he’s shooting it. Bryce knew that. That’s part of the scouting report. We had an opportunity earlier where Marble missed it by this much and then Bryce got it.
Q. Big student turnout tonight. Did that give you an extra jolt of energy?
COACH McCAFFERY: You know, there’s nothing like it. Our fan base is so incredibly loyal. Now that the students are back, when they fill up that side of the building, you think about it, I didn’t play a lot of guys in the second half. We had a little bit of a tired team. That’s the energy level that we got from them that really helped us win this game, no question.
Q. It seemed like Melsahn’s energy started on the defense and the boards. How do you get him to continue that?
COACH McCAFFERY: I think you’re right. He seemed to get confidence offensively because he was making plays defensively. A couple of times earlier in the year, he was playing pretty good defense, he wasn’t scoring, everybody was down on him, including myself. Then I go back and watch the tape. He was pretty good, he just didn’t get it in the basket.
We’ve just encouraged him to keep plugging away defensively, fight the post. They have two seven‑footers. Fight the post, get those traffic rebounds. That will get our break going, get him going. Makes a big difference. I think he’s feeling really good about himself tonight.
Q. You beat a really good team two times this season.
COACH McCAFFERY: It’s a big step for us to beat a team of this caliber twice, a team that is that athletic, has been playing that well. So now for us the challenge continues. Where do we go from here?