An Interview with: COACH FRAN McCAFFERY
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach.
Q. You got outrebounded. That was huge in favor of them. Think that was a determining factor there at the end?
COACH McCAFFERY: I think it was two things. That’s certainly one of them, because defensively in the second half I thought we were terrific. Giving them 14-second opportunities and you have 17 more shots, that’s hard.
And then 13 turnovers in the first half is too many against a team that doesn’t turn the ball over typically.
Q. Both games against Northwestern turnovers were a concern. Can you put your finger on was it something they were doing?
COACH McCAFFERY: You know, the bulk of our turnovers came seemingly at the end of the first half. They went 1-3-1 we had no problem with it. Then they amped up the intensity of it.
Then we started going side to side, and we just weren’t seeing the guys that were open. The same guys that we saw in the second half were much better.
So it’s unfortunate, I feel bad, because the guys worked at it. They were concentrating. They just got a little sideways.
Q. Did you like that look that Josh got at the end?
COACH McCAFFERY: Yeah, you couldn’t ask for anything better. You could kind of see the play unfold. They miss. Here we come. They don’t know if we’re going to take a 2 or we’re going to shoot a 3. But Josh just ran to the right spot. I thought he did a great job. I thought it was in.
Q. The first opportunity in his college career Josh has had a situation like that. What did you say to him afterwards?
COACH McCAFFERY: I didn’t say anything to him. I would tell him to shoot it again. That’s exactly what he was supposed to do. And I love him. He’s going to be great.
Q. What did you think of Matt’s effort on Shurna, particularly in the second half?
COACH McCAFFERY: It was epic, is what it was. The effort level that it took to do what he did against a guy who is 6’9″ was just — one of the most incredible things I’ve seen. At the same time to go get 17, you’re not coming out of the game.
You can’t ask for anything more from him on a very special day.
Q. Going small in the second half, you brought a three and four guard lineup, did that kind of keep you from the offensive —
COACH McCAFFERY: We weren’t rebounding offensively when we had the bigger lineup in. They were still rebounding. So I didn’t think it made any difference except it helped us offensively.
Q. The game got more physical in the second half. Was there anything you could tell the guys as far as rebounding the ball and just seemed like —
COACH McCAFFERY: Well, we did a little bit of ball watching when the shot went. That was unfortunate. They were climbing us a little bit. So that was unfortunate.
Q. On your second to last possession where Bryce eventually threw it away, was there a set play you were trying to run in that situation?
COACH McCAFFERY: No — yeah, at the
F McCaffery – 3 3 12b 1
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start, but that had already broken down. It was going to be what we had set. It just didn’t work. And he tried to make a play. And usually he’s very good. He came right back and made a great one.
I felt bad for him because he jumped up in the air. That was the mistake he made. Shouldn’t have jumped in the air. Just stay on the ground, find somebody. They were scrambled. We were going to get a good shot.
I thought he was going to shoot it a couple of times because he made the previous two jumpers he took. So it’s unfortunate.
Q. The fact that you guys have been so up and down, can that help you put this behind and focus now? It seems like —
COACH McCAFFERY: We’re going to play hard. We’re going to compete. We’re going to run our stuff. We’re going to be fine. Played a real good team. Very talented. A lot of size. Some quickness. We just played them. So it’s fresh.
Q. What about Marble’s hand; is he
COACH McCAFFERY: He’s okay. Yeah, it was hurting him for a while. He got hit in the elbow. Couldn’t feel his fingers. Once he got the feeling back he was okay.
Q. Not a great start, and then they go on that huge run in the first half. Is that just part of the process? Is it a team that’s still maturing in some ways?
COACH McCAFFERY: Yeah. I really feel bad because I felt like we were so locked in defensively to get that 15-point lead. And then we softened a little bit at both ends. I think that’s a little bit of inexperience, a little bit of experience on their part. Gotta give them some credit, they made some plays at that particular point in time.
But when a team’s making a run at you, you need stops and you can’t turn it over. And we did them both. It was only a short period of time. It was just enough. And I took a timeout.
And then I didn’t want to burn them all because as you saw we needed them at the end. At the very end we were out.
Q. How would you assess the intensity?
COACH McCAFFERY: For us?
COACH McCAFFERY: I’m proud of my guys and how they fought and how they improved and how they hung in and kept believing in each other. We had some stumbles back in November and December. They just kept believing in each other, and I’m really proud of how they stayed together and just kept working to get better.
Q. What does it take to win four games in four days in a tournament?
COACH McCAFFERY: It’s going to take a number of things. Number one, we’re going to have to be — we’re going to have to use our bench. We’re going to need our key guys to play well. We’re going to have to rebound better than we did today.
And we’re going to have to play defense — we’ve been playing much better defense these last couple of weeks. We’re ready to play defense like that.
Q. What do these four days prepare for Illinois, is there something that sticks out about that matchup in Champaign that you guys can use?
COACH McCAFFERY: We have to do a better job on Meyers Leonard. We did a better job in the second half. The first half he really got away from us. He’s real big but he’s active. He’s long. He’s athletic. So he’s a handful for a guy like Zach. Five or six inches taller than him. So we’ll have to give some help. And you have Paul and Richardson that can shoot the 3.
And I think if we can lock in and give a little bit of help and get out on 3-point shooters and play a little bit better than we played, we were right there.
Q. Yesterday in this room you were somewhat hopeful, a win, what you might be able to do. In that term how costly was the loss today to your team?
COACH McCAFFERY: We had a shot to be 9 and 9 in the league. That would have been great. We’re 8 and 10. And just getting ready to go into the tournament with a good mindset.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.