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McCaffery: “When you play better… you win close games”

Fran McCaffery, Iowa head basketball coach
Fran McCaffery, Iowa head basketball coach

An Interview With: COACH FRAN McCAFFERY, Wisconsin post-game – January 19th, 2013

Q. Talk about going against a team like this and coming so close.
COACH McCAFFERY: I think it’s important, but as I said a number of times, I think it was important that we just play better. We played better than we did in those games at both ends of the floor. When you do that, then you win close games.

Q. How important was Marbles’ three at that point?
COACH McCAFFERY: It was huge. We struggled a little bit, we were sputtering a lead. We tried to run some clock because in the stretch before that we were quick shooting the ball a little bit. We had some opportunities to do that, and I encourage that, as long as they are good shots by good shooters. So you milk the clock, then you hit a step back three, that’s huge.

Q. The defense in the first half?
COACH McCAFFERY: Very much like the Northwestern game. Would like to have played similar defense in the second half. I thought in stretches, we did. Just couldn’t get Marshall under control.

Q. What about Aaron White’s play during that stretch in the first half
COACH McCAFFERY: Well, he’s capable of doing that. The key is I’ve just got to keep him fresh. When I keep him fresh, he’s going to make plays, he’s going to make steals, he’s going to dunk the ball. He’s going to get open. He’s just got tremendous savvy.

Q. Talk about you get to the line 29 times and you make 24 of those.
COACH McCAFFERY: You know, our game plan was to drive the ball, throw it inside, attack them. They don’t play a lot of guys typically, and you don’t want to settle for jumper after jumper and you want to attack, and you want to put them in a position where they are going to foul you, and they did.

Q. Your bench had a jersey on tonight talk about the role that might have played.
COACH McCAFFERY: There was an energy level in the building that I’ve never seen before. I’ve been in a lot of buildings in my playing and coaching career, and nothing like that. There’s not a doubt in my mind, there was a difference.

Q. The sudden turnovers
COACH McCAFFERY: They played half court man. They don’t press you till the end. I think the most impressive thing about that was we didn’t turn it over at the end when they came after us.

Q. Was Marble feeling okay, he played about half the first half.
COACH McCAFFERY: He was a little winded at times. He has had the bum ankle and he has not practiced the same as everybody else, so I had to really be careful with him.

Q. Talk about Clemmons coming through, he played a clean, solid game.
COACH McCAFFERY: The thing about him is he’s just not applied to make a play late. Because he had a stretch there where he wasn’t playing as well, and he’s got the ability to just play through that and just go do what you need him to do. That’s rare for a freshman, and I think that’s why he’s special.

Q. Teams in the conference is this a sign of what’s to be?
COACH McCAFFERY: There’s no question about that. Every game, you’re not surprised at what happened. Even if it’s an upset, or what you perceive to be an upset, you’re not really surprised by that either.

Q. Talk about Wisconsin, getting them down and they still make plays.
COACH McCAFFERY: They are eventually going to hit some threes. That’s a really good three point shooting teams. Dekker got a couple broken play threes, he’s tremendous. That kid is tremendous.
Did a good job on Brust. He’s been really killing it, and we did a good job on him. And pretty much did a good job on most of the other three point shooters with the exception of Marshall.

Q. How is it important to take that intensity of the whole first half when you went on the road to Michigan, it was missing.
COACH McCAFFERY: Well, it was missing for 22 minutes. It wasn’t missing for the first 18, and that was the lesson. If we can be standing here looking at them with two minutes to go in the half, then we shouldn’t be down 11 and shouldn’t get worse from there. Sometimes you just have to go through that to figure that out and make the necessary adjustments.

Q. Inaudible.
COACH McCAFFERY: No, it’s the function of how this game went and how they play.

Q. You had the lead, trying to protect, but still somewhat fairly aggressive, is that what you want to see in your team?
COACH McCAFFERY: For example, start of the second half, I thought Gesell’s shots were tremendous; he didn’t make them. Josh’s shots were tremendous, he didn’t make them.
And I just was screaming at those two guys: Keep shooting the ball, keep taking those same shots. I’m putting you in there to do that. And you knew somewhere along the line, they were going to make them.
But if they make those shots, which were really good shots where normally they would make them, now we are up 23, we are up 24, it’s a different game. We didn’t make them; they made shots. Give them credit, they are a really good team, and we’ve got to fight.

Q. You had only two days to prepare for a pretty tough team on the road, do you worry about any kind of emotional hangover?
COACH McCAFFERY: I don’t. I think one of the things that’s impressive about our team is how we responded after an emotional loss and then had short prep, to go on the road and play a team that’s probably one of the hardest teams to prepare for in college basketball, and that’s Northwestern.
Obviously Ohio State is a tremendously talented and ranked team, and they have cleaned our clocks the last two times we’ve played them. So we are going to have to play substantially better than we did in the second half tonight.

Q. What made the offense work tonight? You got a lot more points against them.
COACH McCAFFERY: Well, we ran it and drove it. You’ve got to run. You’ve got to drive and you’ve got to throw it in and you’ve got to get to the free throw line and you’ve got to get transition baskets.
You just go toe to toe at halfcourt, they are typically better than whoever they play at that game. So we changed it a little bit.

Q. Different players having a good game tonight, how nice is that to have?
COACH McCAFFERY: I think the great thing about that is you never know which four it’s going to be, and that’s the beauty of our team. It could easily have been Zach and Melsahn or Josh.
Josh was on fire the last game and today, you know, he has one basket, although it was a really huge basket; that drive, we really needed it then. And I think that’s the great thing about our team, when you prepare for us, who is going to be the guy on this night.

Q. You’ve been preaching defense all year; is it finally sinking in? Do they see now the importance of that?
COACH McCAFFERY: They do. I don’t want to say that last year’s team didn’t. We just have more bodies. We have more bodies and we have a little more experience and we have a little more size.

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