February 11, 2013
McCaffery talks defensive impact
Fran McCaffery said before the season that if his Hawkeye team was going to improve, they had to play better defense. They have done just that this season. On the Big Ten teleconference Monday morning, he talked about the why Iowa's defense has improved the impact that it has had this season.
I think we had an interesting week. A tough overtime loss at Wisconsin. There were a lot of good things in that game for us. Most importantly, we played good defense. They played better than us down the stretch and they won. I am proud of a lot of things we did in that game. Then we played Northwestern at home. We played well and we won. We took care of business there in what I thought was another good defensive performance. It was great to see Devyn Marble go for 21 points. That was as explosive as he's looked in quite some time. He's playing with great confidence and that's good for us.
Q: You have won one of your last four road games, but you were right there in the other three. Do you like the approach and preparation from your team on the road?
McCAFFERY: I do. If you look at it there has been a collective effort to be a better team defensively. It's right there in the numbers. We are much deeper than we have been and that helps tremendously. We have been getting great senior leadership from Eric May and he is right in the middle of all that. Even though in those games that you are referring to we didn't have the greatest offensive performances, it was our defense that kept us in those games and put us in a position to win. It's hard when you lose those kinds of games. Its gut wrenching, but I think you have to keep it in perspective. If you play offense like this in the past on their road, they were 25 point losses. I think we have made great progress.
Q: When you have a number of close losses on the road, it can be crushing to a team. Would you say the resiliency is a strength, even though you haven't been rewarded with wins?
McCAFFERY: Yeah and I think it's hard to do. Listening a bit to Tom Crean's call, he sort of referenced this. When you look at scores and you win and you think that all is right with the world. You lose and everything is horrible and roof is caving in on us. The reality is, it is never that good and it's never that bad. What you have to do is look at the situation with some perspective and say, wow, we did some good things at Wisconsin. It is horrible that we lost, but ok, we have to work on end of game situations. We got some great shot opportunities. When you miss free throws it's frustrating. The bottom line if we didn't play well in that game, we would have been blown out. If we didn't play well at Minnesota after falling behind 14-2, which was disappointing, then that would have been a blowout. On Saturday we won a game and we made a lot of mistakes. We have to correct those mistakes. It's a constant journey where there is nothing but teaching, hard work, and effort to continue to try to get better. You don't focus on wow that was really tough losing a close game. That's ancient history. We are moving forward now and we just have to focus on the next game and try to be better so if we are in a close game again we know what to do.
Q: With the exception of two road games your defense has been much better. Part of that is depth, but also it seems like your team has paid closer attention to detail. Have you changed anything in your preparation and has that been a part of the defensive results?
McCAFFERY: I think the focus this year, and I said this at the start of the year, it starts with putting pressure on the basketball. It starts at the point of attack. Whether we are in a full court press, half court press, or half court man to man or zone, it's the point of attack. A lot of it is rebounding. One of the problems last year was we couldn't keep guys in front of us and we gave up second shots. If you don't do those two things, teams are going to shoot a high percentage against you. Teams are going to get broken play three's, which is a wide open shot and it will increase their shooting percentage from that distance. From those two areas, our rebounding is better, our point of attack defense is better, we have more experience, and I have fresher bodies. We are able to sustain pressure defense longer. When your offense is sputtering, particularly on the road, that is when your defense has to be rock solid. Often times when your defense falters because your offense is struggling. It is a sign of immaturity or lack of depth. This year we have been able to get some stops when we were missing shots. I look at all those things collectively as the reason we are better.
Q: Despite the youth on your team, they have been pretty mature in their approach and effort. In a couple of days you are playing on the road against a Penn State team that hasn't won a game in the league this year. Are there any concerns that they overlook Penn State?
McCAFFERY: I don't see how they could based on how Penn State played us at their place. They fought us right to the very end. That was a tough game. Then you look at the film of all their games and they are right there. They battle defensively. They battle on the glass. They run their offense. They have two guys that can really score the ball. They have some other guys that are really improving. We haven't won there since I have been here. There are so many factors that enter into this situation. Without question, Penn State has earned our full attention.
Q: With as much offensive talent in the league is there a player or players that you find more difficult to game plan for in the Big Ten?
McCAFFERY: Obviously the first player that everyone would mention is Trey Burke. Often times it starts with the guy who has the ball in his hands. In particular if he is a big time three point shooter or scorer and a big time assist guys. Those guys in ball screen situations are an absolute nightmare. What helps him in particular is he has three point shooters around him. DeShaun Thomas makes shots sometimes and I don't even know how he is does it. He might not even be facing the basket. His shoulders are going in the wrong direction, he is going in the wrong direction, and his shots go in. He is just one of those guys that if you don't play him before he catches it, you have major problems. Then you look at Zeller and he is so long and nimble. He puts it on the deck and run like that. Then you look at a guy like Yogi, who is impossible to stay in front of. Your only hope is you give him a little bit of room and he misses his jump shot, but he is a pretty good shooter. We could go on and on about guys like Oladipo, who you can't keep in front of you. There are probably five or six more guys that I could mention.
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