When Coach Fran McCaffery looks at today's loss in the Big Ten Tournament, he sees an opponent in Michigan State that is not only very good, but playing really hard and that made it tough for the Hawkeyes. McCaffery talks about the loss, the contributions from his freshmen today, the year that Matt Gatens has had, and much more.
MODERATOR: Coach McCaffery will make an opening statement and then we'll go to questions for the student-athletes. Coach?
COACH MCCAFFERY: We lost to a very good team today, a very good team who played really hard. I thought at the start of the game we came out the right way. I thought we had a good beginning, and then it got away from us there a little bit, and I thought we fought hard in the second half. But that's a team that's going to be playing for a long time.
MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes?
Q. Matt, now that the tournament here is wrapped up for you, what are your expectations? What are you hoping happens now moving forward for you guys?
MATT GATENS: For Iowa? You know, this year we'd love to continue playing, but we know we'll find out on Sunday. But the future of Iowa, I know I'm excited. It's in good hands. There's a lot of good young talent returning, and the guys, I'm proud of for fighting this whole year and stepping up in big spots, and there's some good talent coming in. So it's looking good, and I'm excited for it.
MODERATOR: Other questions?
Q. For the players, obviously, how much would you like to play a postseason game in one of the non-NCAA tournaments?
MODERATOR: Matt, let's start with you, please.
MATT GATENS: Yeah, I think it would be great for the program to get an NIT bid and continue playing and fight for something. The young guys need it. More practices, more games, it's great for the program, and we'll find out.
DEVYN MARBLE: I think it would mean a lot to the team and the program. Guys like Matt haven't had a chance to play in the postseason yet. Of course we wanted to play for them, so hopefully we do get chosen.
Q. Hey, Dev, you really get a sense in the locker room that you guys were playing for Matt and the other seniors. I know that's usually the case when you have seniors. But what was that like trying to get another game for the guy next to you.
DEVYN MARBLE: It means a lot, especially a guy that's just done so much for us this year. He's carried us, he's led us, he's done everything for the team, and to see him upset and to feel that we came up short for him, it was just -- it was heartbreaking to the whole team.
And when you have a guy like Matt who you all love, you just want to see him have as much success as possible here. And we all know we have to make the most of our opportunities, especially guys like me, Aaron White and Melsahn who know -- I mean, we got two years and three years left, but you don't ever want to just give up opportunities like we have had this year.
And that's one thing I've learned. You always want to make the most of your opportunities because you never know when you might not make a postseason or lose and win this game.
Q. For both Dev and Matt, toughness was an issue up in East Lansing a couple months ago, but it looked like early on especially you made that a focal point not to allow you to be the punk team or whatever out on the court. Was that a focal point going into this game?
DEVYN MARBLE: Yeah, it was. We felt like when we went to East Lansing they outplayed us, they out-toughed us and really just were more physical. And so that was a key thing. When we came into today's game we wanted to make sure that we came out and they knew that it wasn't going to be easy.
Unfortunately, they out rebounded us. And I don't think that was the lack of us not being tough. It was just -- it felt like they were just quicker to the ball, they kind of out-jumped us and we weren't able to adjust. And when you got guys like Draymond and Adreian Payne who are excellent rebounders, it's difficult.
MODERATOR: Matt, your thoughts, please?
MATT GATENS: Yeah, it's obviously a point of us just coming in after what happened up there, and it was a quick turnaround from yesterday, didn't have a ton of time trying to prepare for it or go through drills on the court.
But we knew it was going to be a battle, especially on the boards, because that's what they're known for. I'm proud of the guys the way they came out and fought right from the start. We were battling. It's tough for 40 minutes, but I thought we gave it our all, but it's a tough team.
MODERATOR: Anything else for the student-athletes before I let them go? Okay, fellas. Thank you very much.
Questions for Coach McCaffery?
Q. Coach, twice this season Michigan State has I think scored more than 90 points on you. Between that first game and this game what adjustments defensively were you trying to make?
COACH MCCAFFERY: Well, the biggest problem we had up there is we turned the ball over 21 times and they ran it down our throat. Today we turned it over nine and didn't give them as many transition opportunities.
At half court they were pounding it inside. We went from man to zone and back to man, back to zone. There's not much else you can do. We pressed a little bit. But we give up a lot of size to them.
Q. Coach, without the benefit of knowing what the future is with the postseason here, can you just speak to what Matt Gatens has done, his impact on this program going forward.
COACH MCCAFFERY: I don't know that I've had a better captain -- I've had some really good ones, and that's an amazing statement from me -- not only in terms of the example that he set from a work ethic standpoint and how he conducts himself off the floor and how he pays attention to everything that we do in terms of game planning and his performance in the classroom. All of those things combined just are an example of his tremendous character.
But then on top of it he raised his game to a completely different level to where he was virtually unstoppable and has played himself. Whereas at one point in time I think most people respected what he'd accomplished, I think now you look at him differently and say, wait a minute, this guy has clearly got NBA potential. He's been invited to Portsmouth, and he'll go down there. I'm sure he'll play well. He's in the best shape of his life, shooting the ball extremely well, and I hope he plays for a long time.
Q. Speaking of Matt, he didn't take a shot for a long time in the game. It looked like they were really being physical with him, trying to keep him away from the ball. What kind of adjustments did you make? Was Zach a focal point at that point or just trying to find whoever was open?
COACH MCCAFFERY: You know, the only thing you can do, you can run motion or you can set him up or you can run plays for other people. Zach's threes early just came out of motion. We were running things in the second half for Josh and for Marble for Melsahn.
He's always going to be a focal point of what we're trying to do. We may go away from him for a while, use him as a screener and try to get other people involved, but pretty much we're trying to get him free the entire time.
Q. Fran, I think it was like 22-22 and Matt hadn't attempted a shot yet, and then the bottom fell out pretty fast. They started hitting shots. But they got four quick baskets on offensive rebounds. Is that just a testimony to their size or was it a box-out?
COACH MCCAFFERY: That was disappointing. There's no question about that. I mean, they're very good at it. They're plus-nine, I think, on the glass. I think that's best in the country.
They're much bigger than we are. I would like to have seen us put a body on somebody there. I haven't seen the film so I don't know exactly what happened and where we broke down, but we were getting some stops in a tight game. But it really does make a big difference when they're getting put-backs. And it improved their confidence, and I think they ultimately ended up shooting the ball better as a result of put-backs, and that's what we were trying to avoid.
Q. Your freshmen had pretty good performances. Josh scored 20 points, Aaron had a pretty good, Olaseni came in off the bench. Do you think the future is bright for those three?
COACH MCCAFFERY: Oh, they're going to be tremendous. They're already tremendous. Gabe's got a little further to go. He didn't play as much as the other two guys. But they certainly proved that they're certainly among -- Aaron is certainly among the best players in this league, Josh among the best freshmen. Josh has put some numbers up in some difficult environments, and he's just going to keep getting better, and so is Aaron.
Q. Coach, do you ever foresee a time maybe in the future where the team's not playing as hard as you want them to play and you might pull out a Matt Gatens tape and show them the guys running a hundred miles through 8 million screens trying to get open and never stopping?
COACH MCCAFFERY: I think that's a great teaching point. We've done that over the years. Every coach. When I say we, it's any coach. If you have somebody that's special, you'll go back and show somebody at that same position, like you think you're working hard, you think you're trying to get open, you think you're running off screens correctly. Let me show you somebody who did it perfectly.
And it would be a teaching situation completely. And we'll do it. And you'll do it for guys in different positions based on how hard they play. And we did it this year with Melsahn when he was struggling. We showed him tapes of himself from last year: This is what you were doing last year. When he was playing with energy like did he today in the second half, he impacts the game.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
COACH MCCAFFERY: Thank you.