This time of year in college basketball it's about surviving and advancing. The Hawkeyes and Coach Fran McCaffery did just that on Thursday with a hard fought win over Northwestern. McCaffery talks about Iowa's defense and rebounding being a key reason for their win in the Big Ten Tournament and the importance of Friday's game against Michigan State as it relates to the Hawkeyes NCAA Tournament chances.
Watch our videos and read the post game transcript below.
I thought our defensive intensity at the start of the game was absolutely critical. I think it really got us going. They didn't score for awhile. We got great play from a lot of different people which is really typical of our team. Great to have Mike [Gesell] back in the lineup. We knew they were going to come back. Bill Carmody coached teams come back. They're going to keep coming, executing, keep making it hard for us. And we had to fight to the very end. We executed pretty well against the 2-3. Missed some shots, but execution-wise it was very good. I'm truly proud of my guys.
Q. Fran, 48-31 on the boards and a lot of second chance opportunities. Were you pleased with the way you rebounded in this game?
FRAN McCAFFERY: I was. But in reality I think you got to look at what [Northwestern Head Coach] Bill [Carmody] was doing. He was putting a team on the floor that was going to be hard to guard. He had four guards out there a good portion of the second half and he was driving a little bit more. They were into the bonuses, they got into the double bonus with time left. So that creates opportunities to get second shots. We were substantially bigger at times.
Q. The team has come quite a ways a couple seasons from where they were when they first got here. Expectations you had with this team, are they about where you thought they might be coming into the second round of a tournament and how far away are they if they're not?
FRAN McCAFFERY: It's interesting because you go back to early, even before October 15th. We worked the guys out a little bit, just a couple hours a week. And I watched all summer how they fared and how they put extra time in on their own. I felt like this team had the ability to do something special. So I'm not surprised to have 21 wins. I think for us the more impressive thing is looking at our losses. We have got some big time wins, but we have had some losses where we were right there. We got drilled once this year. That's why when you look at our rating it's always so high. They take that into consideration.
We have a very good team. We have, as Mike [Gesell] points out, a very unselfish team, we have got tremendous character and we have as much depth, if not more depth, than most teams I've seen. And it's amazing how often different lineups have come into the game and been so effective for us. And you can't predict what lineup's going to be on the floor at the end of the game when you play us. That makes it that much harder to scout and prepare for. I really like where we are. We've got an unbelievable challenge tomorrow. Everybody knows that. And that is, in some respects, almost the gold standard for what teams want to become. [Michigan State Head Coach]Tom [Izzo] is one of the premier coaches in our game, without question. So we know what's in front of us, but we welcome the opportunity.
Q. Speaking about tomorrow night, do you feel tomorrow night's a must win for your NCAA tournament hopes? And also, how pleased are you to hear your players talk about this is more about they want to go out and win this thing; They're not really concentrating on getting into the tournament?
FRAN McCAFFERY: I think that's important. I'm not foolish, I hear what everybody's saying about that particular game. To me, I am very comfortable with where our resume is right now. I think we deserve to be in. But, there are so many factors and I respect whatever the committee decides. There are a lot of other really good teams. The only thing that we can control is how we play tomorrow. That's how we're going to approach it. It's not something that we even talk about.
Q. Talk about how you're able to keep them at bay in that second half. Seemed like they couldn't get past about an eight point deficit?
FRAN McCAFFERY: We had timely baskets. We had a couple of opportunities where we got the ball to the high post, and sort of got it to the rim, back a couple times, Woody [Adam Woodbury] a couple times. But they made the right read. They turn and faced and they missed short shots that they would normally make. We got to the rim one time and Woody had a chance to finish, didn't finish, he'll learn from that. The key is to go back and guard people. And we did that. We got some opportunities after that. As we pointed out, we made some big threes. Three in particular that each one of these guys made, but the other opportunities and we got -- we had a chance to make some free throws too to put the team away.