After outscoring Gardner-Webb 47-18 in the second half to come from behind and get the win on Saturday night, Coach Fran McCaffery talked about his team's effort, how they fell behind early, what made the difference in the comeback, and much more. Read every word right here.
Q. What changed? It was 38-15, and then close right away?
COACH McCAFFERY: You know, I think it's a funny game in that respect. You'd never anticipate what happened. It's kind of exactly what they did to DePaul. They run really good stuff, and they've got good players. They're small and quick, and they were quicker to the ball in the first half. They were getting a ton of offense rebounds.
I think they had 12 offensive rebounds in the first half. They were making shots. They were getting 50 50 balls and then converting them. It was very frustrating 20 minutes for all of us. There are a couple of ways to look at it. You can go in and you can start ranting and raving and challenging guys that way. But in my experience, and I'm not going to say I've never done that, I've done that. But it just didn't seem that that would work tonight for me.
I felt like we were tight. We were doubting ourselves a little bit. I thought we weren't making plays, and we weren't running our break. We weren't executing on offense. We were breaking down on defense. All the stuff we knew we had to do, we didn't do. So we just challenged them to a man.
I didn't speak to them any louder than I'm speaking to you right now. I said, This is what we need to. We broke it down on offense; we broke it down on defense; we broke down the press, personnel, and let's go do it.
It was our ball to start the second half. That was big time. Get a score, steal, score again, and at that point, I thought the crowd was a major factor in the game in terms of our energy level. It rattled them a little bit. Took them a while to score, and we really defended in the second half because they run really good stuff.
I mean, I've been doing this a while, and they run stuff that works and it gets their key personnel shots. Gets them in positions where they can score, and we took them out of that, and they had to make tougher shots.
Q. You were able to get the threes going in the second half too? I think you missed your first six or seven, and then Oglesby and McCabe hit some?
COACH McCAFFERY: You just knew Oglesby and McCabe are going to hit. They're going to miss some, but they're good shooters and good shooters are going to make shots.
What we were able to do is we got the ball to the baseline, and we got the ball at the high post. In the first half it was side to side only on the perimeter, and they're quick and they close out very well with great intensity. They sometimes close out so quickly you don't look inside. You don't see that guy. We had open people inside in the first half a lot that we didn't give them the ball.
In the second half, we got the ball to the high post. It sucked the defense in, and we got really good looks.
Q. How big is this game for Oglesby. He hit that first one, and then made three more after that?
COACH McCAFFERY: The thing about Josh is he doesn't really seem to get down or up. It's kind of just who he is. But what he did do is really smart. He got in and got shots off. He shot at times and he was drilling it. It was 7 for 9 in practice yesterday. So I felt very comfortable. I went to him early. I went back to him when he didn't hit shots. But the thing for him that is so important to me, he was guarding their best offensive player. Did a great job on him. Then just when everybody in the building thought he was going to shoot it, he makes a great pass to Devyn Marble at the basket. Josh Oglesby is a player.
Q. Devyn was kind of slow, and then the huge shot from the elbow. Is that kind of indicative of why you expect so much from him this year?
COACH McCAFFERY: He has the perfect demeanor to play this game. He was struggling. He had four turnovers, driving into packs of people, missing shots he normally makes. It just doesn't faze him. He'll go make a play defensively. He'll get a rebound, he'll make a run or he'll hit a three. He just has tremendous confidence in himself.
Q. Did you feel like Adam really sparked that comeback? He was playing with huge energy?
COACH McCAFFERY: He was absolutely spectacular. He was out with two fouls and he watched it with great frustration as we all did, and really was determined to impact the game. Went back to him, and he's getting put backs, keeping it alive. He's playing unbelievable defense. He's staying down on shot fakes when the small ones are trying to get him off his feet, but he was just really intelligent.
Q. He really had a sense of energy under the basket as well, shooting five of six from the field. Maybe the best player on the court?
COACH McCAFFERY: Yeah, no question about it. He seemed like he made every shot. He made two huge free throws when we really needed him. He made six blocks in the second half and a lot more contests. That's how you win 47-18, the second half score.
Q. What did Adam say to you when he came off the court? He seemed like he got you to smile and got everybody going?
COACH McCAFFERY: He was really excited about making the free throws. He said, "All day, Coach, all day." That's what he said.
Q. As you guys get ready to head to Cancun, how important was this to test their resolve?
COACH McCAFFERY: I think it's absolutely critical, because you know this won't be the last time it's tested. It's going to be tested almost every game. You have to be able to prove that you can come back. You get behind; you've got to come back. You can't rattle. You've got to understand what's necessary.
I think we can't fall down 23 a lot. I think a big play in the game was the foul on the last play in the first half. Josh makes three free throws, cut it to 20, gets him going a little bit. So I mean I think it's a learning experience, but we don't want to be in a situation like that again. We need to come back, but we don't want to spot anybody 23.
Q. This time of year last year you had a few of these games that went the other way for you. This year you're able to put it together. Is it just the make up of the team at this point, the maturity of it?
COACH McCAFFERY: I think maturity. I think you're right. I think that's a big part of it. I think we have a lot more weapons. We can tweak lineups. We can make sure that we have fresh legs out there. When Zach was really playing well in the first part of the second half, last year I would have left him in. I took him out. He was exhausted. Aaron White, same thing. So they were able to go back in.
Then when we put Mel in, he played with energy. And I put Eric May in, and Josh was playing so well, because I knew he could guard Landis. And I just had a lot more options to go to when I know I need a stop or I know I need somebody to go against the zone, and everybody so far has been really good in accepting those roles.
Q. How important was that defense in the second half going into this tournament?
COACH McCAFFERY: Well, it's amazing, because what it did is it changed our complete confidence level at the other end. When you're locking up defensively and getting stop after stop after stop and they're rattled and they can't run their stuff, now you have that much more confidence at the other end. All of a sudden, we're making plays that we weren't making in the first half.
Q. Western Kentucky last year changed its coach and got into the NCAA Tournament and they've built some momentum from that going into the game.
COACH McCAFFERY: Western Kentucky is one of the winningest programs in college basketball history. They were in the tournament last year. They've got really good players. They're athletic. We'll be ready for them. We'll have to be.