After Iowa's 109-63 victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore on Thursday night, head coach Fran McCaffery talked about his team's focus this past week, getting their three-point shooting back on track, the performances they got out of Aaron White and Mike Gesell, and much more. See what he had to say right here.
Q. Can you comment about Mike Gesell?
COACH McCAFFERY: You know, I think for him, he's obviously a terrific player, but he's been a little bit sideways. Boy, was he really good tonight at the start of the game. He was running our break. He was shooting the ball but he was making shots, seven assists, one turn. I'm really happy for him.
Q. Did you move him over to point?
COACH McCAFFERY: Yeah, we did, and we got Dev going. I thought Dev early on was terrific, from the wing, moving without the ball, hit a three early.
Q. Is that something you're going to look at going forward?
COACH McCAFFERY: Yeah, I think so.
Q. You practiced that?
COACH McCAFFERY: Yeah, uh huh. I mean, I think it's what we're going to do.
Q. Aaron White, another strong performance. Can you talk about him tonight?
COACH McCAFFERY: He's really been working on his game, and you can tell. His jumper looks really good. I mean, he's moving without it. He's driving it. He's getting to the free throw line. Playing with great confidence, I think, and that's what you want to see.
Q. You talked about him looking comfortable out there.
COACH McCAFFERY: Yeah, I put him in and I don't really even want to take him out, but I'm rotating some guys. A guy like McCabe, he played great. He was spectacular. We're going to need them all.
Q. Are you okay with the pass off the glass?
COACH McCAFFERY: No, I would have preferred we not do that. I told him as much. There's no reason for that in this game.
Q. Talk about Melsahn. He had eight free throw attempts the first three minutes of the second half.
COACH McCAFFERY: I think he quietly has been very good, too, in all three of our games. He got in foul trouble in one of them, I don't remember which one, but I said from the beginning, he looks really good to me. He's in great shape and he's really confident with his game, with his jumper, with his rebounding and catching everything. You can tell he's a senior, I think.
Q. Coming off the game you had Sunday, I don't want to say an eye opener, but did the guys really focus in practice after that leading up to this game?
COACH McCAFFERY: Yeah, you know, it's one of those things where everybody wants to turn it into something that it wasn't. It was like some kind of aberration. It's just disrespectful to our opponent. Those guys were pretty good. I don't care what people said about what they were supposed to do this year. That team is good. They scored 101 last night. They go on the road and beat Northern Illinois, come from behind. It's a good team.
You know, I would hope that they would come to practice to play hard and get better every day, not because a team that everyone thought we were going to beat worse than we beat them. That took everything we had to get them, and that's just the way this game is. I continue to be amazed at how everybody is surprised. Turn on the TV every night; somebody is getting beat. Somebody is getting beat. Oh, I didn't think that would happen; three, four, five times a night it happens. Sometimes it's by double digits. Sometimes it's, wow, that come out of nowhere, it's a 15 point loss; I thought they were better.
That's what Division I college basketball is. Everybody is on scholarship and every team has got players, and when you have experience, which that team had, you can beat anybody.
Q. The exhibition game you were unhappy with - you said the team outplayed you and you were unhappy, so I guess are they more attune to where you want them to be right now?
COACH McCAFFERY: Getting there. Yeah, getting there. We've still got a ways to go, I think.
Q. Will you play more zone and will teams around the country play more zone with the hand checking rules now?
COACH McCAFFERY: I don't know if it would be like, okay, we're going to go into the game with that in mind. I think what'll end up happening is teams may be forced to play zone maybe more than they want to, provided - I should say especially when you might have three, four guys in foul trouble. We can absorb it better than some teams, and if you've got three or four key guys in foul trouble and you need them on the floor on offense then you've got to play zone. There's really no way around it.
But that's not why we played zone obviously in the second half. We wanted to work on our zone in the second half. We feel like we're going to be playing it, we'd better work on it. There was no reason to extend and pressure up and that kind of thing. It was let's try to focus on 20 minutes of a lot of guys getting reps at playing the zone.
Q. You talked about the team being a little deep. Abilene Christian is in transition?
COACH McCAFFERY: What did they do? They made 10 threes in the first half. A team makes 10 threes in the first half, you're going to have trouble beating them. I don't care if you're the Lakers. You're going to have a hard team beating a team that makes 10 threes in the first half. I've always said it's hard to beat a team that makes 10 threes in a game. But in the first half, no wonder Maryland was down six with 14 minutes to go.
That's what it is. You've got to be ready. The only mistake that I saw and again, I wasn't at the game -- they shot maybe too many threes. They were 1 for 18, Maryland was, in the first half, so they make 10 and Maryland goes 1 for 18 from three. So you learn from those mistakes. Maybe you get it inside more, whatever. That's what I'd want to do. I'm sure that's what Mark said.
When you play a team that's making shots, you know, and they get confident and they get comfortable, and the difference with Nebraska Omaha was they physically could play with us. Their bigs could physically play with us. They were big and strong and tough, and then their guards were quick and could make shots, and they had a really good guard.
Q. How valuable are these games?
COACH McCAFFERY: Incredibly valuable because you have to prepare the same way. Every game plan is different, who are we playing, what are their strengths and weaknesses. I've coached in a lot of these games, and you look at Maryland Eastern Shore, and you say, wow, we got them by 40, but I mean, you need all your bullets in the gun. Their best player with 33 the other night, he doesn't play. So it's a tough environment for them to come into and play without their best player, without their best three point shooter. I'm not saying it would have made up 40 points, but it would have made a difference in the game, especially in the first half.
So every game is a challenge. Every game is figuring out - we're all still - what sub rotations, who's going to do what, and just to see Pete come back. Pete struggled early, he came back, he ended up getting 10 points. And Ukah just being able to play 18 minutes and get a double double. Woodbury missed a couple of shots. I thought he was great. Adam, what did he go for, six rebounds.
So I mean, we're getting a lot out of the 5 spot, we're getting a lot off the bench, and our guard play has been solid. I think our defense at half court has to get better, and that hasn't been as good as it's going to need to be, whether we're man or zone, but that's why you work on it now.
Q. The value of this as far as establishing a rotation, figuring out the pieces, I know it's going to change by game, but still...
COACH McCAFFERY: A lot of guys like to get into this guy comes out, this guy goes in, and there's always a certain element of that, but it's going to be a game by game feel for me, and in particular in the backcourt, and especially when Oglesby comes back.
Q. You've talked about how the three point shooting has been there for you in practice, and now tonight you get a few threes early on and finish 7 of 17. How encouraging is that for you to see that in an actual game?
COACH McCAFFERY: It is encouraging. I'm not surprised. I expect Mike to shoot like that. He's a really good shooter. Dev is a good shooter. Peter Jok, Ukah, we've got guys that can shoot, but it's like anything else. Sometimes you have those games I talked about Maryland a second ago. Maryland has got really good shooters. They went 1 for 18 in the first half and they ended up coming back. Sometimes you're just off a little bit. A couple guys are off, a couple in and outs, then you get behind, then you start pressing a little bit, and now you've got to drive the ball, you've got to throw it inside, you've got to mix up the in and out, and I think we have enough maturity and talent to know and understand that.
Q. Playing Abilene Christian, I know this is one of those games it seemed like it took half the summer to try to get. How were you able to get it?
COACH McCAFFERY: There was a stretch there where we thought we were going to have to play a non One because we got into the tournament late and there are a lot of parameters that exist with regard to the tournament for this team. They have to play two teams, then they have to play in a four team tournament. So you need open dates, you need a lot of things that have to fall into place, and by the time we got in the tournament, everybody else was already in a tournament. So we were struggling to find a Division I team to play.
Obviously we want to play an all Division I schedule, but we were actually considering playing a non I as a one year exception because we couldn't find anybody, and they became available, and it worked out. And they're pretty good, as we saw if you're on the road at Maryland and you're up six with 14 minutes to go, you've got some talent.