Click here to read the Fran McCaffery Presser Transcript
The Hawkeyes have officially entered the ‘less insane’ portion of their schedule and went out and beat Northwestern 71-57 in front of over 15,000 home fans.
It was a bit of a homecoming for Iowa, after back to back heartbreaking losses at Minnesota and Wisconsin. Devyn Marble was glad to be back in the friendly confines, as he led off the game with a dunk in transition to give Iowa a 2-0 lead. The Wildcats were able to score too many easy baskets due to offensive rebounds, but Iowa would lead 29-25 at the break.
The Wildcats shifted to their 1-3-1 zone and while it had some success, Josh Oglesby hit a pair of three-point shots that helped Iowa open up a double digit lead midway through the second half and they cruised to a 71-57 win.
Marble had at least four dunks in the game and also hit at a three-point shot. He still doesn’t look like the same player he was in December as far as driving to the basket is concerned, but he definitely attacked the lane on Saturday without trepidation.
He led Iowa with 21 points on 8 of 13 shooting to go along with five assists and five rebounds, both of which were team highs. Oglesby scored 10 points, which included those two big three-point baskets in the second half.
Iowa outscored Northwestern 20-9 in the paint in the second half after leading there 16-15 at the break. Iowa shot 48 percent for the game and held the Cats to 35 percent shooting as well as 6 of 25 from three-point range. Iowa hit 19-22 free throws after struggling from the line on the road this past week.
It was a solid step forward for Iowa who desperately needed something to feel good about after two crushing losses. Iowa moves to 4-7 in Big Ten play and 15-9 overall, still on pace with my preseason prediction. Their next game is at Penn State, who is still without a conference win. That’s a must-win game for Iowa if they have any chance of playing their way into an NCAA bid, which is still a long shot at this point in time.
Iowa returns home a week from Sunday to host Minnesota on February 17th. Given how things are playing out, that game may also be a must-win proposition for Iowa’s NCAA chances, their last reasonable opportunity to get a regular season win that enhances their NCAA resume. After that it’s on the road at Nebraska and back home against Purdue before the game at Indiana.
Can’t Iowa win their next four games? Yes, they are good enough to do that. They’ll need Marble to regain his swagger, first and foremost. But you can’t win the next four without winning the next game and while the Nittany Lions are a bad team, it’s still a road game in the Big Ten in gym where Iowa has not had much success as of late. That game tips off at 8pm Iowa time.
Iowa improves to 12-2 at home this season with today’s victory.
· Iowa sweeps the season series against Northwestern with today’s win.
· Iowa improves to 14-3 when shooting 40 percent or better this season. The Hawkeyes’ 48.0 percent shooting percentage today was their best in Big Ten play this season.
· Iowa improves to 23-0 when holding opponents to fewer than 60 points the last three seasons.
· Josh Oglesby reached double figures in two Big Ten games this season, both against Northwestern.
· Roy Devyn Marble netted 21 points, reaching the 20-point plateau for the fourth time this season and sixth time in his career, and the first time in Big Ten play this year.
· Iowa committed a season-low one first-half turnover today.
Q. In the first half you looked like you played two rough games on the road, then the second half just kind of got in the flow of things.
COACH McCAFFERY: I thought we played great in the first half, I really did, with the exception of the fact we gave up eight offensive rebounds. They did miss nine threes. I felt offensively we were terrific in the first half. Defensively we had a few breakdowns, we gave up some seconds, but I thought we were great in both halves.
Q. Any better for Devyn to get a breakaway dunk, get him started?
COACH McCAFFERY: Then he hits a wideopen three. The key for him is to shoot open shots, play his game, mix it, jumpers, drives, pullups, plays for other people.
He was spectacular today, there’s no question about it.
Q. When he is on, they have to guard him.
COACH McCAFFERY: It changes our running game, changes our halfcourt offense. They really have to pay attention to him. He’s such a weapon because he can do so many different things.
That’s what he’s going to be for the rest of the year, there’s no doubt in my mind.
Q. How do you feel your team was able to respond regarding the nine offensive rebounds?
COACH McCAFFERY: In the second half he went small. Swopshire got hurt, in his defense, and Olah got hurt. He was trying to make threes late, driving, kicking and shoot threes. We had a bigger team.
The other thing is he went 131 a lot in the second half which allows us to have three bigs on the baseline against their point guard. We got a ton of seconds out of that.
We weren’t attacking it as well as the last time we played that. We got seconds and finished.
Q. What happened to Devyn’s game and how did you not lose him or was that not a possibility?
COACH McCAFFERY: It wasn’t even an issue with him. He never lost his confidence in himself. Like I said the other night, I thought against Wisconsin he was so aggressive. I told him to just keep being aggressive, play the game with reckless abandon. He goes 110, so he feels awful. It gets highlighted again. We lose in double overtime. It wasn’t his fault we lost that game. He missed some shots, but he was attacking the rim.
In practice, he hasn’t let up one possession for us. I get nervous is when I have a guy struggling who pouts in practice, doesn’t give effort in practice, blaming his teammates, blaming the coaching staff. Devyn kept working. I told you before, he has phenomenal character. When you have character, you’re going to play through this kind of stuff.
Q. You must be pretty proud to go through what they’ve gone through on the road and come back and play hard, probably tired legs, yet especially in the second half to really breakaway like that.
COACH McCAFFERY: I think, too, one of the things that really helps us is we have depth. We have as much depth as anybody. Billy doesn’t have that kind of depth right now. He’s got guys hurt.
We were able to keep the pressure on at halfcourt and keep running, then rotate fresh bodies. If you don’t have fresh bodies on the floor, you can’t guard that offense. If you keep five guys out there and try to guard that for 40 minutes, it’s an absolute nightmare.
Q. What extra dimension does Oglesby give you?
COACH McCAFFERY: I thought Josh had a tremendous game. He hit some shots. I think that’s what everybody looks at when they look at him. Defensively he might have been our most solid defender. That’s why I stayed with him. He was in there a long time, might be a little tired. But defensively he was spectacular.
He also is a tremendous passer. He made a couple great feeds. He doesn’t make mistakes. Makes his free throws. I mean, he was great tonight.
Q. Basabe came in, had a couple shots, jumper, a dunk —
COACH McCAFFERY: He’s really played with a great deal of energy recently. He felt terrible because he got beat on the one backcut. That was the really only one time in the game. But, I mean, his buckets seemed to come in very timely situations.
Q. That trap out front seemed to give you some trouble.
COACH McCAFFERY: We got a little tentative against it. We quickshot a couple times, got a couple deflections. But when it was all said and done we attacked it pretty good.
Q. Third or fourth game in a row where your leading scorer was there in this game, struggled. Is that a tribute to your depth as much as anything?
COACH McCAFFERY: I think it’s been that way all year for us, like you said.
Obviously, it would be nice if our two leading scorers were getting 15 or 20 every night. But we haven’t had that kind of team this year. There’s been different lineups on the floor.
I thought Olaseni was terrific tonight. Eric May was great when he was in there. Oglesby was terrific, Basabe. Every time I put someone in, they were fresh, fresh legs, fresh wind. They were good.
Q. Were you curious at all how your team would respond coming off the two losses they had?
COACH McCAFFERY: I knew we would play hard. I knew we would play well. I wasn’t worried about a letdown.
Q. This team hasn’t had a letdown despite tough losses.
COACH McCAFFERY: Yeah, they just keep coming.
If you look at the individual makeup of each player, Mike is not wired that way. Marble is not wired that way. Neither is Clemmons. Neither is Woodbury. Those guys, they just keep coming. Woodbury, Zach. Zach gets a huge three when we really needed a bucket. I thought it was great.
So, I mean, this is something I don’t worry about with this group.
Q. You’ve had to play four games in 10 days. That’s tough, especially because they just got back into school. You have a few days off before your next game.
COACH McCAFFERY: They got a day off tomorrow with no practice, nothing. I don’t know that we’ve ever had a time where I felt like, ‘boy, they really need a day off.’ We’re actually going to give them off Monday, too, because last week we didn’t give them off a day at all, now we have to give them two.
Q. You mentioned when Olah and Swopshire went out you had a bigger team. How do you feel that helped you?
COACH McCAFFERY: We got some second shots when we needed it. The rebounding numbers shifted across the board. Now, you got some issues at the other end when they’re running all that dribble handoff stuff with guys that are drivers and threepoint shooters. You’re a little bit nervous with, are we going to be able to get up on the threepoint shooters in those situations. Abrahamson got the one out of the corner when they drove and drew three of us, but overall I think it benefitted all of us.
Q. Pretty good report for what this team has been through, 15 wins.
COACH McCAFFERY: Yeah, but to me it’s the journey. I’m not looking at where we are today. I’m looking at we won today, we played better. Kids fought for us. Great performances. On to the next game.
I’ll look at the win total when the season’s over, but not today.
Q. You talked about getting Devyn more open shots. That was a big reason for his success today. Seemed like you were doing more to get him in position.
COACH McCAFFERY: I think that’s a great point because I think that’s what his game is. He’s not a standstill shooter. He’s a driver. He’s a runout guy. He can play the point, he can post up. He has threepoint range. He has a pullup game. He can hit the floater. He can make a big steal for you. He can rebound. He can dunk in traffic.
Very few guys have that complete of a skill set. I think he’s gotten away from that a little bit and just worried about his jump shot. I just keep telling him, “just be who you are.” Play the game with reckless abandon. Be an attack player. Play with confidence. I’m sticking with you. I’m not yanking you. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to yell at him occasionally and get in his face, like when he made that one turnover. He knows I trust him and I’m going to leave him out there.
Q. Seemed like he was playing with a little bit of patience today.
COACH McCAFFERY: And you have to against this team. I think that’s a good point. You have to against this team. You want to be aggressive but you can’t play nuts against this team because you’ll be charging, they’ll be going the other way with it.
Q. One basket on a backcut in two games. A testimony to where your defense has come?
COACH McCAFFERY: That’s one of the things where you look and say, we were in a position to win a couple games. We felt like if our defense was substantially better, you know, we would be maybe a little further along than we are.
But that said, I think when you look at how our team has played, and you look at the quality of teams that we played, where we played them, how many games, 47, 57, whatever it was, I think that shows you how far we’ve come and the kind of team we have, that we’re able to survive.
If we had a terrible offensive shooting performance, which we’ve had a few in years past, we would have lost 2530. Here we are in overtime, battling, making enough shots to be in a position to win, miss a couple free throws. It’s unfortunate. But our team has shown a tremendous amount of resiliency and maturity, in my opinion.