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UNIVERSITY OF IOWA BASKETBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 7, 2020
Iowa City, Iowa
Q. How has the response been following the loss at Purdue?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: Everybody was I thought professional in their approach. That's what you expect from them.
Q. After big wins you don't ever seem to change. Is that really valuable in times like this?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: I think the perception is -- I was just talking about this with Steve. It's like you play poorly, and the coach's responsibility is to go in and turn over every chair and scream at everybody. Somehow that is miraculously going to change what just happened.
I think we all have to be more professional than that. We didn't have it. Credit them. They were better. So what you do, is you take a look at it, you take a look at yourself, coaches, players, what could we have done differently, what should we have done differently, what could they have done differently.
If a guy plays poorly, it's not like you have to tell him. He already knows. And then you see how they respond. Part of being on the road in the Big Ten, we're dealing with ice and conditions, and getting back late, and everybody else is in the same boat, everybody else does the same thing, then you get up the next day and you go to work.
Q. Looking at it, what could you have done differently? Were there things?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: Yeah, there were a few things. Starting with, we didn't rebound well at the start of the game. That was a problem. They got going.
We weathered the first run and got back in the game, and after that we got a little sideways, which is not uncommon when you're on the road and you're behind and the crowd is loud like that. Try to get it all back at once, and you try not to do that. Took a timeout. We had a media timeout. So plenty of opportunities to talk about it.
But we really just never got it going consistently at either end. You need some consecutive stops, you need some consecutive really good possessions, and you crawl back in the game. A couple years ago we were down 19 first half over there; came back and won. So you're hoping, okay, can we have a similar experience to that, where we were really good in terms of how you have to come back on the road.
We didn't do a good job of that at all.
Q. Does it help to have a tight turnaround so these guys can't spend much time dwelling on anything?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: You're playing twice a week now, so there is not a lot of time in between any game, whether it's a big win, tough loss. It's not like it's any easier if you lose by tip-in at the buzzer. You still got to get up the next day and go to work.
Q. Was it tough getting home?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: Well, yeah. They had snow and ice. Had to plow the runway, that kind of stuff, the usual de-ice the place. It wasn't anything elaborate, other than it took longer and you're going, Okay, do we bus? Do we wait until tomorrow? Do we go? Do we not go? That kind of thing.
But kids handled that well.
Q. Kreiner said he talked to the team after the game. Did you like what he said? Do you think that really helped?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: I think Ryan is somebody that I trust implicitly to be a guy that will -- he's not the only one -- but he's one that he's got a voice in that locker room that's impactful.
He's respected by everybody in that locker room, so if he wants to talk, he needs to talk and say what he's got to say. I think it was received very well, and it should have been.
Q. Coach, when you go back and review tape, what are a couple things that stand out that Luka has done at a high level that maybe even you didn't see coming this year?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: When you're talking about him, he's got an unbelievable skill set but a relentlessness about him that he's always had. I think what you're seeing is a guy that is improving, because the more experienced he gets the better he is.
He knows how to score, he knows how to get open. He's not a big mistake guy. We're going to him, and I think he is a very confident guy by nature. The better he plays and the more we go to him and the more stuff we run for him and his ability to perform well when he's getting all kinds of stacked defenses, whether it be just everybody crowding him or doubling him in different ways. He's handled that extremely well.
That comes from I think having a really keen intellect to play this game.
Q. I think the most impressive thing about the streak he has right now with 20 plus scoring games is that he's doing it against so many different defenses.
FRAN MCCAFFERY: Exactly. And, sometimes he'll go stretches without scoring and he won't score for a while. He doesn't hunt shots. He's not that guy. It'll come. He has confidence that we'll get it to him and he'll make things happen.
Seemingly at the end the game he's going to have numbers, and that's what the great ones do.
Q. The Big Ten has 10 teams in the NET top 35 of as of today I think. But then I look at NBA mock drafts, and you don't have those Big Ten guys in there. What makes these 10 teams so strong, you know, 10 of the top 35 teams, when you're not looking at lottery picks?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: I think you're looking at a lot of the good players, deep teams, some veteran guys, veteran coaches. I think that's what you're looking at. We're not relying - as a conference, that is - on one or two guys each team.
Q. Fran, what have you done to help Luka get better these three years?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: I think when you have somebody like him who's incredibly motivated, you provide the best atmosphere for him in terms of building confidence, watching film, encouraging him, communicating with him. He's got the ability to speak up, and he'll do that periodically.
But he knows that I have 100% confidence in him, and that's always going to be helpful when you're talking about an individual's confidence in themseves.
Q. Seeing all of the honors he is getting, will that have an affect?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: It won't affect anything that he does in terms of putting in extra time, how he responds to coaching, how he responds to his teammates. There is never a level of frustration in him. If he ran and posted and didn't get the ball, you know, he's not yelling at anybody or, You got to run more stuff for me. Never ever anything like that.
He just keeps grinding, and he knows we'll collectively be intelligent with how we approach him. So we're going to run stuff for him, run stuff for other people. If you run something for somebody else and he misses the shot, he'll get the rebound and put it back in. It's not like, Well, why didn't you run it for me? That doesn't matter to him. Whatever the play dictates, that's what he does.
I wish I could say that I had a lot more to do with that. What I do I think, I pride myself in, is that we just encourage him to continue to be the way he is and continue to build confidence in him and this is the result.
Pretty much with his instincts that are innate in him, providing the framework, and we'll continue to do that.
Q. Does his mid-range game make it hard to just double team him in the post?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: Yeah, because he's not always in the same place. He's not always on the block. If a guy is always on the block and can only score from the block, they're easier to guard. You can pop him out; you can screen for him; he can be the screener; he can be a slip guy; he can be at the three-point line; he can be the first post down or he can be the last post down and score in transition from the three spot or drive it in the gap.
I think he's making plays for other people more than he ever has. I think the freedom we give him is good, and he enjoys that. He enjoys being a winning guy. It's always interesting. I always say it, but, you know, when you're that guy, you end up getting the publicity anyway when you're not even looking for it.
Q. I heard you the other day talking to Seth Greenburg, and I just want to get it clarified. But would you have seen him in time, had it not been for following Connor and AAU ball?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: Yes. I would have, and it probably would've been later. Kind of by that time he was established at the very least as a high mid-major guy, or -- you know, maybe not the necessarily a top 10 program, but other Power 5 programs. I think seeing him at a young age, you kind of had to see what was coming.
So I had an opportunity to see him in some different settings and just kind of watch him develop, but I really don't think it was hard in that sense. Like it's not like, Wow. He was special. Because all of the things we just talked about he was doing when he was a sophomore in high school; his body was just different.
I think that's what you have to be able to -- I mean, I've been doing this long enough. You see a young, big kid who's a sophomore in high school, you think he's 15 years old. Okay, he's not the finished product, but he has instincts, a skill set, he's got a toughness, he's got character.
You certainly feel like, Okay, I can project this guy to be somebody really good. Okay, yeah, we were the first Power 5 to say, We're all in on you. He's getting mail and some phone calls, that kind of stuff. Everybody is like, Let's keep watching him. Not only myself and my staff, it's like, okay, this guy can be an impact player for us. It was not a question ever. I think that was important to him, to know that we saw that early and that we were all in on him.
So at the end, Mike, when everybody was offering, it wasn't a surprise. It's kind of what happens in the process a lot of time. Guys continue to develop and more and more teams see them, more and more teams offer, and then kind of see where it ends up.
But for him, it was pretty simple. We had him out here for an unofficial visit at a young age, and he fell in love with everything he saw. Had a relationship with some of the guys and certainly with us. You know, I think his family knew that he was going to be a Power 5 guy, and were looking for the right opportunity, the right system.
I think our system is perfectly suited for him. Gives him the freedom that he needs to kind of do all of the things that he can do.
Those guys are just fun to coach, because you can utilize them in a lot of different ways, but they're also phenomenal in the locker room in terms of being a great teammate and great example.
This year he's been a tremendous, tremendous leader, but he didn't come in here is as freshman expecting to be the voice in the locker room. He was respectful of the guys that were here before. He just really gets it.
Q. When he lost all that weight as a kid, did that really open your eyes? You probably knew what made him tick anyway by then.
FRAN MCCAFFERY: I think the interesting think was, okay, you knew what he was trying to do. Like there was a method to what they were working toward. Like you could see. He lost a bunch of weight and he wasn't as good as he was before, but you knew he would be. So did he. So did his dad. So that, to me, is what was special about it. Took a step back to take multiple steps forward. That's kind of who he is.
Q. Was Nebrask'a defense the first game new to you?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: Well, yeah, because it left everybody else open. Nobody else has done that.
Q. How important is it to have C.J. back?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: Yeah. We have other guys that can shoot, go 4 for 33.
Q. You expect to see that again?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: I would say decent chance. I'm to the point now where we've seen it all. We'll probably see more than one thing from them, just like we see more than one thing from everybody else now.
They're fronting, they're playing behind, doubling here, doubling late, doubling early, they're crowding him. They're guarding CJ a certain way, Joe a certain way, Joe Toussaint a certain way. The big lineup a certain way, the small lineup a certain way.
It just all part of it, especially as you're going through the -- not that we play everybody twice, but you're kind of going through the conference for the second time now. Everybody has seen a lot of each other.
Q. With Nebraska you couldn't make threes; the other night Purdue couldn't miss them. How much of that is that just there's nothing you can do; sometimes that's just the nature of the game?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: You hope that you don't let a team get started like that. That's typically what ends up happening. So you get off to a bad start, get off to a good start, and then it kind of gets going and then you can't stop it either way. Normally a team like ours, you miss a couple, you'll make a couple. Same for everybody else; sometimes doesn't work that way.
Q. Do you look at this as revenge, lost the first game?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: I don't believe in that, no. It's kind of, respect your opponent. We went in there and they beat us. They played better than us that night. Okay? What do we have to do to play better when we play them the next time? What do we have to do better than we played in the last game?
I think that again, goes back to the first thing I said: The professional way to approach it.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports