March 13, 2014
COACH COLLINS: Well, certainly for us it was a special win. You know, considering what we've had to go through since we lost JerShon about three weeks ago, who was such a key part of our team, and we were playing really well. And then we kind of had to reinvent ourselves again here, had our struggles for a while, were able to get a good win last Sunday at Purdue, which I thought was huge for our confidence.
I was just really pleased with the way my team approached the last couple days heading into this game. A lot of times for a team like ours with the record we have, you can have a tendency -- we're playing a team that would beat us by close to 30 points both times we played them. You can have a tendency to maybe just come here to Indy, enjoy the day, play a little ball and be done with things. But that's not what my group wanted to do, and that's not who they've been, and I thought they played outstanding. We played maybe our best game of the year.
It's easy to say that; I hate clichés. But I thought on both sides of the ball we played really well, especially offensively. I thought we shared the ball well. They really tried to come after us. They trapped us on a lot of ball screens. They were trying to be real aggressive on the perimeter, and I thought our guards did a great job of not only attacking the pressure, but then making the right reads and hitting guys.
And then we made shots, and that hasn't been something we've done a lot this year. It was nice to see the ball go in the basket.
I thought the end of the first half was a really key stretch of the game. We came out of the under 4:00 timeout. I think Marble got a three point play to push the lead to 28 21. We were down by seven, and we talked about going into the half trying to play a good four minutes to get some momentum heading into the second half, and we outscored them 10 3. Tre hit a good shot at the buzzer to get us to tied and then it was our ball coming out of the half.
I thought that might have been the biggest four minutes of the game when they had a chance to kind of run away from us a little bit. And we got it back and got it tied at halftime.
It was a great time. Iowa is a terrific team. I have nothing but respect for Coach McCaffery. I've known him since I was a little kid. I used to be a ball boy when he was a player at the University of Pennsylvania when I was eight years old. I have great respect for him and his program, so for us to play well and win this game against a really good team showed a lot about our team and about our program.
Q. Guys, you guys had a lot more threes than lay ups this game as opposed to mid range jumpers. Is that something you worked on heading into the game?
DREW CRAWFORD: I think a big thing was we were trying to get into the lane, penetrate, and they did a great job of collapsing and kind of taking away our drives. So when they were doing that, that's when we had shooters on the perimeter. We were able to find our kicks, get it to three point shooters on the perimeter, and in the case that they didn't step up and collapse, then we were able to get to the basket.
TRE DEMPS: I mean, Iowa, they're great at hedging on ball screens, so we tried to just get them strung out a little bit. And just like Drew said, once you come off that ball screen, to give yourself up as a ball handler and swing the ball and find the open guy in the rotation.
Q. Tre, you had a couple really good assists in this game, including a great dish out to Dave Sobolewski. Talk about what that momentum swing was.
TRE DEMPS: Yeah, seems like when we have connecting plays, those points mean more than even somebody going one on one, because everybody is involved and everybody contributed. So when you have a connecting play like the one that I had to Dave and guys hit me -- did a great job hitting me for threes, I think we play better defense when that happens.
Q. What Chris said about could have had an attitude of just come to Indy, enjoy the day, what has been motivating you guys?
DREW CRAWFORD: You know, it's just a fighting spirit that we have. From the beginning, Coach told us the way we were going to play every night is just we were going to work our hardest for 40 minutes every game. So that's really our motivation, and knowing that this is the last time that this group is going to be together, there will be guys graduating, guys leaving, so we've got to enjoy every moment we have as a group.
You know, the fact that no one really gives us a chance, that's big time motivation, too, and we like it that way. That really drives us because we know we're capable, and we're capable of being a great team, and we were able to show out and play well tonight.
TRE DEMPS: I think just to add to that, when you see the coaching staff every day meeting up there for hours and hours when I walk into the gym, that just shows their commitment, and it makes you want to go that much harder. They did a great job putting us in positions to make plays.
Q. The way the team played defense tonight, was that reminiscent of the way you guys played defense when you strung together the wins during the middle of the season? When you're successful against a team like Iowa, do you feel like that sparks you on the other end of the floor?
DREW CRAWFORD: Yeah, it definitely does. That's what we've hung our hat on all year is our defense, and then defense is really when we're most together. That's when we're most united because we have to move as a unit and really communicate with each other. So when we're playing great defense, getting stops and rebounds, that really leads into offense because we're feeling good and we know we're playing together.
Q. Looking forward to tomorrow's game against Michigan State, have you started to think about the Spartans at all and will your mindset change after you have one win under your belt?
TRE DEMPS: Yeah, even just waiting there, as a competitor, I start thinking about the game. We didn't do a good job of playing defense against them. We felt like we scored the ball well, but we didn't fight that game. I think playing against those guys, they're very similar to Iowa. They like to push the ball up and down. They play really physical on the glass. We're going to have to have the same physicality that we had tonight.
Q. Drew and Tre, earlier in the season when teams would make runs against you, you had sort of a tendency to let games leave your grasp. Tonight, every time Iowa made a run, you fought back, especially both you guys hit big shots. How important was that, and was it anything with the team's mentality changing?
DREW CRAWFORD: Yeah, I think part of that is just the experience, kind of as guys get more comfortable on the court, we get more comfortable playing with each other. Basketball, it's a game of runs. There's always going to be teams going on runs against you, and you have to be able to deal with that adversity. And I think one thing is I really tried to huddle the team. We get good huddles during the game, get everyone together, and just calm everyone down. You can't let one big play by the other team turn into a string of plays. We did a great job of shifting that momentum tonight.
TRE DEMPS: I think when teams get on runs like that, you know, it's also important to make shots. You know, when they were on that run, Kale hit two big shots finishing strong, and Sanjay had a couple -- he hit a three and a pull up jumper. When those guys get going, it motivates them and it motivates our whole team because we're so excited when they score.
Q. Chris, what's the difference between Tre hitting that three at the end of the half and not, just kind of mentally? And also, can you talk about the way Dave played?
COACH COLLINS: Well, in terms of the shot, there's no question it was a big momentum boost because Marble had just hit a three for them. It was tied, Marble hit a three to give them a three point lead, and then Tre, we pushed the ball up and Tre hits a great shot. You go in feeling good. It's a tie game, and it was our ball, so we came out and we were able to score, so we got the lead right away. I thought it was a huge momentum boost.
In terms of Dave, it was his best game of the year. I thought he had a really good -- he had a very good presence to him tonight. He got us organized. He was strong with the ball, and, of course, he made shots. Everybody has documented he hasn't shot the ball this well this year, and I thought he hit a little floater in the lane that was huge. He hit two huge threes and then two big time free throws when they cut it to two to put it to a four point lead.
The thing about Dave, which is great, is he's not afraid. He wants to take those big shots, he wants the ball, and I know a guy having that kind of experience, I know his year has been up and down. And for him to come out here, and he played well in our last game, he was really big at Purdue and played his best game today. I'm really happy for him. I thought he played a really good basketball game.
Q. You told us a couple of days ago that one thing that would be really important for your team tonight would be to control the tempo. How did you do that?
COACH COLLINS: Well, we were a little bit fortunate they were missing shots. We started the game, we played some zone. We just wanted to give them a little different look. I just felt it was important. They had such a rhythm against us the two times we played them before. They scored pretty much at will. They were high scoring games. We would have had tough match ups. We started the game in zone, we missed some shots, then they got comfortable against it.
I just said, look, I'm not going to sit in the zone. That's not who we are. If we're going to go down, we are going to go down being the team we've been. We went to our man to man and we played that the rest of the game, and our guys just dug in and stuck to our principles. We weren't perfect, but we made them work.
Any time you play a really good team, it helps if guys miss some shots they normally make. I thought Gesell missed shots that he normally makes. We were fortunate that Oglesby never got it going against us. I thought Uthoff and Marble played great, but we were able to do a pretty good job on the other guys.
Our whole goal going into this game was to keep this game in the 60s, if we could, and give ourselves a chance in the last five minutes. Let's have some game pressure on them and then we would have to make some plays and execute, and that's what we were able to do.
Q. With what you had mentioned about the two games not being close and then, really, coming into a tournament, rather than winning it, you don't have a lot to play for on paper. Did that actually help your team in your mindset loosen up?
COACH COLLINS: Yeah, I think it helped us relax. We talked about the fact that there is really no pressure on us. We can just play. We can just compete, we can play. We should take our shots confidently. We should play with a spirit to us that there's nothing holding us back. But our guys did a great job, and sometimes it's funny, the power of the mind. When you do that, it's funny how sometimes you shoot better.
I really believe that's one of the reasons why a lot of the shots that we haven't made all year we made tonight, just because guys were a little bit more free in their minds, like you said. The regular season is over, we're here at the Big Ten Tournament. It's a great venue, an exciting place to play. Let's just go have fun and compete and play and see what happens.
Our guys, you never feel good when you're playing a team that's pretty much owned them. I think they had beaten us five times in a row, and I don't know if any of the games were even that close. I know the ones this year weren't, under my watch. I know in our locker room our guys were determined to play these guys better. We haven't had any success against them. I know that was a driving force for the players to play much better against this team.
Q. As far as your game plan, what was the game plan going in, and then did you change it at all as the score kept staying really close?
COACH COLLINS: Well, at the start of the game, we were going to start in the zone. I knew they were going to come out with a lot of energy, just they -- they felt like they had some games maybe they should have won, and they wanted to play well. And they have a lot of pride, and they're well coached and they're really talented. One of the things we thought was if maybe we came out in the zone it might slow them down a little bit.
Fortunately, they missed some shots early. I thought they got some open looks. They missed them. So the first four minutes, we never really got hit with like a monster surge. And then I thought they got comfortable against our zone after the first four or five minutes of the game, and that's when I scrapped it and I said we're going to play man. That's what we work on every day. That's our identity. That's who we are. If we're going to go down, we're going to go down being who we are, so we ended up playing man the rest of the game.
When you play Iowa, No. 1 on the board is get back in transition, No. 2 on the board is get back in transition, and then No. 3 is rebound. I thought in the first half we rebounded the ball really well. In the second half, they wore us down on the glass. I think we were plus seven or plus eight at halftime, and we ended up minus eight. We got hammered on the boards in the second half, but fortunately with our ability to make shots, it allowed us to counteract that a little bit.
Q. You kind of touched on this a little bit, but kind of put it in perspective, no 11 seed has ever won a game in the Big Ten Tournament. Talk about that.
COACH COLLINS: Well, I didn't really know that, which is probably crazy because I usually -- you ask my wife, I have too much useless basketball knowledge in my head. That's the one thing I probably didn't know.
You know, we never really looked at it like that, but to hear that, it means something. For us -- look, we're year one, and we're trying to build a program. We're trying to build, we're trying to climb the mountain of this Big Ten. We have aspirations of, eventually, one day being a program that contends for championships year in and year out, and it takes time and it takes experience. And in order to do that, you have to take steps as they come.
And one of those steps is you've got to learn how to win in the postseason tournament. And so for us to come here and prepare and to get a win and now have a chance to be able to play Michigan State, which to me is the standard of excellence in this league. There's a lot of great, great programs, and that in no way, shape or form does it disrespect anyone else in our league. We've got as good a league as there is.
But what Coach Izzo has done with his program, the kind of kids he has, the way he's won, that's a standard of excellence, and now we have a chance to rest up and come back tomorrow and compete against them and see how we can do. To me the only thing that can come out of that for our program is positive.
[Editor's note: Northwestern's win tonight marked the fourth victory by a No. 11 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and first since 1999.]
Q. You mentioned rest up. There's not going to be a lot of time for rest. You guys played a lot of minutes. Do you feel like they'll just have a surge of energy because of the stage tomorrow, or is fatigue going to be a problem?
COACH COLLINS: Yeah, there's no other option. We are who we are. The guys playing are the guys that are going to play. That's where we've got to utilize -- we have a great training staff, we have great medical people. It's very important now when the game ends with hydration, with treatment, with rest, with different things you can do now. We're going to do everything we have within our power to get our guys' legs fresh and get them some rest and try to put a game plan together.
This time of year, though, a lot of it is guts, it's heart, and then it'll be on me. I'm going to have to do a good job using our timeouts, managing tempo, things of that nature, give guys maybe a rest around the timeouts if I can get a guy a minute here and a minute there. Again, it's going to be a similar formula. We've got to try to keep the game at bay, keep it at a manageable number, and give ourselves a chance in the last five, six minutes to see if we can be competitive.
I think it's going to be very similar to what we tried to do tonight.
Q. Can you guys put a finger on maybe what's been going wrong and causing this late season slump that kind of bled over into today?
ROY DEVYN MARBLE: Can you repeat the question?
Q. You guys have obviously been in a little bit of a late season slump here, six out of seven. Can you put your finger on what's gone wrong?
ROY DEVYN MARBLE: Well, early in the season, we were defending a lot better. I think we're giving up too many quality shots to opponents and they've been making them, and everybody is a Division I player, so if you give them open shots they're going to knock them down. I just think we have to work on our communication and work on our rotations in and out of slots and stuff like that.
JARROD UTHOFF: He covered it. Defensive intensity. I think we need to bring it more.
Q. Roy, I just want to know what the players thought about the tee shirts you guys have that say D MAC and what that meant for the Coach.
ROY DEVYN MARBLE: We created them. We had them come in the other day in practice. We love Coach McCaffery and his family a lot. They've done a lot for all of us. When one person is feeling down, we're all feeling down. He's family, and we just want to know Coach McCaffery that we've got his back and that we'd be here.
Q. Coach, I know you guys are going through a very tough time, you in particular. But the question I have is: I made this comment earlier about Ohio State, I wondered after two victories against Purdue, how would they play against a team that they clearly were better than, and they almost lost. You guys blew out Northwestern two times this year. Was there any kind of letdown coming into this where you want to win the tournament but maybe you didn't look at Northwestern or your kids didn't look at them?
COACH MCCAFFERY: I really don't think that was the case. I think we have to give more credit to this Northwestern team and how they played. I don't want to say that we didn't take them seriously enough. We're thinking down the road. We have great respect for Drew Crawford. Anybody that's scored 1,900 points, he should have your full attention. I thought Olah over the last month, one of the best -- or should say one of the most improved players in the country.
We know Kale Abrahamson can score the ball. Sobolewski has been banged up all year. He's playing better, played well today. In this league you're playing a team that has beaten people, and they made 11 threes. You know, you've got to tip your hat to a team that shares the ball in a way to make 11 threes. They weren't just dribbling down and shooting it. They were moving the ball and running stuff, whether it's against man or zone, and finding each other. You know, we out rebounded them. We didn't particularly turn it over a lot. We were 0 9 in the second half from three. It's hard. We were right there. We were fighting.
I think at this point you have to say Northwestern played well. They played better than us today.
Q. Aaron White had two scores right at the beginning of the game there and didn't attempt a shot the rest of the game. Do you want to talk about what Northwestern did to limit his attempts?
COACH MCCAFFERY: I mean, I think they guarded him closely. He's a marquee guy, they're switching, they're up into him. He's got the green light. He turned down some shot opportunities to move the ball. I give him credit.
Q. How do you hit the reset button now heading towards postseason play and clear the team's mind of the way the season has ended for them?
COACH MCCAFFERY: There's no magic formula. You just have to keep working. What we've said over these last two weeks is you work your way out of things like this. You don't talk your way out of it, you don't fake your way out of it, you work your way out of it, and you stay positive. We'll stay positive as coaches, but we'll stay positive with one another. You can't start pointing fingers and blaming each other.
You know, my conversation after the game was very positive with regard to that because I believe in this team and the character that we have in that locker room.
Q. What specifically do you think you want to work on? I know this one is fresh, but what do you think you drill down on over the next week or so?
COACH MCCAFFERY: I really think when you're losing, it's never one thing. It's easy to point at the defense. We gave up, what, 52 and 48 for three, so it's easy to say, okay, your defense was terrible. But maybe it's a component, like late shot clock defense wasn't what it needed to be.
Overall I thought our half court defense was pretty good at times. I think Dev hit on -- our rotations are not what they need to be. Going to work on that.
Offensively we're struggling. We shot 25 percent from three, we shot 25 percent in the second half, we shot 32 percent for the game. Okay, so is that execution? Is it offensive patience? Is it poor execution in transition? We'll watch film, we'll break it down, we'll do drills, we'll work individually with individual players. And like I say, we'll stay positive and address all of those areas.
Q. You kind of touched on this a little bit. Marble scores 25, the rest of the four starters have seven. Can you kind of explain that?
COACH MCCAFFERY: Well, I kind of went away from the starting lineup because of how Uthoff was playing and how Olaseni was playing in particular, so they took the bulk of Basabe and Woodbury's minutes. Mike was 0-for-10. He's been great. I love him. He had a rough night, couldn't get one to fall. A pull up, a drive, a three, couldn't get one to fall. I had to work Josh and Pete into the lineup while we're struggling offensively. So do you downshift and go small, do you stay big, and we did both. We pressed, we zoned, we went man, we went small, we went big, pushing different buttons.