CHICAGO — Here is the unvarnished Q and A in the Iowa men’s basketball team’s press conference following its 59-56 Big Ten tournament loss to Michigan State Friday night at the United Center, as well as the comments of Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo:
COACH McCAFFERY: I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve coached in a lot of games. I’ve coached in a lot of tournaments. I’ve coached favorites; I’ve coached underdogs. This team deserved a better fate tonight.
Q. Devyn, just talk about the last possession, last shot.
DEVYN MARBLE: We were trying to get Josh the ball. He kind of got stuck in the corner, so thought dribble handed off to him, probably would have faded out‑of‑bounds. It was a position I didn’t want to put him in. So I just turned and knew I had to get the shot over Keith, he’s like 6‑0, 6‑1. It looked good, and sometimes they fall and sometimes they don’t.
Q. Just asked the Michigan State players; how physical was that game compared to the Big Ten and other games you’ve played in your career?
ERIC MAY: Yeah, Michigan State is always a physical game. We knew that coming in. The key is to match their physicality, and I think we did a good job of that. They are a tough team, but you have to really sustain that the whole game, though.
DEVYN MARBLE: I played this team freshman yearin the Big Ten Tournament. That was the most physical game I’d ever been in until today with the same team. So usually when we play each other, it’s a very physical game.
Q. Seemed like Michigan State kept coming up with dagger after dagger, big plays, turnover, and you came back and responded late in the half. What was going on in the second half and what was your mind‑set like as they kept seemed to get a nail‑in‑the‑coffin‑type play over and over?
DEVYN MARBLE: We just tried to keep our poise. We knew they were going to make a run, they are a really good team. The goal for us is to try to limit the runs and cut it to like 8‑0 runs and like that, you don’t want it to go 12‑2 and 14‑0, stuff like that, so just try to limit their runs.
Plus, we had the lead so all we had to do was keep our poise and try to make plays down the stretch, also. But they knocked down the shots and we didn’t.
ERIC MAY: I mean, kind of like Coach said, they made some big shots, and we had some shots that looked like they were good, but the key is to just stay calm. I don’t think we ever‑‑ there’s maybe a minute or two we got a little riled up but we held our composure and had a chance there.
Q. Obviously you don’t know your fate until Sunday in terms of the tournament, but you were so close to getting this one, one shot short.
ERIC MAY: I think we deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament. I’m really proud of my team. We are a really good team and we have fought all season long. Whenever we are playing, we are going to play our tails off next week, wherever we are playing.
Q. Not sure how much you do want to talk about this, but the play where Harris got a foul call, was able to go to the line for a free throw, is that what you’re talking about with deserving a better fate?
COACH McCAFFERY: Yeah, that’s part of it.
Q. I’ll take that onus off you about the referee; I saw what you saw, as well. Is there another reason that stuck out in your mind why this happened tonight beside that?
COACH McCAFFERY: We turned the ball over too much. We had 19 turnovers. We feet like coming in, we needed to turn it over less than we did the last time we played them; we turned it over 18, and turned it over 19 and we needed to limit their offensive rebounding and they got 16.
So the two areas didn’t happen like we had hoped. But, I thought our defense overall was really good. And I thought we were able to run. Thought our execution was pretty good. In the second half, we had a little more difficulty running our stuff, a little harder. But overall, you know, proud of how we kept fighting.
Q. You led for most of the game, did you sense maybe your team’s youth caught up with them down the stretch?
COACH McCAFFERY: No. Had nothing to do with it. Absolutely nothing to do with it. Nothing at all to do with it.
Q. Seemed like some of their shots were short, do you think there was any fatigue today having to play back‑to‑back days, or no?
COACH McCAFFERY: I don’t think it was that, no. I think there were other factors involved.
Q. When Appling, hit the 3 to give them the lead late going into that time‑out, what did you say to the team in that time‑out right after they took that lead?
COACH McCAFFERY: You know, I just challenged them. You know they are going to make some big shots. They are good players. They have a really good team. We were still right there. It was not time to panic. There was plenty of time left. Just don’t panic. We have got to get a shot, get a stop, okay.
You turn the ball over against this team and it’s usually two points. So it’s get a shot, get a stop, is really all we were trying to do.
Q. Might be off my number, are there 48 teams better than Iowa? (Hlas’ note: There are 37 at-large berths in the NCAA tourney, and 31 automatic qualifiers as conference-champions.)
COACH McCAFFERY: No, not at all. I think when you analyze it, you look at all of the factors involved. Starting with the quality of our league, which is phenomenal, top to bottom. You’re seeing that this week. You’ve seen it all year long. You’ve seen it with the number of rankings we have and the way we have played against all the best teams, how we have fought when we’ve lost, how we’ve fought when we’ve won, how we’ve continued to improve. I think it’s clear with what we have done that we should be in the NCAA Tournament.
I respect the job that the committee has. I know it’s difficult. I know there are a lot of other folks that feel the same way. But I think, you know, when you look at all the numbers, I think they bear out that we should be in. I think if you want to lock into any one particular number, you look at all of them. I think if you do that, you’ll see where we stack up.
Q. After a game like this, what do you say to your team? Tom Izzo sat up there where you are sitting and said Iowa deserved to win the game; we stole the game. What’s your message to your ballclub after a game like this?
COACH McCAFFERY: That would be hard to say right now.
Here are Izzo’s comments that were relevant to Iowa:
COACH IZZO: Well, I’ve been through a lot of tournaments, a lot of tournaments, back in our National Championship year, we had a couple of Final Fours that came many here and won at the buzzer against Penn State, won at the buzzer against Northwestern.
I thought, I have to blame myself, because I made a big deal about us showing up for 31 times, and we didn’t show up today for the first half and that really does fall on me. These guys did great job this morning. We had a shootaround here.
It was kind of a weird day, just because we had never shot here. I had one player that never played here, so that I thought it was important to get him up at 7:00 and that was probably a little bit of mistake, because is this general, Iowa out‑worked us three fourths of that game and deserved to be in the position they were in.
In saying that, after a disappointing halftime where I didn’t believe we were responding, these guys kind of took over, Branden Dawson, even a guy like Travis Trice, every one of them made a hero’s play at the end, and wasn’t just one guy. These guys spear headed it but every guy made a big play. And we found a way to luckily, luckily win.
Q. There was one point late in the first half, you made a hustle play, and Keith still wasn’t his best‑‑ can you talk about the fact that he continues to fight and play hard which has maybe not happened early in his career when he was struggling?
COACH IZZO: Keith is one of the toughest kids I have, and that’s what I said earlier. You’re all right. You’ve evaluated him very well, the 50/50 balls, the loose balls, Keith got some of those. But his dunk was a big play. It did kind of get us going.
And so I did say if Keith isn’t playing well, it’s hard for us to be good. He doesn’t have to be great but he has to be pretty solid and steady and tonight he did a pretty good job defensively.
We just, I don’t know‑‑ I loved Adreian’s comment, quicksand. Gary the first half, I think he was nailed to the floor. I don’t know why. The last time I saw that was in Germany.
So maybe I’m not appreciating these young guys some of them getting a little bit‑‑ four turnovers, maybe that’s some of it, and I hate to say it. But it’s good to have a rock and he’s my rock. He’s a tough kid and he hung in there.
And the other thing somebody mentioned, there were some bounces, too, that one that almost hit the ceiling and came back through, and there was one that went right in the crotch of the thing and fell in. I mean, they earned their way because Franny is a hell of a coach and did a hell of a job but there were some bounces that went their way, too.
Q. Most say that this loss will keep Iowa out of the NCAA Tournament; do you agree?
COACH IZZO: I don’t, and I’ll tell you why I don’t. A couple reasons; we can talk about their non‑conference schedule and I think people have done that.
I’ve been in this league when we have played one or two ranked teams, the whole time. I’ve been in this league when it was that way back, eight, nine years ago.
So, you know, when we are playing those tough schedules, then all of a sudden we’re playing with five, six, seven teams ranked in the Top‑25. That’s still a lot more than a lot of teams are. So the non‑conference schedule wasn’t as good; they won seven out of nine. They took, supposedly, the Top‑10 team, which I’m not sure they were, but they took us to the wire, probably deserved to win.
I’m not begging for it, but I just think he’s a hell of a coach and I think that is a very good basketball team that’s gotten better. And Marble, getting better each day has helped them. I look at some of the teams around the country they say they are getting in, and Iowa, on their mettle, I hope they do get in.
Q. Just out of respect to you, I’m not going to ask you a question about the reffing tonight, but I will ask one question‑‑ last time I saw you a few years ago, you didn’t win the first game and I asked you then, and I said, is it because of a team with your ranking, did you need it and you said, I hope we’re better than that. How did you go into the locker room tonight and get them to do what they ended up doing in the second half? I just assume‑‑ from your standpoint, how is it different for you, or is it the same thing every time?
COACH IZZO: No, it was different, because this was the first time with team that I just shut up. I didn’t say a lot on the sideline. I just said, I’ve never seen Gary Harris be like that, you know, except first game of the year where it just seemed like he was‑‑ and I know he cares.
So at halftime, when I say I didn’t do much, my (indiscernible) will probably be met, didn’t earn my money at halftime. I’ve got a saying: Learn to listen and listen to learn; I just listened, tried to learn something about my team and tried to see who was going to step up, and to my surprise, of all the people that stepped up for us was BJ, and it’s not in his character, you know.
So I think that was kind of cool for me. I don’t know how it worked, but we didn’t need a loss. Disappointed because now I can’t say we went 32 games not showing up, because we didn’t show up the first half.
But I can say 98 percent of this year, we’ve shown up every game, and I’ll look at this as an out‑of‑body experience and get ready for Ohio State.
Q. Having gone for games like this for two months, what does that put into this team and all of the Big Ten teams that might mean something starting next week? Is there a payoff from what you’ve had to go through?
COACH IZZO: Oh, I think there is. I think there is, because Charlie Bell once said back in 2000, you know, to be the best you’ve got to beat the best and I’m sure a lot more famous people than him said it, but that was in our group. I think about that all the time. It does build character.
It builds character what we did and some people wonder, will it wear everybody out. It will wear the weak ones down but the strong ones are going to keep moving forward and the strong ones are going to be able to sit in the locker room before a big game, and who knows who we are playing in the NCAA Tournament, and they will say, hey, we played this team, this team, this team, and you’ve been there before and done it at halftime or two minutes to go in the game, I might be able to use this event as, you know what we found a way even though we were not playing good, to be honest with you, to win three games in a row or six games in the NCAA Tournament, sometimes you have got to find a way.
Now we didn’t play good, but I’m telling you, you have to give Iowa a lot of credit for that. They made our life miserable tonight. His kids played so hard, I can’t even tell you; as hard as anybody said, as most of them told you.
But I think these games all help us. It makes you stronger. It makes you better. It’s hard. It’s hard. You can’t get up for every game, you know. You have to have one of those letdown games, and boy, we haven’t had many games where we could just play average and win, and tonight, we deserved to get beat, we found a way to win. I take it as a steal and try to play Iowa State.
I definitely believe Iowa is a team that deserves to be in this tournament because of how they have played and what they have done and how they played last night and how they played the last eight, nine games.
So I appreciate it, thanks for putting up with us tonight, see ya later.