Here’s a transcript of Fran McCaffery’s postgame news conference. The questions are paraphrased but the quotes are direct.
How would you describe the defense right now?
“We need some work, and we’ll keep working on it.”
Is the defensive performance puzzling because of the strides you’ve made?
“I think we played against a team that was inspired that was really working, sharing the ball. They have good shooters. They haven’t been shooting well. It doesn’t mean they’re not good shooters. Austin Hollins has always been a good shooter. He’s been off. (Malik) Smith has been off. They have a lot of guys who have been off. Tonight they were making them.”
What specifically do you need to work on?
“I think we just have to stay in our stance, stay engaged, stay after them. Whether it’s ball screens or drive and kicks or transition defense. It came easy for us early; we were up nine and we didn’t lock in defensively then like I think we should have. All the sudden you look and you’re down 10.
“Now they were on fire. I get that and the crowd got into it and stuff. You’ve got to adjust when (Charles) Buggs is hitting or (Austin) Hollins is hitting. They were on fire in the first half. I don’t know that I’ve coached against a team that made nine in a half. But this team has the potential to do that. They’re a good 3-point shooting team.”
How much of it was not getting back in transition or do you just tip your cap to your opponent?
“A lot of times we sit here and you lose and we didn’t do this, we didn’t do that. We should have done this, we could have done that. They put up 95. Now we can blame our defense if you want to, but at some point you’ve got to respect your opponent and say you know what, you had a good game plan, the kids executed it, they moved it, they got open and they made the shots. All the power to them.”
When a guy like Buggs, who hasn’t played much this year, does this to you, do you just kind of throw up your hands?
“Yeah, kind of. But I’d like to have adjusted maybe a little bit quicker to him. He was open and he made them.”
How did you guys play on offense in your mind?
“At times really well, I thought. We cut it to 68-66 and that stretch right after that we weren’t very good. So you go back and say, should I have called more sets, could I have called less sets? Did I have the right lineup on the floor? You start going over in your mind. It’s hard because a couple of times we wanted to drive it and nothing good happened on the penetration.”
Is Basabe still sick?
How did Anthony Clemmons play?
“He was great. Man he was great. Obviously I didn’t play him in the first half. I wasn’t sure. I gave him a shot, and I’m really proud of him. He showed me he really wants to play more.”
What did you think of Aaron White’s performance?
“I thought he was great all night long, Scott. We talked to him about impacting the game right off the bat on both ends of the floor. On the glass, in transition. I thought his effort level and his energy level was great. I tried to rest him when I could. He played 33 minutes late, we’re pressing, he’s the point of the press, he seemed like he was all over the place.”
They were making everything you put up, man, zone … as a coach do you feel powerless in that situation?
“You always think, ‘What can I do to help them?’ That’s what you’re thinking. ‘Yeah they’re fire,’ but we can’t just say they’re on fire. ‘Can we trap them? Can we zone them? Can we press them? Can we switch?’ You start pushing different buttons and that’s what you do in that situation. More so, Rick, because it’s not as much strategy sometimes as you change just to see if the change works.”
Will Josh Oglesby remain in the starting lineup even when Basabe returns healthy?
“Josh has been great; I think that’s a legitimate question. I think we’ll have to evaluate. We’ll see what Mel has done in practice. He practiced (Monday). He was great in practice. I thought for sure he was going to play, but he has just not been able to move. I asked him before the game if he was ready to go and he said no.”
What’s wrong with Melsahn?
“It’s all in his stomach. Stomach. All stomach.”
What do you miss when he’s not there?
“A low-post scoring threat. Another veteran shot blocker. This was a big, physical team when (Mo) Walker’s playing. (Joey) King is big. (Elliott) Eliason is big. Melsahn gives you a bigger body. He can bang with those guys. He gives me another option, he gives me another offensive scorer. We can use him.
“You think about how he played against Penn State, he played great.”
When teams are shooting that hot against you, do you rip your defense?
“I certainly didn’t rip them for that. One timeout I went after them a little bit in that one stretch. And truthfully that was not because of anything that I was necessarily pointing out. It was like, ‘OK, they’re on fire, we’ve got to rev it up even more.’ Just to try to fire them up more so than technically you’re not doing this, you’re not doing that. It wasn’t that at all.”
How do you curtail this dip?
“Like I’ve always said to you. We never get too high, we never get too low. If we’d won tonight, we’d take the same approach. Let’s say we came back, hit a couple of shots and win this game and everybody’s jumping around in the locker room. OK, that’s it. Jump around in the locker room, get on a plane. OK, now we’ve got to go play at Indiana, another tough place to play. Sometimes I wonder if they understand this league and the atmosphere that they walk into every night and how special that is. It’s not like that everywhere. Even at other BCS schools. It’s not like that. So we get another crack at it Thursday night, and hopefully we’ll play well.”
Do you like having a game just two days from now?
“I think this time of year, yeah, sometimes we can be control freaks and want more time and this and that. This time of year you want to play. You want to play games. They don’t want to practice anymore. It’s the end of February, they’re tired of looking at each other, let’s go play somebody else.”
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