IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery met with the media to discuss his team’s 81-70 win over Nebraska on Sunday.
He spoke about the return of guard Peter Jok, the hot shooting day of guard Brady Ellingson and guard Jordan Bohannon setting the program record for 3-pointers by a freshman with 54. Matt Gatens previously held the record with 52 3-pointers in 2009.
ON IOWA’S BALANCED OFFENSIVE DAY: “Well, a lot of good things, starting with 22 assists on 27 baskets. That’s where it all starts. You got a team that came in here ready to defend. They got after Pete. They got after Jordan. They got after us early. They were physical. If you’re going to score against that, you got to move the ball.”
ON IOWA FINISHING OFF A GAME: “I don’t think I was as concerned about it apparently as you are. Felt pretty good about a lot of the things we did. It was unfortunate we didn’t win that game up there.
“What we did was we learned a lot. Our defense in that game was not good start-to-finish. You’re not going to win when you play defense the way we played up there. You got to give all the credit to Nebraska. They scored the ball up there because we didn’t rotate, we didn’t defend ball screens, we didn’t defend in transition, we didn’t recognize personnel. It was just a bad night defensively. They capitalized every time.
“This time we were a lot better.”
ON PETER JOK’S RETURN FROM A BACK INJURY: “I feel like he was great. I am so proud of him. Five assists, five rebounds, made his free throws down the stretch. They’re top blocking him, chasing him everywhere. He had a couple looks. I’m sure he’s frustrated they didn’t go in. But I thought his shot selection was really terrific, really efficient.
“When he’s out there and teams pay the attention to him that they pay, it opens things up for Jordan, for Brady, for Tyler Cook, for everybody else on our team.”
ON BRADY ELLINGSON AND JORDAN BOHANNON SHOOTING SO WELL: “It’s all about ball movement and screening and recognition and how to get the ball to those guys and just be locked in to, Okay, who is hot? Who are our shooters? You got to find Jordan, Brady. Brady was cooking. Got to get him the ball.
“That’s an unselfish group.”
ON WHY IOWA PULLED AWAY LATE: “I think it was our bench play. I mean, we rotated a lot of people. Thirty-three points off the bench. I thought we had maybe fresher guys at that point. Our activity level was really good.
“The tough thing was we went small. Obviously went small for offensive reasons. You’re susceptible to offensive rebounding, especially against this team. Jacobson is a terrific offensive rebounder. So is Tshimanga. Ed Morrow, one of the best in the league when he comes back. You give up one thing, you get another. I think we got the ones we needed.
ON DEFENDING TAI WEBSTER: “He torched us last time. He had Watson. Watson is a little banged up obviously.
“Webster is a handful. He just seems to have a knack to get to the rim kind of anytime he wants. We did a better job of walling him off.
“Again, you give up a couple screen and rolls, you give up a couple rotations to the corner, Horne hit a 3, the one time McVeigh hit a 3. It’s two of the (3-pointers) we gave up. But the rest of our activity level at the 3-point line was really good.
ON IF ELLINGSON IS BECOMING A KEY PLAYER FOR THE TEAM: “That’s safe to say. He’s smart. He’s tough. He’s cerebral. He can play any one of three spots. He knows exactly where to go, where to line up every time. He’s a much underrated defender.
“I’m really proud of him.”
ON WHY IOWA IS ON A THREE-GAME WINNING STREAK: “Ball movement, unselfish play offensively, and our defense has picked up.”
ON HIS CONFIDENCE IN TEAM AFTER ILLINOIS LOSS IN JANUARY: “I felt really good about it. The reason for that is, I’ve said this to you before, I know the character in that locker room. I was certain we would play well against Ohio State. We got our ears pinned back by Illinois. Did not play well in that game.
“Somehow, some way, showed some fight. We look up there, we’re down 6 or 8, and I couldn’t believe it after we played the way we played.
“I said, ‘You know what, this team is going to fight. We just have to execute better.’
“I thought we’d have a great crowd on a Saturday night, which we did. They were fabulous. I thought we’d have a great crowd today, which we did.
“The key game I think in that stretch was going to Rutgers, who obviously played really well against us here. They played really well against Wisconsin in Madison Square Garden the Saturday before our game.
“We just had to show we had the maturity to go on the road and put a game together like we did that night. All of those steps were big steps for us.”
ON HOW IOWA GREW WITH JOK OUT: “I think just trust in everybody, trust in each other. Moving the ball around, sharing the ball. We mixed up post scores, jump shots, penetration, getting to the free-throw line. We mixed motion and continuity and set plays, which ultimately makes you harder to guard.
“When teams prepare to play us, typically you start with the starting five. Brady has been one of our best players lately, so you got to talk about him. Cordell is coming off the bench. He’s a handful. You just kind of keep going. Dom Uhl is getting healthier. He was terrific today. Played well against Rutgers.
“That’s the team we have. That’s the way we have to execute: taking advantage of all the different pieces that we have and kind of blending them together and get them to sort of trust one another and support one another.”
ON IF GETTING THE NEBRASKA BIGS IN FOUL TROUBLE HELPED TEAM FOCUS ON WEBSTER: “Well, it allows you, especially in ball-screen defense, to stay a little longer. But those guys play physical all the time. They’re going to get called sometimes. Sometimes they don’t get called as much.
“Tshimanga is really one of the more improved players in our league right now. We played him the last time. He was barely mentioned in the scouting report. He gets 15-9 at Michigan State. We talked about him for four days. That’s a credit to him.”
ON BOHANNON SETTING THE FRESHMAN RECORD FOR 3-POINTERS: “I’m just proud of him. He’s really played well at both ends of the floor. He’s played well as a point guard. He’s played well as a shooter. You just can’t rattle him.
“He plays at his pace. You can’t rush him. He knows exactly what we want done. The other thing he has is incredible amnesia. If he makes a mistake, it never lingers on him. That’s an important characteristic to have.”