Iowa coach Fran McCaffery was in a happy mood Thursday night after the Hawkeyes rallied from 20 points down to beat Illinois 104-97 in overtime at State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill.
It was the third-largest deficit Iowa has overcome to win a game. The 104 points Iowa scored was the most against Illinois in the 110-year series history. It’s also the most Iowa has scored in Big Ten action since 1995 (against Northwestern) and the most for a Big Ten road game since 1998 at Michigan State.
Here is the postgame radio interview McCaffery did with Hawkeye Sports Network radio announcers Gary Dolphin and Bobby Hansen after the game:
It wasn't easy, but @IowaHoops is in that B1G win column. ✅
J-Bo, Luka and Tyler stepped up huge in a 104-97 OT win over Illinois: pic.twitter.com/TaW9hwysbE
— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) January 12, 2018
Q: When you got down double digits, you found the defensive answers.
MCCAFFERY: Whether we were in man or we whether were in zone — we play three different zones, one’s a press. Our activity level, our ability to be aware are they overloading, are they screening? Where is the screen coming from? Boy, we were so much better in the second half. In the first half, they carved up our zone. We were just not as aware as we needed to be. Just hoping they’d miss, and they made 9 3s. At halftime, we were down 13 at halftime. They made 9 3s, we made 1. I said, “OK I’m feeling pretty good. They make 8 more 3s than us and we’re only down 13?” I felt we had a really good shot. Then you score the first 10 of the second half and you’ve got a brand new game.
Q: What was clicking in the second half with that 2-3 zone?
MCCAFFERY: We were aware of what they were doing. We were communicating with what they were doing. We were up. We were back. We were through. We stayed in our stance, hands and feet active. Contest, they didn’t make as many 3s, obviously. But then the rebounding. You look at the rebounding, 45 to 26. We rebounded out of the zone, and it gives you opportunity to run.
Q: So many players that came in, everybody participated in this victory. I single out Luka Garza. His toughness was key.
MCCAFFERY: He was unbelievable. Seven offensive rebounds. He makes big hoops, he makes his free throws. He was 9 for 9. I thought another key was Ryan Kriener. I thought he was spectacular. He plays a long stretch in the second half which enabled Luka to get the rest that he needed. So when Luka came back, he was fresh and ready. That’s what the good teams have to have.
Q: We can’t overlook your point guard Jordan Bohannon, who scored 29 points.
MCCAFFERY: I thought his composure and decision-making were spectacular. When to shoot it, when to drive it, when to move it. They’re all over him; they’re all over the next pass. We told him there’s going to be some possessions that’s going to look ugly. You’re just going to be dribble, dribble, dribble, and that’s not what you want your point guard to do typically but with the way they play defense, it’s OK. “J-Bo take it right, J-Bo take it left … somebody will present themselves or you’ll have an opportunity for yourself.” The decision-making of when to go, when not to go, and when you do go, what do you do? That is not easy and he did a great job of that [Thursday night].
Q: Take us through the overtime situation.
MCCAFFERY: You know we talked about fouling on that last play. I think Maishe [Dailey] came up and he was afraid to foul, thought the kid [Trent Frazier] was going to pull and you give him a 4-point play, so he contested. You think about the shot the kid made, he takes off on one leg behind the line and shoots a one-legged 3, going to his right, he’s a lefty, Maishe’s up there. Maishe’s 6-7. You think he’s going to miss it. So we grouped and said, “We’re going to get them in overtime. Let’s win the tip, let’s score early and keep our activity defensively and then we’ll be fine.”
Q: You took advantage of Illinois players fouling out.
MCCAFFERY: They are physical, so they’re going to foul. They actually had four guys foul out, not three. That’s how they play. They’re going to foul. They’re going to be physical. I thought we did a good job drawing the fouls and at the end, they really didn’t have a lot of bigs left.
Q: You get to the free-throw line and shot 40 free throws with 33 makes.
MCCAFFERY: I’ve been saying all along we’ve got good free-throw shooters. We made our free throws. We got there. When you’re playing a physical team, you’ve got to get there. You can’t settle and put up ill-advised runners, leaners, floaters that have no chance of going in and they’re running it back at you. You’ve got to draw contact. You’ve got to go inside, you’ve got to go in and out, you’ve got to make the extra pass and you’ve got to get to the free-throw line. You shoot 40 free throws, you can overcome 14 made 3s.