March 9, 2013
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Fran McCaffery: I think the important thing is we realize this is just a step. I’m happy for Eric to be the captain of the 20 win team. I’m happy for our team to have accomplished this, but we’re not done, and you never want to be satisfied.
Q. How do you think all your players hit 20 and 25 from the field today?
Fran McCaffery: You know, the other thing is you look at that and the fact that we assisted on 21 of 28 field goals, and they were right in the middle of that, as well, so it’s not only whether we’re making baskets, they were feeding each other, and I think that’s an example of how far we’ve come.
Q. When you went on that run of 17 of 19, is that a testimony to your depth?
Fran McCaffery: Yeah, you know, that’s kind of happened all year long with this team. We had a lineup on the floor that was clicking at both ends. I thought Clemmons was great tonight.
Q. Talk about the fact that you had a couple inside passes during that run.
Fran McCaffery: His (Olaseni’s) energy level and what he’s doing now is he’s figuring out exactly where he has to be. He used to work hard and move his feet, but he would be a little late. He wouldn’t read situations. He’s reading situations now, and he’s just playing. He’s playing relaxed, playing with confidence, and you have a guy that big, that athletic who can pass and catch and dunk and block shots and run and guard the post and play with energy, the impact it has on our team, because Woodbury and Basabe were spectacular today but they were getting tired, they were working. Then we come in with Zach and Gabe, and we don’t lose anything. It’s a great situation to be in.
Q. Your freshmen had their Big Ten highs in the last game of the year. How do you account for that?
Fran McCaffery: Well, I think there’s nothing more than they’ve continued to improve, they’ve continued to work. They both have had great moments, they both have had some days where they struggled a little bit, where they persevered and they stayed positive and we stayed positive with them, and they were outstanding today.
Q. Will you celebrate your 300th career win?
Fran McCaffery: No, not at all. You know, I will say this: I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been in some great places and I’ve been fortunate enough to work for really good people, and most importantly have really terrific players that have played for me at a lot of different stops. You know, I think that’s what’s to think about.
Q. Realistically what are you capable of in Chicago?
Fran McCaffery: Winning the Big Ten Tournament.
Q. What will that take?
Fran McCaffery: Well, it’s going to take a lot of what you saw today in terms of our depth, producing at the level that they did, because we have to win four games consecutively, and that’s going to take a lot of energy. Getting Mike back, that will help, and I think that will happen, so that will give us another hand, another shooter, another play maker.
But any time you win a tournament championship, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have some teams that have done that, it never seems to go exactly as everybody thinks it’s going to go. You’ve got to have some guys step up, it might be one guy has one great game and six other people are really consistent, you don’t turn it over, you rebound the ball, we make some threes. All those things together, and we have a team that’s capable of doing it.
Q. 9 and 9 in the Big Ten. Where do you think you are as far as your Big Ten résumé going into Chicago?
Fran McCaffery: I think we deserve tremendous consideration. I definitely feel like we’re one of the best 68 teams. I think to have gone through this league, clearly the best league in the country, and finished 9 and 9, I think you look at how we played in our losses, we had a double overtime loss, an overtime loss, we played Michigan State without our leading scorer, we won three out of four without our third leading scorer and our starting point guard. So we’ve accomplished a great deal.
Q. When you’ve had losses, a lot of people had you (inaudible). What happened? What is it about this group that’s allowed them to (inaudible).
Fran McCaffery: Well, I think it starts with great leadership with Eric May. We have tremendous leadership on our team. I’ve said that from the beginning with Marble in particular. Not many people can go through the kind of slump he did for that period of time and just come out and play the way he’s playing.
But it’s a team that they truly like each other. They work hard together. I can tell you, in July I’m on the road recruiting and they’re in the gym all the time. I can’t require them to be there, I didn’t ask them to go, they were just in there. So it’s that kind of mentality that I think sort of permeates this program, and they kind of push one another, they support one another, and there’s really legitimately no selfishness. If a guy starts, it’s great. If he doesn’t, he’ll come off the bench.
There has been no bickering, no dissension in any way, shape or form. Guys just play the role I ask them to play. I think a great example of that is Melsahn Basabe.
Q. You’re going to be playing Northwestern for the third time. Can you talk about that particular match up?
Fran McCaffery: Anytime you play Northwestern I’ve known Bill Carmody for a long time. He’s a tremendous coach, difficult style. We need some time to get ready. We have some time, fortunately. We’ve guarded it this year better than we ever have offensively, we attacked the one three one better than we have. Last year, not so good. So we’ll have to be ready for those two things.
Q. What does it say about Clemmons he’s had a quiet few weeks and then today he comes and plays?
Fran McCaffery: I think Clemmons is a very confident person, just his nature. He doesn’t seem to rattle much. As you’ve noticed throughout the course of the season he’s not afraid to shoot the ball at crunch time, afraid to shoot it late. He made a really big and one in the game where they made the run back at us. But his point guard ability, his play making was really critical in this stretch, especially without Mike.
Q. Can you comment on Chris Rickert?
Fran McCaffery: You always wish you could get him in for a little bit more. He’s such a tremendous, tremendous person. He’s exactly what you want in a walk on. He’s a great student, phenomenal worker, really bright. He knows everybody’s offense in this league, runs it, and just happy we were able to at least get him in.
Q. How much has Woodbury improved?
Fran McCaffery: Well, the thing about Adam is he just keeps working. He’s improved a lot. I think you’ve seen him, he’s not turning it over, he’s not taking bad shots. You know he’s going to rebound and defend, you know he’s going to run, he’s going to play with great energy, and then he gets a couple shots to go in, and he’s just that much more comfortable out there.
Q. It’s Eric’s final game here at Carver. Can you talk about that?
Fran McCaffery: You know, with Eric, needless to say he’s had an interesting career, and from the minute that I got here, he was all in. As everyone knows that follows this program, that wasn’t the case with everybody. You know, you need to be able to know, as you prepare your team to move forward, who’s with you and who can you count on. And from the beginning I could count on him.
I found it interesting that I was happy that that recruiting class got a lot of attention, but I thought what ended up happening was we focused on our junior class, which was really good, our sophomore class, which was good, and then our freshman class, which was also good, and it was like, well, those guys are going to do it and Eric is kind of on his way out, he was hurt last year, and what can you really expect from him. Well, he’s averaged good numbers and produced at a high level in this league his freshman and sophomore year. His junior year he did at times, he was just hurt.
So I essentially put the team in his hands as our captain, as our leader, and our players respond to him. He’s not a guy who talks a lot, but when he talks, everybody listens to him. They follow his lead, they follow his example. And to see the crowd respond to him the way they did is a tremendous feeling for me.
Q. Mike worked out before the game. Any update on him?
Fran McCaffery: No update. How did he look? Did you clear him? Yeah, okay, I cleared him.
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