Transcript & Video: Fran McCaffery Previews Ohio State Matchup

January 11, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Q. What kind of intangibles does Nicholas Baer bring and has brought for the last four and a half years?
FRAN McCAFFERY: The thing with him is I think a lot of times people categorize players like Baer and say, well, he does the intangible things. The bottom line is Nicholas Baer is a really good basketball player. That’s what he is. He can dribble, pass and shoot, he defends, he runs, he blocks shots, fills the stat line. To be truthful I think it’s almost insulting to say he does intangible things. He’s really good.

Q. Is he a leader?
FRAN McCAFFERY: He’s everything. He’s a leader. He’s a hustler. He’s a worker. He’s smart. He’s tough. He’s physical. He’s skilled. That’s why he’s on scholarship.

Q. The zone has been pretty good for you the last couple games. What are you seeing that’s allowing you to play better in that alignment?
FRAN McCAFFERY: The thing with the zone, it’s been good sometimes, and it hasn’t been. You’re right, it’s all about activity and recognition, who’s on the floor for them, who’s on the floor for us, what are they doing, are they overloading, are they spreading, are they ball screening it, and recognizing that and trying to get some consecutive stops and maybe some let-out opportunities. Some teams are better at attacking it, and then you’ve got to get out of it, so for us, it’s always something we’re going to go to at some point. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Q. I may be missing something, but looking at Ohio State statistically, there wasn’t one thing that leaped out at me. What makes them good as a whole?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Obviously, it starts with Kaleb Wesson. He’s a really good player. But they defend. They’ve got some good young players that fit. They have players that fit. Young is terrific. C.J. Jackson is a veteran. So they’ve got some veterans, they’ve got some young guys, they’ve got some speed and quickness. They’ve got a low-post game. When you put a team together, you’ve got all the pieces that you want to fill all the positions that you need. They play hard. They share the ball. You can tell that they’re a team that is committed to winning, and nobody is into themselves that I can see on film. So I think that’s why they’re good, why they’re having a good year.

Q. Obviously you guys need Tyler to play to be at full potential, but to win without him on the road, did that maybe say something to the players, that they can do this?
FRAN McCAFFERY: You know, individuals have to go in different roles. Kriener didn’t score as much but he was terrific defensively in that game. Pardon was in double figures every game, averaging 18 in Big Ten play, we hold him under 10 rotating Luka and Ryan Kriener. Luka was the go-to guy. He was terrific. Bohannon came up huge at the end of the game. First half Connor was really good. I thought Moss, Moss has been tremendous. Dailey was great in the first half. Not so much after that, except defensively he was phenomenal coming down the stretch.

Those are the things you need, and everybody has got to step up if Tyler is not out there. Baer was great. You know, his rebounding in that game was great, and so was Joe Wieskamp. When we got the stops we needed, it was Baer and Wieskamp on the glass. We remember the points that Joe got, but he got some huge rebounds coming down the stretch and was really aggressive attacking the basket. All of those things have to happen together when Cook is out.

Q. Where is Tyler at for Saturday’s game?
FRAN McCAFFERY: We’ll see what he can do today. He’s going to try to go a little bit. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.

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Q. I think you had seven different players who have had some sort of health issue, starting with Bohannon before the season and Garza before the season. Never mind the players, what do you have to do when you find out a player is not going to go?
FRAN McCAFFERY: What it does is it affects your practice planning; how hard can you go with a limited roster in practice and preparation for a team like Ohio State. But you have to be intelligent, too. You have to make sure that you don’t push them too hard. You want to push them hard enough but not push them too hard, especially when you’re getting home at 1:30 a.m. and you’ve got an afternoon game on Saturday. You have to be prudent with how hard you push these kids, especially the ones that are still playing.

It has been a unique year. Jack Nunge, he has a stress fracture, so he’s out for six weeks, so even if we wanted to play him, we couldn’t. He’s out. So it has been a unique year in that sense. We’ve had more sprained ankles than I’ve ever seen, ever, and that’s just bad luck. The kids are taped, and they’re in shape. Luckily we have a deep enough roster, I mean, it’s interesting because we decide to redshirt two guys, and now we have to redshirt three guys, and then we’ve had the other injuries that you’re talking about. So it’s part of it.

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The critical thing is the other night we had eight guys ready to go, and we needed — Riley was ready if we needed him. He’s been really good. So we’ll go with that. Hopefully Tyler will play, will feel good enough to play and be effective if he is, and we’ll be that much better. If not, we’ve got to go with what we’ve got.

Q. Isaiah kind of started off the year a little bit slow, but in terms of the all-around game, it seems like he’s starting to come along. How have you seen him evolve as the year has gone on?
FRAN McCAFFERY: I look at it more as his career has gone on. He was a quick guy who could score some buckets for us when he first got here, and little by little he’s expanded his game offensively. He’s penetrating. You look at his turnover numbers, defensively he has grown immensely. He’s rebounding better. He’s putting it together. He’s completing the picture as a basketball player.

He could always shoot, and that’s one of the main reasons we recruited him in the first place, because we knew he could spread the floor and make threes. I’m really proud of him and how his game has evolved and his ability to help us be better with him on the floor. He’s been really good in this stretch in particular. Every game is 5-1, 4-1, assist-turnovers, so he’s not making mistakes. His defense has been tremendous. His recognition, where to be, if he’s in the gaps, if he’s helping from the weak side, sticking his nose in there for rebounds, and then he’s in great shape, too.

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Q. Luka said that his main concern with the ankle was defensively. What limited him there, and how do you see that match-up unfolding, and can he stay with Wesson inside do you think?
FRAN McCAFFERY: He’s going to have to. He’s going to play him. He’s a handful. He’s 270. He’s crafty. They do a good job of getting him the ball in a variety of different ways. Obviously they’re not a one-dimensional team. They’ve got a lot of other weapons. Eventually it’s going to work its way back to him at some point, but that’s not all they do. They’ve got an assortment of three-point shooters. You’ve just got to work when you’re guarding Wesson the entire possession. You can’t relax and then decide, okay, they might going to bring it to him now, so I’d better get up, get over. You have to be thinking the whole time, where is the ball, where is he, what action is coming my way because sometimes they post him, sometimes they screen for him, sometimes he screens in post. You have to figure all that out on the floor.

Q. I could be slightly off, but I think you guys have held the last two teams 11 of 50 shooting from three. What’s been the biggest difference from a defensive standpoint?
FRAN McCAFFERY: I think we’ve been active. Northwestern got off to a slow start. They had some good looks at it, didn’t make them. But our activity level has been good. We’ve been locked in to particular personnel. Sometimes it’s easier with some teams than others. You know who their two or three 3-point shooters are. Some teams have six, seven, eight of them now. That’s the way teams have evolved. There’s always going to be one or two guys that you’ve got to lock in on, though. Those guys are easy to pick out, when you look at the number of makes in particular.

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