Video & Transcript: Hawkeyes Discuss Matchup with Tennessee

March 23, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Iowa student-athletes Joe Wieskamp, Jordan Bohannon and Luka Garza as well as head coach Fran McCaffery. Questions for the student-athletes first?

Q. Jordan, just in the second half there, we talked yesterday about the shooting. To have that out of the gate, how important is that against a team like Tennessee?
JORDAN BOHANNON: It’s going to be really important, especially how they play. They’re a team, unique style that they play, really run the court. So we’re going to be ready for that.

But for us to get going, we’re going to need to make our shots and start the game. I think that was big for Cincinnati to start their game last night against us. We weren’t hitting shots. They got up on a big run, and it really took everything within us to get back into that game.

So it will make the game a lot easier if we’re able to get out there right from the start and hit some shots, for sure.

Q. Jordan, you said Tennessee plays a unique style. What about it is unique? What makes them different?
JORDAN BOHANNON: They definitely have a lot of NBA players potentially on their team. That’s definitely unique within its own right. And playing an SEC team, I don’t think we’ve played an SEC team yet since we’ve been here. So we’ve just got to — they know it’s a tough conference to play in just as well as the Big Ten.

They’ve been battling all year around as well as we have. We know it’s going to be a physical game. They play a physical kind of basketball like we do. So it’s going to be a lot of fun tomorrow. We’re looking forward to it.

Q. Joe, is it harder or easier in your mind to prepare for a team when you don’t have as much time to prepare as you did for Game 1?
JOE WIESKAMP: I think it’s a little bit harder, obviously, but I think our coaching staff has done a great job getting us prepared for this. In the Big Ten season, towards the end of the year, each team has each other figured out. They have each other locked in, the personnel. So it’s a little harder at the end of the Big Ten season. It will be nice to play another team from a different conference.

Q. Luka, that kind of struck me what Jordan said about not playing an SEC team. Does it make a difference for something you’re familiar with, or do you like the challenge of seeing totally new systems?
LUKA GARZA: I don’t know. I think both teams in both leagues have very hard schedules. And each game in the SEC is a battle as well as the Big Ten. So I think both teams are really well prepared for this in terms of all the battles we’ve been through throughout the course of the season.

And like Joe says, it’s nice to play teams from other conferences because at this point the Big Ten knows each other so well; they know what your tendencies are even more so than a new team could pick up so quickly.

Q. Joe, you just talked about the battles. You’ve had some — a couple weekends now in tournament play. They have as well. What do you expect the battle to be like tomorrow with the Sweet 16 on the line?
JOE WIESKAMP: They’re obviously a very strong team, were ranked No. 1 in the country at one point. This is what you sign up for when you sign up to play Division I basketball. This is the type of team you want to play. We’re excited for the test.

Q. Luka, you’re going against another physical opponent, the inside-out game. How in the past, when you go against physical teams, how does that open up things for you guys?
LUKA GARZA: I think I’m a player who just kind of sees what the defense is giving me. When they’re really aggressive on my post-ups, I tend to go a little bit more outside, try to open it up.

I’m going to do my best to try to create some space on the floor for other guys to drive and different stuff like that. So I’m just going to take what the defense gives me, and I think that’s what our whole offense does, everybody, they just take what the defense gives us.

Q. Luka, your impressions of Kyle Alexander, from what you’ve been able to see. And I guess how important it would be, he’s a guy who has had foul trouble at times, to try to get him some early fouls?
LUKA GARZA: Yeah, they’re a different team when he’s not on the court. You can see that when you watch some of their games. He’s really athletic, long, can really affect shots around the rim.

And when we go into games, we have a goal to get their bigs in foul trouble. I think that remains the same with him and Williams this game.

Q. Jordan, have you been taken by the Big Ten’s success, or is that something you expect as you headed into the tournament?
JORDAN BOHANNON: I think we all expected it, every single player in the Big Ten. We went through the battle on a night-to-night basis these past few months. For us to go a 20-game schedule, it made it even more difficult.

So we’re not surprised at all that Big Ten started 7-1. I thought we’ve had really good matchups with teams, and quite honestly I wasn’t surprised that any team won, obviously. But, I think, looking forward, I see more teams advancing in this tournament. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get the same amount into the Sweet 16 as well.

Q. You mentioned matchups I always think that’s interesting as you approach a game. Are there teams that you think specifically you match up better because of what they do or don’t do?
JORDAN BOHANNON: I mean, obviously it’s difficult in the NCAA Tournament because you only have a couple days to prepare. But you look at it, it all comes down to matchups in most games. And that’s the beauty of the NCAA Tournament; you don’t have time to prepare for it, but you’ve got to take what’s there during the game, and you’ve got to realize what matchups happen. And that’s something you have to definitely take advantage of.

Q. Jordan, Tennessee has given up 15 3s to each of their last two opponents. As a guy that can kind of get it going, does that excite you? And how do you avoid falling into the trap of getting trigger happy against them?
JORDAN BOHANNON: Yeah, obviously I love shooting 3s. Every time I step on the floor, I’m trying to shoot as much as I can. So, I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully I can get a lot of 3s off. And Joe is looking forward to it as well, and Luka is, too. That’s the beauty of our team.

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We have a lot of shooters on this team. A lot of times we have five shooters out there. So it’s really difficult for teams to play us. Luka can go inside/out. And Tyler is one of the most dominant inside players in the NCAA Tournament.

We have a really tough team to guard. But we also know what we’re capable of on defense as well. So it’s going to come down to getting stops in important times tomorrow.

Q. Joe, is there something you’ve seen from Tennessee as to why they’ve given up so many seemingly good looks from the perimeter lately?
JOE WIESKAMP: Not necessarily. Obviously we haven’t had a whole lot of time to prepare for them. We’ll probably be watching a lot of film of them today and kind of figure those things out, see where we can attack them offensively. And our coaches will give us a game plan of how to attack that.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Coach McCaffery is joining us.

Q. Coach, how difficult is it to get enough sleep during a time like this with a short turnaround?
COACH MCCAFFERY: You’re not going to get a lot of sleep, but you’ve got to get some because you’ve got to be fresh. You just jump from one game to the next. Obviously the assistant coach responsible for that team has been studying them for quite some time.

So we just, we were up late last night, but got a little bit of sleep, back up this morning, had a meeting, breakfast. And then came over here and had a live practice which is good, get up and down, get a little sweat going. Have a few more meetings and then get ready to play.

Q. As you look at Tennessee, how much of a difference do you think Kyle Alexander makes for them when he’s able to be on the floor and able to stay out of foul trouble?
COACH MCCAFFERY: They have great versatility. And obviously he provides something different with his length and his size. But they can also downshift and go small, and put some big-time weapons out there offensively.

We look at matchups, in particular. I think that’s maybe what you’re also thinking about when you look at our big guys versus their big guys. Here’s a 6’11” guy with length and the ability to defend our scoring post players.

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But, you know, it will be a constant situation where we’re both pushing different buttons with different lineups and looking for different things.

Q. When you come off a half shooting 65 percent like you did in the second, having another game two days later on that short rest, does it make it easier to kind of ride the confidence for your shooters?
COACH MCCAFFERY: I hope so. We’ve had an interesting season in that respect. There’s times when our offense has really been clicking. And there’s times when we’ve been off. Last game we played before yesterday, we shot 1-for-16 from 3. And then yesterday we make 11.

I look at our team and say, we’ve got good 3-point shooters. But I think you have to be able to establish that you can throw it inside and score; drive and kick; drive and finish; drive, get to the free throw line; throw it inside, get to the free throw line. Over the course of your entire body of work, you have to do all those things.

To beat a team that’s won 30 games, you better be able to do all those things or attempt to do all those things to beat them.

Q. Tennessee has allowed 15 3s each of the last two games. As a coach how do you balance taking advantage of that while also trying to avoid guys settling for too many shots?
COACH MCCAFFERY: I think that’s something you probably deal with every game. Especially when you have multiple 3-point shooters like we do. At what point do you settle? At what point do you work the ball?

And you’re hoping every game that your guys truly understand the difference as it relates to time and score. What defense are they?

I think Colgate’s a team that probably shoots a lot of 3s anyway. So are we. But we also have won a number of games where we just hammer that thing inside. So we just hope that our guys make the proper decisions, and you want them to be confident.

Q. Jordan said that he feels like Tennessee is different stylistically than any team you’ve faced this year. Do you agree with that? And how have all the teams you’ve faced this year prepared you to face them?
COACH MCCAFFERY: Well, I think in the Big Ten every team has a great coach. Every team has really talented players, three or four of whom expect to play in the NBA. I would say the same for the SEC.

So the difference, I think, when you look at Tennessee, they’ve got tremendous team speed. They’re quick. But they also can throw the ball inside. They also have 3-point shooting. That’s why they have the record that they have.

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But we feel like, when you look at Michigan State versus Maryland, versus Penn State, versus Nebraska, when you go right on through our league, what it does is prepare you for different styles. Some teams play man. Some teams mix it a little bit more. Some teams are a little more deliberate. Some teams play faster.

The one thing about Tennessee is they can go either way. They can go fast — you look at the Auburn game and, the championship game. And that was as up and down and athletic a game as I’ve seen in a long time. But they can also play half court. They’ve got a great coach. And they’ve got intelligent players that share the ball.

I think it’s one of the things that’s impressed me the most about them, they have really good players with big reputations, but everybody seems to put winning above everything else and move the ball. And that’s why they’re still playing.

Q. I know this is an old story for people that follow you every day but for those of us who are new to Iowa, how do you deal with a player who is playing another varsity sport at the same time?
COACH MCCAFFERY: It’s a little bit different because it’s my son. And obviously you’re hoping that he can maximize his opportunity. You would want the same for anybody else. Coach Heller and I have an agreement that we’re going to work together and do what makes sense.

So we had a window of time after the Big Ten Tournament ended where he could play in some games, which he did and did really well. And then we had it set up — had we lost yesterday he’d be playing today in a doubleheader at Indiana.

Is it too much? I don’t think so. It’s what he’s always done. He’s always gone from one sport to the other. He’s thrilled to have the opportunity to play for our baseball team. Has tremendous respect for Coach Heller and his teammates. He grew up playing baseball with a good number of those guys; either played with them or against them.

And I think as long as we can manage it, while at the same time managing the academic side of it, he’s Academic All-Big Ten, so he’s tailing that part of it, we’ll keep doing it that way.

Q. Brings up one of the quandaries that parents have as their kids grow up. And so many times you’ll have even high school coaches that want them to specialize. I think I know what your belief is on this after that answer. But what do you think non-son would do as he grows up and whether he can play two, three, four sports?
COACH MCCAFFERY: It’s interesting, because you’re so right. When you look at a lot — a lot of high school coaches just won’t allow it anymore. And when we came to Iowa we met with the folks at Iowa City West High School to make sure the coaches were willing to work together because we felt that this was something that he would want to do. And it’s a place where they welcome that. And we appreciated that.

And I honestly think it helps you tremendously to continuously be competing from one sport to the other. There’s nothing like having to get in that batter’s box and have to hit something coming 95 miles an hour. And I think by the same token, Connor’s got to hit a big 3 yesterday and make an inbounds play to Luka Garza at the exact time for him to hit a 3; you’re competing under pressure. I think it develops you in so many different ways.

So I encourage it. I like two-sport athletes because you know what you’re getting is a competitor.

Q. Big stage is a big stage.
COACH MCCAFFERY: Exactly right.

Q. You’ve kind of mentioned it a little bit, but between Tennessee and yourself, two of the best teams in terms of offensive efficiency in the nation, how comfortable are you getting into a shootout, so to speak, with the Vols tomorrow?
COACH MCCAFFERY: We’re typically very comfortable getting into a shootout. Obviously, as any game goes on, adjustments are required. If you feel like you’re losing a shootout at some point, I think you might have to slow it down. I think you have to be smart enough to recognize, all right, let’s work the ball a little bit more. Let’s maybe try to shoot a few less 3s and go inside a little bit more. Let’s put it on the deck and see if we can get to the free-throw line a little bit more.

Because we want to press. If you can get to the free-throw line, you can get into your press a little bit easier.

So normally I would say if the game can be in the 90s we’d be happy about that. But sometimes you gotta be careful, especially when you’re playing a team of this caliber.

Q. It’s been 20 years since Iowa got to the Sweet 16. What would it mean for the program to get past this hurdle tomorrow?
COACH MCCAFFERY: It would be tremendous. We’ve come close. We all know how hard it is. I don’t care where you are. It’s very difficult to put it all together and get into the tournament, and then advance once you get here. So I think our players all recognize the situation we’re in. And we would really love to have this experience for each other, but also for our fan base.

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