Wisconsin Downs Iowa 74-63: Fran McCaffery’s Press Conference

Frank Kaminsky had 24 points and nine rebounds, as the Wisconsin Badgers locked in defensively during the second half en route to a 74-63 win over Iowa on Saturday. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery spoke about the game at his press conference.

FRAN McCAFFERY: Last night we lost a very important member of the Hawkeye basketball family in Dale Howard. In the time that I’ve been here, we became very close friends. We would not have our practice facility, our office complex, the Carver-Hawkeye renovation, without the generosity of he and his wife Marilyn. Great husband, great father, great basketball man, and we’re going to miss him.

Q. In the first half that was as efficient as you’ve been with shooting percentage, yet you’re still down six. What was it Wisconsin was doing to you?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, I think the second shots hurt us, no question. They were efficient, too. They moved the ball, and they took good shots and had good shooters taking good shots. They’re a tough team to guard. So that was one of the things coming into the game that we knew we had to do a better job of, because as bad as our defense was up there, our offensive execution was probably worse if that’s possible.
But today was much better, and you’re right there; you’ve got a shot. You’re six and you have the ball to start the second half.

Q. Was that your best offense of the season the first half?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, I thought it was the best understanding of when to go and when to move it on, which is absolutely critical against Wisconsin. You know, you want to put your head down and go, it’s usually a mistake against them. But if you go at the right time then you can’t put your head down and go. I think we took a whole lot of contested shots in the first half. We took a ton of contested quick shots in the first half up there, and they’re going to turn those into baskets.
But I think if you’re going to look at one thing that really was the difference in the game, it was offensive rebounding. They had 15. Their efficiency at scoring on second-shot opportunities is probably the best in the country. I don’t have that stat in front of me, but I would be willing to guess it’s No.1 in the country.

Q. Just on that point, how perfect do you have to play to beat a team like Wisconsin?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, you know, you have to be efficient offensively. You’ve got to do a better job on the glass. You can’t turn it over. Our turnovers were pretty close. They were six, we were eight. You’re okay there. Like I said, 50/50 balls, rebounding, and then when the game was in the balance, I thought we had a couple bad possessions offensively, and you have to have the toughness at that point, I think, because you’re looking at the clock, it’s now under eight minutes and you’re down nine, we’ve got to score quick, and that’s what you’re thinking. We’ve got to quicken the pace of this game, and that’s the hardest thing against them because if you start quick shooting, you’re back to where you were before, and you’re probably not going to score. And that’s kind of what happened in that one stretch. We had a couple quick shots, contested shots, and then we had a couple goofy turnovers that really hurt us.

Q. Seemed like every time you would make a run at it, they would answer with a key shot.
FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, I thought Gasser’s three– Josh Oglesby cannot play any better defense than he played on that possession. You just have to say, you know what, the kid hit a heck of a shot, and that was a big play in the game, I thought. I thought that was a really good defensive possession for us, and we did a pretty good job on the three. Normally if they make seven, you’ve got a shot, but not if you look and say okay, 35-24, 15-7 on the glass. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Q. What is the challenge to playing a team that’s that efficient offensively and can score at all five positions?
FRAN McCAFFERY: The hardest thing, I think, is you’ve got to finish the possession out because they’re really good at that. Even if it’s just tipping one back or getting their hand on a ball somehow, keeping it alive. I think that’s the hardest thing to do because they’re a big team. They’re long, and they’re physical. They’re a veteran team. They understand the value of every possession and how you finish one out.

Q. How do you think Aaron performed given everything?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Oh, I couldn’t be prouder of him. I mean, he had a heck of a week. I really didn’t think he was going to play on Wednesday, and then Thursday I felt pretty sure that he was going to play. He tried to go yesterday and really was not himself, was okay, and I just think– my biggest concern was him getting hit again and being able to play kind of his game. Played him 38 minutes. Tough kid.

Q. He wasn’t really able to play his game, though, was he somewhat limited?
FRAN McCAFFERY: He might have been a little more physical in a another setting, but I thought he stuck his nose in there. He was trying to mix up his jumpers and his drives and his post-ups. I think he missed a couple shots that he normally would have made. His drive in the first half where he got all the way to the rim and he missed it. We posted him up in the second half and he missed it. Normally he makes those two shots.

Q. When did Mike hurt his elbow?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Mike hurt his elbow in practice on Monday. Monday wasn’t a good day. He just tried to get to a screen and hyperextended it. He couldn’t really shoot a three. That’s why he kept turning down threes, and he could shoot a pull-up, and he could get to the rim. But he was sideways. He didn’t practice all week, either. But again, you know, tough kid, lived in the training room just like Whitey did and got themselves to where they could be effective. They were both effective, and they gave us a chance to win. You’ve got to love that about both of them.

Q. And Gabe?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Gabe’s probably was the least serious of the three. But considering he relies so much on speed and athleticism, a bum wheel doesn’t help, but he was fine.

Q. Do you feel quite a bit better about this performance than the one–
FRAN McCAFFERY: But you can’t be satisfied. You can’t fool yourself into, yeah, we’re better, because we lost. It doesn’t change. We lost up there, we lost here. It’s still only one loss, but we have to be better than we played today.

Q. What are your primary concerns or concern, if you have any right now?
FRAN McCAFFERY: I don’t know that we have been as consistent as we need to be defensively. We have been great at times, we have been really bad at times, we have been mediocre a good portion of the time. And I think if we can get more consistent defensively, I think it will greatly impact our offensive execution and efficiency.

Q. With a couple guys banged up, do you think it’s beneficial to have a couple extra days before you go up to Ann Arbor?
FRAN McCAFFERY: I do, because I think it’ll be important that we see how do they feel tonight, how do they feel tomorrow. If we played Tuesday, we’d be going hard. We can give them a little bit of time. But they seemed to come out of it okay to be honest with you.

Q. Big Ten schedule is so unforgiving and this stretch is really tough. Three straight losses, but where is your team’s confidence right now?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, I think our team’s confidence is– I think it’s still strong. You lose three in a row, it’s not going to be the same as if we won three in a row, but I think it’s incumbent upon me and my staff to make sure we remain focused and we keep trying to get better, keep believing in each other. You don’t want to get too negative, but you don’t want to accept defeat, so what we’ll do is we’ll study it, we’ll break it down and hold them accountable and go to work, try to get better. No different quite honestly than if we had won these three games in a row. Think about where we’d be. Everybody would be jubilation, we’re in first place and all that. But got to go to work, got to play at Michigan on Wednesday. We’ve got to get better at this and this and this. That’s what we do.

Q. You hit a dry spot defensively in the second half; you couldn’t get any traction. Were you running the offense okay and just couldn’t make any shots or taking shots too quick?
FRAN McCAFFERY: I didn’t think it was too bad. I thought we maybe were moving less– we needed to move more with a purpose. I thought we were moving, we were changing sides of the floor, but we weren’t necessarily cutting to score. We were cutting to catch a pass, and then pass it to somebody else. We didn’t recognize maybe a couple times that we had somebody in the post.
We did run some sets in that segment, and that’s the hardest thing for me as a coach is how long do you stay with motion, and when do you go to sets, because if you go to sets you tend to quick shoot the ball, so our mantra was don’t quick shoot the ball in this game. Well, if you call a set, good chance somebody is going to shoot it quick. You’d like to think that if they’re covered even though we ran a set that they wouldn’t shoot it, sometimes you call a guy’s number, he’s going to shoot the ball, and we had a couple of those.
We weren’t horrible, but we didn’t get enough offensive rebounds. We had more in the second half than we did in the first, obviously, so that was good.

Q. Under the circumstances coming into the game, how important was Woodbury’s start, and then beyond that, what kind of a neutralizer is Kaminsky?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, I was really proud of Woody, the way he prepared, the way he worked this week, the way he started. It’s unfortunate he got in foul trouble. I think he was on his way to a great game. I thought he played well.
As far as Kaminsky is concerned, he is a tough cover in every sense of the word. He posts, he posts deep, he posts off the block, he gets it at the top of the key. We separated twice from him– excuse me, three times, and he makes two threes. We weren’t trying to separate. Sometimes you have to show on a ball screen. Sometimes you have to wait a second and make sure they don’t get a wide-open lay-up, and then you give him this much space and he’s knocking it in.
But his countermoves off both shoulders are tough to handle, too, because he finishes with either hand.

Q. Along those lines, how difficult is he considering he can go inside-outside? You’ve played a lot of good big men in the Big Ten over the last five years, but this one —
FRAN McCAFFERY: He’s different. He’s really a forward, maybe even a guard. He was a guard when he was younger. So I think that helps him, because a lot of big guys you can double and they’re going to turn it over. You double him, he’s going to find somebody and they’re going to surround him with four other three-point shooters so you really can’t double him. You can, but you’re going to give up a lot. So you’ll see teams throughout the rest of the season– some will say, look, we’re going to double him and live with what happens. Others will say, look, we’ll play him straight up and take away the three ball and body up and do the best we can. But either way he’s a handful because he doesn’t turn it over.

Englishman Oliver Fisher Takes First Round Lead at Qatar Masters

Oliver Fisher’s strong start to 2015 continued as he fired a seven-under par 65 to take the lead after the first day of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. Fisher, after finishing 12th at Abu Dhabi last week, hit eight birdies and only one bogie to take a one shot lead over Rafa Cabrera-Bello. He talked about his round yesterday:

Q. Was this something you were expecting, building towards?
OLIVER FISHER: I finished last week well. Played nicely in Abu Dhabi. This course, I played it quite a few times and that, so this Middle East swing, kind of get it know it a bit after a few years. Played nice today. It was a little bit breezy. I felt like I controlled my golf ball. Played good and gave myself a lot of chances so it was a good round.

Q. You must have a good feeling about this place because it gave you a start many years ago, didn’t it?
OLIVER FISHER: Yeah, it’s like anywhere. If I play well and hit the ball like I can do, you can take advantage of some of these courses. The weather out here has been lovely today. We’ve been lucky with the conditions this afternoon.
First few days in practise, it was blowing absolute a gale, so I think it was pretty lucky today.

Q. When you came here all these years ago for the first time and your dad was on your bag and you were very much a developing player; where do you see yourself now in terms of maturity as a player and what you have to target for the year ahead?
OLIVER FISHER: I think the biggest thing for me is just to try my best. Obviously I lost my card a couple years ago and then played well last season, so to get it back in The Race to Dubai– I think things are improving. My consistency is getting better. Just a matter of people trying and sticking to the things that do me well at the moment and try my best.

Q. When you look at the leaderboard and the kind of players, must make you feel good.
OLIVER FISHER: Obviously it does. It’s a great field like last week and great field obviously next week, too. I’m out there giving it my all every time until the last shot and hopefully add them up at the end of the day and hopefully it’s a good run.

Q. What are your thoughts on a round like that to start?
OLIVER FISHER: It was obviously really nice. I started well. I started on 10 and made a good pitch. I know that pin is quite difficult on the 10th, and hit a good pitch to four feet. It’s always nice to start with a birdie around here. I think the 10th, we play that wind left all day on the range, and get on the first hole and it’s straight out of the left again. It’s nice to start like that.
Made a few birdies at the later part of the turn, 16, 17, 18, and then the front nine I actually played lovely. Gave myself a lot of chances. I missed them on 1, 2, 3, made one on 4, had a good up-and-down on 5 and played nice coming in. Made a good little 6-footer for par on the last on 9. That’s a tough pin when it gets put at the back there.
It was a good round. I’m happy with the way I played and hopefully I can keep on hitting it like that the next few days.

Q. Presumably you were happy on the back of Abu Dhabi, shot 67 to close a good week around 12th position.
OLIVER FISHER: Yeah, I played nice last week. I played lovely on Saturday and didn’t make much and shot 2-under, and shot a good round on Sunday so it was nice to finish the week like that.
These tournaments I think it’s all about kind of hitting the ball well and give yourself chances and hitting fairways and greens. You look at the guys that do well, it’s generally the guys that hit the ball well. If we can go out tomorrow and my ball-striking is good, hopefully make a few good putts here and there and make a good score.

Q. Nice to get off to a promising start like this?
OLIVER FISHER: I think last year I started the season well. I had a good finish down in Africa. Made quite a few cuts last year. Just a matter of giving yourself chances, and kind of if the consistency is good and if your level of play is okay, you can keep trying to improve.
I’ve had a few years where I’ve struggled with my long game and then you kind are always working at things and going out on the course and not really sure what’s happening. My feelings are pretty consistent right now. It’s just a matter of keep doing more of the same.

Q. Hard work over the Christmas break or nice relaxation or a good balance?
OLIVER FISHER: No, I had a few weeks off after Dubai. I didn’t do very much for three or four weeks and came out here on the fourth of January. It’s been a nice break.

Q. I take it you feel the benefit of coming to this part of the world to get the sun on your back when you practise?
OLIVER FISHER: It’s always nice to feel a bit of sunshine after having four weeks at home, isn’t it. No, it’s been good.

Justin Rose In Solid Shape At Qatar Masters

Justin Rose shot a four-under-par first round to put himself in contention at the Qatar Masters.The 2013 US Open winner shot birdies in two of the first three holes and finished in the same manner to shoot 67 in Doha. Rose is three shots off the pace. Englishman Oliver Fisher is seven-under-par and is at the top of the leaderboard. Justin Rose had this to say after his round.

JUSTIN ROSE: They kind of made us feel like there’s a score to be had out there. I had a decent run of holes around the turn. Birdied sort of four or five in a six?, seven?hole period. That was really the round in a nutshell around the middle. Couldn’t really buy a putt coming in, but all in all happy with the round.

Q. Is it good to get off to a good start for once, because there have been times of late that you’ve really just got it going over the weekend.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, it’s been definitely some slow starts I’ve had to overcome of late. I mean, 68 is a good start. Obviously not an electric pace, but nice to be somewhere in contention and it’s a score on which to build for the rest of the week. Yeah, it’s the perfect type of start really.

Q. We touched on this ahead of the championship but it’s good to continue the form from the weekend in Abu Dhabi.
JUSTIN ROSE: Exactly, four rounds consecutive in the 60s, it’s always nice to do that. Tells me I’m doing some things well. I think the area of my game that’s been keeping me together is my chipping. I’ve been chipping the ball nice when arrive been making mistakes. Just keep that going and continue to improve the rest.

Q. Challenging despite the wind dropping.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, there’s still over a club wind. Still hitting 8 irons from 140 into the breeze. It’s taking 20, 25 yards off the shot still. So it’s still enough there to sort of really catch our attention, but a nice amount of breeze. You can put together a score obviously, but at the same time, you have to be really on your game to make a good score.

Q. 4 under, that was your 250th appearance on The European Tour. What was it like out there for you today?
JUSTIN ROSE: That was a nice 250th appearance. I’m feeling somewhat older with that stat behind me now. There’s definitely a lot of golf I’ve got sort of under my belt. But it was a good day out there, beautiful day. Obviously it was nice that the weather calmed down over the first couple of days. I was in a good group with Stevie and Charl and a pleasant morning’s work.

Q. Did the wind play a factor at all? Not the strongest it can get around here by any stretch of the imagination.
JUSTIN ROSE: It wasn’t strong but it still was enough. I think it was taking 20, 25 yards off iron shots. I was hitting 8 irons from 140 where I would normally be hitting 8?iron from 165. Still enough to make you think and be quite precise with your shot selection.
A couple times today you played for the wind downbreeze and sometimes it knocks the ball out of the sky. Enough to sort of keep us on our toes but not that heavy breeze where it’s uncontrollable if you like. I think if you play well, you can make a score as obviously the leaderboard shows.

Q. Last week a bit of a slow start but a real fast, flashy finish and you brought it on here this week. Have you been working on anything to get to that position?
JUSTIN ROSE: I’ve been working on lots of things. Sort of just been going through pretty much all the feels I’ve had over the last year or two, seeing which one works the best.
I didn’t do a ton of work over the Christmas period, so paid for that really early last week. But beginning to find my momentum and find my feels and beginning to hit the ball better round by round.
I haven’t really made a putt yet but I feel like I’m stroking the ball well and have to be patient with that side of my game. All in all the short game feels sharp, which is good, no doubt the long game will come around.

Super Bowl Line: Patriot Money Rushing in As Line drops to Pick

The bettors like the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

While the Patriots were finishing off their blowout win against Indianapolis in the AFC Championship game, the line moved from New England being a 2.5-point underdog against the Seattle Seahawks to the game being a pick.

Some places even had the Patriots favored for the Feb. 1 game at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

Defending Super Bowl champion Seattle opened as 2.5-point betting favorites at Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. The over-under is 48.5.

The line was released late in the third quarter of the AFC Championship game with New England leading by five touchdowns. CG Technology also had Seattle minus-2.5, but has adjusted to a pick ’em.

Seattle, who rallied to beat Green Bay in overtime today to win the NFC Championship and punch its ticket to the Super Bowl, is playing to become the first back-to-back Super Bowl champions since John Elway’s Denver Broncos in 1999.

While the Patriots are making their sixth Super Bowl appearance since 2002, they haven’t won the Super Bowl since taking down Philadelphia in 2005. They lost to the New York Giants in the 2012 and 2008 games, falling as 12-point favorites in 2008 when the Super Bowl was also played in Glendale.

That result started a trend in Las Vegas of the underdog covering the spread. In six of the past seven Super Bowl games, the underdog has covered. Four times it has won straight up.

The Super Bowl Line is Out: Seahawks Favored by 2.5 over New England

The Patriots are still trying to close out the Colts in the AFC Championship game, but Super Bowl lines are starting to trickle out of the offshore sports books and some Las Vegas sports books as well. The Seahawks, fresh off their miracle win over Green Bay, are favored by 2.5 over New England. That won’t last for long though. New England money is all but certain to push that number down.

The total is set at 49.

Shooting themselves in their feet and being outclassed much of the game by Green Bay, the Seahawks staged an miracle comeback and beat the Packers 28-22 in overtime. Russell Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for a 35-yard touchdown 3:19 into the extra period on the only possession.

The Seahawks became the first defending champion to make the Super Bowl in 10 years. How they got there was stunning. Seattle trailed 19-7 with about four minutes remaining and had been ineffective on offense all game.

Wilson finally put a drive together with passes to Doug Baldwin and Marshawn Lynch — initially ruled a touchdown but called back because he stepped out. Wilson finished with a 1-yard scoring run to cut the lead to 19-14 with 2:09 left.

Seattle recovered a bobbled onside kick at the 50, and Lynch sped and powered his way to a 24-yard TD run. Wilson’s desperate 2-point conversion pass was hauled in by Luke Willson to make it 22-19.

Then Aaron Rodgers led the Packers (13-5) to Mason Crosby’s fifth field goal, from 48 yards with 14 seconds to go to force overtime.

Then Wilson and Kearse struck, with Kearse beating Tramon Williams on the winning pass. Kearse caught the winning TD in last year’s conference title win over San Francisco, too.

New England has taken a 31-7 lead over Indianapolis in the third quarter, and is all but certain to advance to the Super Bowl.