College Sports

Fran McCaffrey makes point of keeping his cool as Iowa rallies to beat Cincinnati

Cincinnati ran to a 13-point first-half lead on Iowa in an NCAA Tournament South Region game Friday, and the pro-Bearcats crowd was making a lot of noise in Columbus, Ohio.

But the Hawkeyes shrugged off all that and used a late 18-5 run to secure a 79-72 victory.

“The thing about NCAA Tournament play, there’s other teams represented here today that don’t care who wins this game,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey told reporters after the game. “So the Tennessee people, the Colgate people, they don’t care.

“I knew the Hawk fans would be doing the ‘Let’s go, Hawks’ cheer. I knew there would be more Cincinnati people. But it’s an NCAA game. I didn’t feel like in any way shape or form it was a road game to me.”

Ironically, Cincinnati opened the game on an 18-5 run and appeared to ready to run away from Iowa. However, the Hawkeyes chipped away and cut the deficit to 36-31 at halftime.

The Bearcats lost for the first time when leading at halftime (23-1) and dropped to 27-1 in games in which Justin Jenifer made at least two three-pointers.

After all the attention that has been paid to Michigan State coach Tom Izzo’s outburst in the Spartans’ game Thursday, McCaffrey was asked about screaming at his plays. McCaffrey said he usually tries to keep his poise.

“One of my mentors, John MacLeod ... he would always say, when it gets sticky, you can’t yell at them. That’s what he would say,” McCaffrey told reporters.

“So when you see me get hot blooded, there are various reasons for that, and it happens, despite what some people might think, very rarely. It doesn’t happen very much in practice. It doesn’t happen much in the locker room, at halftime. Oh, that coach went in there and yelled at them. No.

“But at crunch time and in key moments of the game, you can’t lose your mind and start yelling at them. It’s only going to lead to more mistakes. At that point you need to build confidence.”

Iowa was down 47-40 with 13:59 to play and trailed by four when 8:05 remaining, but Joe Wieskamp scored seven points during the late run as the Hawkeyes took control of the game.

Iowa’s win made the Big Ten 6-0 in this year’s tournament.

“We’ve been saying all year long that it’s the most competitive league in the country top to bottom,” McCaffrey said. “And you sort of expect Big Ten coaches to make those kinds of statements. But the reality is we actually believe that. And so I think it’s proving it.”

From covering the World Series to the World Cup, Pete has done a little bit of everything since joining The Star in 1997. He writes about baseball and has a quirky blog that augments The Star’s coverage of area teams.