McCaffery: Woodbury 'doesn't deserve' negative attention

Chad Leistikow

Fran McCaffery again came to the defense of Adam Woodbury, saying Monday morning that the 7-foot-1 center "doesn't deserve" the negative attention that has come with recent eye-poking incidents.

McCaffery was asked about Woodbury's string of three instances of poking opponents in the eye while playing defense – twice against Wisconsin on Jan. 20, and again Sunday during Iowa's 71-55 win over Maryland – during Monday's Big Ten coaches teleconference by Yahoo's Pat Forde.

Saying he was "100 percent behind" Woodbury, McCaffery explained from his perspective what was happening.

"I've been watching this kid since he was a sophomore in high school (at Sioux City East)," McCaffery said. "He's always poked the ball, stripped the ball. You're playing a team like Maryland, they're going to drive the ball. No matter who you play, they run ball-screen stuff. Guys are coming at him. His options are try to take a charge or swipe at the ball.

"I know the kid. I know what we teach. I know him. I know his character. I know his background. He does not want this attention. He doesn't deserve it. It's not anything malicious or anything intentional."

Woodbury was assessed a flagrant-1 (intentional) foul after a video review for poking Maryland's Melo Trimble in the eye with his left hand during the first half of Sunday's game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Afterward, Woodbury called it accidental, and so did Trimble. McCaffery probably drew as much criticism as his player, brushing off postgame questions by saying, "Next question. Ask an intelligent question."

He later went on ESPN News to elaborate on his defense of Woodbury, then spoke about it with interested national media in Monday's teleconference.

Among those on the call was Forde, who said on Twitter Sunday that the "Big Ten office needs to step in with Woodbury."

"He's playing the best basketball of his life. He had (a career-high-tying) 16 points," McCaffery continued in his response to Forde's question. "Do you think he wants to be out of the game with foul trouble? He's too smart for that. All I can tell you is, we don't encourage it. We don't want him to do it. I think when you have a quick player that's coming, those kind of things happen.

"And remember … not one time was there a foul called on the play. If you just watch the game, you wouldn't even notice until you slow it down. I think if you were literally trying to poke someone in the eye, that's hard to do. I don't think you could do that continuously. I'm 100 percent behind him. I know the kid. Quite frankly, I think there's way too much talk about it."

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said Monday that the Big Ten office should look at the Woodbury/Trimble incident.

"I'm just thankful that Melo's not hurt. It looked bad when it happened," Turgeon said. "His eye was pretty swollen, but he never had blurred vision.

"I think the league office has to handle it. I think you have to be pretty talented to be moving full speed and poke a kid in the eye and try to do it. That's just my opinion. The league's got to look at it, obviously. The kid apologized. Melo's fine, so we move on."