One of Iowa's most impressive victories this season was overshadowed by the bizarre inability of its starting center to keep his fingers out of opposing players' eyes.
Adam Woodbury drew undesired attention for another eye poke during Sunday's 71-55 win over Maryland, this time sending Terrapins freshman Melo Trimble recoiling in pain. Fran McCaffery then compounded the problem with his unwillingness to discuss the incident.
Asked to explain how TV cameras have caught Woodbury poking the eyes of three opposing Big Ten players already this season, McCaffery bristled during his postgame news conference and responded tersely, "Next question. Ask an intelligent question." When the reporter followed up by asking why that wasn't an intelligent question, McCaffery testily replied, "Because I said so."
McCaffery was more verbose in his defense of Woodbury when asked again about the eye pokes during the Big Ten teleconference on Monday. He insisted Woodbury was swiping at the ball and noted that the Iowa center certainly had no incentive to try to injure Trimble with the Hawkeyes firmly in control from start to finish against the Terrapins.
"I know the kid," McCaffery said. "I know what we teach and 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, anything intentional.
“I mean think about it. I mean here we are, we’ve got the game firmly in hand. Do you think he wants to stop it, give them two free throws and the ball, get a flagrant foul, be in foul trouble? He’s playing the best of his life. He had 16 points. Do you think he wants to be out of the game with foul trouble? He’s too smart for that."
Woodbury's eye poking habit previously became an issue in a loss to Wisconsin last month when he caught both Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes in similar fashion to how he did Trimble. Whereas in those instances Woodbury did not receive a foul, referees assessed a flagrant foul Sunday after reviewing the play courtside at a stoppage in the action.
Trimble told the Des Moines Register that Woodbury apologized after the game.
"I think it was just an accident," the Maryland guard said. "He was trying to make a play on the ball and accidentally hit me in the eye."
Odd as it might seem, it's actually more believable Woodbury's eye poking could be unintentional now that it has happened a third time.
The first two pokes came during a game Iowa was losing and before Woodbury knew they would garner so much attention. The third came with Iowa leading by 13 points and Woodbury fully aware of the firestorm of criticism a third eye poke might bring.
Nonetheless, what Woodbury is doing needs to stop. Accidental or intentional, it's a distraction for Iowa and it's dangerous for opposing players.
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