Q. Jordan, Coach Underwood said you must love to see orange and blue because you blew these guys up in Champaign as well. But to play against them obviously you must have a certain comfort level wherever the looks that they're showing you and plus also playing this well in this building, I was wondering if there's anything maybe a little special about coming here to Madison Square Garden and playing real well?
JORDAN BOHANNON: Obviously anytime you get to play in Madison Square Garden and first time being here and something new. Always want to do when you grow up is play at Madison Square Garden. And think about all the people that played here before and currently playing here.
But Illinois is a really tough team. That was a really tough fight for us to play them tonight. We knew it was going to be a tough first round, and you've got to give them a lot of credit because they worked their butts off on the defensive end and made it really tough for us.
I struggled first half, turned the ball over, had a couple of bad turnovers. But gotta give a lot of credit to my guys especially him right here. They really stepped up tonight and made big-time plays.
Q. You have Michigan tomorrow. What has to happen differently to reverse the two results you got earlier this season?
LUKA GARZA: You know, we're going to get into the film room and watch more film on them. And last time we played them, but we've got to come in here with the same mindset we did today and get the rebound, get to the glass and keep defensive intensity.
They're a great team. They move the ball really well, have a lot of 3-point shooters. We've got to know and get to the corners and get to different areas on the floor where their shooters are a threat.
Just gotta execute the game plan that our coaches give us.
JORDAN BOHANNON: He said it all.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach McCaffery.
Q. Luka mentioned getting to the film room in preparation for tomorrow's game. What else do you guys have to do on such short notice to reverse the results from earlier in this season?
COACH MCCAFFERY: You know, we have to play better. That sounds very simplistic. But when you get beat twice, we played a little better I thought at home than up there. It's not uncommon.
But you can be a little better defensively, whether we're man or zone. We've got to move the ball a little better. We've got to execute a little bit better. They're not an easy team to guard. They share it. They spread you out. They have multiple 3-point shooters, like Luka said, but they also have multiple drivers. Incredibly unselfish team.
The one guy that I've been incredibly impressed with this year has been Abdur-Rahkman. And nobody talks about that kid. And he's one of the best players in our league.
I thought he had as good a year as anybody in our league this year. I think one of the big reasons why they had the success they had, among a lot of other people. But he's a senior that has been through a lot and has been a really good player for them.
I thought he was a star this year. I really did. But, again, they've got a lot of weapons. They've got depth. They've got speed. They've got size. So they can downshift and go small.
They can play big. But everybody can score. Everybody they put out there can score. You've got to be impressed with Duncan Robinson, starter, and accepts his role coming off the bench. Sixth man of the year in the league. Tells you about that team.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the resilience of the team that you guys led all but for 20 -- well, 26 seconds and eight second tied. So just talk a little bit about that for this year.
COACH MCCAFFERY: I was really pleased with that aspect. I think you make a great point, because you know, when you're playing Illinois, they're going to keep coming. They fight you.
It seemed like every time we got what seemingly was a comfortable lead, it was not a comfortable lead. They hit a 3. Get a steal. Get a put-back. And it was a game right up until the last possession, seemingly.
So to be able to hold the lead -- we had goofy turnovers that were obviously upsetting at the time and you can't do that. But you gotta give them credit for how they played, and they were up into us and they were challenging. They were anticipating.
But we made the plays that were necessary to win. We got to their free-throw line. We got to the bonus. We got to the double bonus early.
When they're playing physical like that, and the X is on the O, and they're denying the next pass, you've got to put it on the deck. I thought in the second half our decision-making and our passing and our catching and shot selection was really good, much better than the first half.
COACH UNDERWOOD: Very, very similar to our game in Champaign, other than the fact that we got up 20 in the game in Champaign.
But it was the same three culprits. And we didn't do a very good job tonight. Luka Garza just, again, had his way with us. He's done that two nights in a row. Bohannon has 25 and limited minutes really in the first half. He had 29 in Champaign. And then Tyler Cook has 19.
And so it was frustrating early. I thought defensively Iowa was very sharp. We got out of rhythm. It took us a little while to get going.
I liked our looks. We made 14 3s tonight. And that's a great number for us. But you can't get outrebounded 20 and expect to win, period, in any kind of game.
But that was -- the game was decided on the glass. And you have eight turnovers, you shoot 50 percent almost, but when you get outrebounded and then you allow them to shoot 57 percent, 56 percent, you're in trouble.
So a lot of credit to Iowa. They're very good. Very explosive offensive team. And their size bothered us. And then Bohannon just loved seeing [inaudible].
Q. What was this week like for you coming in? You've been here a few days in New York and playing at the Garden for the first time, the Big Ten Tournament?
TRENT FRAZIER: First time in New York, great experience. Our guys, we're coming in this tournament excited, pumped up and fired up to get a snap back out of Iowa.
But coming up short tonight. But coming off what Coach Underwood talked about, rebounding, we got killed on the boards tonight, and I think that was the game, down two -- we give up two rebounds off of free throws. Those are big, big momentum plays right there. Changed the game.
KIPPER NICHOLS: Like he said, the week didn't end the way we wanted it to. So that's really all that matters at this point. But like they both said, you don't win that rebounding battle, you get killed like that, it's tough to come out victorious.
Q. You both have a lot of years ahead of you relatively speaking. How do you plan to use the experience today going forward?
KIPPER NICHOLS: As I said in the locker room just now and Coach talked to us, a lot of it hit me that it's a lot about details. Our youth has shown throughout the year. I think that once we get better collectively and come together as a unit and hone in on that stuff, I think the sky's the limit. And with this new coaching staff, they've done a tremendous job. And I think we all need what Coach Underwood is trying to instill in us and his coaches. Like I said, the sky's the limit for us.
TRENT FRAZIER: For me, I think I kind of used this as a little energy for us for next year. We're right there. This is a hell of a season for our guys. Had an awesome, awesome season playing with these guys. These guys are my brothers.
We worked really hard. But feeding off of what Kip talked about, next year we've got a few guys coming in. We've got to pull those guys in, show them what it is to play for Illinois.
The Fighting Illini, obviously new coaching staff, like he said, new system. We've got to bring everyone together and just play as one unit.
Q. Kipper, back in the locker room, what was it like to score that many points in a famous arena like this?
KIPPER NICHOLS: My teammates, they found me tonight, like it always is. The offense created shots for us but we lost. That's really what it is.
Q. Coach, did you get the technical, was that a lot of frustration buildup or more trying to motivate the guys?
COACH UNDERWOOD: I'm going to fight for them. I'm going to fight for them. They were on a run. It's my only technical of the year. I'm not a big fan of them to be quite honest, and it wasn't directed at any one official or anything else.
That was pretty well planned on my part just to, at that moment in time I needed to change some sort of mojo or whatever you want to use about the game and hopefully try to rally our guys, give them something to rally around. But it worked for a minute or two. But that was the whole purpose.
Q. Coach, the best way to describe it would be how do you sum up this first year? Where are you in the growing process? Is this game reflective of maybe the rest of the year?
COACH UNDERWOOD: Yeah, this fits just about every category you want. And we had three overtime losses early. We had -- Nebraska throws in a prayer at their place, buzzer, to beat us.
We've led in most games. Led by 15 at Ohio State. Led by 10 at Michigan. And we've got to get tougher. Our guys played great at the end.
I liked our growth. I liked our development. It was -- lost 70 percent of our scoring, 70 percent of our rebounding and really Leron Black was the only guy that played and was on an opponent scouting report.
We left two scholarships open for a reason once we got the job. Mark Alstork was our only senior, a grad transfer. I have tremendous respect for what he's done in terms of coming in and helping us lay a foundation. But it was frustrating at times, but very -- and now that it's over I'll look back on it and reflect a little more.
A lot of rewarding things. To see Trent Frazier, a guy that didn't play at Northwestern or barely played, to see him become a member of the all-freshmen team. And Leron Black had an incredible season.
Everybody knows we didn't shoot the ball real well throughout most of the year, and Trent and Leron took the brunt of every team's defensive attack and scheme. But there will be some great things. Aaron Jordan scored more points in three games, the first three games of the year than he did all of last year.
So there's a lot of positives. And there's a lot of growth still to be had. But there's no question, when you're at the University of Illinois, finishing where we finished and losing in the first day, and when you're the 11th ranked program in the history of college basketball, that's not why I'm here.
Q. It's February 28th and the season is already over. Does it feel odd at all to have a season be over at this early stage in the calendar?
COACH UNDERWOOD: Yeah. No idea. I mean, it's a different feeling, and one -- I've never been done in February before ever. I was thinking about that a few days ago. Never ever been done now. Not that it's any different a week from now if your season is over. But it's sure a different feeling making a deep run into March which we've been able to do in the last few years.
Q. You mentioned the growth. Where is Mark Smith's game? And I noticed the Iowa fans were doing the 3-2-1 and I think they kind of tricked him into shooting early one time. Is that the kind of thing that we're not going to see in future years, do you think?
COACH UNDERWOOD: You know, Mark had an interesting year. He had a real -- he's going to be a really, really good player. And he fought illness two or three different times.
He went through the growing spurts that freshmen go through. I love his game. And he didn't play in our last game at Rutgers, so I was really unsure what he was -- what he was capable of tonight.
Mark's a terrific offensive player. And offseason will be good, full offseason in the spring, getting in the weight room, we've got one of the best strength coaches in America.
So I was pleased. All of our freshmen had ups and downs, and that's to be expected. And it's the old cliché that the best thing about freshmen is they become sophomores. So they all played a great deal and they've all got work to do and we'll expect that from them.
Q. It's been a crazy week off the court in college basketball. I just wanted to get your thoughts on the FBI probe and what you think needs to be done? And do you have confidence that the NCAA can do what has to be done?
COACH UNDERWOOD: Answering that here and now -- we've got the greatest game in the world, and it will continue to be that. I've got as much confidence as need be. I'm not really in a place to set up here and talk about that.
But I know we've got something special. It's lasted a lot longer than I've been alive and it's an encouraging moment when you look out and we're playing in Madison Square Garden and we've got tremendous amount of fan support. And the game of basketball will be just fine.