Postgame Quotes: Rutgers-Minnesota
Feb. 28, 2018

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Rutgers Quotes
THE MODERATOR: We'll ask Coach to make an opening statement then go to questions for Corey and Mike.

COACH PIKIELL: We thank you. Thanks for coming. I love the environment. Rutgers Nation was out tonight. Good win for us against the good and talented Minnesota team. I thought these guys were locked in from the start.

Proud of these two guys. Made big plays all night. Everyone chipped in. Great team win, and we get to play another night. Excited about that.

Q. This actually is for Mike Williams. I remember you when you played at Bishop Loughlin here in New York. How is it to have a local following -- Rutgers now being part of the Big Ten Conference, being like I said it was a switch, how is it being that this is your first -- not just your first but how was it playing here in the Garden and playing in the Big Ten Tournament?
MIKE WILLIAMS: Well, it was a great atmosphere. I think the big thing, I did it on purpose, because you know it's my senior year, I wanted to close it out here. It's ironic for it to close out here, my last year at home here. I have to thank the Big Ten for that.

I had a great crowd here. My family was here. It was great for the Rutgers faithful to come here and watch us play. And we've just got to keep the ball rolling and hopefully we have a lot more fans tomorrow.

Q. For both Mike and Corey, do you guys see your seeding as No. 14 as just a number or is this going to add an act of motivation for you guys going forward?
COREY SANDERS: Both. That 14 certainly doesn't represents the type of team we are. We play hard every game. Sometimes the result isn't what we want it to be. But we're going to fight and play hard against anybody that we get. The number really doesn't matter.

MIKE WILLIAMS: Definitely, the number doesn't matter. In our case, it's March Madness. Anything can happen. That's why this is the best league, the best kind of basketball in the world.

Even the little guys who is No. 14 can upset somebody. We don't really worry about the number. We just go out and play hard every day.

Q. Minnesota was within two at various points in the final seven minutes. Every time there's a basket Corey hit a 3-pointer. Nine of 10 free throws in the final minute. Talk about how clutch you guys were down the stretch.
MIKE WILLIAMS: We practice this every day. Coach, he teaches, he preaches about free throws. We spend at least a good portion of practice shooting free throws because we know it's going to come down to that.

And we was able to come down, stay calm, just hit the free throws. And was able to come out with a win.

Q. What is it about this team two years in a row being able to come in No. 14 seed and winning the first night, and just the mentality that you guys have?
COREY SANDERS: I think sometimes teams look at the 14, just think that they're going to come in, it's going to be an easy win for them. But we know this type of team that's going to fight hard through all the adversity and all the hard times, going to go out there and we're going to fight. That's what Coach preaches: Don't give up; go out there and play the 40 minutes. 40 minutes gets you 40 minutes. And that's that.

MIKE WILLIAMS: Definitely what Corey said. 40 gets you 40. That's been our motto. We came to the tournament. Everybody's 0-0 except after tonight. We came into that mentality we don't want to go home. I don't want to go home. It's my senior year. I want to keep playing.

Q. It's been 13 years since you guys have won two conference games two years in a row. What's that mean in trying to rebuild this program to be able to do that?
COREY SANDERS: You know, it just shows the growth. It's a program that is rebuilding, rebuilding with something that can be very special. But you gotta take the right type of player. We've got a good coach in here now, and just take the players that come along. Just fight along with Coach and follow the game plan and see the vision he sees and a lot of things can change around here.

MIKE WILLIAMS: Definitely, it's all about buying in. You just gotta -- we believe in what Coach Pikiell's vision is. Sometimes we're going to take lumps because we know this is the best conference in the nation. And these guys keep believing. Gotta keep believing in ourselves and it showed today.

Q. Obviously this year hasn't been great for you guys. How does it feel to get a highlight win tonight?
MIKE WILLIAMS: It feels good. Especially we hope our record would be a little bit different this year. But we know we have to take what God gives us and it's all God's plan. That's one of my favorite songs. It's all about God's plan. Gotta keep rolling with the punches and hopefully we'll win tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach.

Q. Coach, today was a big win for you. But not only that, it showed the grit and toughness of your team. What did you learn about your team today, because it was a tough season?
COACH PIKIELL: You know what, during the build process, there's a lot of tough times you have to go through. We played the hardest schedule in the Big Ten, first and foremost. You guys all love Kenpom. You said it. Not anybody else.

We've got a lot of obstacles that we've gone through. We've had sickness. Injuries. These guys have fought through everything. And I'm real proud today. We really followed the game plan. We had to do a great job on Mason and Murphy, two of the best players in the league. And we did that.

We were tough. We outrebounded them. That was the key to the game. And I'm real proud. These guys made huge plays. Mike makes that big out-of-bounds play where he gets an and one. And Corey made big shots all night. Everybody kind of chipped in. Seven rebounds for Issa. Eugene, seven. De gets 11 rebounds. These guys have fought.

It's not been easy, but it's never easy when you're building something. And you've got to go through these times to enjoy the good times. And it's not easy. It's the best league in the country with the best coaches.

And as you saw tonight, some really, really good players, too. So we're excited about having the opportunity to play again tomorrow and hope Rutgers Nation is there and cheering us on just like they did today.

Q. What do you guys need to do to beat Indiana after they beat you earlier in the season?
COACH PIKIELL: Here you go: Just won this game five minutes ago and you're already on to the next one. Indiana is well-coached. Again, terrific. We'll sit down and watch a few tapes.

They have matchup problems. They play tremendously hard. They have matchup problems for us. We have a day. We have a lot of time to prepare. Our guys will sleep tonight. And then we'll get ready for a good Indiana team tomorrow.

Q. Wanted to ask: How satisfying it is for you in terms of seeing Mike Williams, the kind of effort he put forth tonight, how he bought into your program when he came here two years ago, and just to see him have this type of effort in front of his hometown?
COACH PIKIELL: Just real excited. Put him in the lineup tonight. Knew he would respond. I didn't even know if he was going to be back for the season. He and Eugene have had bad injuries. They both really came back and did a great job. But De, I thought -- our seniors all chipped in. Candido gave us some good minutes too when he was in there. Real happy.

Mike's been a great representative: Dean's list student and graduating on time, he's been great, a four-year guy here. To get another win in the tournament so he can keep playing, certainly a great thing.

Q. You played here as a player in the Big East Tournament. What was it like to coach here in the first --
COACH PIKIELL: I love Madison Square Garden. There's no better place. There's no better venue. I'm glad that people can see some unbelievable basketball tomorrow. There were great games today: Illinois, Iowa, that comes down to some really good and exciting basketball.

And everyone will realize how good everyone is in this league from 1 to 14. Who is in the league, 1 to 14, don't want to play anybody. You don't want to play Illinois, Iowa or Minnesota. Good basketball teams, tremendous tradition, tremendous coaches.

So it's great to be here in this venue. I've always loved it. Loved it as a player, Big East, and every time I come here and play, it's just great.

Q. Who was better, you against Boston College in 1986 or Corey Sanders tonight?
COACH PIKIELL: Did they play basketball back in that time? Peach basket? Corey Sanders by far. Better by far. And I was proud of him tonight. He showed a very good basketball player. And he made big plays. But I also liked his defense. He chased Nate Mason around all night. Not an easy thing.

Q. Along those lines about Corey, I know the next loss will be Mike's final game, but it also could be Corey's. Any concern about where the program might be without a kid like him, the way he played?
COACH PIKIELL: You know what, Corey's been great. We'll figure that out. And whatever is best for Corey is what it is.

We've got to continue to grow the program no matter who leaves. We're going to put this program in a good place where we have good players in every class. Very confident in what I'm doing. I'm very confident in the build that we have. Our athletic director is the best. And we're building practice facilities.

Everything else that we need, compete in the best league in the country. And feel really good about where we are. And I know everyone wants 20, 25 wins -- how it works.

I'd like that, too. But gotta go through these tough times and we've gone through them but we've been in every game pretty much and these guys keep fighting. And we're growing the program.

Two freshmen today played a lot of minutes. A couple sophomores playing a lot of minutes. Couple of juniors. We don't have a huge senior class, and we've got a great class coming in.

We have two kids sitting out that I think are tremendous. So I feel really good about where we're headed; and figure out next year who is going to be on that roster next year.

Minnesota Quotes
THE MODERATOR: Coach, an opening statement.

COACH PITINO: Well, it was disappointing. You know, we just couldn't generate enough baskets. It was difficult. But we kept cutting the lead and we just couldn't make a shot to save our lives.

So they fought. We went small. And we scrapped. But it was just -- we got really, really worn down, tired. Depth became certainly a factor. But these guys gave me great effort. So we can't fault them for that.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the players.

Q. Dupree, just talk about coming back to New York, for you and Isaiah, obviously it's not the season you would have hoped for. But what was your feeling? And then Isaiah's feeling coming into this game?
DUPREE MCBRAYER: It's always good to come home, but it was a business trip and the goal was to stay focused, not worry about the families -- we'll see our families after -- but just focusing on the game, the tasks at hand.

Q. Jordan, happy birthday, not the happy birthday you wanted, but you guys got back in it the second half. I think your dunk cut it to three and Sanders hit the big 3. Did that feel like a turning point?
JORDAN MURPHY: Yeah, it definitely seemed like we were still in the game. We were still in the game I think with 11 minutes to go. So I think that was definitely a turning point in the game. Our guys tried really hard down the stretch.

We were getting it done defensively. We just couldn't muster enough buckets to get it done.

Q. Jordan, as a captain this year and a junior, when you look back on this season, what do you want the guys returning to kind of take into the offseason?
JORDAN MURPHY: Just don't be complacent. I mean, anything can happen during any season. It's pretty unpredictable. It's not going to go the way you think it is. Just don't be complacent with where you are right now. Always become a better player and improve on every aspect of your game. I think that's what everyone has to take into the offseason.

Q. Coach, the rebounding margin was pretty one-sided for them. Could you tell me how that affected the game and what the difference was there?
COACH PITINO: Well, we didn't do a very good job of blocking out. I thought we did a better job in the second half.

Then we had to go small, but I thought our smaller lineup actually was better. Physically it battled with it. They're a really good offensive rebounding team. We certainly stressed it. But I thought it might have surprised us a little bit early. And we just don't have the size right now and then with Jordan in foul trouble it really hurt us.

Q. The way that Corey was playing over the last four or four and a half minutes there in the first half, what was he doing that was helping Rutgers to take control there?
COACH PITINO: Just iso basketball. Nate Mason was exhausted. He's battling the flu. I was trying to get him in and out as best I could. But he was getting really, really tired. He was cramping up. And Corey was playing really good one-on-one basketball.

Q. What did Corey do differently than the last time you played him? I think you kept him in check the last time you played him. What did he do differently; what did he do well?
COACH PITINO: I think we had a different team. He got a lot of stuff off just one-on-one.

Q. What do you take from this season? Obviously you guys had a lot of expectations going in. Just summing up now?
COACH PITINO: I think there was a reason why we struggled. Dupree McBrayer was on one leg. Losing your starting center, losing your starting small forward, losing your first guy off the bench, reality -- not an excuse. Reality. I don't think any team can sustain that.

So I think when their expectations were high, we had a full roster. When we lost players, obviously it changed. So take from it that it doesn't happen again.