COACH PAINTER: Obviously we're pleased to be able to advance and have the opportunity to play Penn State. Have nothing but great things to say about Rutgers and their fight today.
This was one of those games that really could have went either way. They made a lot of difficult shots. They were great on the offensive glass.
But our guys hung in there. We made a lot of plays offensively and knocked down shots. And we were fortunate. We missed some free throws down the stretch that we normally make. But just hats off to Rutgers. They're a tough out and they were very good today.
But the two guys next to me really played well and stepped up and made some huge plays for us.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Carsen and Vince.
Q. What did Coach say to you during halftime to get you motivated to pick it up in the second half?
VINCE EDWARDS: Just came and said our energy wasn't there or where it needed to be and challenged us as a whole, so we had to get together and challenge each other, pick each other up. When your coach comes in and (indiscernible) and gets on you like that, he wants to see how you respond. It was a challenge and we were able to respond and get stops.
Q. Carsen, great game tonight, took the lead early in the second half for the first time. Even though they never came back and took it again, did it feel like you couldn't seize control or shake them the rest of the way?
CARSEN EDWARDS: Absolutely. Yes, sir. It came down to a lot of possessions and they were hitting tough shots. We were able to execute as well, but we were just kind of going back and forth, so it felt like, it was probably a close game the entire time. It was a fight, which we knew that coming in, though, but, yeah.
Q. Vince, you've obviously dealt with injury, illness. What was it like to have the game you had tonight in that situation?
VINCE EDWARDS: Huge, really. Just a good confidence booster, honestly. Credit my teammates for finding me and the coaches for putting me in position to make plays. But just to be able to walk again and walk normally and put pressure on my foot feels great. Really don't take anything for granted after going through that type of injury.
Q. Carsen, for a while it seemed like you and Vince were playing horse, going back and forth making shots. How did you feel your shot was going? You struggled a little bit in the beginning of the game but then, like, you really heated up in the second half?
CARSEN EDWARDS: I mean it's good to see -- I felt like Vince played well, played well in the first half. He had some big plays in the first half. But it was good to see some shots falling in the second half knowing I had a tougher first half, not even offensively but defensively as well. So just seeing some shots go in and able to take the lead in the second half was good and felt good.
Q. Every game today seemed like the underdog was a little fresher. Maybe the team with the bye was rusty. Did you feel like you had a hard time keeping up with their energy?
VINCE EDWARDS: I just felt, like you said, they were a little, maybe, I don't want to say fresher, but we've just got to come out and be ready. There's no excuse, whether you have a bye, double bye, or you've been playing for two or three days. So to be a player and to be a great player, you've gotta come to play no matter what the circumstances are.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. In the second half it seemed like Rutgers, their field goal percentage dropped. Was there something that you saw at halftime, how you defended them?
COACH PAINTER: Not really. As a coach, sometimes it's hard when people just want to get into isos and play. Because you normally want to build in your help and do some things differently to get them out of that rhythm.
So we were just trying to take up their space. And even the ones they made I thought they were pretty tough, you know, step-backs where our guys are right on them.
Kind of the issue for us is could we get a rebound. They got a lot of offensive rebounds. We didn't do a good job of boxing out and going to get it. It was just being better at what we do. It wasn't much of a change in what we were doing defensively.
We were switching three ways and we weren't switching with their 4. So the second half we thought we'd switch with their 4. But then you gotta worry about the iso post up, and you've got to worry about a guard trying to box out their 4-man, which is hard to do.
But guys like Mike Williams he really helped him. Deshawn Freeman got four offensive rebounds and Mike got five. They're hard to keep off the glass.
Q. It was brought up earlier today that some of the teams who had byes that it's hard to adjust and to get court time. Did you feel like you started off rusty because this was kind of a new environment and Rutgers had already played?
COACH PAINTER: I think that holds true at times. I don't think it did today. I think we took a couple shots early that we shouldn't have taken. I didn't think our weak-side defense was having good in that first four or five minutes.
We weren't there. We were very fortunate. I didn't think offense was our issue in the first half. I thought our defensive awareness and understanding at times was. And that's not to take anything away from them.
But I've been in that situation when I felt that is the case; the other team, they get that experience on that court, especially these guys playing two games.
But I didn't see fatigue from them at the end. Sometimes you see you wear a team down that has to play three games in a row. I didn't see that from Rutgers. I thought we made a couple more plays than they did.
Q. Every time you guys get a four, five, six, seven-point lead there in the second half, they would get a basket; the crowd would get crazy for them. Were you worried at all that the tsunami of emotions of the three days would overwhelm you guys at the end?
COACH PAINTER: Sure, to get kind of a functional piece in terms of basketball. As a coach you worry more on trying to guard them, trying to box them out, trying to do functional things from the basketball standpoint.
We have a rule when we go on the road and the crowd gets loud: Pass the basketball, move the basketball. Don't let it stick in your hands.
So we talked about it before and said, hey, they're going to have a strong following here at this game, if the crowd starts to get into it.
I think what you see in this game is sometimes what you see with those lower seeds in the NCAA Tournament. You go to a different -- you go play in Denver and you've got two teams from the East playing, but one team's a 12 and one team's a 5, Denver adopts that 12 seed as the game keeps going.
I felt like you have a little bit of that. They probably feel the same way when they come to Chicago and Indianapolis, especially when you've got a lower seed closer to them and you have more fans.
Q. Two or three seasons ago you went into Piscataway, I think, and beat them by 50. What have you seen in that short span of time how the program has improved?
COACH PAINTER: They compete. They play hard. I know that's a basic thing. But when you -- you face one of Steve's teams, you better bring your lunch. They're going to hit you. They're going to attack the glass. They're going to play hard.
The three constants I always talk about: Run, rebound and defend. That's what they do: They play hard, they rebound the basketball and they defend.
I think if you would have saw these shot-making from these guys the whole season, they would have a different record. They always gave the effort. They always laid it on the line. But those guys are out there making some tough shots.
They made those against us. Maybe that's the common denominator. But throughout the season they don't make those kind of shots all the time. If they can make shots like that, they're in business, because his teams defend and his teams rebound.
Q. Just that looked like 100 percent Vince. Did you feel like it was 100 percent Vince, or are you still seeing limitations?
COACH PAINTER: No, I thought he was fine. I thought he let some things come to him. Even that shot at the end that he missed, I thought he shot faked, pass faked, took a dribble and took a good shot. It just didn't go down.
But I thought tonight he took what the defense gives you. That's when he's at his best. When he takes what the defense gives him, plays off other people, takes his 3, drives the basketball, when he gets in that flow he's very effective.
This was a great game for him. I thought the key was him playing in our last game to kind of get the rust off and I think that helped him play well today.
Q. Specifically two weeks ago against Penn State you guys really had to claw to win at home, specifically with this team, this Penn State team, what about them makes them a tough out?
COACH PAINTER: Tony Carr to start with. He's tough to handle. He gets into isos and breaks people down. Lamar Stevens is a real tough cover at kind of that 3, 4-type guy that can post, drive you and play. I just like their personnel.
Shep's been around the block. Makes shots. You can't let him get going. Tony Carr get going. Lamar Stevens. Reaves is one of the best defenders in our league, obviously makes a big basket today.
I know they don't have Big Mike, but it shows you the quality of those guys I talked about. Pat's done a great job at getting them to play hard, getting them to play together.
And it's going to be a war. It's going to be a really tough game.
Q. You had seven turnovers in the first half, really cleaned it up after that, only had two the rest of the game. Was it just focus? Was it guys taking better care, what was the difference in the second half?
COACH PAINTER: Just the focus. Just being, getting into a rhythm. And I know Carsen takes -- Carsen's rhythm is different than other guys' rhythm. He can shoot the ball so well off the dribble. Sometimes he'll dribble in place and let one go where it's not that bad of a shot for him.
But I just thought we concentrated better, did little things better. I thought we were better on both ends of the court in the second half. But with all that being said, when you shoot the ball well, everything looks better.
Q. You talked about Sanders getting his point. P.J. spent a lot of time on him today. And he at least made him pretty inefficient. I think he had 23 points on 20 shots, something like that. He missed a big free throw, had four turnovers. What makes P.J. ideal for that kind of matchup, what makes him the guy that goes up on a guy like Sanders, maybe allows him to persevere through, a guy making some tough shots to wear him down?
COACH PAINTER: The one thing about Corey, he's not a great 3-point shooter. So like getting him and trying to get into his space and making those long 2s, it's hard. That's a hard thing.
But we just try to get P.J. to get under him and make it hard for him to come up and shoot the basketball and just stay with him. Be persistent. I thought we gave him too much space at times tonight. If he gets to a step back and jumps over us and shoots it, good for him, especially when it's a 2.
But Corey Sanders is a tough cover. I know we really struggled with him in the second half of our game at Rutgers. And tonight he was fabulous again.
COACH PIKIELL: I hate this day to put the uniform up. I love basketball. But I want to thank everyone for coming out today. Rutgers was great.
I love our players, our seniors. I told them that. They brought a lot of respect to this uniform. And we played a heck of a team.
As you know, I mean, that team is experienced and talented. I was proud of our guys, how they fought for three days. And just disappointed we couldn't get a few more days here at Madison Square Garden.
Q. Geo, Corey, what do you think the world learned about Rutgers basketball today and the past three days?
COREY SANDERS: Just a program that don't give up, that you can't count out, even though we were put last. That's not how we're going to finish. That's not how we want to be remembered.
Just a program that's on the rise. Just don't sleep on us. We've got a great head coach here and we've got great players that's ready to learn and compete.
GEO BAKER: Just that we're a really tough team and we never gave up.
Q. Physically, how worn down were you tonight, this being the third game in a row?
GEO BAKER: I don't really think that we felt really worn down. I think we had a lot of adrenaline coming in. We were really hyped up for the game. And we just came up short.
Q. (Indiscernible) about covering Purdue defensively?
COREY SANDERS: They got a lot of shooters. Everybody on their team can shoot the ball with the exception to, like, their posts. But great shooters. Some hard matchups for us out there. Haas is a monster. Coach compares him to the Empire State Building.
I mean, just tough coverage out there. But I think we did a great job. Had the game we wanted to. A couple more plays, the game could have went another way.
Q. I know it's hard to put things in perspective after a loss like this, but just with the ups and downs you guys had this season, what did it feel like in the moment, this type of environment at the Garden and with all the Rutgers fans here and how you went toe to toe with one of the best teams in the country?
COREY SANDERS: Felt great. Especially to come out here for our seniors, the guys that don't get to play again at this program. Had their families come out and had great support. The last couple of games went on a little run, made some history. So it was pretty good for us. Nobody expected us to win one game. To win two and push Purdue to the max, that's a great accomplishment.
Q. Geo, obviously a tough loss, but you played well. You and Corey, efficient in tonight's scoring. How does this feel for you playing on the big stage, Madison Square Garden, Big Ten Tournament and your confidence going into next summer and the next season?
GEO BAKER: It feels really good. I've got great teammates and a great coach, always telling me to stay confident and ready. I was really just playing for the seniors, to be honest with you. I really didn't want to go home because I know when we go home it's their last game ever in this program. But in terms for me, it felt really good going forward.
Q. Geo, coming off some of the high screens and pick-and-rolls, were you surprised how many times they left you wide open and you were draining those 3s?
GEO BAKER: Maybe a little bit but that was definitely our game plan coming in. You know that Haas is a big dude and he's kind of slow. That was definitely our game plan coming off those high screens and pulling up.
Q. Corey, just your impressions of the impact P.J. Thompson had on this game? He hit a couple big shots for them. And maybe defensively what he was doing against you?
COREY SANDERS: Yeah, I definitely -- it was two big 3s he hit that I helped too much, definitely were big shots. But defensive end, I mean, I went for 11 for 20. So I don't think it was a problem what he was doing for me.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks. Questions for Coach.
Q. This game in particular, you outscored them 20-2 in second-chance points, you had all the hustle stats in your favor. What ultimately turned the game for them down the stretch, do you think?
COACH PIKIELL: Again, I think this is a Final Four team. I watched all the tapes. I watched all the films. I mean, they really don't have a weakness.
The only thing that they don't do great, that they're not 1 or 2 or 3 in the league in, is offensive rebounds, and I think that's partly because they make all their shots.
So they're in the top 2 in the country in field goal percentage, making 3s. They're efficient. They have assists. They have the most experienced team in the conference. They have size. They have versatility. I mean, we outrebounded them. We did a lot of good things.
We hung around with a really talented team. But down the stretch they had four different guys make huge plays for them. And they're well-coached. So tremendous respect for that team. That's as good a team as there is in the country. I haven't seen many teams better honestly in the last 10 or 15 years of doing this.
I thought we had a good game plan, one day to prepare. And I thought we played well. We were playing well at the right time of the season, too.
Q. For how this season finished, not knowing maybe what was going to happen here, what was it like for you to see how the crowd responded here, to how the players responded to basically getting everything, I'm sure, that the program had hoped to see when they joined the Big Ten?
COACH PIKIELL: I love the crowd. I'm glad people came out. It was a tough weather night, too. So I think you're getting a dose of what we can be at Rutgers. I'm so excited about the future. I really am. And we're going to get better and better. And you saw us on a stage today.
Corey was terrific this whole weekend. And everyone kind of chipped in and did their thing. But they liked the big stage and I liked that they liked that. And that bodes well for us moving forward in this league.
But Rutgers, you know, I said to them, two years now we've gained some respect. And people don't want to play us. My phone's not ringing as much, and I think that's a good thing.
Q. A tight game. Obviously shot goes in for you guys, a miss for Purdue and the game turns out differently. How much of it was physical tiredness versus mental? It seemed like a couple of the plays that Purdue hit 3s you guys were maybe a step slow, rotating challenges, just a fraction --
COACH PIKIELL: Yeah, I mean, I don't know if it was really that. I really don't. When Haas sets a screen it's like going around a bus. And so if you're a half a second late, it's not a normal-sized screen.
So they're just very efficient, too, in what they do. And if you close out a little bit late, they can really pass the ball. I mean, you guys have seen a lot of basketball. That's a very good basketball team. They space you out. They have inside. They have outside. They have veteran guys. They have versatility.
Vince Edwards is good at driving it. If you play up on him he goes by you. If you stay off him he makes 3s. And then he can drive it and kick. Very few teams in the country can drive four guys drive and kick. They have that. So it's a real tough team to defend with one day to prepare, too.
But I thought we did a great job, I really did. I thought we just hung around there. And they made some tough shots, too. They hit a banked 3 at one point in time. Again it's hard.
I kept telling our guys you can't defend the free-throw line. So like I want them to score over us or make contested shots at the free-throw line. And can't defend that, and they got to the free-throw line a lot more than us.
Q. It seems appropriate Mike Williams in his final game led the team in rebounds, eight rebounds, he had five offensive. Can you talk about what he's meant to this team and this program the last two years, for him to finish it out in the hometown?
COACH PIKIELL: He was the first guy two years ago when I took over the program. He's a dean's list student. He's graduating here. He's been a captain for two years and he's overachieved. He really has. I mean, he's really overachieved. Proud of him.
He missed 12 games this year with a high ankle sprain. Didn't think I would even have him back. Tells you what kind of a kid he is, and that tells you what a Scarlet Knight is moving forward.
He'll be an example to me and the rest of the team for the rest of my career. There will be a big picture of Mike in my office and next year at this time I'll be calling him somewhere and I'll be wishing he had another year of eligibility.
I'll tell you the same thing with Deshawn Freeman. He's really given blood, too, to the program. And he's improved so much, too. He's graduating here in May. And Candido Sa has been great and Jake Dadika. I want to mention all of those guys. All four of those guys jumped on board.
It's not easy when you get a new coach that didn't recruit you, and people are telling you should do something else or leave or whatever. And these guys stuck with us and they're true Rutgers people. And they love Rutgers and real proud to have coached them.