March 9, 2017
Box Score |
COACH COLLINS: Just really proud of my team tonight. We knew Rutgers was a hot team coming in. They won two in a row. They were playing with a lot of confidence, very physical team, very tough-minded, defensive team. I thought our energy to start the game was really good. We were connected on both ends. We obviously had that big run that kind of gave us the separation we needed.
Thought we got contributions from a lot of guys, which is when we're at our best. Balanced scoring, a lot of assists. When we do that, we're a pretty good team.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the students.
Q. Vic, last game against Rutgers, you struggled. What was different in this game?
VIC LAW: I think I was driving the ball a lot more, getting to the free-throw line. I think when I was going through the slump, I settled for a lot of jump shots, been off balance a little bit.
Tonight I got off to a good start, attacking the rim the first ball.
Q. Bryant, you've been in some tough battles with Maryland over the past few years. How excited are you to get another opportunity to go at them again tomorrow?
BRYANT McINTOSH: Yeah, it's a great opportunity. First off, you're basically playing them in their home gym. To get another shot at them, I feel like we played tired the last time we played them at home. It's just a great opportunity when you get to play for a chance to go to the Final Four, the Big Ten tournament. It's just a wonderful opportunity. I think all of us are excited for it.
Q. You went on a 31-0 run in the first half. What is it like when you're going on a run like that?
VIC LAW: I think it's an awesome feeling. It felt like we were clicking on all cylinders tonight. We've been in some tough games the last two games against Michigan and Purdue. Purdue, we couldn't make plays down the stretch.
To come out tonight, to be as efficient and effective as we were offensively, on the defensive end, to match Rutgers' physicality on the glass, it was a fun night to play. Everything seemed to be working. Glad everybody was able to contribute.
BRYANT McINTOSH: I was just really happy with how we defended in that segment. Coming out in the game, we weren't exactly happy with our energy defensively. We didn't feel we were executing the game plan. We finally spoke it, spoke about it. Coach got on us a little bit. We responded, finally executed the game plan.
Got things going in transition. Our wings really excel in that.
Q. Vic, you were asked about your personal breaking out of that slump a little bit. Team-wide, how contagious is it when everybody starts hitting shots?
VIC LAW: I mean, I just think tonight everybody was ready to play. I don't think it was as much about me not being able to shoot the ball good or bad. I just think everybody was prepared to play. We were really executing on offense. We got a lot of good shots. Really driving the ball.
I'm happy with me tonight. I think this is a team where anybody can shoot the ball well.
Q. Can either of you describe the reaction when Nate made the three at the end instead of kicking the ball to Charlie in the corner? There was celebration, awkward faces on the bench.
BRYANT McINTOSH: Yeah, I think we were a little upset just because Charlie is a guy that comes in every day, does his job. It's a role that is hard to accept. You're not really a big part. You don't get to enjoy the fun things that we do as far as playing in games.
When we get him in, we'd like to see if we can get him a shot, get him involved in the game. I think some of us were a little upset with Tap. We're glad he hit the shot, but we would have liked to get the ball to Charlie.
Q. Vic, after a game like Purdue where you struggled, do you do anything differently leading up to the next game?
VIC LAW: After the Purdue game, like I said earlier, when I watched the film with some coaches, I thought I took a lot of off-balance shots, a lot of contested shots, played into their hands defensively.
Coming into this game, be a lot more aggressive, attacking the rim, try to shoot free throws. I don't think it takes away my confidence at all when you have a game like that. I think you just have to be just as aggressive, be another key factor for your team, help your team win in whatever way possible.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, fellas.
We'll take questions for Coach Collins.
Q. In years past, even this year, you haven't necessarily had the firepower. Tonight we saw a lot of offensive firepower. I'm guessing it's something you have known you were capable of.
COACH COLLINS: You guys know earlier in the year when we were clicking on all cylinders, our two wings was averaging about 30 a game. Scotti was averaging 16. Vic was averaging 14. That was when we were at our best. When we didn't have to put everything on Bryant to be a scorer, we could just play and use each other.
If you look at our balance tonight, that's what I love seeing. The two wings both getting 16, Pardon getting 13, McIntosh 13, Lumpkin getting 9, Skelly and Taphorn and Brown giving us production off the bench.
When we move the ball, get assists, that's when we're at our best. I think you saw that tonight.
Q. A lot of the key players in the locker room said when you were recruiting them, you sold them on being the first to make history. How does it feel to finally be in position to follow through on that?
COACH COLLINS: Yeah, it feels great. We got an opportunity tomorrow playing in a game against Maryland, have the opportunity to go to the Final Four, the semifinals. I don't think we've ever done that as a program in the conference tournament. It's going to be a great opportunity.
We're not even talking about what happens after this tournament. We came here to try to compete for a championship. I love the development of our program. I love the steps we've taken year in and year out, the development of our players.
You're seeing a lot of guys out there that played a lot as young players, took some lumps, won some games, lost a lot of games, got in the gym, got better, got tougher, got together. Now, they believe.
That's what's really cool for me as a coach. We come in believing we're supposed to play with these teams, believing we're going to win these games. That was a big step for us this year that I've really seen.
Q. Dererk Pardon limped off. How is he feeling now?
COACH COLLINS: He said he just twisted his ankle slightly. He was okay. Not a knee or anything. Said he rolled over on his ankle. I don't anticipate that being a problem for tomorrow. We'll get him some treatment. Should be ready to go tomorrow night.
Q. Obviously your dad has been watching. What has your communication been like?
COACH COLLINS: He wasn't able to be here this weekend. He's been working. They got him doing some games this week.
I talked to him before the game. He's a dad. We don't really talk too much strategy. We don't really talk X's and O's. He loves our players. He's around a lot.
He loves their relationship that he has as a mentor. At the end of the day, he's my dad, so he's boosting me up as my dad. He's wishing me luck, pumping me up, giving me well wishes. It's been great. It's been great. Unfortunately he's not here, but a lot of my family is, which makes it fun.
Q. When you signed this year's class of juniors back in 2013, you talked about how they could be a big factor. What do they mean for the team?
COACH COLLINS: I think they mean everything. Those were the first guys. Sanjay and Taphorn were freshmen. They're seniors now. They're my guys. They believed since day one.
The group of four juniors, they were the first group of guys that believed in me and believed in us before there was a me and there was an us. I was never a head coach. I was a rookie coach trying to sell them on a dream, sell them on a vision, what this could mean for them if we could do something like this, how excited people would be about it.
To see that come to fruition for them makes me proud because those are things we talked about when they were in high school. All they've done is come into our program and worked hard, figured it out, led others, brought others with them that are younger than them.
I'm just so happy that that core of juniors and seniors are going to be the guys to do this and to make the history and do a lot of firsts we did in this program this year.
Q. Last two games you played Maryland in College Park, down to the wire. You're still in the general region. Something that brings out the best in you guys, the best in them?
COACH COLLINS: I just respect their program so much. For me, I've had an opportunity to compete against Maryland for a long time, long before I even came to Northwestern.
The battles that I've been a part of in playing Maryland throughout the years with Coach Williams, now Coach Turgeon, who has become a very good friend of mine, someone I look up to. He's an outstanding coach. The way he runs his program, the way his kids play, I have an amazing amount of respect for how they do things.
We've had some good games against them here the last couple years. At our place, they've kind of kicked our butts. They did that last month. We need to get rested, study up on those guys, watch the tape. We know there's going to be a lot of red in here. It's going to be a pro Maryland crowd.
I love seeing the purple. I love seeing the contingent. Our people are going to be cheering loud. For all intents and purposes, it's going to be like a road game, against an NCAA tournament team, has as good a player in Melo Trimble as there is. I think it's a great opportunity for our team and our program.
Q. You talk a lot about staying in the moment, focusing on the task at hand. How often do you think about the beginning of when you got here?
COACH COLLINS: There were moments this year that I thought about it, when I came out into the crowd in Welsh-Ryan, it was packed. I thought a lot about it at the Purdue game last Sunday, when I came out and saw that crowd, I saw that energy.
I just thought back to when we first started, what it looked like, how we had to work, grind, go through tough times, get our brains beat in, learn how to figure it out and just fight, just fight.
There have been reflective moments for me this year certainly. I like to do that because we have worked incredibly hard. That being said, this isn't an end game. To me it's just a beginning. I want to strive for greater heights with this program. I want to be in the mix for conference championships in the regular season, in the tournament. To do that we have to continue to get better in a lot of ways. That's what we're going to keep striving for.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
COACH COLLINS: Thank you. See you tomorrow.
COACH PIKIELL: Thank you for staying around. Not the way I wanted to end it. Certainly wasn't the defensive team that we've been most of the year. Got to give Northwestern a ton of credit. They played at an elite level today, I thought. I thought they made our defense look bad, at times even when it was good. Coach Collins has done a great job. They've got great players. You can see why they're an NCAA tournament team.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the students.
Q. What was the main difference during that long run Northwestern had? What were they doing?
NIGEL JOHNSON: I mean, I feel like we came out with good energy. After a couple minutes, our energy kind of let down. They took advantage. They was hitting shots. Didn't miss for a while in the first half. They got the momentum going. They just stayed hot.
Dug a hole for ourselves. Had to try to fight our way out of it. I think that's what happened.
COREY SANDERS: I mean, basically same thing he said. We went on a drought. We didn't score, I think it was 11 minutes. If you're not scoring, you're letting people score at a high rate. That's what's going to happen.
Q. What are some of the positive things you're going to look back on this season?
COREY SANDERS: You know, just how hard we worked, how far we came. I think we did a lot of big things this year for Rutgers basketball. That was the goal. We're going to keep striving for that goal, move on and just keep progressing like I think we did this year. I know a lot of people seen that. That's the goal, just to keep progressing.
When I look back, I know we worked hard, played hard. That's the biggest thing about it.
NIGEL JOHNSON: As was just said in the locker room, we did a lot of things this year that nobody expected us to do. We did a lot of first things that happened at Rutgers. It feels good for us to be part of that team. We have most of the people coming back except for the two seniors. We have a lot to build off of. We have a lot of learning experiences we can grow and build from.
I feel like we can only get better from it. Keep making our team happy, keep making our fans happy, keep everything behind us.
Q. You were able to get a lot of offensive rebounds in the previous two meetings against Northwestern. Tonight not quite as many. Did you see anything different that you noticed?
NIGEL JOHNSON: I wouldn't say it was anything that limited our opportunities. I would say at some point during the game, we kind of got flat, wasn't really stepping on the pedal. They took advantage of it, playing hard, like it was their last game. We could have played harder from the get-go to make it a more competitive game.
I don't think it was anything they did to keep us off the offensive boards.
COREY SANDERS: Same thing he said. I would say our effort, but I don't think effort was really the problem. I felt like we was playing hard.
Yesterday we played like we had a choice. I think today was just kind of - I don't know - a lack of want for the game today. That's the only thing I can think of.
Q. The last time you played Northwestern, you held Scotti and Vic.
NIGEL JOHNSON: I think they took advantage of how we was in the middle of the first half. They got hot. When they got hot, felt like every shot they shot was going in. They took advantage of our lack of energy, I guess you could call it. They was just hitting big shots.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, fellas.
We'll take questions for Coach Pikiell.
Q. When you step back and look at the two days you had here, what did the program gain? What did they learn from this experience?
COACH PIKIELL: We've overcome a lot. 11 months when I took over the job, I watched them work out for the first time, we've come a long way.
We accomplished a lot of things. We got some respect back to Rutgers basketball. I'm very excited to be the head coach. I love the university. It's a great place. Building a new practice facility, great athletic director, a lot of real positive things going on.
Today we got blitzed by Northwestern. They're a good team. I thought we played hard. We didn't make shots. We didn't make free throws, those kind of things.
This has been a year we got a great staff together, taught a team that wasn't great defensively to defend and rebound. Got them to compete every night in a league that's excellent. Played the hardest schedule, our second hardest, whatever you want to call it, in the league. Able to do a lot of firsts; first road win, first tournament win, getting off to the great start in the non-conference.
Better days ahead for Rutgers basketball.
Q. What was your message to the team in the locker room?
COACH PIKIELL: It's always a sad day. I love basketball. I hate when we hang up the uniforms. But to the two seniors, they've been great. They've brought a lot to the program. Proud of them.
I think this team was the start of making Rutgers basketball a special basketball program. They've done it off the court and on the court, academically.
We're going to compete, be in games, play teams. We're not going to back down. I was just proud. They've done that all year long. No matter what the score was, they fought.
Again, tonight, we played an elite team that was playing at an elite level. We kind of got blitzed. Again, you saw some of our weaknesses. We're not a great shooting team, not great from the foul line. We turned the ball over a lot in the first half. A lot of things that caught us up all year came together in this game.
Q. What will you look for out of your players during this off-season?
COACH PIKIELL: I mean, it's a building process. We just started, so... I mean, we got to get better in every area. We'll do that. We'll start. We'll give them some time off. Then we have to improve.
You saw our weaknesses. But I'm proud where we're headed. Again, have a great staff. Work for a great athletic director. Building a new facilities. There's a lot of great things going on at Rutgers. I'm excited to be the head coach. We have a lot of work to do. I'll be on the road tomorrow. We'll keep working. Again, we'll be back.
Q. Based on where the program was when you took over last April to where they are today, did they meet or exceed your expectations of where you are right now?
COACH PIKIELL: If you were at my first workout when I met with my staff afterwards, I was very nervous about every game.
Yeah, we overachieved. I'm excited about that. We need to do that moving forward, overachieve.
Q. I know you have spoken about the improvement with the team. Is there something particular in the off-season that you're going to look for that you feel you need to bring to the program in order to compete better inside the Big Ten; better rebounding, better shooters?
COACH PIKIELL: All of those things. I was the fifth coach in 11 years. We have to improve in every area. We know that.
It's a great league. These teams are going to keep getting better. Great coaches, great rosters. We got to improve. We got to sit down, assess all of our situations, all of our pieces, weight room, conditioning, get them in the gym. The new practice facility is going to be awesome.
We got to look at everything. We got to improve in every area. We'll do that.
Q. You mentioned you have only two seniors graduating, most of your team coming back. How much does that help in improving in year two?
COACH PIKIELL: I mean, we'll see next year. We'll start in two weeks, improving, working on the weaknesses. We'll get everybody in a room, let them know what they need to focus on. We'll see where their heads are, too, in a couple weeks.
But it's a journey. I've been a part of these builds. I've been very confident we're going to build this thing, the right way. It takes time. We got to make a lot of improvements.
You saw the improvements we made. Moving forward here, we got to continue to do that playing in this league.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
COACH PIKIELL: Thank you.