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March 15, 2017

Bryce Drew

Jeff Roberson

Luke Kornet

Nolan Cressler

Salt Lake City, Utah

Q. What kind of environment have you been prepared for? What are you expecting?
LUKE KORNET: I think we're expecting it definitely to be a high-energy game, and especially with Northwestern, just assume a lot of alumni and just people coming to the game. We're excited for it. We've enjoyed playing road games this year, and if it's like that then we'll be ready for it. It's going to be a fun atmosphere no matter what. And we're going to let that energy carry out on the court.

Q. What is the experience of last year going through the NCAA, is that a help, a hurt? Because obviously you didn't play your best game. What's the ramifications of that game on this one?
JEFF ROBERSON: I think it's a little help, because we were aware how bad we played last year. We want to get a redo and play to the best of our ability. Coming out we'll be ready to play. It's great to be here. But we have a lot of work we want to accomplish.

Q. Obviously Matt has had a roller coaster year, starting on the bench and playing well now. What does it say about his demeanor, about his maturity that he's been an asset late in the year?
LUKE KORNET: It's a great thing. I think every single person on this team, we all want to go out and win games. And that's definitely how it's been down the stretch. And I think for any person, whatever role they're going to be put into, our focus is just going out and putting in the best 40 minutes we can.

For Matt to be able to -- starting to come off the bench, just come in and play solid defense, and be able to knock down shots. And I think it doesn't really matter whether it's starting or off the bench, what role, every person is committed to doing the best they can and leaving it all on court.

Q. Is there something you guys have done in particular or that coach has done for you to prepare for the unpredictability in this tournament?
NOLAN CRESSLER: Not so much. We've kind of been -- we were in the tournament last year and we kind of got experience from that. But you never know what you're going to get in the NCAA tournament. And Coach has talked about that and playing a team that's not in our conference that we haven't played before, you have to prepare for those variables and any variables that will affect the game. So just continue to play hard and play through different situations is kind of what we're getting ready for.

LUKE KORNET: I think it's kind of like the past couple of weeks of our season, it's all been about going out and winning that one game. Every single game, even in conference or the SEC tournament, it's going out and finding a way to win that game. Just come out and shoot lights out or they come up with a different defensive scheme or whatever, we'll have to adjust to it in game the way we have been the last couple of weeks. And do everything we can while on the court to go out and win the game.

Q. What have you seen on tape from Northwestern and the style of basketball they play, their personnel, how it compares to some of the teams you face during the season in the SEC?
LUKE KORNET: Offensively, three guys on the perimeter that can all score the ball. That's like nothing new. You have to prepare to try to do the best that you can, making harder shots for those guys, and making them earn all their points.

I think they've defensively, too, they play pretty similar to some teams in our conference, they're more packed in as opposed to pressuring out, but that presents its own challenges and we've had to adjust to it in previous games. We'll try to come in prepared for who we're going to play. Every single team is different. But I feel like we've faced similar challenges in conference, similar styles of play.

But they're definitely a very good team being in the tournament. And you've got to just make it difficult for them offensively and just prepare for their defense in terms of what you do, but at the end of the day it comes out to us making plays on offense, and making them take tough shots on defense.

Q. Northwestern has been a team with good runs. What have you noticed on those runs, and how are you going to try to prevent them?
NOLAN CRESSLER: Yeah, they're very high-caliber offensive team. I think they have a lot of sets that they can rely on when it comes time for them to put 8- or 10- or 12-point runs together. I think they're a confident team right now, which has contributed to that, and a lot of buzz and excitement around their team. It's just getting the little stop.

Coach Few talked about small, momentum changes that can affect the pace of a game. That's something we've really gotten better at, from probably mid-SEC season. Whenever they go with a run, we have to respond, so that's been a theme of the last couple of weeks.

Q. What's it like playing for Coach Drew, and how has he helped you?
JEFF ROBERSON: I think playing for Coach Drew, he never gets too high or too low. When we were winning one game and losing one game, and trying to fight to get above .500, he helped us stay positive, and helped us focus on staying the course in the process. And I think ultimately that's what helped us break through is we continue focusing on continuing to get better. Even when we were losing, we focus on the positive, and now it comes to fruition.

LUKE KORNET: Just kind of consistent preparation, regardless of the results of games. There's even a part of the season where we were playing pretty good basketball and we were losing some games, our practices then were the exact same as they were before. But I think he's done a great job just kind of keeping our mindset correct and our perspective correct, and not start getting overconfident when we were winning games or depressed if we were losing games.

Just kind of keeping a steady mindset and approach has definitely helped us, throughout the course of a game, if another team makes a run, our demeanor doesn't really change. And if we go on a big run, we want to extend it out even more. I think that carries out through our team, and not succumbing to any pressures during the game that can easily occur from when you're emotionally vested in something.

Q. When you transferred, I think you probably had some options and you ended up at a pretty rigorous academic school, you went from one to another. How important was that to keep that element in your basketball career?
NOLAN CRESSLER: Coming from Cornell, obviously it's a really good academic school. That was one of the things that I looked at whenever I was transferring. I wanted to go to a school like Vanderbilt or Northwestern. I wanted to keep that balance in my life. Because you know the ball stops bouncing some day. You've got to take care of your academics and hopefully help yourself down the road. Vanderbilt has definitely provided that for me.

Q. When you step out of the academic rigor, I don't know that you do any different, but do you sometimes look at other teams that you play and go, this is a little tougher here?
NOLAN CRESSLER: Yeah, Vanderbilt is definitely a tough school. And we know about -- our situation is probably a little different than student-athletes across the country, just with the rigors of the academics and professors really challenging us, not really giving us any breaks or anything like that. It's definitely tough, especially during the season, with study halls and guys having papers and tough tests and whatnot. So it's just a balance I think we've gotten used to. Something that will probably help us down the line.

Q. You guys are kind of known for the three-point shooting team, everyone can shoot it. Do you feel down the stretch defense has been the identity of this team?
LUKE KORNET: Yeah, I definitely think so. I think that's the biggest contributor of us turning the page and winning these games. Offensively we've always been a shooting team. And that's something I always feel confident in. But being able to consistently get shots has helped us win games. And against some of these better teams, we've had to rely more on getting a stop, when the game has come down to one more possession, and we've had to get a stop and rebound, we've been able to do that.

So slowly our identity has changed from really taking pride on defense and being able to create those stops and letting that turn into our offense, as opposed to trying to let offense spark. It's like more energy on defense.

Q. How many times has Coach Drew showed you tape of his shot from '98 or do you guys look at it on YouTube a lot and seen what he's done? Especially on the eve of your tournament game against Northwestern.
NOLAN CRESSLER: I think when he was hired we probably all looked up the video to get familiar with him. But since then Coach Drew hasn't mentioned it at all. I think I heard him say the other day that's probably closer before a lot of our guys were even born. I think it was like '98 or something. He doesn't really talk about it, but it was obviously a pretty sick shot.

Q. They have large players, is that something you're going to attack? Are you going to focus and run the offense through yourself?
LUKE KORNET: They actually do a lot of good things -- whatever height disadvantages they have, kind of being neutralized, tend to double the post and things like that. And I don't think it's something necessarily like we're just drilling it in, but something we definitely have to be aware of. We're going to consistently play offense and whatever Coach Drew calls, we're going to run the play and see what looks we can get.

I think they do things defensively to keep that from being exposed. But we're going to see what shots are available to us and try to take the best one every possession, and that's going to have to go on every offensive possession, instead of attacking that one aspect.

COACH BRYCE DREW: We're really excited to be here. This last month has been a fantastic ride with our guys. It's a great group of young men that have worked hard to get to this point.

From the Northwestern side, what a great basketball story. I grew up most of my life close to Chicago. So been following them closely, what Chris has been doing. Happy and cheering for them. And once the pairings got announced, quickly switched to preparing to try to beat them. Two great schools, two great academic schools. And I know we're really looking forward to it.

Q. Can you describe the similarities you see between these two teams, and are they as similar as a lot of people think?
COACH BRYCE DREW: I definitely think there are some similarities. There's a lot of very skilled players that can shoot the ball. Both teams run a lot of offensive actions. Both teams try to play a lot of help side defense. So there's definitely some similarities as you go.

I guess we'll see just how similar when the game starts. But they definitely -- watching film, we try to do some things that are similar.

Q. You talked about two excellent academic schools. I'm wondering with your career, what are the things you sort of agree to when you decide you're going to compete in the SEC at Vanderbilt where you may not be playing by the same rules as everybody else or is that the case?
COACH BRYCE DREW: I think that's one of the things that makes Vanderbilt, Northwestern, unique places. The student-athlete has to really perform at a high level on both areas to make it at our schools. And even on this trip we have study hall. We have players that are working on homework and different things.

When we took the job we were excited to go recruit that type of student-athlete that knew that they were going to have to put a lot of work in the classroom, also.

Q. Do you know Chris and how about the parallel you guys have with coaches who are dads?
COACH BRYCE DREW: I've known Chris, and Chris has always been great to me on the road, great to me whenever we talk. He sent me some encouraging texts this year. Ironically my wife and I went to a Cubs World Series game, and getting a picture with the mascot and here comes Chris Collins in his Cubs jersey and his wife. We talked there back in October. I wish we got a picture altogether, because that would have been good for today. He's a great coach. He's been really, really good to me.

Q. Following up on that, having a dad who's such an accomplished coach, I know you can't speak for Chris, it's an asset. Does it ever become too much pressure, you've got your dad questioning things, you should have run this or played that guy, did that ever come into play?
COACH BRYCE DREW: They have great wisdom. He's won a lot of games. I was his assistant coach for a period of time. And he would make decisions that I didn't agree with. And about two weeks later I could see why he was right. Some it took two or three months later and I could see why he was right. Now that I've gotten older I value his wisdom even more on feedback he gives me. He balances when to talk, when not to talk. If we lose, it's not a time to tell me a lot of things.

He'll be here, and he's going to fly tomorrow night to Tulsa to see my brother.

Q. Because you're coaching this team, should we not be surprised that you rely so much on the three-point shot?
COACH BRYCE DREW: Well, historically since I've been head coach, our teams have not shot that many 3s or shot that well. It's enjoyable to have a team that's shooting the ball this well, and making 3's. And we're a different matchup. All five guys that start, one of the best things they do is shoot 3-pointers. So we could go off and make a bunch or we could miss a bunch. And how we play sometimes is determined by our 3-point shooting.

Q. You have quite a few guys who played in the tournament last year. Obviously this is your first year as a coach. Can you talk about the importance of that experience, tournament experience this time of year for players?
COACH BRYCE DREW: I think experience is really important, and especially at the end of the year. I think that experience helped us in the last few weeks, helped us in the SEC tournament to make the semifinals. And some of these guys being in Dayton last year and playing the tournament, definitely you get a taste, you go through the experience of it all. Hopefully they'll be even more focused coming out tomorrow, knowing what to expect.

Q. When you were at Valparaiso, every year seems like you were mentioned for job possibilities. How close were you to looking at Northwestern? What made Vanderbilt the right fit when you left?
COACH BRYCE DREW: It was a credit to our players at Valpo to have your name even mentioned for other jobs. And obviously there are other things on the Internet that got out in the last five years.

I love Vanderbilt. Nashville is a tremendous place to live. It is one of the best universities in the country. And so my whole focus while I was at Valpo was to coach Valpo, and at Vanderbilt to coach Vanderbilt, to be the best we can be.

Q. You obviously know what it's like to play the Cinderella at the NCAA tournament, and for your guys to have that experience, Northwestern comes in to prove they want to belong, are there challenges to facing a team like that?
COACH BRYCE DREW: I think when you get here, everyone you play is going to be good, motivated. Everyone is going to be focused and at their best. Whether it's Northwestern or anyone else, we feel like everyone wants to prove they're in and they need to go further than people said they could go. We're not as concerned with what Northwestern is doing; our focus is what we're doing, and trying to negate what they want to do to be successful.

Q. What will make you a tough out in this tournament? You guys were 12-13, how did you turn it around, was it inserting Joe?
COACH BRYCE DREW: The first part is defensively. When we've defended the ball, kept it out of the lane, when we've held people to lower field goal percentage, that's really helped us, and defensive rebounding, when we get second-chance points, those are two indications that our team is playing good basketball.

And Joe has been spectacular, once he went to starting lineup, his confidence has blossomed, his play went way up, he's brought some things to the table that are much needed and he's had more of an opportunity. He's been a big, big part of it.

Q. You talked about being excited to recruit the kinds of players you recruit at Vanderbilt. Is there an advantage to recruiting those guys, how often do you find yourself recruiting against Northwestern for a kid?
COACH BRYCE DREW: I've had it go both ways; I've had some of the smartest kids or even teammates when I played that I've ever been around, but they have a hard time processing the speed of the game. And then some that aren't as good in the classroom that can pick up everything instantly. I find that's more the person and how they handle things.

And then the second part was --

Q. Recruiting against Northwestern.
COACH BRYCE DREW: Maybe a couple of players here and there. But I think us being in the SEC and them the Big Ten we haven't crossed paths too much.

Q. Tonight are you going to pull out the shot from '98 and show your team?
COACH BRYCE DREW: Well, you know, I think the last thing like a parent and a kid, I don't think any kid wants to see what his parent did, especially when they were in their teenage years, our players definitely don't want to see any of that stuff. I said it before, it wasn't even HD then. Not being in HD, they're definitely not going to want to see that thing.

Q. You said Joe brought a lot of stuff for your team. What specifically?
COACH BRYCE DREW: Defensively. His athleticism, his length on defense. He's able to get his hand on some balls. He's able to rebound and get us out in transition quickly. And offensively he's shot the ball well. One game he made five 3's in the second half. He's gave us a new dimension with his length and athleticism and toughness.

Q. You're kind of a small national club of athletes who made plays that people have never forgotten, ever. And some of them say they get tired of it. I wonder if you've ever gotten tired of the rim shot?
COACH BRYCE DREW: No, I've never gotten tired of it. It was such a blessing for me as a person, but then also for our whole school, for our family. My brother was the assistant, my dad was the head coach. When I grew up I always wanted to play in the NCAA tournament. When it was bedtime my dad would make me go to bed and I would sneak out, then eventually let me and my brother watch the games, and it was a dream when I was very young. So to be able to do that in the NCAA tournament it was very fulfilling.

Q. You guys have a pretty big size advantage. Is that something you guys are going to focus on in tomorrow's game?
COACH BRYCE DREW: Northwestern does a great job in the post, they mix things up. And so Luke has been good in the post, he's been good on the perimeter, he's very skilled and he passes very well. We'll move Luke around and see how they're guarding him.

Q. What jumps out at you when watching film at Northwestern's back court?
COACH BRYCE DREW: I recruited Lindsey and McIntosh when they were younger, so I've seen them play for many years. And they're playing fantastic basketball. They make good decisions. They take good shots. They can score in a variety of ways, whether it's threes, pull-ups or getting to the basket. And their spacing is good on offense.

It's definitely going to be a handful defensively to try to keep them out of the lane, but also take away their 3's.

Q. Put you on the spot, did you talk with Jim Phillips about that Northwestern job ever?
COACH BRYCE DREW: You'll have to ask Jim when you talk to him. But over the five years, again, there were a lot of things on the Internet and different things that came up. And I'm so happy for Chris and what he's doing, and obviously I'm happy for my family and what we're doing at Vanderbilt.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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