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March 16, 2017
Salt Lake City, Utah
Northwestern - 68 Vanderbilt - 66
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: Just a special day for our team, for our program. Great win against a really good team. We have a lot of respect for Vanderbilt, we have all week. We knew how good they were, we knew how hot they've been coming into the tournament.
And coming out to the floor, before we answer questions, when I saw that purple in that arena, man, that was awesome. Just to see all the people that came cross-country, came from all over the place, that have never seen this before, they willed us through. There were times I thought we were really tired and our crowd just kept us in it. I want to thank everybody for coming out and supporting us.
Really proud of these two guys. Dererk throughout his career have had his struggles with the free throws and they wanted to go to the little hack a couple of times, they fouled him on purpose. And he went up and made six in a row. And that's a testament of the work he does, hundreds and hundreds of free throws. I thought Bryant was the best player on the floor the whole game. He ran our team, he scored himself, he got other guys shots, and his two free throws to win it at the end were huge.
We're really excited. The tournament is about one thing, trying to see another day. And we fortunately were able to do that and we've got to get back and get regrouped and get ready to play one of the very best teams in the country in Gonzaga on Saturday.
Q. Looking at the atmosphere of today's game, did it feel like a home game for you guys? Even being in a neutral arena, there were tons of Northwestern fans and pretty vocal through the game.
BRYANT McINTOSH: The atmosphere overall was amazing. To see all the purple and the pride they had, and the strength and courage that they could give us as they went on a run late in the second half was a tremendous help. And hopefully they can stick around for a little bit longer.
Q. Bryant, yesterday we sort of asked you about how the tournament, it's the time for the guards to shine. And to go out and have a game with 25 points, was that in the back of your mind? What was working for you today?
BRYANT McINTOSH: It wasn't in the back of my mind, I was just being aggressive, and trying to find a way to help our team win. And at times we felt that we had mismatches that we thought I could take advantage of, and I think I did a fairly good job of doing that. And the way we ran offense today was pretty sharp. And just defending to get stops put us in position to win. It wasn't my individual play.
Q. I know you said that you go to the gym in past Marches, how did the dream compare to actually getting up and playing?
BRYANT McINTOSH: It was fairly similar. You don't really -- if you can keep a 15-point lead, that's obviously something you want to do. But things happen and in March everything comes down to the last two minutes it feels like. Every team is really good. And every team is going to make a push.
The vision that I had going to the gym by myself, it was similar. You don't really imagine being down one and getting fouled very often. You envision yourself hitting the game winner. But to be able to do that at the free throw line was very relaxing.
Q. To go off of that, were you surprised in that circumstance that they fouled at that point during the game?
BRYANT McINTOSH: Yeah, I think they may have not known that they were up one. I think it was just a miscommunication. Those things happen. And you kind of feel bad for them. But we found a way to win and live to fight another day.
Q. Were you in a bit of shock when the guy grabbed you? What were you thinking about doing when that happened?
BRYANT McINTOSH: When he grabbed me I was kind of surprised. I had thought we were down one, instead of up one. So I was pushing the ball up the floor. And I thought maybe I made a mistake. And to see that we were down one and he fouled, I just had to put my mind on making the free throws at the end and then once I made them it was just about getting a stop.
Q. Coach kind of talked about it, the free throw line, a lot of pressure, what's going through your mind?
DERERK PARDON: Just focus. I feel a lot of times when I miss my free throws I don't have focus. I just tried to focus in. The last time out before my free throws, Coach said, It's about toughness, that was in my head the whole time. And before one of my free throws he said, I believe in you. And that gives you a lot of confidence.
Q. Is there any drill that you do after practice? Anything that you do that you try to emulate end-of-game situations?
DERERK PARDON: We play a game called 21, where if you miss a free throw you are minus two points. If you make all nets plus two points and you miss, you're minus one. I just tried to envision I can't get any minuses. I try to make it the best as possible.
Q. I just wonder if Coach has taught you ways to be calm under pressure.
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: I'm not sure I'm calm under pressure, but I appreciate that compliment.
BRYANT McINTOSH: I wasn't making a face.
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: Go ahead, guys.
BRYANT McINTOSH: I do think he has confidence in us. Obviously he was a player and a really good one. So when you're in that situation as a coach the thing you want to do is go out on the floor and help your team and make a play. And he almost probably feels that he has no control. And so he just tries to give us confidence. And the play calling and understanding the mismatches and giving me confidence to attack my guy that I had a couple of times down the stretch was really crucial.
DERERK PARDON: Coach Collins gives us a lot of confidence and he also keeps us poised. In the first half I had a lot of turnovers. He came to me at halftime and just said, It's a new half, just stay confident, we believe in you.
Q. You had a tough matchup today with Kornet. What goes through your mind when you have the tough physical matchups down low?
DERERK PARDON: He's a great player. I just think about just doing my best, and just fighting. I feel like that's a major part of my game. I have a lot of energy and I fight, so I have a lot of chances defending bigger bigs. I just fight and I'll come out good.
Q. Have you guys had any chance to look forward? It's just after the game, but in the Big Ten tournament, talk about getting tired towards the end, what's the key to maintaining that drive and not getting fatigued as this goes on?
BRYANT McINTOSH: Yeah, first, you can't worry about the next step. We had to worry about Vanderbilt and now we have to shift our focus to Gonzaga. So we don't really know much about them. Thankfully in the NCAA tournament you get a day to prepare. You get a day to rest. And hopefully we can take care of our bodies well enough, get some rest, and be ready to go.
DERERK PARDON: Like Bryant said, we don't know that much about Gonzaga. We were focused on Vanderbilt. We know they are a good team. We have to prepare and be focused for them.
Q. After that LaChance 3 missed there was a huge scrum. Did you see anything at all? Were you able to tell anything after that deflection?
BRYANT McINTOSH: The crucial part of that is just getting the whistle to go your way, just with the monitor they can go to if it's inconclusive, it stays our ball. That was a huge part of it. But it was tough to see. I did think they made the right call. I thought they hit it out. But it was a scrum. And thankfully it just went our way.
DERERK PARDON: I was on the bench at the time, I couldn't really see who hit it out. They made a good call. I feel like if they were going to call a jump ball it would have been Vanderbilt's ball. So it was a good call.
Q. There was a stretch into the first half and starting the second half where you guys held Vanderbilt for about nine minutes without a field goal. And there were other stretches, shorter, but similar to that. How critical were those stretches and those stops that your defense was able to get?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: Coming into the game watching these guys on film all week, we knew we were going to have to win with our defense. This is not a team you try to outscore. They're too prolific. They shoot it too well. They space you out. They get their three-point game going.
It's such a difficult matchup, because very rarely during the year do you play against someone like Kornet. He's 7-1, but a three-point shooter. He's out on the floor. And they force you to do a lot of switching because of that. And they get mismatches and drive and kick. We just talked all week about trying to limit their 3's. I know they made 9, but had to shoot 26 to get them.
In the second half we were able to build a lead by getting stops, and then we executed. And they got going. Especially Fisher-Davis. His shooting really brought them back and gave them life. And then we had an enormous amount of game pressure on us the last four minutes, and had to dig down, make free throws. We got one stop when we needed to on the last one with LaChance missing and then getting fouled. And fortunately we were able to get a big win.
Q. It's a win, but with the way it ended with the weird foul and as a coach, what's going through your mind?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: I'm sure -- it was an honest mistake. He's such a good player, he probably saw the score board and thought they were down one instead of being up one. You feel for players. Especially the kind of game he had. He was tremendous today. And certainly I was surprised because we were trying to set it up for Bryant to attack the basket. And when they grabbed him in the back court and I knew we were in the penalty I felt better, especially knowing who I had going to the line, our guy.
I feel badly for Fisher-Davis. It's an honest mistake. It happens all the time. And you feel for players when those kind of things happen.
Q. You guys have been able to close out some close games this year when you haven't been able to earlier, the first two years. How important have these close games throughout the year and into the Big Ten tournament and now today, how have they helped you out today?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: They're huge. It's been our whole process over the past couple of years finding a way and so many times in the past couple of years getting our hearts broken, not being tough enough to finish games. And this year we've lost a few. But for the most part I felt really good how we've handled end-of-game situations in close games. We've executed well. We've gotten stops. We've made free throws.
To me that's toughness and confidence and belief. And those are all things and characteristics that our team has this year, and has made them a lot of fun to coach.
Q. In those final few moments, those crucial pressure, as a coach what's going through your head when you can't necessarily call something?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: Obviously your stomach is churning, because you want it so badly. Nobody works harder than those two guys. For me all I'm saying to myself is these guys deserve it. I'm telling myself to give myself confidence. They deserve it. They put in the time. They put in the work. They deserve to make these. And you just hope they were able to come through.
I was really proud of Dererk, especially. He's had his struggles at the line throughout his career. He works at it religiously every day. For him to walk up and make six in a row in the last six minutes, especially four in the last three minutes or whatever it was, you guys are good at that stuff, I was really proud of him.
Bryant is a guy you want on the line. He has ice water in his veins, and you know he's going to make those. But Dererk being in that situation for the first time, really a big growing experience for him to step up there and make those free throws when we needed them.
Q. You've had a few highs now this season. How would you compare Sunday, the watch party, to this?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: I mean the watch party was a day we'll never forget, because that was history. That's a moment that will live with me and us forever, because that was doing something that's never been done. But I guess winning today is something that's never been done, too, a Northwestern win in a NCAA tournament game.
All of us work, you dream of playing in the NCAA tournament. You dream of being in these games. That's why you get in the gym with these guys. That's why you put in the time. I tell these guys all the time, when you dream about these games, you don't dream about losing them. You don't dream about playing scared. You don't dream about being timid. You dream about being great, having confidence and winning.
So for those guys to go out and have that moment -- again, with this crowd, I can't say enough, I've been in a lot of NCAA tournaments, and been a part of 50-something games as a player or coach, when I walked out and saw all that purple out there, it got me for a second, because it just showed what a special place we're at and how much support this team has gotten from all the NU fans and alums all over the country.
Q. How much do you trust BMac in those situations?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: I trust him quite a lot. I've always trusted him. I've trusted him since I put the ball in his hands, day one his freshman year. The kid is a winner. He lives, breathes, sleeps this. He's passionate about winning the game. He wants the ball in those situations. We wanted to get the right matchups. They were doing a lot of switching. We were just trying to get the right matchup that he could get to the basket and at least get in the lane, if he didn't get in the score. And the one time Dererk got fouled on the weak side. He was tremendous. I thought he was the best player on the floor today. And that's saying something, because there was a lot of good players out there.
Q. With all the tension and pressure this season from the Michigan game to today, in those final few minutes where things got close, what were you telling the guys?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: Just trying to stay calm. I always just try to use my gut instincts with the guys, what do they need at that moment, do they need fire, do they need calm, do they need poise? We were really calm and poised in the huddles. In the NCAA tournaments the time outs are a little bit longer, you have a little more time to explain what we're trying to do on both ends.
But we have veteran guys out there. We have guys that have played a lot of games. And I'd be hard-pressed to think there was anybody in the country that played with more pressure than us, the constant daily, will they make it, are they going to collapse, is this the Northwestern we're always used to seeing? And for us to break through the way we did, I've noticed ever since winning that Michigan game we've relaxed and got back to playing the way we were playing all year. You don't win 24 games without playing really good basketball. And this team has done that consistently all season long.
We're excited to see another day. That's what's great about this tournament. If you get a chance to play, it doesn't matter how you did it, you've got to try to live to see another day, and we were lucky to be able to do that tonight.
Q. How good was Bryant tonight? What did you see from him, even with the foul troubles, being able to score 25 points?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: I thought he was in a good rhythm early. He had great pop today. Throughout the course of the Big Ten season, teams try to wear him down. They send different guys, they double him, trap him, try to get into his legs. We felt coming today the way Vanderbilt played, that's not really how they play defense. They're containment, man to man, plug gaps. I felt he would be able to exploit those things, with his rhythm and be able to score or find guys. Right away he was really confident. He had a great look. He looked fresh. The longer time outs and longer halftime gives him an opportunity to get more rest. Because we rely on him to do so much for us out there.
Q. You guys compared Vanderbilt a little bit to Michigan. On the Michigan game you tried to switch every screen. I note that Kornet on McIntosh today a couple of times. How important was that and did you take those tendencies from the Michigan game and bring them here?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: We did. They run a lot of the same actions that Michigan runs with the way they play, and Michigan with the big kid Wagner, who's very similar to Kornet, we just felt like the best thing to do, we had to eliminate his pick and pops. That's his bread and butter. If you don't switch, he's going to pick and pop. We didn't want to switch everything. We wanted to try to get through, but our philosophy anytime that guard got screened at all we wanted to break it off and switch. We were going to live with post-ups, if we could take away his pick and pop 3's, we thought that was a big key to the game.
Q. You talked about those guys being a contained defense. Did they surprise you when they ran at Dererk?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: No, they do a great job of that. We practiced against it. It's hard to simulate in practice. They're really good at it. I thought our spacing was good. But they did a great job, they got length and they deflected and turned us over quite a few times in those double teams. We knew they were going to do it, we didn't a very good job executing. Shows how good they are at that and how well they teach that and execute in the game.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports