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March 17, 2017
Salt Lake City, Utah
Q. Sanjay, what is it like going through this tournament knowing that each and every game could potentially be the last one you play at Northwestern?
SANJAY LUMPKIN: It's crazy to think about it. Being a 5th-year senior, that's a reality I obviously face. And just been playing it as a regular game. Staying in character, can't do anything crazy, possibility it could be my last game and just playing it as the most important game of our season. And that's what we've done really all March as a team. Approaching every game as the most important game and just locking in for it. And whatever happens, happens.
Q. Coach talked after the game about your work ethic. You're the young guy in this group. Can you describe a little bit about how you got better at the free throw line and your overall work ethic and where that comes from?
DERERK PARDON: I think a lot of it comes from just my upbringing. My parents installed the hard work mentality into me. I just carry that over into college, and especially my freshman year. When I red shirted half of the nonconference year, I really didn't know, I just worked every day and just due to my habits.
Q. How are you going to slow down or guard Nigel Williams-Goss, their leading scorer, tomorrow?
BRYANT McINTOSH: It's certainly going to be a tough task. And first thing we have to do is keep him out of transition as best we can and corral him. He's a one-man fast break. So that will be our first focus coming back on defense.
And then we've got to try and gap it up and get out to their shooters when he kicks it. It's a tough task. He's one of the best players in the country. Individually I think Vic will probably draw the assignment. So he'll have to do a good initial job. And then it's our job to help him, it's team defense. Yeah, we have a tough task.
SANJAY LUMPKIN: Something to add to that, also, obviously they have great length and size. Shooting good shots is vital. We can't throw up shots on the glass that will start the fast break for them, and especially they have the fast break without that, but if we throw up bad shots it will really get it going for them.
Q. From the outside looking in a lot of people are making this out to be a David versus Goliath type of thing. How do each of you view the matchup?
SANJAY LUMPKIN: We just see this as an opportunity. Obviously Gonzaga is a great team. They're a No. 1 seed. We fully respect them but this is an opportunity for us to make history once again, just as we've done, no one expected us to win last game. No one even expected us to be in this tournament. That's our mindset right now. We have another opportunity in front of us tomorrow and we're going to take it.
BRYANT McINTOSH: Yeah, I'd just add on to that, they're one of the best teams in the country, so you kind of understand that narrative that people are trying to give off. I would be okay with being the David in this situation, just from my upbringing, I understand the backstory of that one. That would mean a lot to everybody in the program and I think it would be a great story for the country.
It's going to be tough. It's not going to just be one stone that we have to throw in order to beat them. We're going to have to play a really great 40 minutes and try and keep them out of transition, try and limit their paint touches and keep them off the boards. So it's going to be really a tough task. They're a really good team.
Q. Last night Coach Collins talked about how he believed you guys, this team, dealt with pressure as much as any team in the country because of the constant questions in the seven or eight years, and all of those things that you guys are well aware of. Looking back, how heavy was that weight, and when did you feel it lift?
DERERK PARDON: You know, when we went on our little couple-game skid, of course it got really heavy for us. We worked so hard for just the season to go down the drain. All of us didn't want that. And I think the game that really -- the weight was lifted was the Michigan the game. That was a great experience not for only the team but the whole Wildcat community. It lifted everybody's experience, and it was a great game for us.
BRYANT McINTOSH: It was a great experience for Dererk (laughter).
Q. For anybody who wants to answer it, but I'm thinking of Dererk, first time you lay eyes on Karnowski, whether it's in person or watching that video, compared with the first time you lay eyes on Isaac Haas from Purdue, who looks big. Who looks more impossibly large. I just saw Karnowski in the hallway and couldn't believe it.
DERERK PARDON: Haas is a pretty big guy, we see him a couple times a year. He's built like an action figure. He's really big, muscular. Karnowski is a little more heavyset guy. They're both good players. I feel like they play a similar game. They're good players.
Q. There's about 30 former players, Northwestern players here. Have you had any contact with any of them, or anybody offer you any at advice that played in the program before you?
SANJAY LUMPKIN: Yeah, there's been some players we saw yesterday, Billy McKinney was at our hotel, stayed for the meal. Tavaras Hardy, one of the old players, was here yesterday. Kevin Coble is a player, we saw him yesterday. It's just great, all the players that have played here in the past have had a part in this, it's great to not only do this for ourselves but we're doing it for them, making them feel as part of this as much as possible. And what we've been doing is really special and none of us want it to end.
Q. What did you guys learn yesterday about handling the pressure and the jitters of playing in a tournament? How can you apply that tomorrow?
BRYANT McINTOSH: Yeah, I think we handled the pressure pretty well. We got off to a great start, I thought. And we played pretty well in the first half, got to try and avoid foul trouble. But that happens, that's just part of the game. But we also understand that in March the games are going to come down to the last couple possessions, last few minutes. So it's how you finish the game. It's about toughness and gritty work and making winning plays. That's where the pressure can really set in is in the last couple minutes and not letting it eat you alive and not making the moment bigger than what it is. It's just a game.
But it's something we all love to do and care about to a great amount, especially with the guys that we have with us on this team. And we want to go out and do it for each other. So that's kind of what we look to. We look to each other and find strength in one another and as a group we go out and try and accomplish something great.
Q. You touched on this a little bit yesterday after the game, but for all three of you, have you been surprised by the number of fans that are here in Salt Lake City? There's a lot of purple in the hotels and restaurants in downtown Salt Lake. Has it surprised you?
BRYANT McINTOSH: I think it's a little surprising, but when you do something for first time I think you're going to get a following that's a little different than what you're accustomed to. It's nice to have that following. And I think our athletic department has done a great job of supporting us as well. They brought out a charter flight of like sports medicine and a lot of other staff at Northwestern to come support us. So it's not only that, but just alumni just coming to want to be a part and see the first ever. It's special. And we're really excited that they were able it to join us and feel a part of this.
SANJAY LUMPKIN: I could also say for me especially, but I think for all of us, I felt like it hit us the most when we were in the NCAA tournament when we came on the court for the first time yesterday and we saw how much love our fans had and all the support. It was unbelievable to look up in the stands and hear the chants about us. It was awesome to be obviously in that moment and just be here, and knowing that our fans have our back like that, it was awesome.
Q. Just to piggyback on that, how much of a factor was that crowd, how much did that help you down the stretch? Do you anticipate that being a factor in your favor tomorrow?
BRYANT McINTOSH: First off, the crowd last night helped us tremendously, especially when they made that run in the second half. I thought we were a little bit tired at that point. So to have their energy kind of feed us and give us energy was really beneficial. And then obviously tomorrow we'd like to see that same backing and maybe a little bit more purple, maybe have a little bit of other fans jump on the underdog. It's something that we want and I think it could help us.
But obviously a crowd doesn't win you a game. It's the guys on the floor. They can do and go a long ways to help us.
Q. How do you avoid letting the -- you look at it no matter what happens tomorrow, are you concerned at all about the intensity not being there, feeling the satisfaction seeping in at all?
BRYANT McINTOSH: I don't think that would be a problem with our group. We came here to win. So we're not a group that is going to get fat and happy with the things we've accomplished, because otherwise we wouldn't be where we're at right now. We would have won the Michigan game and tailed off the rest of the year. But instead I think we're playing our best basketball. This group wants to continue to play. We have a special group.
You just never know, as we talked about a little bit before, the message from Coach Collins was Dan Marino getting to the Super Bowl his rookie year and then never getting back. Nothing is guaranteed. And that's kind of what we are like talking about constantly in our locker room is just taking advantage of the moment and enjoying it.
Q. How much have you had a chance to take in any other games, any other tournament games? If so, do you have a favorite game that you watched or moment?
SANJAY LUMPKIN: I would say we've been watching the games at the hotel and everything, haven't really seen anything here at the arena. But the game I watched the most was the Notre Dame-Princeton game yesterday. I thought that shot was going in at the end. But it's obviously exciting to watch every game. It's great to see great basketball. Every game is close, no matter who is playing. And seeing teams fighting for their lives out there. It's really great to see.
Q. Gonzaga reminds you of who you've played this season, if anyone?
SANJAY LUMPKIN: What we've talked about is how they kind of resemble Purdue for us. They have obviously great wings and guys that can shoot the ball. And if you stop them in transition, they have size and we face that a lot with Purdue with both Swanigan and Haas. And we feel like we have a game plan ready for that.
Q. Defensively how does Gonzaga stack up to the toughest competition you've played so far?
DERERK PARDON: They're a pretty good defensive team. They're big inside so they can alter a lot of shots. I think what Sanjay touched on earlier, you can't give them dumb shots. We can't shoot running hooks that can start their fast breaks. Their defense is a good way to start their offense. We can't give them easy rebounds or easy shots.
Q. A lot of the story lines from yesterday's game have not been about you guys winning but more about the foul. Does that give you extra motivation to win this next game and prove you can win without this sort of overshadowing gaff on the record?
SANJAY LUMPKIN: You know, I would say, yeah, it does give us extra motivation. Everyone wants to talk about the foul. But they don't want to talk about the plays we made down the stretch and the plays that B man made, the free throws that Dererk made, the game Scottie had. But that's something we've faced and something I faced all the time I've been at Northwestern when everything has been overshadowed. That absolutely is extra motivation. And it's going to be a huge game for us and we're going to be ready on Saturday and who knows.
BRYANT McINTOSH: I'd also add that while it is a little bit of motivation, we also can't focus on the narrative that was the last game. If we were so worried about that, we're playing one of the best teams in the country, that's not something we can worry about. We have to worry about trying to do our best job of taking away the things that they like to do. So while it is a little bit of motivation, we're here. We're in the round of 32 with a chance to have a great victory to go to the Sweet 16.
That foul at the end is just part of the game. Mistakes happen throughout the game. It's not something that caused them to lose. There's a lot of different plays that could have went their way that would have allowed them to win. So it's not something that we're too worried about, but it is a little bit of motivation.
Q. On the note of the last question, although you just said you don't want to live in the moment of the last game, but you didn't get your chance to go down and try to hit a winning shot. The real thrill in the NCAA tournament. What do you think would have happened if not for that foul, how do you see that thing playing out?
SANJAY LUMPKIN: I think BMac would have gone down and probably scored just like he did before that. And we all have confidence in him to do that and he made some huge plays down the stretch yesterday. And obviously we're all surprised that the foul happened. But there's no question in my mind that BMac would have went down and scored.
DERERK PARDON: I would have called a Bryant McIntosh pull-up jumper.
BRYANT McINTOSH: I would have called a floater.
Q. Did you happen to run into Fisher-Davis at the end or somewhere in the hallway? Did you have a chance to talk to him?
BRYANT McINTOSH: No, I wasn't able to run into him. But you certainly feel bad for him. A lot of the talk has been about his foul. So that has to be a terrible situation, a terrible feeling to have to know your season ended and to have a lot of the blame put on you when the game is played 40 minutes, not in the last two. There's a lot of mistakes that were made throughout the game that could have changed the outcome and not even brought up that play, possibly. So it's unfortunate and you just feel bad for him.
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: Well, we're really excited about the opportunity in front of us tomorrow, playing a great program. One of the best teams in the country this year. It's going to be a tough challenge but it's going to be a super opportunity. You get to this point in the tournament everybody is really good. By the time we tip off on Saturday there's only 32 teams left playing.
So we're excited about that. I know our guys are looking forward to the chance getting back out there and competing and see what we can do tomorrow.
Q. You've watched them on tape, how do they look defensively compared to some of the other teams you've stacked up against this year?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: They're very sound defensively. Getting a chance last night to watch some tape, their guards put pressure on the ball. They force you out of your stuff a little bit. They try to take you out with their denials and they have great size in the paint. If you are able to beat them off the dribble or are able to get in there, they're hard to score against because of their length and size at the basket.
They're very disciplined on that end of the floor. There's a reason why they have that record. You can't just rely on offense to win the games they've won. And I think they're very underrated when it comes to their defense. They have so much firepower offensively, but when it comes to their defense they're very sound in a lot of areas. So it's going to put a lot of pressure on us to really execute well. We're going to have to screen well, cut hard, we're going to have to move the ball and hopefully find the right shots.
Q. Karnowski's size alone presents some matchup problems. How difficult is it to game plan for him because of his passing ability?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: Yeah, I think it might be the best thing he does, as well as he scores. Just watching on tape, when you do send double teams down or you do collapse on him, he has a great feel for the game, he finds open guys. And the way they can all score, I think there's 7 guys on their team that have scored at least 18 in a game. I mean that's a lot of depth and firepower offensively. And it shows, there's not just one or two guys, you've got to contend with a lot.
He's a very tough matchup. His size. His feel. His ability to score. You're going to have to change up your looks on him a little bit and try to get him out of his rhythm the best you can. And hopefully also that he doesn't get your whole team in foul trouble with his power down there.
Q. Being here in Quin Snyder's arena, what's your favorite memory of playing for him at Duke and how do you describe the Collins family relationship with him?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: Quin is really special to me. Quin -- obviously I got to know him really well being at Duke. And Quin was hired going into my senior year. He had just finished a combination law, business school degree two-year program. And he's as smart as they come. I always respected him. He was hired on the staff. And I give him a lot of credit for me, personally, my development. As a junior I really struggled. I had a tough junior year. It's the year Coach K was sick. And Quin came in in his energy and he really took me under his wing. And we did a lot of work together. And I came out my senior year and had a really special season and made All-ACC that year.
I've always been a big fan. We've always been close. My dad gave him his first opportunity in the NBA in Philadelphia as one of his assistant coaches. I'm not surprised by his success. He's really smart. He's a basketball guy. I'm really happy for him. But he's always been really close to our family, and a special guy. I wish he was in town.
Q. Do you have a relationship with Mark Few and in the coaching industry is he viewed as one of the examples of you here him, bigger is not always better, sometimes there are reasons that go beyond money, why people stay at certain jobs?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: Yeah, I've gotten to know Mark a little bit, when you're out on the road recruiting and you're in the gyms, you come across these guys, you get a chance to chat and talk. I've always admired that about him. He's made Gonzaga his home. And he's built a national power there. And he's happy. He loves living out there. He's got a great program. And he knows that's where he's supposed to be. And I admire that.
And I think he's a great coach. I've always -- I'm an old school guy like that, I always like to see how great coaches handle themselves. I think he handles himself great in all situations. I think his demeanor is really good on the sideline, how he interacts with his guys, the media, all those things. He's been a great example for us young coaches that are in the profession now of how to do things the right way and how to handle all situations.
Q. After yesterday do you try to get Vic some easier shots or is it just a matter of him waiting for them?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: I think it's important to get Vic established early. I think you guys that have covered us know that when he gets off to a good start it usually leads to a good game. And we weren't able to do that yesterday. Part of that was Vanderbilt's defense, part of that was maybe we didn't make a conscious effort to get him the ball in the scoring areas where he could at least see the ball go in the basket.
I thought in the second half he was more aggressive. In the first half he kind of got out of the flow and Scotty and BMac had it really going and they carried us. But Vic really wasn't in the rhythm. And in the second half he tried to and wasn't able to get going. I think 7 of his 8 shots were in the second half.
He's a big part of what we're doing, there's no secret. When we play well our wings usually produce, Law and Lindsey. And so it's going to be important tomorrow, can we get him in the post, can we get him something easy just to see the ball go in and get him back on track to being the guy he's been most of the year.
Q. I was wondering in your film study if you looked at the BYU game, their only loss, and if there's anything you saw there you might be able to take advantage of?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: It was definitely one of the games we watched as a staff last night. I thought BYU played great. They made a lot of shots, which I think you have to do. As simple as it sounds, you have to score against this team to beat them. They have too much firepower, you're not going to hold them. You can play great defense, but you still have to find a way to score against them. That's what BYU did. They made shots from the perimeter. Their big man had 29 that night, got to the foul line and was able to get some easy buckets.
I thought part of it, too, Gonzaga, it was senior night, and they had all the undefeated pressure against them. I think it probably relaxed them maybe getting that loss and getting settled back in to chasing the national championship now.
There were a few things you can take. But obviously everyone has different styles and different ways they play. I've seen them on TV a few times but last night was really important for me to just watch them a lot. I tried to watch as many games as I could just to get a better feel for who they are. I really hadn't seen them, other than highlights, play a lot. So it was a good chance for me to get to know their personnel and their style really well.
Q. You have a really varied background in this lunatic sporting event and you convey it to your players. How much does Scotty Thurman's shot and that night still remain in your brain? Can that thing be helpful for a coach now at all?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: I try not too much with our guys to talk about when I played. I just don't think it's relevant. They know I played. There might be certain experiences that I bring up, but that was a tough night. I was playing for a national championship. It was the game you always dreamed of playing. And Scotty hit a great shot. And what people don't realize after that is I had a shot to tie it on the next possession. That was from the top of the floor, that went in and out that I thought I made when I shot it, and just didn't go down.
That was one of the toughest memories -- it was one of the greatest memories, but also one of the toughest, because you came that close to being a national champion.
But with our guys I've tried to use my experience of being in the NCAA tournament a lot to help with how we manage this all with the media and the hoopla and everything that goes along with being in an NCAA tournament. But I've tried to shy away from talking about what I did. First of all, I'm too old now, none of them know that I even could play at all.
I haven't talked about it too much. I was in a great mood until you brought that up, so thank you (laughter).
Q. What does Nigel Williams-Goss bring to Gonzaga?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: He's a one-man fast break. I knew he was a great player, and then getting a chance to watch them on film a lot. He creates so much offense for them in the open floor. You really have to do a good job of trying to stop him and forcing them as best you can to play in the half court. There are so many times that they outlet that ball and he just makes it happen. We're going to have to get back. They remind me in our league a little bit like Michigan State in that. They get you on your heels with their fast break game. I think Gonzaga mirrors that a little bit.
He's the guy that makes them go. There's no question he's a great player. He's got a swagger to him, the way he carries himself, his poise. A big part of what we're going to do to stay in this game is make sure he doesn't go crazy against us.
Q. On paper this looks like a real David versus Goliath when you look at the size they have. How have your kids not been able -- tell me why they don't become intimidated in these situations? They even embrace the Cinderella mentality. They are so confident they belong and believe that they're going to win this game.
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: We play in the Big Ten. So I know we've never been here and this is all new territory and it's really exciting and all those things. But night in and night out we're playing against pretty high-level competition throughout the year. Our guys draw confidence from that. We've had to go down the line and play the Michigans and the Purdues and the Wisconsins and Michigan States.
When we get in these atmospheres, there's a confidence and belief that we belong. And I like that. You have no chance to be successful if you don't have that belief and confidence in yourself. So that's why for us we don't really view ourselves as a Cinderella story because we feel we've played a great schedule. We've played a lot of high-level teams and we've done well. This is just another example of that. We need to use our experiences that we went through in the conference, in the preseason to carry it out tomorrow when it matters most on the biggest stage in the NCAA tournament.
Q. What were the qualities in Dererk Pardon that you saw that made you want to bring him in?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: It was interesting, Dererk played with a really great player in high school, Carlton Brag, who is a good player for Kansas. We went into the high school to see him play. And I'm very friendly with his high school coach. I've known for a long time, played point guard at West Point. And so he kept telling me, like, Carlton is really good, but I've got a kid who is special. And you've got to come in. You've got to check this kid out. Carlton gets all the hype and he should, he's really good. But this kid Pardon is going to be great.
When Dererk was in 8th grade he was about 55 pounds heavier than he is now. And he's had to work to change his body, to work on his game, to get better. And he's always been like a lunch pail type of kid. He's never wanted any attention. He just shows up every day. He's pretty quiet by nature. But he's a competitor.
I went to see him play a couple of times and every time he'd get every rebound, he'd run the floor hard every time. When he'd got the ball he'd finish. If not he wouldn't say anything, keep competing, keep battling. There's something about this kid I really like. And he's been fantastic for us. We believed in him from the beginning in recruiting. And he believed in us. He committed early. And it's a match, I think made in heaven with the two of us, because he fits everything that I want in a player. He wants to show up every day. He wants to get better. He wants to compete against the best. And I know I talk about Sanjay a lot, but in a lot of sense, too, he's a big rock for our team, as well.
Q. You talked a lot about confidence a couple of answers ago. Where did that confidence start, where did it originate and how did it get augmented when you guys beat Wisconsin, Michigan, Maryland throughout the year?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: I thought our confidence really started in the off season. There was something different when we were working out in the summer and the fall. I just noticed the swagger to our guys. There was a different feel when we were doing drills and we were competing in practice. Like I could just sense that they were ready to be good. And they believed it. There was no more hoping we belonged. No, we're good. We're going to win.
And I really think our confidence grew early in the season. We had a stretch of games. We went to Butler and played in Hinkle Fieldhouse right out of the gates and we lost at the buzzer. We played great. We went toe-to-toe. Back and forth, very poised. We lost on the last shot. We went to New York and beat Texas and lost to Notre Dame, when we turned it over on the last possession when we were winning. And then we came home and beat Lake Forest, who was an NCAA tournament team. We have a chance to be pretty good this year. We need to take advantage, we need to be confident, because we can do some damage. I think that stretch was important for us.
Q. I think when you do what you did yesterday and this week, you capture the imagination, and people wonder what's the ceiling. And how has this week in your mind changed the expectations for Northwestern basketball?
COACH CHRIS COLLINS: Me, personally, it hasn't changed it at all. And I've talked about it since -- I understand what the NCAA tournament meant to everyone at Northwestern. And it is great. It's everything we all dreamed of. But I said from the moment I was hired that my dream for Northwestern is to be a championship-level program. And I don't think there's any reason why we can't eventually get there. We have work to do. We have to continue to recruit well and develop guys and get better in different areas. But where we are in Chicago, in the Big Ten, we have a huge facilities renovation project going on with a new arena practice facilities and office. In my mind there was no reason we couldn't compete against anyone nationally. And that's how I still feel.
But that being said we have work to do and this is just a great step along the way. And this is a great opportunity for us to continue to push forward and eventually be that program that we want to be.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports