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March 18, 2017

Mark Few

Nigel Williams-Goss

Jordan Mathews

Salt Lake City, Utah

Gonzaga - 79 Northwestern - 73

COACH MARK FEW: It was a great basketball game. There was a lot of different runs there. We knew coming in that Northwestern had a lot of fight in them. And they just had kind of a spirit of a winner. And we talked about that at halftime. And I thought our guys did a good job of absorbing their runs and then making runs of our own. And we basically just survived and hung in at the end. That's what this tournament is all about. You just need to advance.

I'm really happy to get these guys into the Sweet 16. It's a great week. And obviously we're hoping and planning for more.

Q. Nigel, what were you guys doing so effectively from your perspective defensively that kind of shut them off in the perimeter in the first half? They missed ten straight three-pointers before finally making their first one with a minute left before halftime.
NIGEL WILLIAMS-GOSS: I thought our coaches had us dialed into a great game plan. After watching some film we thought it would be best if we switched 1 through 4 off the ball and on the ball. We were really creative on our switches, and at the end of the day we just competed. That's what it boils down to. You can have whatever game plan you want but at the end of the day you have to compete. But I thought in the first half our competitive level was really hot.

Q. Coach alluded to the importance of surviving. Does it matter how you win these games for confidence or for how people perceive you?
NIGEL WILLIAMS-GOSS: At the end of the day you want to win. It's survive, advance and move on. We'll take the win whether it's pretty, ugly. Can you go back and get better? Sure. That's what you have to do because the competition is going to get better. It doesn't matter how you win, as long as you do it. You learn from the mistakes. We have a motto, let's be better next week than we were last weekend, and I think that's going to stay consistent.

Q. On the call right before the technical foul, what was your perspective on that and what do you think happened?
ZACH COLLINS: I don't know what -- I don't know if my hand was possibly like in the rim. I don't know what happened. But I think I blocked a shot and they thought it was a foul or something. But I don't know. We weren't really worried about what their coaches -- I can't honestly remember what he was talking about.

Q. Nigel, it looked like you guys really went to Zach quite a bit down the stretch.
NIGEL WILLIAMS-GOSS: Zach was phenomenal tonight. He had everything working. He was hitting free throws, he was delivering for us down low. We stressed our balance all year. There's been times where Przemek has carried us. You look at the Arizona game, he just delivered time and time again. And then tonight was Zach's night. I think, again, just a credit to our balance and our team. No one cares who is delivering. I think our bigs did a great job. We had two starters, Perk and Przem, on the bench, and even three, and they were just as positive as if they were playing.

Zach was huge for us, we had all the confidence in the world that he was going to deliver for us. Just a credit to our team for feeding the hot hand and accepting whatever we had to do for that night to get the win is what we're going to do.

Q. Nigel, what do you learn about these games as each round progresses? Does the pressure mount as each round progresses or are you finding the same intensity between now and next Thursday when you get to San Jose, do you take a deep breath or do you stay in a lockdown, pressure type mode?
NIGEL WILLIAMS-GOSS: We don't think of anything as pressure. We had pressure all year long. We were undefeated and we didn't feel any of that. This is what we live for, what we prepare for and we enjoy doing. We all enjoy competing at the highest level. The pressure doesn't mount but the competition does. Everyone wants to advance to the next round. You have to keep dialed in for next weekend, learn from your mistakes, but at the end of the day you're going to be really happy that you got the win.

Q. Your guys really were able to contain Northwestern. Nigel, you talked about the fact you were switching everything. What changed in the second half? What allowed Vic Law and others to get better looks?
JORDAN MATHEWS: They started running the hammer on the backside. And four defense, I didn't do a very good job of turning my head and looking a couple of times. We made the adjustment down the stretch. They adjusted. The first 20 minutes we were switching everything, sliding to the inside and trying to make them take tough 2's. Credit them. They went to the drawing board and made up some good plays. They switched in the second half.

Q. Zach, we got Nigel's perspective on your performance. What got you after halftime?
ZACH COLLINS: Well, I was pretty mad at myself about that first half. I didn't think I was being aggressive. My job is to come in and bring energy and I don't think I brought that energy in that first half. I just told myself you've got to come in and do your job and be confident. And I've been doing it all year. I've been bringing energy all year, and I just had to remember that I have to have the confidence in myself to go out there and make plays, and that's what I did.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the trust you had in the freshmen bigs?
COACH MARK FEW: Sure. Obviously I have a lot of trust in them. I left them in down the stretch of an NCAA tournament game. And I think we've shown that all year. We've done it several times and other close games all the way dating back to the Orlando tournament. Depending on how the game goes, you know, it's either Przemek is being really, really effective and J3, Johnathan Williams, is or some of these games we need more athleticism or rim protection. Tillie is a great guy to get in there and solve problems, he bounces around and makes plays. They were playing off our four. And you can't do that with Tillie. He's a really good basketball player.

We have a lot of confidence in them. They shoot free throws well and defend well. And obviously they can make some plays.

Q. It was a game changer, the technical foul. Just the general job that you have to do as a coach to keep yourself in the coaching box. How hard is it?
COACH MARK FEW: Look, you guys feel it and felt it and see it when you cover these games. There's a lot of emotion that goes into these things. If you lose, your season's over. If you win -- in Northwestern's case, probably the best thing they've ever done in the history of the school. So there's a lot of emotion and you react spontaneously and stuff happens.

I get it was a big play. But there were other big plays. I thought we responded several different times to their runs throughout that second half. I wouldn't put it all on this technical. I would put it on Northwestern really making some nice adjustments to our switching defense and their guys stepping up and hitting some big shots. They were open a little bit but guys stepped up and made plays. Vic Law was big, McIntosh started hitting some, and that's what kind of flipped the game a little bit.

Q. You guys were 9-0 points on turnovers in the first half. And in the second half it was 17-3 in favor of Northwestern. Can you talk about what led to that switch?
COACH MARK FEW: Yeah, I think we got -- again, they were having to adjust to how we came out and defended them. We hadn't shown that yet obviously in the tournament. Secondly, we got a little challenged at the other end and started making bonehead passes and bonehead decisions, and needed to just settle down. We were trying to make plays in small windows. And we're not very good when we do that.

They did a nice job flipping it. I think they got in at halftime and were down and said, We've got to come out aggressive. They came out and got after us and we didn't deal with it very good.

Q. You have a lot of experience building a program. What do you see with Northwestern, their first tournament, where do you see them going forward?
COACH MARK FEW: I see a bright, bright future. When you look at their roster and there's maybe one or two seniors, I think. Most of their top seven or eight are back. So I think that team -- the experiences they had this year are going to do nothing but propel them forward. It's going to give them that hunger to get back to this event again. And they're going to be a really, really tough out. They've got a great guy running the whole show there. Everybody better step up and keep him around. He's really good.

Q. You talked about after the first-round match the difficulty with the crowd. Northwestern obviously had a big contingent. Was that a challenge at all for you guys today?
COACH MARK FEW: No, I didn't feel it at all. I thought Gonzaga had a crowd. I thought Northwestern had a crowd. You need to come to BYU with us sometime with a No. 1 ranking, that's all 20,000 of them against you. So I thought this was split pretty evenly.

It was a great atmosphere. And I think it was one of those NCAA tournament games that was a great watch.

Q. I don't know if you care to bring perspective like this, at what point will you consider this your best team? Is it the way they're playing?
COACH MARK FEW: That's a great point. Obviously they're right there. Do you have children? Do you ever pick, say, You know what, you know, A.J., you're the best kid I've got. There's just really no point in doing that.

I love all my guys that played for me. I love all my teams. There's been one, like the one last year, certainly wasn't even close to the best team. But the way they fought to get all the way back to the Sweet 16 was incredible. I don't know. I know this one certainly is right there, should be considered with any that's ever played there. There's probably two or three of them that should be in that mix.

Ultimately we're going to have to accomplish that Final Four to kind of put it to rest and all that. Again, I look back at all of them as being special. I think this is the 19th straight to the tournament, which isn't easy, as you know. And I think yesterday was like nine straight times we'd won a game in a tournament. I don't know if anybody's been doing that. They're all best to me.

My kid's named A.J. So, hey, there you go.

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