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March 13, 2019

Chris Collins

Madison Square Garden - New York, New York

Illinois - 74, Northwestern - 69

COACH COLLINS: Appreciate you guys braving it late night, so I thought it was a great college basketball game tonight. I really did. I thought you had two teams that played incredibly hard. Kind of went back and forth punch for punch. You know, they answered all our runs. We kind of answered theirs.

So it was a really well-played game. Guys playing really hard. That's what I love. I love when you see two teams playing that hard. It becomes a possession-by-possession game. Obviously in the overtime their guard's ability to get in the lane and break us down and either score or find shooters. I think Frazier hit a three, and I think Ayo hit a big one for six points.

Overall, though, I thought our defense was good. The three times we played them in regulation I thought that was the best we defended them. Then, you know, just in overtime they made a couple more plays than we did.

Really proud of my team. To not have one of our leaders Vic Law out there and one of our main ball handlers and playmakers against their pressure for those other guys to really step up. I thought Miller Kopp was really good. I thought A.J. Turner, that was his best game of the year. You know what you're going to get from Pardon, and it was good to see Falzon hit a couple threes there in overtime.

Overall, the record isn't where we wanted it to be. There is no mistaking any of that. We're going to get to work.

I'm proud of my seniors. I've talked about their legacy many of times with Pardon and Law and what those guys meant for our program. They did a lot of things that people thought, quite frankly, could never be done at Northwestern.

To go to an NCAA Tournament, to play on semifinal Saturday in a Big Ten tournament, to win double-figure Big Ten games. To win a game in the NCAA Tournament, you know, there's a lot of firsts that that group did that will never be taken away from them.

That's what I told them. Their legacy is not about what happened this year. It's about the overall body of work and what those guys have meant to our program and their belief in us when there wasn't a whole lot to believe in. We really didn't have the facilities. We didn't have the tradition. We didn't have the history. You know, I was just trying to sell a vision and a dream of what I thought Northwestern basketball could be.

Now we face ourselves in a position where we've got to build it again, and I'm committed to doing that. It's going to take a lot of work. We've got to get better. I've got to be better. We've all got to get better. We've got to get it back to where we know we can get it. It's something that I'm anxious to do once we can let the dust settle and rest a little bit.

Anyway, I'll open for questions about the game.

Q. Giorgi went off early on, just what makes him such a difficult cover? Were you surprised?
COACH COLLINS: No, I wasn't surprised. I thought he was doing a good job. He got deep post position. A couple of his early buckets were on break downs on pick-and-rolls, but he really got into a rhythm in the post. I think what makes him is his quickness and agility in the post. You look at him, and he's a big, strong guy, but his foot work, he makes quick moves. His ability to pivot.

You think you've got him under control, and he can kind of slither around you and find angles. You know, he's a terrific player, terrific player. He's gotten better throughout the course of this whole season.

Certainly it was a handful for us. Being down another guard, you know, and the last time we played these guys a week ago, we really got hurt by Feliz, Frazier, and Ayo, and their ability to get out in transition, and push the ball and drive the ball, we really had to iron that up. I thought most of the game we did a good job. Now, Trent still got his points, and I thought late in the game as we got tired it was a factor.

But they went to a steady dose of going to Giorgi. Really in the first half, his 16 points, I thought if you took his 16 out I thought we were doing a great job on the other guys. That's why he's a really good player and he's got a great future.

Q. You mentioned A.J. had one of the best games of the season. Could you talk about his overall performance in this game, and what you expect next season?
COACH COLLINS: Yeah, I think he showed the talent that he possesses. He's a guy that can handle the ball, he can shoot the ball. For a lot of our guys this year I felt badly because so many of our guys had to take on roles that really weren't in their comfort zone.

We very undermanned at the guard position this year because of injury and off-the-court stuff. So we had to now put guys who are wings and forwards at guard, and that's not easy to do when you've never done that your whole life. All of a sudden you're going to do that in the Big Ten. That's not easy.

So for guys like Vic Law, Anthony Gaines, and A.J. Turner especially that have been wings and forwards their whole life, I really appreciate their ability to say, you know what, we have to help in these other areas.

I hope that for the guys returning, especially Gaines and Turner, that it can be a really growing experience for their games. Having to handle the ball as much as they did and make plays, you know, it forces you to get better with your decision making.

But A.J.'s going to be a key guy for us coming back. We have a big senior class. We're losing a lot of guys, and it's going to be kind of a new era of guys that's going to be the next wave of our program, and he's going to be a key guy as a senior next year to kind of lead the way.

Q. How did the mood in the locker room today compare to previous years, and what do the next few days look like for you guys?
COACH COLLINS: Yeah, it was emotional, which I'm glad it was emotional. There was a lot of crying in there. I say it all the time like at the end of the day only one team is going to be crying tears of joy. There's going to be one Big Ten champion, and then there's going to be one NCAA champion. Everybody else at some point is going to have a locker room like we had tonight.

The thing I love about being a coach is when you go into those locker rooms and you see the emotion pour out, you know how much the guys care. If they didn't care, they wouldn't be emotional. To see them share that emotion with each other, you know, and cry those tears, that's when you know that you have the right kind of guys in terms of character.

For us, I mean, obviously now we have to get to work. I mean, like where we are right now is not acceptable for where I want to be as a program. It's not the players' fault. I take full responsibility. But if you look at many programs -- I mean, I had a situation when I was at Duke in 1994. I played for the National Championship as a sophomore. In 1995 as a junior we went 2-14 in the ACC and came in last.

So things like that happen sometimes. If you look at every program, every single program they have times when, you know what, there are peaks and valleys. I talked about it the other day with Purdue. My first year in the league, Purdue was in last. Now you look at what they've done the last four years, what they've built and what they've gotten back to is pretty damn good. I think a lot of programs can say those same things.

I don't like where we're at right now, and it's not about the guys, but we're going to get to work. We're going to get to work, and we're going to get Northwestern guys wearing those uniforms, and we've done it before, and we're going to do it again. I promise you that. We're going to do it again.

Hopefully it will be better than it was before. That's the way I feel.

Q. Coach, how much did not having Law hurt tonight?
COACH COLLINS: It hurt. It hurt especially against this team. The way they get after you, their quickness. I thought it really showed up in the overtime because they really spread the floor. Everybody was a little tired. I had one less defender out there than I needed, and that's not knocking the guys that we had on the floor. But normally if I have Turner, Gaines and Law, those three guys can match-up with Frazier, Ayo, and Feliz, so just being down -- forget about what he does as a scorer and all those things.

I thought we missed him defensively, and the ability to keep the ball in front, especially late in the game in overtime when the guards kind of took over.

Q. You mentioned before a lot of guys playing out of position this season. How much was not having a pure point guard on the roster, how much contributes to the offensive struggles, and what is the outlook for next year looking forward to that situation?
COACH COLLINS: Yeah, we need to get guards on the roster. I mean, there's no question. It's certainly, I mean, I said it before, we have a really good football team. If a week before, two weeks before school you lose someone you thought was going to be your starter and two weeks into training camp your back-up blows his knee out, and now your running back has to play quarterback, and your wide receiver has to play running back, and your tight end has to play wide receiver, you get what I'm saying. That's what we had to do all year. So that's what we had.

Our guys did it admirably. They never complained. Guys did things they'd never done in their whole life in terms of their positions, and I appreciate what they did. But you cannot win in this league and at this level without elite guard play. That is certainly something that we have to address, and we have to continue to add to our roster at that position.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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