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March 14, 2019

Giorgi Bezhanishvili

Ayo Dosunmu

Brad Underwood

Madison Square Garden - New York, New York

Iowa - 83, Illinois - 62

BRAD UNDERWOOD: Well, commend Iowa. Iowa was terrific tonight. They were the better basketball team.

Tonight they were a tough match-up for us. Tyler Cook posed some problems. I thought defensively after the first four minutes of the game, we did some good things in the first half, but we turned it over too many times, 15, and again, they've been really good, 12 of 23. We're one of the top 20 teams in three-point field goal percentage defense, and yet you would never know that when we play Iowa.

Very, very proud of these two guys. They've had a great freshman year. Three of our top four scorers tonight were freshmen. Had a sophomore in there. And as I told this group, tonight was an ending, but I loved coaching this team each and every day. This is the beginning of bringing Illinois basketball back, and these two guys, I couldn't have asked for anything more, not just in terms of what their play was but as who they are as people. And now the best thing that we get to do is have an off-season.

You know, I think when you look at bodies of Big Ten teams and you look at ours, you know that that's an area that we're excited to head into. But yeah, I'm proud. We had a great year. We played a very difficult schedule, and heading into the off-season with this group is something that excites me a great deal as we head into the future.

Q. Two-part question: Will each of you be back? And if so, what are you envisioning in terms of what success might look like next year?
GIORGI BEZHANISHVILI: Yeah, definitely will be back. A lot of work has to be done in the off-season, a goal -- there is a lot of goals, personal goals, team goals. We have to sit back and look at everything. But just a lot of work in the off-season, that's the goal, as much work as I can personally and as a team.

AYO DOSUNMU: Yeah, I mean, we've got to get better as a team and just focus on little details. I mean, it'll be good. We've got new guys coming in, so we've got to try to get better as a team.

Q. They obviously had two really good offensive games when they played you guys this year. What do they do offensively that makes them so difficult to guard?
GIORGI BEZHANISHVILI: They're just a smart team. When you make a mistake, they make you pay every time. When we made a mistake tonight, they made us pay. They're a great shooting team. Obviously we saw they made a lot of shots. As I said, when you make a mistake, they make you pay, and that's what they did, and that was the game.

Q. It was a lot of fun to watch you develop throughout the course of the season. Just curious what memories you guys will take away from this experience this year.
AYO DOSUNMU: Memories, it's tough. I feel like we had an up-and-down season, but I'm just going to remember us fighting as hard as we can each and every day. A lot of people didn't expect us to win as many games as we did. We shocked a lot of teams. So just playing each and every game as hard as we can, that's what I'll remember the most.

GIORGI BEZHANISHVILI: I mean, as he said, we fought every time. We had a tough, tough year, but we never quit. We stuck together. We are really like brothers right now. If you see the locker room, you can tell that we are really brothers.

It's a special group, really a special group. We had a tough year. But as I said, we fought. We stayed together, and that's the beautiful part of it.

That's just a beautiful brotherhood right there; that's the family.

Q. Coach, you had a pretty big roster turnover at the end of last year, and you talked about establishing a new culture. With this group, do you feel like the culture has been established to the point that you feel that roster continuity is important heading into next year?
BRAD UNDERWOOD: Yeah, absolutely. I think that there's -- we have guys -- I love coaching this team every day, and we have guys that work and guys that put in the time and got better. It would have been very easy to -- for this team to fold it up and not compete and yet, as each one of those guys said, they stayed together.

They're close friends. Some of them are -- maybe didn't have the years that they came in expecting to have, but that's part of the process. And yet the character piece is in place, and the future is very, very bright.

You throw Andres Feliz in here, who had a sensational year, a junior college transfer, and we saw glimpses of Tevi and Alan Griffin, those guys are going to be good players. Like I said, the best thing about now is we get an off-season.

Q. I know the stories of a season are told not on paper, but as you look at the actual final record, are you taken aback by it based on what you expected going in, and can there be in this case a drastic change from one year to the very next?
BRAD UNDERWOOD: Oh, I don't think there's any doubt. I'm not concerned about the record. The record -- everybody wants to win. For us, this was -- this in essence -- it was year two of my contract, it was year one. I mean, we were trying to establish -- we got through the first year, and then this year was about establishing an identity and a culture, and that's the way I've approached it.

Coincidentally, we had the toughest schedule in the Big Ten. We had the second toughest schedule in the country, with a team that, truth be told, wasn't ready for that. And yet it's -- we fought, we'll grow. You have to go through the process to become great. And part of that is the work, part of that is the struggle. It's the grind. We've been through all of that.

Next year is a new year. You keep adding the right pieces, you've got your culture established now. The little things, going to class and the work we put in the weight room and being on time and all the little pieces and little things, those things are in place now. Now we can continue to grow as a basketball program.

I've said it many times; I don't want good teams. I want a great program, and there's a big difference. Illinois is one of the top 10 programs in the country, and we're well on our way to making those strides to get there.

Q. Do you feel like the five fouls in the first minute and a half of the second period set the tone for rest of the half?
BRAD UNDERWOOD: Didn't help. Didn't help.

Q. Did you feel at all that playing last night bothered you guys at all in the second half, the legs or anything like that?
BRAD UNDERWOOD: Not at all. Not at all. We go hard every day in practice. Our guys are in really good shape, and I thought -- if anything I thought it could be an advantage. But there's no -- there's nothing to that. I think that was just Iowa being a better basketball team tonight and causing us some problems that we couldn't overcome.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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