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March 11, 2020

Chris Collins

Boo Buie

Miller Kopp

Pete Nance

Bankers Life Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Indiana

Minnesota - 74, Northwestern - 57

THE MODERATOR: Northwestern is going to bring Boo Buie, Miller Kopp and Pete Nance.

We are joined by Northwestern Coach Chris Collins and their students. Coach, can you give an opening statement?

CHRIS COLLINS: First, congrats to Minnesota on advancing. Really proud of my group. I thought we played a very good first half tonight. I thought we were defending well, we were doing a good job. Their three-point shooting can be really devastating when they get going, and I thought we did a great job in the first half, even though Oturu was scoring, we were doing a good job on those other guys.

And the second half it got away from us, obviously. They hit nine threes in the second half and only had three in the first. That's where the -- with us only hitting five threes, that's a minus 21 at the three-point line, and that's hard. That's hard against anybody to make up.

I'm really proud of this group. It's not about the wins and losses this year. We wanted to win more. We fought all year long. That's what I'm so proud about. That's what I'm excited about these young guys sitting up here. There was never a day throughout any losing streaks or tough losses or whatever we went through, there was never a day that I came in the gym that they didn't want to get better, they didn't want to get to work, and they didn't want to keep fighting and keep playing. They won some games late, which I think gave us some momentum going into the off-season. We've got work to do. We'll have most of our players back. We'll be adding some guys that were injured sitting out.

I'm really excited about the direction of where these guys are headed.

Q. For Pete and Boo. Pete, start with you. You seemed to really figure stuff out in the final month or so. Like, what happened with your game, would you say?
PETE NANCE: There's nothing really to it. I just kind of got in the gym. I knew I had to stop pointing fingers and look inward, and I just really got in the gym and got to work. I'm glad I could get some momentum leading into the off-season.

Q. Boo, you had that great stretch midway through the season and then you got hurt and couldn't seem to get back on track. What's the state of your game now and what was going on the final several weeks?
BOO BUIE: I think that any lower body injury sets you back a little bit. I continuously got in the gym. I just tried to keep getting better and help my team out. So it wasn't really that I was any worse or anything. I was just doing anything for my team so that we could be better and I could be better. So even if that's not scoring a lot of points like I was early on, you know, just learning and growing is what I was focused on when I came back from my injury.

Q. How do you feel about where this program is at now that you're at the end of your sophomore season?
MILLER KOPP: We're really positive. We're using this game and this season really as motivation going into the off-season, going into next season. Our heads are up, and this season was tough, but we're using -- we have used and will use every loss, every trial and tribulation as motivation going into the off-season.

PETE NANCE: He said it exactly right. We've got a great young group moving forward, and we're all going to put our heads down and just work. We have a lot to prove, and I know that we believe that we can accomplish a lot. That's what's most important, and we're going to stick together and just get to work, and we're going to get a lot better, and we'll be back.

Q. This one's for Coach. What are some of the biggest things you think you learned about your team and your program this season?
CHRIS COLLINS: With so many new players and so many new faces, it was a great opportunity for me to kind of watch these guys develop as players, try to put them in the places where they could be successful. We had some injuries. We lost Anthony Gaines. We then lost Boo. Miller was a rock for us all year. He made a huge jump in his game from last year to this year and became, in my opinion, someone who's going to be an all-conference guy going forward.

To watch Pete's development the last month, where there were a lot of critics, a lot of people down on what he was doing, and like he said, he just got to work. He listened. He learned. He got in the gym, and he had a great last month.

Our young core, Ryan Young, Jared Jones, Robbie Beran, Ryan Greer. There's a really young group of guys that I was still learning as players. These guys are playing together for the first time. I'll be better for it, too. These guys are saying they're going to be better. I'm going to be better for it, having coached these guys for a year, understanding their skill sets a little better, seeing what we can use, and how we can do things offensively and defensively. It's going to be a huge off-season of development for all of us -- players, coaches, everybody involved in the program.

It's not about having a bunch of new guys. We're going to have most of these guys back. We'll have a few new pieces. We'll lose a couple guys, but the core of this team is going to be back, and it's going to be a great opportunity -- spring, summer, fall -- until we play again next November to look like a different team when take the floor. I'm really confident about that. I really am. What these guys showed me with their fight and their -- this Big Ten this year was a monster. Everybody saw it. You guys saw it. And they went out every night. Maybe a couple games that we weren't competitive. For the most part, over a 20-game season, we were competitive night in and night out with a group that's never been out there before, and that showed me what these guys are going to be, and it makes me really encouraged about where we're headed.

Q. Boo, your off-season, man, what are you going to work on? Are you in the mode of thinking jump shots first or are you going to try to get to the rack more? Tell me about your off-season plans.
BOO BUIE: In my off-season, I'm going to work on -- I'm going to get with the coaches. I'm going to talk to my coaches and trust them in what they have to say and what they think I need to develop in. I'm always going to continuously work on my game and my craft. This off-season, I think, is going to be huge for me to get in the weight room and gain a couple of pounds. Just keep watching film, studying guards, and becoming a better point guard.

THE MODERATOR: That will conclude questions for our students. We'll continue with questions for Coach.

Q. Coach, obviously, Gabe Kalscheur had eight threes in his last game. You limited him to one. Were you surprised they got contributions from so many other guys from the three-point range?
CHRIS COLLINS: Payton has made them all year. Marcus has made them all year. Against us, for whatever reason, Oturu becomes like Klay Thompson. He made 3 of 5 in our last game. He makes 2 of 2 tonight. He's 5 for 7 against us from three, Which, really, that's where you want him. You want him shooting threes because he's a load down low.

I thought when the game was in the balance in the early part of the second half, I really thought Demir's seven points were big. He went down there, scored twice in the post, and hit a three. That gave them a little separation when the game was still in doubt. Obviously, Alihan has been a guy that's been making shots for them. I don't think tonight -- these guys, if you let all four of their guys get going, if you let Oturu, Willis, Carr, and Kalscheur all play well, you've got to try to do a good job on two of them. That's when they've struggled is when they don't have 3 of the 4 going.

I thought in the first half, it was going by the book for us. Oturu was going, but the other three weren't really getting the shots, getting the points, and that's why they only had 29. Then in the second half, those guards really picked it up, and that's when it got going downhill for us.

Q. What do you think the decision to play the rest of the tournament without fans and obviously the NCAA Tournament without fans will do? What do you think about that?
CHRIS COLLINS: The players and coaches are going to be super invested. You've played a whole year. Obviously, everybody wants what's right for -- if there's a health issue that's going to impact the people in our near -- our vicinity, globally, whatever it is, we've got to take care of that, and I think everybody is in full agreement of that.

I think the players that are here, the coaches that are here, even though the fans won't be -- there won't be any lack of intensity or want to. This Big Ten season has been such a fight for all these teams, that I'd be shocked if you saw in the dip in the level of play. I think everybody is just curious and concerned to get more information to figure out what's going to be best so we can stop this thing and not let it become worse.

Q. Coach, in your last matchup with Minnesota, they handled you guys pretty well in the first half, like 44 points. This time, you only limited them to 29 points. What do you think your defense did better? What did you guys improve upon to hold them down like that?
CHRIS COLLINS: We were trying to get up on the three-point shooters better. They hit 14 on us last game. Our goal was to try to hold them under 10. Really, like I said, we knew that Oturu was going to score. We couldn't allow him to get like a 30, 20 game, but he's too good of a player because of offensive rebounds and activity. He finds his way to 20 points. He's done it all year long.

Could we limit his just completely going crazy and then do a great job on the guards? I thought early in the game, we put a little bit more -- Marcus Carr really dominated us in the last game. I thought we tried to be a little bit more aggressive. We tried to get the ball out of his hands and make those other guys be playmakers, and I thought for a while it went well, but they adjusted, they actually regrouped at halftime, and obviously in the second half, they scored 45, which is just not where we needed it. If we were going to be competitive, we couldn't allow them to get going offensively like that.

THE MODERATOR: Last question for coach. Second row on the right.

Q. What's the biggest thing you have to change to make the jump next season?
CHRIS COLLINS: I think physicality. Physical and mental toughness. You see that a lot. It's not just one. I think, as a collective group, just fighting through stretches and games where it's not going so well. That's where experience, that's where toughness -- a lot of our guys have younger bodies physically. I think we have to have a big summer in the weight room getting stronger just to endure the physicality of this league, and I think we've got to get better as players, and I think that starts with me being able to help these guys in skill development, player development. I think you saw guys got better this year, like I said, with Miller. He was a much better player this year. I think you saw with Pete within this season, and that's a testament to the work our coaches do.

That's something we've always prided ourselves on is that our guys get better during their careers. So I think we're just anxious. We're going to go a couple weeks, obviously figure out what's going on with school and all these things, and then we'll get back at it. I know our guys are anxious. It's a good, young group. How our guys have been this year through some adversity has really showed me a lot. They never fragmented. They never splintered. They never pointed fingers. They just kept coming back and wanting to work and getting better. That's why I was so happy they found some wins late in the season because that can go a long way in helping us get ready for where we need to be next year.

We've got to be better. There's no question. We've got to be better in almost every area.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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