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March 11, 2020

Richard Pitino

Daniel Oturu

Marcus Carr

Payton Willis

Bankers Life Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Indiana

Minnesota - 74, Northwestern - 57

THE MODERATOR: We're now going to be joined by the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Coach Richard Pitino, along with Payton Willis, Marcus Carr, and Daniel Oturu.

RICHARD PITINO: Obviously, they were very, very aggressive with us on ball screens, and I thought we did a terrific job of adjusting in the second half and spreading out the basketball and sharing it very, very well, as well as not turning the ball over was key for us.

So a terrific second half offensively as well as defensively holding them to 26 points. So a great win for our guys. Excited to continue to move on in this tournament.

Q. Marcus, just talk about what the difference was in the second half with the three-point shooting. Obviously, Gabe hit one early, and even Alihan hit one. Did that get you guys going?
MARCUS CARR: Yeah, it was just the mentality coming out of halftime. We knew we weren't playing the way we wanted to play. That kind of just fell into that. We were being more aggressive, getting the assist to jump shots, driving the ball, kicking it out and getting guys open and taking good looks and shooting with confidence.

Q. Daniel, 15 in the first half, 24 overall. Obviously, it's the Big Ten Tournament. Any extra motivation coming in given all Big Ten teams?
DANIEL OTURU: Not really. We just came in prepared for aggression, and we were just trying to get a win, and that's what we did.

Q. For the students, Coach mentioned the ball screens. What were some of the other things that Northwestern was doing that made it difficult for you guys in the first half that made it kind of tough?
PAYTON WILLIS: They were doubling Dan down low and somebody caught it. Besides the ball screens, I think that was the big adjustment we made in the second half. And handling their ball screens and dribble handouts, that was also an adjustment we made.

Q. Marcus, for you, what was the message at halftime after a 29-point first half?
MARCUS CARR: We weren't really too focused on offense all the time. We know that defense really kind of fuels us. We were playing well on the defensive end, we were able to get stops and get rebounds and then run out and get easy points in transition. I would say most of the talk was let's get some more easy baskets and just attack more. We were kind of being kind of stagnant, get some better movement in our motion. Whenever we were passing to Dan or whoever or just moving the ball or just kind of cut with a purpose, screen with a purpose.

Q. For Daniel, what do you take from the first two meetings with Iowa in terms of Garza, the challenges of trying to slow him, and how much did you learn about what you might need to do tomorrow in that way? For the other two guys, I don't know if you know, but tomorrow starts the fan free, the very small group out there because of the virus. Have you thought at all about what that might be like to play in that environment? How might that force you to draw more motivation from within or intensity from within?
DANIEL OTURU: Luka Garza is one of the best players in the country, so being able to go up against a guy that always brings the best out of you, you want to compete with him because you know he's going to bring it. And you know, just being solid on defense and trying to make it as hard as possible for him is a key. He's a great player. He's going to make tough shots, but at the end of the day, just going to try to compete with him and maybe even compete harder than him.

Q. Payton, can you talk about tomorrow's game?
PAYTON WILLIS: Certainly, with no fans, it will be a different atmosphere, kind of like a closed scrimmage but obviously more on the line. We'll be coming out and competing just like there's fans out there and trying to get the "W" tomorrow.

MARCUS CARR: Just like Payton said, we're going to come out with the same mentality. Obviously, it's going to be a new environment for us, but we're just going to come out with the mentality to win.

Q. Kind of following up on what the previous question was, when is the last time that you probably have played in front of such a small crowd, and did you have any health concerns coming in here?
DANIEL OTURU: I don't remember it, to be honest.

Q. Payton, in the second half there, you hit those back-to-back threes. It looked like you were ready to let it go before you even got the ball. Could you talk about your confidence level tonight and overall going forward?
PAYTON WILLIS: Yeah, I always have confidence in myself to shoot the ball and knock down open shots. It just so happened those two plays, we had good ball movement, and I was the recipient of the jump shot.

THE MODERATOR: Students, thank you. We'll continue with questions for Coach.

Q. Coach, how can you get off to a better start offensively and make sure you don't come out sluggish tomorrow?
RICHARD PITINO: Got to give the defense credit. Defense had a lot to do with it. I thought Chris put together a really good game plan, and they guarded us differently than we anticipated, and I thought we did a good job adjusting. I thought our defense was pretty consistent, and we stuck with what we do, but also adjusted a little bit at halftime, but give them credit.

Q. Coach, you guys beat Northwestern pretty handily in your last matchup. It was obviously tied at the end of the first half. Do you think that was more of your team coming out sluggish or, like, Northwestern just having a lot of improvement since you last played them?
RICHARD PITINO: Yeah, I think Northwestern won 2 of 3 and beat Penn State, who's a really good team, handily. They went after Nebraska, which is hard to do, and they had a really good game plan. They changed up what they did.

So give them credit. I didn't think we were sluggish. I thought we missed some open looks at the beginning, but it's a 40-minute game.

Q. Weeks ago, you guys obviously were playing for a lot, NCAA Tournament and such. Do you feel like the last couple games recently, that they've been a little bit more pressure free?
RICHARD PITINO: I don't think so. I think we've been playing the same all year. I think that we're playing good basketball. We've just had a couple of bounces not go our way, but I think it's a good team. I really do. I think that you look at all of our numbers across the board, obviously, a young team that's played a very, very tough schedule and just had a couple bounces not go our way. But I think we're a good team and we're playing well.

Q. Richard, the challenges of facing Garza here this time amidst the record setting kind of year, what do you think improved from the first meeting to the second with him specifically? And the trouble you've had getting your three-pointer going against him in those two meetings, what did you do?
RICHARD PITINO: We haven't been great offensively against them. Obviously, Garza is one of the best players in the country. We've got to -- you know, with short prep time, we've got to be confident. I think we're scoring the basketball pretty well as of late. Obviously, Garza from a defensive side of it for us is such a load. He's so hard to guard. They run so many good things for him, and he just keeps coming at you.

We've got to get great rest, get off our feet, try to watch a little film tonight and tomorrow and get excited for the opportunity.

Q. You've been incredibly positive during this end of the season and talking about it now as well. What was the message at halftime? Obviously, it was a point in the game where you guys weren't playing very well.
RICHARD PITINO: Yeah, just make an adjustment. I thought we did a good job adjusting to what they did. Again, give them credit. I thought they had a really good game plan to try to take Marcus out of it, to try to trap Daniel, and we did a good job of adjusting.

Like I said, we've lost so many close games. We've had some devastating ones. But it's an easy group to coach. They're great kids. They're fun to be around. So we stayed the course, and hopefully we can take advantage of a great opportunity tomorrow.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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