Big Ten Tournament Game #2: #7 Northwestern Beats #10 Indiana, 73-58. Players and Coach Comments from After.

Publish date:
Congratulations to Coach Carmody who this seson has lead Northwestern to their first 20 win campaign.

Congratulations to Coach Carmody who this seson has lead Northwestern to their first 20 win campaign.

COACH CREAN: I think the story of the

game for us was really when we were up six, had

six turnovers within four minutes and went down

four. The bottom line of this game was the points

at transfers, the transfers came at very tough

points for us. There were times I think our youth

showed maybe in the sense we were tentative in

our first postseason type of action here with a lot of

our -- with probably half our team. But when we

just were confident and attacked and got the ball

into the middle against their press, we did some

really good things. But we had a couple tough

times with the ball, and they made us pay, and

we've just got to continue to build our will on both

ends of the court, build onto the rebounding

mindset and culture that we've started to build

again this year, and take that into a lot of different

areas as we continue to bring the program back. I

thought our guys moved pretty well defensively.

They made a couple tough shots. When half your

shots are threes, some of them are going to go in.

But I think to hold them to 22 percent in the game,

I think was a tribute to the way these guys

defended. They were very active. But again, it

was the points off turnovers, which got us and they

did a great job of capitalizing on that.

Q. Just for whoever, or Verdell, what

part do you think the zone and how they

extended that in the second half had to do with

those turnovers that coach talked about?

VERDELL JONES III: I think when they

extended the zone, we became very passive and

we weren't attacking it. We had a game plan, we

just weren't following the game plan, and that

affected us.

Q. For all three guys, what do you feel

like you accomplished this season, and in what

ways do you think you're better maybe

individually than you were the first game?

DEREK ELSTON: I feel like the team, you

know, just came as a whole. You know, in the

beginning we kind of -- a lot of people wanted to do

their own separate thing, and coach kind of got us

together and told us we've got to play as a team,

and that's exactly what we came to do.

I mean, it wasn't always the best at times,

but every time in the huddle everybody was always

together. So, you know, individually, I felt like I

was real passive in the beginning, and then

towards the end, I kind of picked it up a little bit. I

just felt like the game was coming to me finally.

VERDELL JONES III: I felt like we finally

meshed. We had some returns from last year, but

we still pretty much had a brand new team with six

freshmen coming in. I thought at the beginning of

the season we were -- we really didn't get -- play

well together yet, but I thought through the Big Ten

and as the season went on and the more battles

we fought with each other, we became closer on

the court.


is I feel we got better overall individually and as a

team, like Derek said. We came together toward

the end a little bit, and we gave it a run.

Q. Derek, can you just talk about what

you just mentioned, how maybe at the start of

the season you were a little passive? What

triggered that? We could tell in the box score

your minutes have gone up the last few weeks,

your stats have gone up.

DEREK ELSTON: You know, in the

beginning of the year, I kind of -- I actually started,

I wasn't playing too bad. Then towards the middle,

you know, the Big Ten came, and I don't know, just

I kept beating myself up. It really wasn't anything

anybody was saying to me, it was just kind of all

me mentally. But you know, I think it was after the

Ohio State loss, I kind of talked to my dad and I got

with Coach Buckley and a couple of the coaches,

and they just sat me down, and you know, they

told me -- I told Coach Buck, my main thing I was

doing was I was trying to be like my dad, and he

told me I had to go out there and be my own

player, and that's exactly -- when I hit the court a

couple practices in after that, I just felt into the

game, I felt involved with the guys early. In the Big

Ten in early practices, I didn't even feel involved.

But I finally put my foot down and said I've got to

start doing something, and like you said, my

minutes went up, and then I got some confidence

back, and then I started to roll with it.

Q. Verdell, can you talk about what

were the big differences between Northwestern

five days ago and Northwestern that you faced


VERDELL JONES III: I thought our

turnovers were the biggest thing. I'm looking here,

and they got 29 points off turnovers. If you want to

win any game, that's unacceptable. I mean, I

thought our turnovers was the biggest key and

biggest difference.

Q. Verdell, how does the end of the

season compare to last year for you?

VERDELL JONES III: I mean, we still lost

in the first round, so it's still very disappointing. I

mean, we had three seniors go out in a way we

didn't want them to go out, and we've just got to

build for next year.

Q. What's the biggest thing that the

three of you each feel that you need to work on

before next season?


would be just get in the weight room, just putting

on weight for the physical aspect of the game and

just keep working on my skill package.

VERDELL JONES III: Like Christian,

weight. I'm still very thin, and I don't want to get

beat up as much. My outside shot, pretty much

every aspect; you can never stop working.

DEREK ELSTON: For me, I feel like my

defense just needs to come along, just guarding

someone one-on-one. That's the biggest part.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach

Crean, please.

COACH CREAN: You started off talking

about the zone. What did they do differently in the

second half that kind of made it a little bit better, or

what helped them more so, I guess?

COACH CREAN: What helped


Q. Yeah.

COACH CREAN: I think when we go back

and see the tape, they got some unchallenged

points. There were a couple of rotations. We'd

come out of the timeout and we played very

tentative, our young guys played extremely

tentative. It's to be expected to a degree when

you're in the postseason like this, and you've got to

go through it, and there's so many things. I'd like

to have a dollar for every time I've said this season

we have to go through it. But we do. We come out

of a timeout, they run out of bounds, play one out,

we're not alert to the ball, they get a layup. I

thought our guys did a pretty good job. When you

shoot that many threes, and we hold them to 22

percent from the three-point line and we're

predominantly zone to the very end of the game --

they had some good movement. A couple times

we got caught not coming all the way over with the

cutter from the weak side when they overloaded

the zone. But the adjustments we made this week,

for the most part they were good.

A couple times we got a little -- we just

weren't as alert as we needed to be, and that

tentativeness played into it, and I think the bottom

line, when you're turning it over like we did, you

just lose confidence so fast because they're getting

easy baskets.

Q. No one expected Jordan to make

eight threes again, but he only got three shots.

Was that them taking him away, or was that

him not really looking for a shot?

COACH CREAN: You know what, I

think -- constantly. I didn't tell him to shoot on

Saturday. I didn't have to. Too many times I

reminded him that he could make shots. He

played like a freshman today, and he's done an

outstanding job for us in a lot of respects. We

expect a lot out of him. I think there was some

tentativeness and apprehensiveness on his part. It

was not a game where we could run a lot of

screens because of their switching. It's a spacing

game, and when we got the ball -- that being said,

he did facilitate some, but we needed to make

some adjustments in a hurry. There's two things a

guard can never do, just like a quarterback in

football can never do. You can't throw it across

your body, and you can't pre-determine your

decision. And he was pre-determining his

decisions a little bit in the first half, and in the

second half if you noticed we took the ball screen

out of it. The ball screen was ended in the first half

because we were so tentative around the half court


Now, we take the ball screen off and all of

a sudden we're attacking that much better, and it

shouldn't be easier, but it was. I think they were

keyed on him, there's no question about that. But I

also know that he passed up some opportunities

that none of us would have had a problem with him

taking. Just all part of a learning process for him.

Q. You talk about your young team

needs experience, things for the first time and

go through processes, how many of those

things did they go through this season with the

overtime victories and tough losses? Do you

feel like they gained some of those experiences

this season?

COACH CREAN: I think every time they

set foot on the floor. When so many things are

new for them, there is -- there's no question. A lot

of guys have made a ton of progress, and what

they're talking about is exactly right. I mean, they

have to be able to mature their bodies and grow

into certain things. We have to be able to learn

how to really defend at this level, and so much of

that is strength, it's hand placement, and we rarely

ever get called for having our -- hardly anybody

gets called for having our forearm into somebody,

but we rarely ever get called for that because we're

not strong enough yet to hold people off. We're

not strong enough to body up people on cuts and

drives, and we've really got to -- we've got to get to

that. Our bodies have got to really take a totally

different look.

And this is -- every program I've ever been

in year one to year two is such a big jump. I think

it's that way maybe in any sport, but certainly in

college basketball it's a big difference, and that's --

our toughness training, our ability to get stronger,

our ability to really will is the biggest word in my

mind right now. We've got to develop more of a

defense of an offensive will.

We do trap drills every day. We spent ten

minutes yesterday doing trap drills around mid

court because we felt like they would pressure us

more because of the way we didn't deal with the

press very well at our place near the end of the

game. The first turnover from Tom Pritchard, I

mean, he basically just puts it in his stomach and

hands him the ball. That's not how we want to

play. So we've got to continue to develop a

toughness. We've made strides there, but we're

not even -- we don't have close to the physical and

mental toughness yet we've got to have to

compete at the highest level in this league.

Q. I know this has been a grind --

COACH CREAN: Ya think?

Q. Are you happy to have a chance to

breathe here or would you much rather get

back to practice tomorrow?

COACH CREAN: Absolutely. I love the

game. I love coaching so much. I felt the same

way last year. It's a grind.

But I told the team something, I'm not sure

they believed me, but this is the best conditioned

team in March I've ever been a part of, going into

the way that we practiced and our energy level and

everything. That includes the Final Four team that

we had. I mean, really, really in good shape.

Now, are we as good, are we as tough, are

we as strong? No. We all know that. But I've

enjoyed this team. I've enjoyed coaching them.

There's been a lot of trial and error in this. You

guys see where we're at on gameday, and a lot of

times it's not very good. I can promise you with the

trial and error and the rebuilding situation that

we've been in sometimes, I'm shocked we're as far

along as we are. I know our record doesn't

indicate that, but this program has endured a lot, a

lot. And certainly we're not -- we're not through the

tunnel yet, but I love coaching, I love coaching

them, and I love watching them get better.

And now we've got to put our energies into

recruiting even more so and doing the things that

we have to do to move the program forward as

they get a little break before we start back up.

Q. Derek talked about having peaks

and valleys out there. What did you think he

did near the end of the year to gain more

playing time?

COACH CREAN: I think people forget he

was starting for us during the Big Ten season. It

wasn't just because I said, hey, let's give Derek a

shot. He was earning it. We wanted to go bigger.

Like I said, there's been -- the injuries set

everything back, as they do on any team when you

don't have a lot of depth to begin with. We took a

couple of very good shooters out of the lineup from

November and December when you look at Matt

and Maurice. We weren't going to make up for that

in one guy or two guys making a ton of shots. So

we had to play differently, and Derek has learned

how to do that. I think it's confidence for him, and

it's alertness, it's awareness. It's not playing with

anxiety, it's playing with that alertness. And he

made a lot of strides this year, a ton of strides, and

I think you've seen some of that. But he also made

some freshman mistakes, and he's no different

than anybody else. But he's been -- our young

guys have made some very good strides, and we

just had to -- sometimes they're not as noticeable,

because sometimes when they're out there as

much as they are, they're not nearly as noticeable

if they were out there in bits and pieces because

we'd have an older team where they could stand

out a little bit more. They're going to continue to

get better, I have no doubt about that.

Q. Moving forward, how do you

address the need for some big guys?

COACH CREAN: Well, I think we have a

lot of needs, and I think we've got to develop the

bigs that we have. We've got a very tough

situation right now in the sense, if you people have

followed our program at all, which I know that you

have, we had to get a team on the floor before we

could build a program. Okay, that was last year.

Then we were able to recruit guys that we wanted,

that we had a chance to develop relationships with.

We're very bottom heavy.

We have to have a balancing act right now

between what do we need to do in the short-term

versus how are we not going to have to start over

again when these guys get older.

In the purest sense of your question,

there's no doubt we're trying to address that in a

big way. They've all got to get stronger, bigger,

better, more athletic that we have in the program,

but we need to continue to address that. But I look

at our team, and we also need somebody that's

better at getting in the lane. We need somebody

that can get in the lane and create havoc, that can

get into that paint and make decisions to get the

ball to shooters.

Our team will look different when you add

the spacing element into it that Matt Roth and

Maurice Creek bring. Obviously Maurice was our

best guy as absolutely being able to get in the lane

and make a play and make a good decision with it.

But we're not anywhere close to being done

recruiting, and that'll pick up again tomorrow in a

big way. So we're going to address it. We have

been, and at the same time I have to sit here and

look ahead into the future and figure out, okay,

how are we going to not have to do this again, and

that's what's hard, because there's a lot of good

young players that we're recruiting that we want,

and we've got to make sure that we get those, and

we've got to make sure that we have the ability to

sign them when they come.



COACH CARMODY: Well, you know, it's

a little different when you play a team four or five

days before this. There are really no secrets. We

didn't really change too much. I don't think they

did. It was a really good game, hard game. We

couldn't make a shot. We had a shoot-around

today, and I'll bet you we made about five percent

of our shots. I thought we got all our misses out of

our system, but we didn't. So we -- I don't know,

I'm looking here, it says 7-for-31, but I think we

made our last at least two or three.

So yeah, we hung in there, hung in there,

and our defense tightened up in the second half, it

seemed to me. We got our hands on some balls,

and it seemed like the only thing they got were foul

shots. We were a little -- I don't know if I should

say undisciplined, but they got to the foul line and

were making some stuff there.

But I told our team just now that -- Capocci

and Curletti, you know, they came in, and usually

they've been sort of stop-gap guys this year, and I

couldn't take them out. And Marcotullio, also. I

thought those guys did well. I was going to put

Nash right back in, but that combination was

playing real well, both ends, and then Thompson

got hot and made some shots there and everyone

knew it, and his teammates got on the ball, and he

knocked them down.

It's a good win for us, and it's nice to be

playing on Friday.

Q. For either Michael or John, you guys

are one of the couple teams that beat Purdue

during the regular season. What do you have

to feel you have to do to beat them?


Purdue is a good team. We were successful in

beating them this year. I think in order to be

successful against them tomorrow, we have to

come out ready to play and handle their defense

and have defensive pressure.

JOHN SHURNA: I think Purdue is a

strong team, and I think in order to be successful,

we'll have to come out strong defensively right off

the bat.

Q. You were 1-17 as a freshman in

conference, 20 wins adds on the school record

for wins. Tell us how it feels, the journey

you've made in three years here?

MICHAEL THOMPSON: It feels great to

have won 20 games in a season, especially going

1-17 in conference my first year. We have a great

team and we've been working hard and playing

well today. But we're excited for what we've done

so far, but we're still working hard and trying to add

more wins to it.

Q. Juice, I've never seen you that

emotional. Talk about when you were making

those threes at the end. You had your hand

raised on the follow-through and you

celebrated with Nash a little bit. Just what you

were feeling there.

MICHAEL THOMPSON: It was exciting. I

made a couple shots, and I was just energetic and

into the game. You know, it was just pretty

emotional after I got that technical foul. I just

wanted to go out there and play harder and

compete more.

JOHN SHURNA: Yeah, I think Juice is a

great player. He's our best player, and he's what

makes our offense flow. And I think when he gets

in rhythm like that, it really opens things up for us,

when we keep finding the hot hand.

Q. You alluded to the employ of

Capocci, Curletti and Marcotullio. Could you

expand upon it?

JOHN SHURNA: Yeah, I think all three of

them stepped up big for us. Alex hit a couple big

threes for us, and then Mike and Davide were

getting big rebounds for us, and Davide also hit

some threes down the stretch which was huge.

MICHAEL THOMPSON: Our contribution

off the bench tonight was tremendous, and it was

huge for us. Everyone who came off the bench,

they played well, and it was just a great team effort

tonight, and I'm glad that we came out with a


Q. Michael, one of the interesting

things about tournament basketball is you

don't get a whole lot of time to bask in a

victory. You couldn't play a much different

type of team tomorrow night because of the

man to man versus the zone. As a lead guard,

could you talk a little bit about how difficult that

transition is to go from playing a team that

plays 99 percent zone to playing the way

Purdue plays, man to man?

MICHAEL THOMPSON: It's a difficult

transition going from a team that plays zone to

man to man. But we're looking at it as like it's like

a AAU tournament where you play several games

in a little bit of -- couple of different days. Different

teams play different types of defenses. All year

we've been preparing for different types of zones

and man to man defenses, so I think the team will

be ready for that, and we just have to adjust on the


Q. You guys caused, I think, 12

turnovers in the second half. That obviously

turned it. What clicked for you guys on



intensity. We just picked it up, and we had a lot

more pressure. John and Jeremy, they did a

tremendous job of getting their hands on a lot of

balls and disrupting a lot of passes. That just led

to a lot of easy buckets for us, and that gave us the

momentum in the second half.

JOHN SHURNA: I think we were just able

to stop their offensive flow. I think we kind of got

them in a bit of a funk there, and I think that was

big for our offense, too.

Q. Juice, when is the last time you had

a stretch like that where you made that many

threes in a short period of time?


Saturday against Indiana I made a couple threes in

a row, so about five days ago. I don't know if it

was that many like today, but I think that's the last

time I made that many threes in a row.

Q. Just going back to the zone, what

did you guys think about the job that Nash did

in the middle and just disrupting the passes of

people and making them throw lobs?

JOHN SHURNA: Yeah, Jeremy was great

on defense. I think when we're forcing guys to be

out of their comfort zone, it's huge for our defense,

and I think them -- forcing them to throw it over his

head was big.

Q. Juice, did you make any significant

defensive changes after halftime in what you

did or just did it better?

MICHAEL THOMPSON: I think we just did

better. Coach Carmody got on us at halftime about

applying pressure and getting our hands on

passes, and I think we just stepped up and did a

better job on the defensive end.

THE MODERATOR: We'll go to questions

now for Coach Carmody.

Q. At the end of the day, 20 wins is just

a number, but is there a psychological feeling

of achievement to have reached that total for

the first time?

COACH CARMODY: You know, well, it's

especially important to our guys because we

haven't -- I mean, in the short-term, we haven't

been playing very well, and we got to a pretty good

start before the conference, and then we had some

nice wins, and then we were worn down a little bit.

So this was a real important game for us

because even in the first half we didn't -- we

started out, it's like eight-zip or something, our

defense looked -- they were doing what they

wanted to do, and they were prepared.

I don't know, the 20 wins always sounds

nice and it is real important, and I told our guys,

look, most of -- we have one senior, Jeremy Nash,

and so a lot of these guys, 17 wins -- Jeremy has

17 wins and 20 wins. He knows the history, but

he's thinking it's a new era and Crawford and

Mirkovic and Curletti, 37 wins in two years, and

that's good. That's good, considering that we

haven't had great success historically. And we're

just going to continue to build on that.

Q. You talked about how tough these

rims are and you guys started out something

like 2-of-24 from three. Were you thinking this

is just not our day?

COACH CARMODY: I was just thinking

about Reggie Miller, I was thinking, how does he

make all those shots? It's unbelievable.

No, in all the years we've played here,

that's why I always voted for Chicago, keeping the

Big Ten Tournament there, because I just hate the

rims. Nothing about the city, it's closer, collegiate,

all that stuff, I just hate the rims. But we were able

to get some stuff inside, and then finally Alex hit a

few and Mike hit some, and that was it.

Q. If you would answer the same

question I asked Juice: When you play a zone

team like Indiana tonight and then you're going

to come back and see that just grueling man to

man tomorrow night, as a coach that's part of

the fun of the challenge, but is that a difficult

24-hour transition?

COACH CARMODY: Well, I don't know

about fun and challenges, but, you know, we've

played a lot of man to man. Not too many teams

have played a zone this year, to tell you the truth,

maybe three, four, five, for extended periods,

because we've usually done fairly well against

them, so we're used to playing against man to man

Purdue is a very good team, and instead of

getting picked up at 21 feet, they pick you up at 90

feet, so how do we handle that. I've always

thought that our offense, if the pressure isn't

oppressive where you can't even breathe, then we

do decently against teams like that.

It's certainly different and a challenge, not

fun, but we're playing tomorrow, so that's great.

Q. Can you talk about the overall

contribution of you guys on both rebounding

and offensively from the bench? You haven't

gotten that much probably that I can remember.

But without one guy, there was like three or

four you got a lot of contribution, a lot of

minutes from guys who don't usually -- haven't

been doing as much lately?

COACH CARMODY: Yeah, they were just

instrumental in the win, no doubt about that.

Capocci and Marcotullio and Davide, and John

was right; he made those foul shots, and he had to

get lucky because the first one he made hit and it

was like one of those Don Nelson jobs, went way

up and then fell through. But then he made all the

rest of them.

So that was really important, too, and

we've been struggling all year. People have said,

well, you guys are playing too many minutes, your

guys are wearing down and all that. I sort of

pooh-poohed that, if you will, but they might be

right. So it was great to get these guys to


Q. Did losing to them last weekend

have any kind of advantage for you as a

coaching staff in preparation for today's game?

COACH CARMODY: I don't think so. You

know, just that -- find out where that guy Hulls is,

right, because he just destroyed us. And they

found him, just like Thompson. Mike made three

or four threes, but Jordan Hulls made every shot

he took just about the same last week, and he

made a win, and then the other guys picked up

because of his play. I thought our guys today

picked up because of the bench and our defense

the last ten minutes seemed to me to be very

good. But I don't know if it helped that we lost,

except some guys were a little ticked off.

Q. When it got delivered that one-two

punch at the very beginning of the season with

Coble and Ryan, could you really sit back and

envision this much success for the team this


COACH CARMODY: Probably not, but we

didn't have time as a staff or as a team to do any

envisioning because Coble was three days before

the first game and Ryan was the first half of the

first game, so there was no, oh, what are we going

to do, who's the sixth man, now he's starting.

But they've really come through, and I

think it's just a tribute to some of these guys that

stepped up and played so well. And people talk

about John Shurna, he's really improved. But

Thompson, Thompson has really had a great year

for us, a super year for us, and doing some real

good things. And Nash, it goes all the way down.

They just thought that they were a good team, and

they're doing okay.

Q. What was so much better about the

zone in the second half?

COACH CARMODY: Yeah, you know, like

Mike said, fellows, these guys are making passes

uncontested. You have to bother guys. That's the

purpose of this. You're in passing lanes, onethree-

ones extended out, and if you're just going to

be statues it's not going to be effective. No

defense is. You're playing man to man you've got

to move your feet. The same thing here; see if you

can anticipate a little bit what's the next thing

they're going to do, just normal stuff, just do it