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
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
CHRISTIAN WATFORD: The main thing
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
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?
CHRISTIAN WATFORD: My main thing
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: We know that
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
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
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
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Our defensive
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?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: I think last
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
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