Two days after their dramatic road win over Virginia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the Northwestern Wildcats were back at practice Thursday to prepare for their Saturday afternoon matinee at home against SIU-Edwardsville. It will only be NU's second home game since the Wildcats' November 20th win over Columbia at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
The players and coach Chris Collins were available to speak to the media before practice, and Inside NU was able to talk to forwards Joey van Zegeren and Aaron Falzon as well as Collins. Here's what they had to say:
Joey van Zegeren
- On if he was distracted at all returning to Virginia Tech, from where he transferred: "No, not during the game. I thought about it the night before but it was just a really exciting experience for me to be able to come back and play there and actually get a win."
- On his team's second half struggles: "Basketball is a game of runs. They just made a couple of better runs in the second half and their defense was a little tighter. We weren't getting the same amount of good shots as in the first half."
- On Northwestern's resiliency: "I think we did a good job of responding to their runs with runs of our own."
- On the gameplan against Virginia Tech's Seth Allen: "We knew Allen was a good player so we wanted to make sure to go over the ball screens on him, so he couldn't step behind and get open shots. I think the shots he did were tough but he just made them."
- On shutting down the Hokies' talented big man Zach LeDay: "We did a really good job on LeDay. He was averaging about a double-double before the game and didn't do much against us."
- On the importance of power-conference road games: "It's always good to play those games because it gets us ready for the Big Ten when we play good schools in tough environments."
- On the difference between playing power-conference and non-power conference foes, especially on the road: "The athletes are a lot bigger and faster, and just better overall...Away from home, it's just a much different environment. The crowd got really loud when Virginia Tech went on a run."
- On the tight overtime, in which Falzon didn't play: "The guys on the court did a really good job. It's a real testament to our team, because we went down four but were able to fight back and get the win."
- On his shooting struggles of late: "Sometimes you just don't make shots, you can't control it. Now, for me, it's just about learning from it, looking at the film and finding ways to improve my shot."
- On prepping for SIU-Edwardsville: "That's what we're going to do today and tomorrow, and watch some film to get ready for them."
- On his team's games against good non-conference opponents: "I think they're huge confidence builders. It started with the Columbia game because that was a team our guys really respected so we gave that game [a] big time preparation level...To play North Carolina and Missouri back-to-back in Kansas City, to get down in the UNC game but keep coming back, it was big. It told us we could be a really good team."
- On the road win over the Hokies: "To go on the road and beat an ACC opponent, it gives you a lot of confidence, especially how we did it with the big start...then coming back to win after going down in overtime."
- On prepping for road games: "You try to keep as good a routine as you can, try not to make one game more than another...There's so much parity now, every team has good players. You just have to take one game at a time, whether it's home or road and prepare with the same level of detail."
- On if his team saw any of UNC's big win over fellow Big Ten foe Maryland: "Guys watch games, they see what's going on. The main thing is the way you played, which, for us, gave the guys confidence against one of the best teams in the country. There were so many positive things that came out of that game. We left that game thinking we belonged with that team."
- On trying to defend Virginia Tech's Seth Allen and Justin Bibbs: "We didn't do a great job against their two shooters. Allen and Bibbs had big games against us, but what we did a good job with was their low-post guy, [Zach] LeDay. He had no baskets in the game...We also did a pretty good job on the boards, considering that's what [the Hokies] do really well."
- On assessing the season as a whole right now, with regards to the Virginia Tech game: "It's a really good teaching tape for us. Still, it's only December 3rd, so we're still very much in the building process. The main area we need to work on is at the defensive end. We have to take our defense to another level if we want to take our team to another level."