MINNEAPOLIS — The Northwestern Wildcats (14-3, 2-2 Big Ten) rolled to an easy conference road win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-10, 0-4) on Saturday afternoon at Williams Arena. Northwestern, which had lost its last two games to Maryland and Ohio State, got back on track against a struggling Minnesota team that couldn't get much going all game.
The Wildcats controlled the play all day long and cruised to a 77-52 win that about as close as the final score indicated. Here's what head coach Chris Collins, Tre Demps and Aaron Falzon had to say afterward:
- The first thing Collins said in the press conference was how important it was for his team to win today to end its two-game losing streak: "It was a team win...We really functioned well offensively." In the past, Collins mentioned, his team has struggled with keeping losing skids in check.
- On his team winning by 25 points over the Golden Gophers: "It was just one of those games. On any given night, those guys can beat us, they have the talent. [Minnesota coach Richard Pitino] has a lot of young guys, so I know the feeling. I don't make anything of that margin."
- On how Minnesota struggled to stay with Northwestern's shooters: "In a zone, you really have to talk. You have to rely on guys to cover your back when you're playing areas...We got some [threes] in transition too. Aaron [Falzon]'s shooting also opened things up for us."
- On how his top scorers, Tre Demps and Bryant McIntosh, changed their games from Wednesday to today: "We didn't have Bryant and Tre trying to do much on offense... Also, against Ohio State, we didn't make shots. Today, we did."
- On his team's gameplan for attacking Minnesota's zone: "We were trying to get [Aaron] lost in their zone, which had some gaps in the middle of the floor... We were able to get the ball in the middle of the floor for open shots."
- On the good passing his team used to get easy baskets: "Our guys did a really good job finding the open areas...We have familiarity with their zone because we practice against it so often, since we also play a zone ourselves."
- On the major key for Northwestern's defensive effort: "Our main goal tonight was to stay with [Joey] King. When King has it rolling, that's when Minnesota gets going. He only made three shots, which I was proud of... We did a much better job tonight finding shooters [on defense]."
- On McIntosh, who notched a career-high 11 assists today: "I've got a special point guard, I love Bryant. He's an elite player... The more pieces you put around him, you're gonna see more nights like that. In order to get assists, guys have to get and make shots."
- On his frequent subbing of McIntosh for Jordan Ash: "[McIntosh] was a little winded today. That's on me, I have to do a better job of getting him subbed." Of course, Collins is referring to Wednesday's Ohio State game, in which McIntosh played all but 30 seconds.
- On how Collins thinks Pitino can keep his team (on a five-game losing streak) motivated amid a trying season: "You've got to just find the small victories, even if you're not getting wins. Last year, I tried to find the small wins to keep the morale up... But, in the next couple of years, [Minnesota] is going to be a tough team to play."
- On Demps' changed play and body language from the Ohio State game to this afternoon: "I thought he played with a smile. Tre cares so much...he's a warrior, the ultimate competitor. He's a gym rat, I know how badly he wants this to go well for the team... I told him this week, let's just get back to the joy of playing basketball."
- On his team's response to its frustrating loss on Wednesday: "We had a meeting to talk about how everybody has to take it to another level. Guys were working hard after the Ohio State game and it showed tonight."
- On him needing to take a backseat on offense at times: "The main thing [Collins] talked to me about is trying to relax and not press too much. That was my main focus today and my teammates and coaches did an incredible job in talking to me. It worked out for us."
- On how communication on defense led to the strong effort on that end of the floor: "We were constantly talking in the zone. Everybody was like a chatterbox out there, and that intimidates the offense."
- On his offensive gameplan against Minnesota: "We didn't really know if they were going to run a zone, but if a zone was out there, I was going to look for shots."
- On attacking a zone defense: "in a zone, there's a lot of gaps and there's a lot more open space as a shooter."
- On his shooting rhythm: "Everybody's more comfortable when there's no one in your face. If they're going to leave you open and you hit one or two [threes], that kind of gets you going."