INDIANAPOLIS — The Northwestern Wildcats were eliminated in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday afternoon in Indianapolis, losing 72-70 to the Michigan Wolverines in a crazy overtime affair.
Understandably, Northwestern's players and coaches were devastated after the loss, especially seniors Tre Demps and Alex Olah. Head coach Chris Collins was as well. All three were very emotional at the postgame press conference, in which Collins not-so-subtly tweaked the officiating for some perceived slights against his team.
Collins said his team "deserved to win the game" but that "sometimes, other things factor in." During the end of regulation and the overtime period, Collins was seen angrily yelling about the officials when Michigan forward Duncan Robinson wasn't called for a travel on a controversial play down the stretch.
When asked about those "other things," Collins said: "I don't know. I don't know. You guys saw the end of regulation. Looked like a lot of steps on the end line with Duncan Robinson, but I don't know. You guys watched the game. Make your own determination."
Here's the play:
Collins directed other veiled criticisms at the referees: "We don't have that brand name on our chest, but, you know what, we play good basketball. We're a good team now...hopefully one day we'll be viewed as such."
While Collins' anger over what he saw at missed calls dominated his press conference answers, he did mention how much his seniors -- specifically Tre Demps and Alex Olah -- meant to him: "I told those guys to remember what it was like when we had our first team meeting... I had a core group of guys that just believed in me and my staff coming in."
Like their coach, Demps and Olah were both near tears after what might be the last game of their college careers. Olah, who grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a floating jumper to tie the game at 60 and send it to overtime, emphasized how he wanted to win to extend his college career: "I'm a senior leader and I wanted to leave everything on the floor." Olah twice said the words "last game."
Demps said he thought the Wildcats were going to win, and that they were going to execute down the stretch, unlike they did in their loss to the Wolverines earlier this season. The senior guard also talked about how overwhelmed with emotion he felt after the loss: "We've been through so much, you know. This university has done so much for me and Alex. I think the first thing, when you have a deep connection, is just emotions, when you care about something."
When asked about his team potentially playing in the postseason, be it the CBI or another tournament, Collins was hopeful and threw another shot at the Big Ten, saying "I hope the league will fight for us the way they fight for other teams." More on the postseason here.
To wrap up his postgame comments, Collins reiterated how proud he was of his team, especially Demps and Olah, who stayed on with the program even after Bill Carmody was fired and Collins was hired. He thanked his seniors for their service and how they helped his transition to the job: "And for what those guys have done for me the past three years, I could never repay them. They have given me everything and I feel I have given them everything. We have gotten better and I think that showed today."
Collins said the program has made immeasurable strides since Carmody's departure, thanks to the performances of guys like Demps and Olah: "As we move forward, I hope they feel when we do accomplish the things that we want to accomplish, I hope they feel great pride, because they will be a big part of it."