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Northwestern-Vanderbilt press conference notes

Chris Collins, Dererk Pardon and Bryant McIntosh were ecstatic.

After Northwestern’s first-ever tournament win, Northwestern head coach Chris Collins, center Dererk Pardon and point guard Bryant McIntosh met with the media.

  • Collins’ opening statement: “Just a special day for our team, for our program. Great win against a really good team. We have a lot of respect for Vanderbilt, we have all week. We knew how good they were, we knew how hot they've been coming into the tournament.

And coming out to the floor, before we answer questions, when I saw that purple in that arena, man, that was awesome. Just to see all the people that came cross-country, came from all over the place, that have never seen this before, they willed us through. There were times I thought we were really tired and our crowd just kept us in it. I want to thank everybody for coming out and supporting us.

Really proud of these two guys. Dererk throughout his career has had his struggles with the free throws, and they wanted to go to the little hack a couple of times, they fouled him on purpose. And he went up and made six in a row. And that's a testament of the work he does, hundreds and hundreds of free throws. I thought Bryant was the best player on the floor the whole game. He ran our team, he scored himself, he got other guys shots, and his two free throws to win it at the end were huge.

We're really excited. The tournament is about one thing, trying to see another day. And we fortunately were able to do that and we've got to get back and get regrouped and get ready to play one of the very best teams in the country in Gonzaga on Saturday.

  • McIntosh on being fouled down one: “Yeah, I think they may have not known that they were up one. I think it was just a miscommunication. Those things happen. And you kind of feel bad for them. But we found a way to win and live to fight another day.”
  • Pardon on his mindset at the free-throw line: “Just focus. I feel a lot of times when I miss my free throws I don't have focus. I just tried to focus in. The last time out before my free throws, coach said, ‘It's about toughness,’ that was in my head the whole time. And before one of my free throws he said, ‘I believe in you.’ And that gives you a lot of confidence.”
  • There was a really funny moment when a reporter asked if Collins being “calm under pressure” was an asset for this team. McIntosh gave the reporter a strange look and then glanced sideways at Collins.

Collins: I'm not sure I'm calm under pressure, but I appreciate that compliment.

McIntosh: I wasn't making a face.

Collins: Go ahead, guys.

McIntosh: I do think he has confidence in us. Obviously he was a player and a really good one. So when you're in that situation as a coach the thing you want to do is go out on the floor and help your team and make a play. And he almost probably feels that he has no control. And so he just tries to give us confidence. And the play calling and understanding the mismatches and giving me confidence to attack my guy that I had a couple of times down the stretch was really crucial.

Pardon: Coach Collins gives us a lot of confidence and he also keeps us poised. In the first half I had a lot of turnovers. He came to me at halftime and just said, It's a new half, just stay confident, we believe in you.

  • Both players said they haven’t started to focus on Gonzaga at all, but Pardon said: “We know they are a good team. We have to prepare and be focused for them.”
  • Collins on the intentional foul by Matthew Fisher-Davis: “I'm sure -- it was an honest mistake. He's such a good player, he probably saw the score board and thought they were down one instead of being up one. You feel for players. Especially the kind of game he had. He was tremendous today. And certainly I was surprised because we were trying to set it up for Bryant to attack the basket. And when they grabbed him in the back court and I knew we were in the penalty I felt better, especially knowing who I had going to the line, our guy. I feel badly for Fisher-Davis. It's an honest mistake. It happens all the time. And you feel for players when those kind of things happen.”
  • Collins on the game going gown to the wire and the free throws: “Obviously your stomach is churning, because you want it so badly. Nobody works harder than those two guys. For me all I'm saying to myself is these guys deserve it. I'm telling myself to give myself confidence. They deserve it. They put in the time. They put in the work. They deserve to make these. And you just hope they were able to come through.

I was really proud of Dererk, especially. He's had his struggles at the line throughout his career. He works at it religiously every day. For him to walk up and make six in a row in the last six minutes, especially four in the last three minutes or whatever it was, you guys are good at that stuff, I was really proud of him.

Bryant is a guy you want on the line. He has ice water in his veins, and you know he's going to make those. But Dererk being in that situation for the first time, really a big growing experience for him to step up there and make those free throws when we needed them.”

  • Collins on McIntosh’s performance: “I thought he was in a good rhythm early. He had great pop today. Throughout the course of the Big Ten season, teams try to wear him down. They send different guys, they double him, trap him, try to get into his legs. We felt coming today the way Vanderbilt played, that's not really how they play defense. Their containment, man to man, plug gaps. I felt he would be able to exploit those things, with his rhythm and be able to score or find guys. Right away he was really confident. He had a great look. He looked fresh. The longer timeouts and longer halftime gives him an opportunity to get more rest. Because we rely on him to do so much for us out there.”