I'm really proud of the team because we knew this would be a hard-fought game. Dan's kids are always very well prepared. And they always fight you extremely hard. We knew that coming in. We had some pressure on us, obviously, to get to eight (wins in the Big Ten) and try to get to fourth place all by ourselves going into the final week of the season. On top of that, Senior Day. That gets emotional. That gets stressful, especially when you don't have all of your seniors. With all of that, the guys really did a nice job. Really, the first 30 minutes of the game, we were really playing at a high level. We did a great job of getting the 19-point lead. Thank goodness, because of our foul shooting, we got a 19-point lead. We went through a stretch there of about 1-11. With about 3 minutes to go, the momentum had shifted to theirs. And that's kind of the hardest thing to do in sports is regain and regroup and finish it. The guys did a good job in the last two minutes of getting stops when we needed to get stops and getting the ball to the people that needed to be at the free throw line late in the game.
You got excellent rebounding, too, from Brunner and Pierce.
Pierre's just got to get in the gym and shake things off from a shooting standpoint. He's just thinking about things a little bit too much because the other parts of his game are just terrific. He's very hard to guard. It doesn't maatter if you zone him or man him, he drives you. He did a great job driving and kicking. He had very close to a triple double tonight. He was brilliant other than his shooting. That will come.
Pierre missed a lot of free throws. Is that a psychological thing?
He's got a lot of work to do. We've got a couple of guys that have got a lot of work to do. But now it's become a mental thing with him, and it's affecting his shooting as well.
Where does this put you in regards to the NCAA Tournament?
I don't think it changes anything other than we're still alive. You lose today, and I don't think there's a lot of hope other than winning the Big Ten Tournament. But getting to eight wins, now we'll find out tomorrow (after the Purdue game) whether we're in fourth place all by ourself. I've said all along that I'd be shocked if the fourth-place team in the Big Ten doesn't get in. So, we've got a one-game lead. And two of the teams that will be chasing us we get to play next week. We control things from that standpoint. Now, we've got to go on the road and play. But at least we get to play the two teams that are right there next to us. That ought to make for a lot of fun. Since getting depleted, our whole push has been let's get to March to where it can be fun and exciting. We've gotten to March now, and it's going to be fun and exciting because we're in it. We're in the mix. We're 30 points and 17 rebounds less than when we beat Purdue on opening day. That's a lot for a team to handle. Not only have they handled it, they've gotten eight wins now, and they've out themselves into position to where they're battling for an upper spot in the Big Ten. For that, I'm very proud of their efforts.
Coach, can you speak to the hustle tonight? It seemed like you had guys flying over tables; a lot of energy.
We did. For whatever reason, Illinois probably had a lot to do with that. We didn't have that zip that we'd had on Wednesday night. Today, they really got that back. We worked awfully hard. Minnesota worked hard. They really came at us hard. That happens a lot of times when all of a sudden the star is gone they rally the troups. That's what we thought was going to happen today, and they did that. They had some guys step up. Bauer, that might have been one of his better games in the Big Ten season. He got back to being aggressive. We knew they were going to put out the effort. And I was proud of our guys' effort.
What was you assessment of what happened in the last 10 minutes?
That's one of the hardest things to do. You're up 19, 20. Things are going well for you. Then. all of a sudden, you miss some free throws. We dropped a pass in transition for a dunk. We missed a lob dunk in transition. Then we went 1-11 during that stretch at the free throw line, and we didn't get stops defensively. If we make free throws, they don't have the run that they had. If we get some stops, they don't have the run that they had. It wasn't turnovers. We had 11 for the game. It had more to do with being a little more passive, missing some foul shots and then just not getting stops at the defensive end.
It seemed a little nerve-racking there at the end, didn't it?
I don't know what happened there at the end. We gave up a lead. We've can't be doing that. If we do that a lot, we're not going to win very many games.
You were thrashing around in there.
It was a battle on the inside, that's for sure. Their bigs came to play hard, and everybody was just shoving each other around. That's standard Big Ten play.
This means a lot to this team to come away with this game.
Oh yeah. It sets us up for a great situation. We go on the road now. We have no pressures. We can just go and play and have fun.
How big was Brody Boyd today?
Brody, he's an incredible player. He did a great thing for his senior night. That's the way to go out on a great bang. He's a great individual.
A little scary at the end.
Boy, wasn't it? We were up 19 points. You can't give away a lead like that at home. But we battled back. A win is a win in this league. It don't matter if it's one (point) or 19. We'll take it. But we've definitely got to build from it. It wasn't a pretty win.
Was this a hard game to play for you?
Yeah, it was. It was an emotional game. It was just my last of everything. It was the last time I was going to run out of the tunnel. It was my last first half. It was my last second half. But I fought through all of that. It's all over with. I had a great career. It's been a lot of fun. The fans have been great to me. I've enjoyed playing here.
Brody, talk about the group of seniors. You looked like a pretty close group out there.
Right. We are. We're all close. And although Jared is injured and everything, he's still just as closse as if he'd be on the floor with us. It's a good group. I've grown up with these guys. It's been a lot of fun. I've enjoyed myself with these guys.
Minnesota pressed you guys at the end of the game up there.
Right. We were very well prepared for that. Coach was talking all week about that. We had five or six turnovers there late in the game at their place. We prepared for that. We handled it pretty well. We had a couple of turnovers, but it's a good press.
Were you just getting too passive there?
I think so. I think we played a little tight in the last 10 minutes. We was up big, and we got to comfortable. We played passive, and you just can't do that against a team like that that's last in the Big Ten and playing for nothing and playing loose. But they're a good team.
Did you prepare for Humphries to play?
Yeah. We did. But we had heard from coach that he hadn't practiced the last couple of days. But you know how rumors fly. You just never know. He didn't play today, and that was fortunate for us because he's a solid player.
Back to your freshman year, would you have ever thought you'd be leading the Big Ten in steals?
There's no way. I can tell you that right now. I didn't know how to play defense coming in here. I just learned a lot over the last four years. It's been a great ride to be able to be a part of it and have fun.
A steal at the end, too.
Yeah, and Gaines kind of slipped on me there. We were supposed to switch everything. I knew that if I got behind him, he had me dead. He was going to score right over me. I was able to slip under there and get a steal.
How do you describe having all of those people come all of that way from you home town?
It's awesome. Those people, they're great. They're great people. They've been very supportive of me. I could have two points, 20 turnovers and zero rebounds, and they'd say that I'm an all-star. I'd be first-team all-Big Ten. They're just very positive. They've always been that way.
You seemed to get a little emotional in the postgame ceremony?
I didn't know if I was going to or not. It was an emotional night. This is my last game here. It's been a great ride and a lot of fun. I just praise all of the fans that watched me and followed me here. They've been great to me and very supportive.
You guys seemed more energetic than you were against Illinois?
Against Illinois, we were a little bit uptight for some reason. Maybe it was the week off and we knew the importance of that game. Today, senior night, the guys came out and responded.
Without Humphries did that change you approach at all?
Without him, we thought that they'd be much more balanced. They would have a lot more guys with confidence taking shots. A lot more guys stepped up and mad big plays for them.
What needs to change this time against Northwestern?
We just can't let that 1-3-1 zone get to us this time. We've got to attack their pressure. We know they're going to hold the ball for 30 seconds on the shot clock. We have to stay with defensive toughness throughout the possession and not get caught with the back cut.
What happened the last 10 minutes today?
We just went through a little drought. It was a little bit uptight. We got to comfortable with the lead. The next thing that you know they come down and bang a couple of threes. We weren't making out shots; missing free throws. That's something that I need to work on.