Xavier Head Coach Chris Mack – “I thought we played the hardest-playing, most-disciplined team, most well-coached team that we could have faced in the tournament. We’ve got a lot of respect for everybody in this tournament but Northern Iowa, they’re relentless in their approach. Whether it’s the discipline blocking out, whether it’s a never-say-quit attitude, Northern Iowa really made us play all the way to the end.
“I’d like to have those last four or five minutes back but it’s so early. We’re a little bit better in terms of finishing the game but we still have a ways to go in that department. We’re probably no different than a lot of teams in college basketball. We made our free throws when we final got in the bonus in the second half. That was the difference being able to keep it a two-, three-possession game.”
“Number one, we beat three teams that will help our resume down the stretch. It shows our guys we’re going to be in a position playing hopefully three games in three days in a few months. We can look back and hopefully use this as an experience that helped us quickly turn the page, prepare for a different style and be ready to play the next night.
“I thought our effort on the defensive end was phenomenal. Even when we had our struggles down the stretch it didn’t diminish our effort, our intensity, our talk off the ball defensively.
Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett – “We kind of base everything on next-play mentality so we can’t really worry over the past plays. My teammates do a good job of helping me forget about (missed shots), I kind of get down on myself sometimes but they bring me back up and tell me to keep playing.”
Xavier guard J.P. Macura – “It puts a lot of stress on you when it’s 13 minutes left in the half (with the opponent in the bonus situation) and I think we did a great job later in the half of playing great defense and not fouling and that’s part of the reason why we won.”
Northern Iowa Head Coach Ben Jacobson – “They’re every bit as good as we thought watching them on film and seeing them in person here. Sometimes you get into the game and teams are not quite what they seem like on film but Xavier is every bit as good and in some ways even better. We had tremendous amount of respect before the game started and I have even more now. They’ve got so many ways they can beat you.
“I’ve got to do a better job with our spacing when the ball goes into Bennett (Koch). We were able to get him some touches, we got what we were looking for in terms of the number of touches inside and he created some offense for us and he got to the free throw line. That was positive. Sometimes they were coming off a certain guy, sometimes they were waiting for him to dribble. We’ve got to help him so things are a little easier when the double-team comes.
“With the number of new guys, with the change in our roster, I’m glad we were able to come down here and establish some things defensively and we had some things offensively over the course of three days that we can build on. They did a great job coming out of halftime. They got us. The counter that they ran got them the first couple of baskets and we didn’t score. You give them credit for what they did at halftime and how they started that second half.”
Northern Iowa guard Jeremy Morgan – “That’s what we were trying to do coming down to the end, just try to make it close and give ourselves a chance coming down the stretch. We needed to make some more plays down the end and cut back on some of the turnovers and we give ourselves a better chance.
“We made some mistakes on the defensive end, just key scouting mistakes, and they made some good plays.”
(On defending Trevon Bluiett) – “He’s a good player, he can get to the basket and shoot the 3. If you cut him off too fast, he can spin back and shoot that pull-up. He’s a good player and tough to defend and we’ve got to get better.”
Northern Iowa forward Bennett Koch – “They knew that we were going to try and pound it inside as part of our game and they started doing that and we struggled with that. I know I did. When we play them the second time we’re going to work on our mistakes and try not to make the same mistakes and I think we’ll get it done. We’ve got our confidence and that’s important.”