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Postgame Quotes & Reaction From Rutgers Thrilling Win Over Nebraska

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

To read about the Rutgers victory over Nebraska for their first Big Ten win of the season, click here. Here are notable quotes and reactions from players and coaches on both teams.

Rutgers Head Coach Steve Pikiell

Opening Statement

"Thank you, first, for coming. It was a great environment with the student section, the community and the season ticket holders, it was awesome. I'm just proud of our guys. It hasn't been an easy road. They've been fighting and clawing and obviously playing terrific teams, Nebraska obviously being one of those teams with terrific guards and shooters at every position. I was proud of our guys for banding together. They stayed the course, even when times got tough down the stretch. They stayed with it and kept a few balls alive. Corey [Sanders] has been on a tear and not just offensively, but defensively. DeShawn [Freeman] does what he does and kept balls alive and plays with activity and does a great job. I'm just real happy for our guys and real happy for the great environment today."

On the play of Corey Sanders

"In five games now, he's really worked, watched extra film and has been in the gym. He's done a great job in practice. DeShawn, too, came back from a sickness. So these guys are getting it and we're in every game. We're in every game, and we just have to learn to win. Today these guys made sure it happened on the court. [Sanders] got the ball up to the rim and I said 'If we get it to the rim, we're the best rebounding team in the country and I feel like if we can get one up, we could get another one up'. C.J. [Gettys] kept it alive and Corey finished it off again. So offensive rebounds have been huge all year for us and it was a great way to end the game with our biggest strength, which is rebounding.

On The Final Sequence Of The Game

"We wanted to get the ball in Corey's hands and make something happen. I thought we had a couple different options on that play and when he got to the rim, they iced the ball screens, so they did a good job, but he attacked like he was supposed to do and got the ball up on the rim. We wanted to have a chance and knew we would get a rebound attempt."

On what he told his team when they were down

"We've been saying all year long just to stay the course. We're not the greatest offensive team right now, but we hang in there and believe in our defense, which we do believe in. We're going to have those ups and downs in games. We're up 10 sometimes and down 10 sometimes. So we just have to stay the course and these guys did a great job. They defended down the stretch and our zone action today, I think helped us. We were able to just band together. In other games we've struggled to seal the deal, and today we did and I'm happy for them and our team."

On putting together a full 40 minutes

"Yeah, it's going to take that every time. Again, it isn't about me winning, it's about these guys getting through a war. This is what you have to do in this league to win games. Play 40 minutes and have relentless pursuit of the basketball and outrebounded. We did a good job with no pick-six's. We limited those. Last game, we had seven pick-six's for free baskets for the other team, so we did a good job. Our guard play with Nigel [Johnson] and Mike [Williams] and Corey with the screen coverages our big guys took the two leading scorers in our league and help the to 10 and 12 points under their average. So every point matters. Our defense, again, did a great job for us for 40 minutes to hold a dynamic duo of guards like that to below their averages.

On getting back into the game

"We've been up and we've been down, but I don't think we get too caught up in it. I just want our guys to stay the course. This is a tough journey and a great league. They stayed the course and banded together. We have to continue to grow in that area. Teams like this that are really good offensively are always going to make runs. They have good three-point shooters. They threw punches and we came right back and threw punches and that's what I want this team to do. I want us to get up off the mat and they did that."

On the atmosphere

"I'm happy for the students. The student section and the Riot Squad were awesome. I love it like that and they're getting a little taste. These guys deserve it. You guys have no idea how hard these guys work and the film prep we put into this and the extra shots [Corey] gets in at night and the free throws [DeShawn] takes, so all of those things, so I'm happy for these guys. The people in this arena, it made it loud. When we go on the road, it's loud like that and we need to make this a tough place to play."

On What The Win Means For The Team’s Mindset

I’m just happy for these guys. There is pressure to win every game. It’s a tough league and you have to be well prepared. You have to deserve to win games. You can’t hope to win them, you have to deserve to win them. If we deserve to win, we will win more games. We can get on a little bit of a roll now. These guys know that they can breakthrough and have games like this and finish them. We can hang our hats on defense, again those numbers are really good. If you can hang your hat on defense it’s going to keep you around and on nights we are shooting the ball, we made free throws a little bit. We got to the free throw line, which was important. We limited our pick six’s. Our gameplan was good, but they executed the gameplan and that’s even better.

Corey Sanders

On The His Play Down The Stretch

“I just let the game come to me. I was coming off some screens and hitting some jump shots. Those are things I’ve been working on with B Knight (assistant coach Brandin Knight) when I come in late night in the gym, so those felt like they were easy shots for me to make today. The buzzer beater I just have to give it all (the credit) to CJ there, him down there kicking the ball out. Who knows what would have happened, so I’m just thanking him and the guys. We fought hard just to get back into it. Deshawn’s free throws, everyone chipped in and I was just able to seal the deal.”

On His Defensive Focus

“That’s our big emphasis, assistant Jay Young is on our backs 24/7 about defense. After the Indiana game, he called me in the next game. I want to make myself better defensive player and shorten the floor. I mean all the guys contribute to that and I think we played great defense. I think Nigel did a great job on Glynn Watson. I feel like our defense is what keeps us in the game most of the time.”

On Nebraska Not Being Able To Stop Him Of

“I like to think nobody can guard me and that is my mindset. I just try to play loose and off instinct. If I see an opening, I’ll try and take it. If I see a shot, I try and take it. I just really play off what the team is giving me.”

Deshawn Freeman

On Being The Captain And What It Means To This Team

“We have some hard working guys. With the losses we had at the beginning of conference play, we didn’t hang our heads or anything like that. We fight in every game, that’s one thing I can say about the guys this year, compared to the guys last year.”

Nigel Johnson

On What This Win Means To Him

“It means a lot. We’ve been working hard all year and we've just been coming up short. For the most part, four of the last six games we were in the game at halftime, and then we come out in the second half and start lacksidasical, end up giving up the lead and coming up short. I mean knew it was right there the whole time, because we’ve been in so many tight games. I know it was only a matter of time before we pulled one out. Today we kept fighting and doing what we are supposed to do on the defensive end.”

On Starting the comeback With a big three

“We talked about it at halftime that they were going to try and comeback and make a run. Basketball is a game of runs and we just needed to counter their run with one of our own. So to start it off with that big three felt like it gave us a spark and just took it over from there.”

Nebraska Head Coach Tim Miles

Opening Statement

“Hey, everybody. Well, we have to credit Rutgers and Coach Pikiell. They really stuck with it when we got up seven and then got up five again. They just stayed with it and ended up finding a way to get their first Big Ten win. I credit our guys for hanging in there after a poor first half to fight back and take the lead, but we just made a few errors down the stretch, a couple turnovers and a couple fouls and that was the difference in the game. I thought we did a good job defensively for a long time, but we couldn’t get [Corey] Sanders under control. That was probably the story of the game.”

On defensive set on final Rutgers possession

“We wanted to keep him [Corey Sanders] on that side of the floor and he kind of went and tied to split it and when he picked the ball up it was low and there were guys coming at him so he just put the ball up and it goes off the backboard. It doesn’t hit the rim, and [Tai] Webster is engaged with C.J. Gettys and tips it and Corey’s momentum just takes him right there and it’s a point-blank layup. You kind of feel like it’s rebounding an air ball almost. That probably wasn’t what cost us the game. But he’s such a good athlete, he made so many other acrobatic plays that were well-contested. He really made a lot of plays tonight.”

On depth of the Big Ten

“No doubt. Rutgers has been ahead of I think every team they’ve played. That’s what we told our guys – they will be ahead. They are a full-throttle team. They’ll pick it up, they’ll pick up their pressure, they’re going to be all over the glass. Coach [Pikiell] coaches to his personality and they are going to be full-throttle. Our job is to get them off that, and I thought we did when we were scoring the ball and I thought we did even when we were getting some stops. In the first half it felt like we should be down 20, because we hadn’t done anything. So we knew we can come back. But Sanders played really well and we did a good job on [Mike] Williams and [Deshawn] Freeman, but they still got us on the glass so you’re going to give up some of that any way. But on a day like today, Corey was really the story I think.”

On defending Sanders when he gets on a roll

“I think his ability, his body control, his ability to hang in the air, take contact, and still get a shot up. From the time it leaves his hand to whatever angle he wants it looks like it’s going in. There were two or three of those plays where our kid comes back and goes ‘coach’ and I’m just like ‘that’s what he does, hang in there, stay in front of him.’ You have to credit Corey, he really was a playmaker today.”

On Rutgers this year compared to last season

“Well we got them three times last year. I think they accounted for about 30 percent of our wins. Not 10, I mean 30. Here’s what you see: you see a team that plays very hard, is very well organized, that fits that Calhoun kind of mantra, big physical guys on the glass punishing. That’s Big Ten basketball, that’s what it looks like to me. That’s a Big Ten basketball team. And as they get more skill, they’re going to be even tougher.”

On Calhoun’s influence on the way Rutgers is coached

“Oh yea, definitely. You see the big wings, just the way they’re on the glass and the way they’re going to put it inside. Steve did a good job assembling what he could for things, and he’s got a difference-maker. Williams is a tough player, but Sanders is a guy that can set you apart because he can go and get it against anybody. He got 17 against us at our place the first game last year in the first half, so it wasn’t like it was a big surprised, we knew he could go.”