Steve Pikiell congratulates Iowa, Keegan Murray and discusses new contract after B1G quarterfinal loss
Steve Pikiell spoke at a press conference after the loss to Iowa in the B1G tournament quarterfinal 84-74.
Rutgers took the lead early on in the 1st half, but struggled to contain the Iowa offense. The Hawkeyes went to the free-throw line a lot during the game as well, converting 92% of their free throw chances. The Scarlett Knights were also out-rebounded by the Hawkeyes 34-28 in the game.
Senior Geo Baker and sophomore Clifford Omoruyi did their parts offensively, scoring 23 and 17 points for the Scarlet Knights.
Pikiell was quick to congratulate Iowa and Keegan Murray in his opening press conference statement.
He was first asked about the officiating during the game, as Rutgers had 4 technical fouls called on them. Other topics discussed in the press conference were how Iowa has changed since the last meeting in January.
One of the bigger questions asked to Pikiell was about his contract and if his $15 million dollar buyout means that he is committing to Rutgers long term. Lastly, he was asked about the sacrifices of players like Baker Ron Harper Jr., and how much it would mean to make the NCAA tournament.
Here’s what Pikiell said to the media on Friday following the loss:
Pikiell on congratulating Iowa and Keegan Murray: “Tip of the hat, Iowa’s been playing great basketball,” said Pikiell. “Not the way I wanted to play today. I thought we got off to a good start, just couldn’t finish the deal against a really good team, but Fran’s a great coach. Obviously, Keegan Murray was a problem for us from the opening tip, and they had it going. I thought we played like us for about 13 minutes in the second half and kind of clawed back in it, then could never get really back over the hump. Again, one of the huge keys was to defend without fouling and we fouled them a lot. Got to play better. This group has been great all year long, they’re warriors. We just didn’t have enough today and that’s on me, too. I’ve got to make sure to have these guys more like us. Today, there were minutes that we weren’t us, and that’s what bothered me the most, but that’s on me. And we’ll be ready for the next one.”
The coach’s thoughts on the officiating: “Yeah, I don’t know, I’ll have to find that out. I mean, a lot of stuff going on right now,” said Pikiell. “There were a zillion technicals. It’s on me. So we’ve got to do a better job. That’s on me. I have no idea. I’ll figure that out after, we’ll sift through it, I’ll talk to some people.”
On how Iowa’s players have changed since the last time they played them: “Well, first of all, really good team,” said Pikiell. “Fran does as good a job developing guys. It’s really, we held them to 46 points the last game, and I think they’ve improved obviously a ton. Keegan Murray is a problem. His brother’s really good, too. Perkins can go downhill and get in the lane and make plays. But they’ve got a lot of guys that can contribute. He plays a lot of guys. So this is a team that’s playing really well right now. I really thought we scored plenty of points to win. Our defense just was nowhere near it needed to be, 20 points in transition and then we gave up a zillion points from the foul line. So can’t beat a really good team like that, playing defense the way we did. But Perkins’ a really good player, and they’ve got a lot of really good players. Bohannon’s a problem, they’ve got a lot of answers. The McCafferys are good, and he’s a heck of a coach. They score points and they blitzed us in a hurry in a couple possessions and we could never get back into it.”
On making changes to stop Iowa’s offense: “We had to make some changes,” said Pikiell. “I just really thought they blitzed us in transition. We talked about it all week, too, transition defense and they got that early. They got some easy baskets and some dunks. And we doubled down the low post a little bit. We just started playing Rutgers defense. We had a stretch there for like 13 minutes, kind of made it a little bit interesting, but couldn’t. To their credit, they made the big plays. We missed a dunk, we missed some shots that we had to make at that point in time because we had spotted them so many points. But that team’s playing really well right now, and they got it going for that quick minute once we kind of dug back into it. Tip of the hat to them.”
Steve Pikiell on his contract extension and commitment to Rutgers: “I think I took the job six years ago and I committed to Rutgers,” said Pikiell. “I love Rutgers, and it’s a great place. I’m thankful. My staff has been great. I work for a great president who has the same vision that I do. Unbelievable conversation with him. I have Pat Hobbs, a great athletic director, build new facilities, we’ve got a brand new practice facility. So a lot of great things. And I love Rutgers, I love that they gave me a chance. I want to make this a program people can be proud of. Obviously, we were in 14th place when I took over the job, and we were probably closer to 20th place in the league and we’ve moved up and done some good things, but we’ve still got a lot more to do. So I’m just thankful and appreciative that they’re trusting me with the program and I’m going to do a great job. And I’m thankful for my staff. I’ve got a great staff — Brandin Knight, Karl Hobbs, T.J. Thompson — as there is in the country. So very thankful for those guys. And, obviously, my players, I think they’re awesome. This team has been the best team by far I’ve coached in six years, they come to practice, they’ve got a great approach. So I’m thankful same vision I have, thankful that Rutgers is trusting me with their program and I’m honored to be the head coach, as I said in my initial press conference when I took the job six years ago.”
About his confidence in receiving an NCAA tournament bid: “I can’t be any more confident,” said Pikiell. “I think we win games, too. So if you play in this league, I don’t know if people realize this league, every single game, all the ranked teams, and the teams that aren’t ranked, are only not ranked because they’re losing to ranked teams. The gauntlet of this league and what our guys had to do and play through, and I think we’re playing well, too, at this time of the year. You know, we get that great opportunity and if we do, we’ll take advantage of it.”
On the importance of making the NCAA tournament for this group of players: “That group, Geo said yes to us, we didn’t have any winning streaks, we didn’t have a brand new facility, we didn’t have a lot of tradition, especially in this conference,” said Pikiell. “He’s made the dean’s list. We sell out every game now. We can compete with anybody. His development has been unbelievable. He was the 414th recruit in the country, and he’s going to end his career as one of the all-time great players, along with Ron Harper. And Caleb McConnell is (Defensive) Player of the Year in this league. Fourteen teams and a lot of great defenders. Those guys said yes when the program wasn’t in that kind of place, and for ever indebted to those guys. But they did it the right way. They represent the program the right way. Great students, great kids and real proud of them. Forever be indebted to those guys.”