Jan. 14, 2007
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EAST LANSING, Mich. -
Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo
It was a tale of two different halves. I thought early Bruce really had his kids ready to play, and I think we are still struggling - let's be honest about it. It was a poor start by us, and they came at us again.
At halftime, I don't know what kind of speech it was, but I said I was tired of being shorthanded, and not pressuring. I said we just need to leave it out there even if guys are laying on the floor, we need to leave it all out on the floor. I thought that was what we did. I think points off turnovers at one time were 17-2 in the second half. I thought we did a better job pressing them - they didn't get into their offense as easy. The sad part for both of us is that we don't have the Final Four teams we had a couple of years ago. But, it was still two good basketball teams in different ways, and both of us are kind of out of sync.
It was a heroic effort by our team, I thought, in the second half. I thought we rebounded well, and yet we had some foolish turnovers. I think they had three baskets with about three minutes left in the game, and they made three in the next minute. They are the worst free throw shooting team in the league, and they shot really well, and we are one of the best in the league and we didn't shoot very well.
The game was won, for once, on Neitzel and Walton extending themselves. We got a lot of ball out of Raymar Morgan, and we couldn't get anything, unfortunately, out of Maurice Joseph - the kid just couldn't go. It was still frustrating, it was still hard, but it was a big win for us and a pretty disappointing loss for Bruce I am sure, because I thought they played hard as well. To be honest with you, I thought they burned out a little bit in the second half. When you don't have guys practicing, it is frustrating for both the players and the coaches.
On the play of individuals...
I wouldn't say they (Walton and Neitzel) gave them as much trouble as they gave us. We started extending the defense out a little bit, and when they started coming off screens they were a little farther out and the passes weren't as clean. I did not think Raymar could play that many minutes, he played 30 minutes, so I give him a lot of credit. Other than that, with Dahlman struggling and MoJo just not able to go, we were a little short. I'm sure most of you enjoyed the end of the first half's lineup. I couldn't call anything because I didn't know the names of my guys out there. It was bizarre.
On Suton's play...
What is frustrating is that he is a very good passer. We can run our offense through him, and he still passes up shots - I'm not sure why. But, he does understand the game and he is a good passer. He can put the ball on the floor a little bit and stretch the defense a little bit as well. He was in foul trouble, just like everyone, in the first half, which made a big difference for us. But we turned it over a lot again, which can't happen, but it would help if we had everyone at practice. He is an important part of our team.
Illinois Head Coach Bruce Weber
On the difference between halves...
They picked up the pressure. I am sure at halftime Tom probably said, "Hey, we got to get after them. We got to get some energy, a little more pressure." First half, we were able to move the basketball a little more easily. I wouldn't say we were perfect in the first half, but I think our defense was very, very good. We shut them down, our pressure hurt them. They turned it over in the first half 11 times. If we don't foul we might even hold them to less. Our kids were very focused, things were going their way. And then the second half, their pressure, their intensity. The crowd got into it. We just kind of froze like deer in the headlights. The first few possessions we just turned it over and then the crowd got into it and they got some layups. Now we started going halfcourt, we started freezing, not moving, not cutting. And we have to have somebody be a leader and step up and make a play when it counts. Even beyond that the offense was tough, our defense just breaks down. We come out of a timeout, we say watch out for the slip, boom, they get a slip for a dunk. We stay on (Drew) Neitzel's tail, that's all we ever do. And we go over the top, boom, he hits a shot. You can't break down defensively, you got to keep your poise. Even after Chester (Frazier) has a superman effort to get us back into it, now it's a couple stops and who knows what can happen, but (Goran) Suton makes a big play and then (Drew) Neitzel makes a big play.
On losing the big lead...
I put on the board before the game, to win a game on the road, you have to defend. I thought we defended in the first half. You have to do the little things, dive on the floor, be active, hard battles. We're in control of the game, but you also have to keep your poise. Both when you're winning and when things are going against you. I think we got a little emotionally drunk in the first half and we didn't finish the half. We had some opportunities to really make it a more difficult situation for them. We didn't do it. We do stupid fouls. Rich (McBride) gets three in a row and then he gets a dumb foul, so now he's got two fouls, now he loses his rhythm. So that's all part of poise, being smart, playing smart. And then we have to hang together. We're in a difficult spot. We have a game on the road again and we don't have the crowd to get us back. So we have to see what we're about.