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Michigan State 80, Illinois 75

Jan. 31, 2013

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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo

Opening Statement...
Well we have a new special tonight. The numbers do lie. To shoot 70 percent for the game and out rebound a team by nine and play that poorly, the numbers lie. I'm very pleased and I told you guys we have been taking small steps forward, but we took a giant step backwards in the first half. Inexcusable effort and inexcusable performance. Give Illinois credit, they played hard and tough and went after the ball. We regrouped in the second half and our kids came out and played hard. I thought it was led by (Keith) Appling who did a heck of a job the second half. (Derrick) Nix did a little better and (Branden) Dawson a hair better. I thought Valentine was very good and we found a way to win which is about the only good thing I have to say.

On the performance of Appling and his role in the 14-0 run to start the second half...
If you look at his stats, they don't lie. Eight rebounds, seven assists and one or two turnovers. I think we had eight turnovers in the first 10 minutes and then six in the last 30 (minutes). But we didn't communicate well, and we didn't lead well. It's hard as a coach to give your team credit. You wonder why coaches never give their team credit because too many other people are on Twitter giving them the credit and some guys couldn't handle it. I thought we had some guys who showed they couldn't handle success and it bothers me and shows out lack of leadership. We're going to have to grow on it and gain from it. I thought Dawson gave a good speech in the locker room as to why he was so inept which is a positive. We have to understand that Gary Harris is a key player and was key in that stretch. He is out with a back injury and Travis Trice got kneed in the head so he's out as well. I had some things that were challenging to say the least but that's why I'm really proud of the way Valentine and Appling hung in there.

On Appling's leadership on the court and how Nix sitting out to start the game affected the team...
Keith has to do even more than he does. You can't operate in crisis management time you have to do it in preventative management time. But at least he did it, and Adreian has been playing so well but I won't give out my credit until the last game of the year. Until then, forget it.

Nix missed a class on Friday and he missed a tutor on Monday. Derrick Nix is 13 hours from graduating. He will be the first human being in his family who has graduated. It will be a cold day in hell before I do anything but get him graduated. If he has to sit the rest of the games he will. He knows he made a mistake, and I don't do that over just one missed class. He knows what I told him, and he has one real tough class. For that kid to graduate in four years will be triumphant for me in a positive way. Presidents and the NCAA have put it in the coaches to get these kids to graduate, and did that hurt my team tonight? You're damn right it did. It's a distraction but that's the way it was. He didn't do anything else.

On the performance of Denzel Valentine...
That was Valentine's best game and I'm going to give his dad some credit. I asked his dad come over the other day just to talk and see how we can help him because he's been struggling. His dad was a true coach and awesome guy. I think Denzel did some goofy things off the bat but really bore down. I was proud of the job he did, even defensively. He earned it.

Illinois head coach John Groce

Opening statement...
I thought the game was won in the first four to five minutes of the second half. I thought they came out and punched us in the mouth. I didn't like our response. I thought we didn't take care of the ball. They got us on the glass. I thought they were tougher in that stretch, that four or five minutes, and that was the difference in the game, period.

On the play of Michigan State guard Keith Appling...
I thought he was terrific. I thought he was the best player on the floor tonight. Obviously he does a great job of scoring the ball, but he does a great job of making his teammates better. One of the things I really admire about him was the amount of plays he makes at winning time, when his team really needs him. I think he has a swagger about him that ultimately gives them that swagger and that confidence. I thought he was terrific tonight.

On what he thought his team was doing wrong during the second half...
We've got to play harder without fouling. That's our responsibility. We can't let guys take our ball. We can't have bobbled entry passes. We've got to be more precise there. We've got to execute better there. When we did do that in the first half, I thought we were really good.

To their credit, they amped it up, and I knew they were going to do that. The last thing I told those guys before they left the huddle, I said, `Just so you know, they're going to come at you hard in the second half. They're going to turn up the heat. Be ball strong.' Obviously we weren't able to do that in the first four minutes. Four of our eight turnovers in the game were in a four or five-minute stretch to start the second half. That certainly helped and aided the 14-0 run to start the second half.



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