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Post-Game Quotes: Illinois

Feb. 20, 2018

Recap |  Final Stats |  Photo Gallery 1  |  Photo Gallery 2 

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo

Opening statement…
Well, what an incredible night. You know, everybody said what happened the first half? Well, a couple things happened. We had seven turnovers in the first and I think we had four in the first few minutes. I was surprised. I think Tum (Nairn Jr.) was so excited that he was just going at a warped speed and that kind of hurt a little bit. I also felt like… I didn’t realize until halftime, they hit three 3s. (Trent) Frazier had at least two of them at the buzzer of the shot clock, you know, that’s nine points-worth.

You know, we had a little bit of a lead and lost it but they played hard. Like I said before, they played as hard as the Purdue teams with Gene Keady in there. Having Gene here last week it reminded me of it, but I think Brad’s (Underwood) done a good job with that team and they just beat Nebraska. Second-half, I just told them at halftime, you know, we can’t turn it over and we got to do a better job of defending the three and I thought we did both things. I’m really proud of this team. I’m proud of, you know, what they’ve done. Normally it’s hard at the end of the year, with a game left to celebrate anything but with the fact that it’s senior night and to be able to win a championship at home, at least tie for one, is a special moment that I thought should be shared with everybody.

I think of Miles (Bridges) and the things we talked about last spring, I think of all the players and what we talked about all summer and fall and to see it come to reality is pretty special. So happy but got a lot of work yet to do.
 
On similarities and differences in the leadership of Antonio Smith and Tum Tum Nairn Jr…
Antonio did do a great job with the players. Tum just extended himself to this... I’m not sure, to the whole nation, you know? I talk about different guys that have come into games and they talk about Tum and I think of the Moneyball and it was Tum and Miles. I think of all these things that this kid has done.

I told my guys at the beginning of the year, my staff, I said, ‘make sure everyone is there for that six-thirty meeting we have tomorrow.’ The next day at six o’clock I was in here with my staff and I said, ‘did you get ahold of everybody?’ And they kind of looked around. And I said, ‘well, did you call them?’ They said, ‘well, we just called Tum.’ I said, ‘you lazy S.O.B’s, you know, tomorrow, next year, that’s not going to be as easy.’ Although I’ve been really, really, really excited about where Cassius (Winston) has learned from him. Watched him today in practice in our walk-through, he’s starting to develop some of those same camaraderie, some of the same togetherness characteristics that Tum has. That’s what Tum is; He’s infectious.
 
On if he talked to Miles about kissing the Spartan head…
You know, I really… I mean that’s a good question and you know, when they started chanting ‘one more year,’ I was chanting, ‘thank God for this year.’ I did think about it, it just has very seldom been done. I think it would take away from what he still has to accomplish and just put more pressure on him.

I mean, I’m not kidding myself on what he’s gonna do but I will tell you this; Miles doesn’t talk about it. He just plays and that’s what’s so unique about him. So did I think about it in my mind as I was sleeping last night or laying awake looking at the ceiling? Yes. Did I… It’s just something we haven’t done here and he didn’t even think about wanting to do it, if you ask me.

On managing Jaren Jackson Jr.’s foul trouble…
How about a couple things tonight with the foul trouble? You know, they always say watch what you wish for. I told Cassius (Winston)’s mother, ‘You know, God, he’s never in foul trouble.’ and I paused, and I looked at her and she says, ‘Yeah, he’s got to keep his hands up.’ I said, ‘Well I thought one of them was really questionable.’ and I said, ‘That’s what I get for making him play defense.’ Before it wasn’t a problem, and we both laughed, and I thought that the foul trouble, I mean Jaren, no, I don’t plan on experimenting with that. I plan on helping him grow and to understand like he did last week, and he’s still very valuable to us. I though we were tired early. I thought we played a little too fast early, and I think everybody was jacked. They were jacked for the three seniors, they were jacked for Miles (Bridges) because that’s all he talked about last spring, summer and fall. So, I think in their own way I think the three guys that played the worst in the first half were Tum (Nairn Jr.), Miles, and Josh (Langford) and those guys are like glue, and I told them after, I got a feeling you guys are tighter than thieves and because of that I think you’re, I think there were weird feelings going on, so that’s where I was at.

On seeing Miles’s face after grabbing the trophy…
I didn’t, I didn’t, how was it? He smiled? That’s awesome.

On staying focused for Wisconsin…
Well, that’s a good question and I went over that a little bit, you know, I mean, there haven’t been many teams even that I’ve had here that have won outright, not enough of them anyway. So not only will that be the goal, but I still think the goal’s got to be putting two halves together. We have been a little inconsistent in that area, and so we’ve got a lot of things to get better at and we’re going to get better at them, but again, when they said ‘Are you going to play the seniors?’, I did it for a lot of reasons but mostly because Cassius had come up to me and Nick (Ward). You know it was 6-6 when they went out, and that wasn’t the problem. It was (that) Illinois played pretty good, and we turned the ball over too much.

On what it means to win another Big Ten title…
Big Ten titles, especially in this day and age with a big difference on the schedules and who you play, it’s kind of been crazy on how to win a Big Ten championship, but I just hope I look at it like we have other things to accomplish, and banners are what we like to do here, but it’s one of those years that when I’m not satisfied with that one. I’d like to win one outright, and I’d like to really compete in that Big Ten tournament, but probably as much as anything, we need to get a little better. We need to be a little more consistent from one half to another.

On how big a difference maker Jaren Jackson Jr. is…
I think Jaren is a special player, and tonight was one of those nights that he didn’t score as much, although he hit that big 3 early, but he really didn’t score as much, and he didn’t play a ton of minutes only because with different line-ups, and they went really small and that creates some problems for us so we tried to change it up, and we went small and put him at the five and Miles at the four a little bit, but Jaren is a special kid. He can put it on the floor, that spin move, and dunk. He makes his free throws usually. He’s just an incredible shot blockem, and yet, as I told him, you got to keep growing on the rebounding. We’ve got to do a better job on the offensive boards. We only had two at halftime. I don’t know what we ended up with, probably not more than seven. We didn’t do as good a job on that as we did last time, but Jaren just turned 18 a couple months ago, so he’s still a work in progress and the work is getting better each and every week.

On playing without a point guard…
It was Cass was in foul trouble, and Tum was getting a little tired because he was having to work both ways, and so DJ (Dane Fife) said, ‘I’m going to go with McQuaid a little bit.’ and I said, ‘That’d be great.’ We did some good, we did some bad. We gave up that last bucket, but it was kind of more our bigs not stepping up. We can do some things with Matt (McQuaid), we really can and I think all in all I like Tum and Cassius, but if we have to play Matt there a little we can.

On reflecting on this team…

I don’t want to be corny, but the love and the togetherness. I’ve had teams that are together, I’m just not sure I’ve had teams that have that sincere love and appreciation for each other and that’s not a word to use a lot in major college football or basketball. There’s not even a question in my mind that these guys have a bond that will never be separated. I mean, I can see those guys coming back for five-year or 10-year reunions, 20-year reunions. Like Steve Mariucci and I, even if we don’t see each other for a long time, when we get back together it will be tighter than tight. I think that and the fact that they are so humble and so un-entitled.

You know this day and age there’s just not a lot of un-entitled people and I think all of you that have covered us might not like me all the time, but it’s hard not to like them all the time. I think that’s the difference. They have goals, they want to accomplish their goals, they are willing to work for their goals, they are ready to share for their goals. There is no me, me, me. I talk to some of the other coaches around the country right now that are struggling right now a little bit, and guys start playing for the NBA or guys start playing for this or that, I just never even hear them talk about it and that’s unbelievable to me.

But, that is a lot Miles (Bridges) because he didn’t talk about it last year, last year I just assumed that he was gone, but I was only assuming because he never would talk about it. He hasn’t talked about it this year either. I might assume as much in the same way, but I just think it’s amazing how the humility that he has and Tum (Nairn Jr.) has and it kind of branches out to our whole team. I think they are role models, I think they are kids that people should look up to and that’s pretty awesome.
 
On Ben Carter exiting the floor…
I thought he was going to kiss the floor and then all 15,000 fans. I thought he was going to walk into the stands. That was the longest goodbye/farewell that I had to say, ‘Ben,’ you know, I felt a little bad.

And I thank Brad Underwood because he was so understanding about it and it is what we do here and it means a lot to the players. Enough so that we put a wall in the hall of history about it. I just felt like (Ben) sure deserved his time. He had six years, I mean he’s going on Medicare next week. So I mean he’s been here for a long time, or been in college for a long time. It was kind of funny, I think he just, that’s what made me feel good about our fans that he just enjoyed that moment so much, that those guys don’t want to leave. If I could do that and end the game and just keep them there I probably would.
 
Illinois head coach Brad Underwood


On the difficulty of playing Michigan State...
They’re good. They’ve got pros. They’re well-coached. They play hard. I didn’t expect anything more or less. Tom (Izzo)’s teams always show up and play. I thought we fought the first half. I thought we were competitive,  and I thought we took some, at least we threw some punches back at them. In those first four minutes, we just got off to a horrific start with all the fouls.

On the positives to building off of this season...
Yeah, we’re getting better. We’re growing every day. We have one senior. We left two scholarships open so that we could grow the program with the addition of some recruits. We’ve signed what we think is an elite point guard, one of the best in the country. These guys, just being in the system, understanding my expectations. I want them to be able to do that. I want them to play for being able to kiss the floor in front of 15,000. That’s when you’re invested in the program, and that’s the growth that I’m looking for.

On if that’s what he told his team after the loss...
Absolutely. When I was at Stephen F. Austin, guys were so invested that they couldn’t start the game because of the tears and the emotion. I didn’t have a dry eye. I know what Tom’s going through right now. When you’re that invested and committed, then you win. That’s what I want for Illinois basketball for the future, and we have a group that works very hard and they’re getting better every day.

On how good the Spartans are...
They’re really good. I think the only thing that is, when they see a Villanova-type, full out, one-end team who has really athletic guards, but Tom’s teams are so good. They dominate you on the glass. They have such depth. Cassius (Winston) was much better tonight than he was the first game against us. When he plays like that, this is a heck of a basketball team. They don’t have many weaknesses. I think they’re really capable of winning the whole thing.

Senior forward Ben Carter

On Senior Day…
I didn’t know if this day would come. I have had a lot of ups and downs in my six years of college. It was everything I thought it would be. Being able to raise that banner on senior night and be with my family who has been there with me through it all, to be there with guys like Gavin Schilling and Tum Tum (Nairn Jr.). I couldn’t have picked a better senior class to be a part of. They are the epitome of Spartan basketball and Spartan Nation.

This program and team accepted me with open arms, and I felt like I was a part of the family since I got here. I was emotional with everything I have been through. To make it here and to kiss that Spartan head was a great feeling.

On leaving the Breslin Center with a championship
It means everything. We set out to accomplish certain goals at the beginning of the season, and this was the first of them. To have at least a share and to do that on senior night is everything we looked to accomplish when we were putting in work. Our team has gelled and gotten better each and every month. It is just a special feeling to raise that banner and be a part of a championship team.

On Illinois’ defense…
It was tough. They play such a sporadic style of play. They pressure you when they are defending, and they play a very spread offense which is tough to cover. That has been our staple all season and the identity that we have wanted to form. We wanted to be a defensive team first because we know that when you travel, offense doesn’t always travel and when you play big games, shots do not always fall. If there is one thing that can be consistent through it all, it’s defense. I think we really showed that in the second half especially, taking that lead and being able to hold them off.

Senior forward Gavin Schilling

On winning a championship in the last game at the Breslin Center…
It means a lot to me. Words cannot describe the feeling that I am having right now. That was one of the goals I have set for myself ever since I set foot on campus. It is one of the accomplishments we have this year and we have many more left.

On Senior Night…
Thoughts were just running through my mind. The five years here have just flashed by, and I was thinking about all the positive things that happened to me and got me emotional. Kissing that Spartan head means a lot. It is a tradition.

On Illinois’ toughness…
At the beginning we were not really checking and they were playing harder than us. We came out kind of casual but then got it together. Some guys stepped up and started locking up so we were able to make that lead as well.

On sharing the championship with the home crowd…
It is unbelievable. We have the greatest fans in the nation in my opinion. Without them we would not have won a lot of the home games that we have won, so I would like to thank the fans. I want to thank our team, our coaches and everyone for pulling together and making one of our goals happen.

Senior guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr...

On Senior Night…
It was the best. Unbelievable. Something I couldn’t even dream of or imagine. I am so thankful for the opportunity that God placed in front of me. I am so happy for the program and our team. We stood together and that is what Spartans always do.

On the overall game…
Illinois is always a tough team. We had 25 turnovers when we played at their house, so we knew we had to take care of the ball. I had a couple turnovers early. In the second half, I thought we did a great job of taking care of the ball and making smarter plays.

On the post game ceremony…
I dreamed of kissing the Spartan head. Having the opportunity to raise the banner, the trophy, and having my mom here, my teammates. It was an unbelievable experience. I am so humbled.

On going forward…
We just have to take care of business. Play smarter, continue to play harder on defense and take care of the basketball. Focus on executing the game plan and we will get the job done.



 

 

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