Michigan State vs. Wisconsin
Feb. 21, 1999
Postgame Press Conference
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo:
"I'll tell you what, that was a grind-it-out basketball game. It wasn't great to watch, but it was great in terms of defense, rebounding and effort.
"We made an effort after halftime to play better defensively. We won this game on the defensive end of the floor and with our rebounding. We outrebounded Wisconsin, 39-19, that's impressive. Antonio Smith was a key figure defensively in the second half. We let him roam the lane and take away their cutters. Antonio and Andre Hutson did a great job on the boards, combining for 21 rebounds.
"That was as physical a game as I've ever been involved it. I take my hat off to Wisconsin, but I also take my hat off to our guys. For us to win five games in 11 days, I'm happy for our guys, especially our seniors - Antonio Smith, Jason Klein and Thomas Kelley. It was hard to give a speech before the game because there were so many emotions, with 150 lettermen back for the reunion, the seniors playing their final home game and the chance to win the Big Ten championship outright. There were so many reasons to play well. We didn't win pretty but we did what we had to do to win the game. I'm happy that we were able to win the championship at home for our fans because they've been great all year long."
Wisconsin head coach Dick Bennett:
"We rattled only a little coming out of the locker room at halftime. We were unable to demonstrate toughness and poise and that's a credit to Michigan State's defense. We got creamed on the boards and we thought that might happen. We played as hard as we could. Other than the foul differential, nothing really stood out.
(On Michigan State's 14-straight wins) "They're a very good team. In a league that's really solid, Michigan State is as worthy a champion as you can have. We made them play halfcourt and they were good enough to beat us. They have tremendous players and their depth is huge. We did a good job against Mateen Cleaves but it wasn't enough. They did a tremendous job.
"Emotionally, we laid it on the line. There were a couple of key moments before halftime where we got a good look but couldn't knock the shot down. Give Michigan State credit for the stretch it put together to open the second half. They got their running game going and played like a champ.
"I'm disappointed in the loss, but I'm not discouraged. I think Michigan State is the best team in the league. They had every reason to be excited today with everything that was going on. They're a much better defensive team now than they were when we played in the league opener in early January."