Michigan State 46, Illinois 53 Post-Game Quotes
 
 
 

 

 
 

March 1, 2014

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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo

Opening statement…
For the most part, I think our assist-to-turnover ratio has been pretty good and today it was a joke. We had some guys revert back and I thought our energy level was at an all-time worst. It started with the first shot of the game, we gave up a three. When they have the number of points off of turnovers they had in the game, you aren’t going to win many of those. When your three or four best players don’t play very well, you aren’t going to win many of those. I thought (Gavin) Schilling actually played pretty well. He played with some energy. I thought (Branden) Dawson played phenomenally despite the 30-some odd days he’s missed. I thought (Gary) Harris early on was one of the best players because he guarded and did some things. After that, we had a complete meltdown. There have been so many things. It seemed like everything came to a head and we just didn’t have any juice. This is a very disappointing loss. We tried to practice that way, but we sure didn’t play that way.

On any explanation for the shot clock violation call…
I didn’t get an explanation on anything to be honest. I didn’t get an explanation on any of the (Adreian) Payne stuff inside. There’s no explanation. Our own people screwed up our own clock, so we have a lot of issues there. I’ll hold comment until I check out what I see. In the second half, there were a lot of things I didn’t like, but in no way, shape, or form will any referee get to take any credit for why we lost that game. We lost that game because we didn’t play the way a Michigan State Spartan team is supposed to play.

On Adreian Payne’s performance…
I think you should ask him that. I really can’t explain. They started doubling him early - big deal. We made some adjustments in the second half. We got layups. Adreian (Payne) had no energy today. I don’t have an answer. I don’t mind us missing shots. I just don’t think we’ve guarded for a month. I know some of the reasons why. Some of the other reasons why, I just don’t have an answer for right now.

On the lack of energy…
I tried to tell you guys earlier in the week and I used the thunder analogy. This team has been through a lot, but I didn’t see this coming. There’s no excuse for that. We practiced harder than they played. Like I said, I’ll throw myself under the bus - that’s inexcusable, ridiculous. There are just too many things these guys have had to go through, so maybe a slap in the face is good for us. It reminds me of 2005, maybe that’ll wake us up. They got hit today. I’ve never seen Denzel (Valentine) throw the ball around like that. Maybe I should go back to treating him the way I used to treat him.

On the confidence of the team…
Keith Appling is a major problem right now because he can’t do what he could do, so they’re not backing off of him and there’s nowhere for him to go. We can’t get a break going because they were getting layups out there, shooting 47.7 percent. They got 25 points off of turnovers. I don’t know how many turnovers were for a touchdown, but there were a lot of them. So we had no break. That’s where Keith’s effective. He’s not effective in the half court. He’s getting better. He actually had a pretty good week in practice compared to the weeks before that. Compared to how he was playing at the beginning of Big Ten season, he’s not there, so some of that is not confidence, he just can’t do it. As the weeks go on, I think his wrist is pretty good now. He just needs rep after rep. He’s been working on his shot, he really has. It’s going to take some time.

On tournament time approaching…
I don’t mean to be ignorant, but I’m as concerned as I was last week. There wasn’t going to be a magic wand waved today that everybody would be back to normal, but it just doesn’t work that way. There are so many outside things that lead to these things. It’s a little tough. I’m concerned, but I’m not shocked. I’m disappointed in our effort, not disappointed in our performance as far as our skills go.

On what Illinois did well to win the game…
Well, I thought they defended very well, which they’ve been doing. They turned us over very much and got layups , you know, turnovers for touchdowns. They were very, very patient. They just ran that clock down every time, so once they get a lead, you’re chasing them the whole time. We had chances in the second half. We took a couple of bad shots. It’s hard to figure out which lineups to have in there. You need BJ (Branden Dawson) for one thing and then when Adreian (Payne) struggled like he did that made it more difficult. Illinois shot the ball pretty well from the three; way better than we have been shooting it. I think they turned us over and we turned them over 15 times. I don’t know if we scored on any of them. On one or two, we had that break away and maybe that would have been a critical time, but the call was made when the call was made. Five seconds out of bounds, somebody flies out into the stands and so nobody called timeout. I mean it was weird things, but it doesn’t make up for how poorly we played guys.



Illinois head coach John Groce

Opening statement…
Obviously, I’m really proud of our guys. That’s the fourth game in-a-row that we’ve held an opponent under 50 [points]. That’s hard to do in this league with the great coaches and great teams. The guys in our locker room and their effort, I thought their toughness on the defensive end has obviously been very consistent for several games. We’re playing as good as we’ve played on that end. I thought offensively, we did some good things. Obviously, we don’t want to turn the ball over 15 times. We’d like to take care of the ball a little better. We shot the ball pretty well. I thought our shot selection was good; I thought we executed well.

We were able to get off to two really good starts in both halves. I thought that was key. We got off to a good start in the first half, obviously, and then they come back as great teams do - storm back and tie the game at halftime. Last year, we were in that situation here and we came out in the second half and I thought that Michigan State did a great job of imposing their will. Veterans in the locker room talked about that. We turned it over a few too many times here early in the first four minutes of the second half, so I thought that was good that they kind of learned from that experience a little bit. We got off to a great start there in the second half. I thought those were two really key junctures of the game. Late, I thought our defense was good. That’s a really good basketball team; a well-coached basketball team. I certainly have a lot of respect for coach [Tom Izzo]. Not only what he’s done with this team, but throughout his career. We feel blessed certainly to get out of here with a win. 

On the comparison between the first time the teams met this season and today…
I’m not privy to information as to what percentage of health these guys are - that’s not my business. I know they had everyone playing tonight in the game. I thought tonight would be a much different game because Payne did not play in game one. So, I felt like with him playing and watching the video of him since he’s returned, he’s had some explosive offensive moments -both from driving the ball, shooting threes, posting the ball and rebounding. I’ve always been pretty impressed with him [Payne]. I’m really impressed how he’s added dimensions to his game each year that he’s been here. I thought he was going to be a handful/. So I thought that, in terms of my mindset coming into the game, he could potentially be a big difference.

You know, you’re always worried about [Keith] Appling gutting your defense, [Gary] Harris making shots, and [Brandon] Dawson on the glass. Just like in game one, he [Dawson] got four offensive rebounds, so he’s great on the glass. Really, that first thought was probably the one thought I had. Then I thought they got a ton of transition points in game one. You hope that you can set your defense a little bit and maybe not give them quite as many. It’s hard to do because they’re not quite as deep, they’re fast and they’re committed to running. I certainly have a lot of respect for their transition game. Those were kind of the thoughts we had coming into game two verse game one. 

On the competitiveness in the Big Ten this season…
I’m really proud of our guys, because they’ve had to handle a lot of adversity. Some of our young guys have grown up through the experiences that they’ve had and I think that’s made our team better. Some guys have adjusted some - whether it’s coming off the bench - they’ve adjusted really well here in the last two or three games. We’re finally hitting on all cylinders. With that, I’m really proud of the way they’ve stayed the course. In terms of the conference, my wife would tell you I’m wrong about a lot of things, but DB [Illinois SID] will tell you that before the year started I said to him that this is going to be the deepest that I’ve ever seen this thing [Big Ten Conference]. Five or more wins for every team in the league for the third time in league history. I think that says it all.

On where this win stands in his career as a coach…
I’m not thinking about that right now. I’m thinking more about how proud I am of our guys. I want them to be able to enjoy this one and then we’ve got a two-day prep to get ready for Tuesday’s game against the league leader [Michigan]. Maybe I’ll reflect on that when my wife and I go on vacation in May. Right now, I’m not thinking about that. Obviously, you’re asking that question certainly out of respect for them [Michigan State] and playing here. Obviously, it’s a big win. They’re [Michigan State] certainly not an easy team to beat because of the things that I mentioned earlier.

On the Illinois team responding to the shot clock violation…
I haven’t seen the film obviously, so I don’ know those things. Sometimes with the human eye, it’s hard. It’s easy to dissect something if you’re a fan watching it on TV or you’re someone that can slow-mo a clip. We have great officials in our league and I certainly trust their judgement. I thought that we were responsive all night. We had a mindset that we were playing for 40 minutes. We knew that Michigan State was going to go on runs during the game; they’re a good team. They’ve got good players and they’re well coached.  We were hopefully going to go on some runs. We were here to play 40 minutes - that’s the biggest thing we talked about. We wanted to play as soon as the bell rang and not stop playing until the bell rang again at the end. Then at that point, we would worry about coming up for air. Our kids did that.

On the team aspect of the defense “clicking”…
Well as you know they’ve been covering us, marking us and we’ve been pretty good defensively all year. Obviously, the last four or five [games], that level has been retched up a bit. I just think it comes with experience. People ask me and I tell them that yeah, we should be better than we were two months ago. Why wouldn’t we be? We were playing a bunch of young guys who were learning the defense for about three or four months and now it’s four, five, six months. I fully expect them to understand it better than what they did at that time. I think we’ve got a team right now that values that end of the floor. I think our upperclassman have done a great job of leading by example in that area. When you put on that jersey, we have expectations that everyone will contribute defensively and rebounding the ball. Certainly, that’s helped, but I think experience and repetition has helped. My old high school coach, Todd McLyder, used to say repetition builds mastery.  I’m not going to say we’ve quite mastered everything yet, because as soon as you act like you’ve arrived or you feel like you have, then you’re going to fall pretty quickly. I do think that repetition has started to build some better habits over the course of the time that we’ve had the team together. 

On the two first halves, both in Champagne, Ill., and here, ending with prolonged runs by them…
I wasn’t, to be honest with you, thinking about that at all. I was more coaching one possesion at a time. That’s kind of what I’m encouraging the guys to do. We’ve been trying to teach them, as you guys have known all year, why you win and why you lose when you’re in those situations. Certainly for us, our guys have learned - they’re coachable, they’re teachable. I think they’ve gotten better at it. Tonight certainly wasn’t the first time we’ve been in that situation and closed. I do think that was similar against Nebraska and Minnesota. As we all know, experience is a great teacher.

On a new mindset of aggressiveness for the Illinois team…
Maybe more activity. It’s not very often when you play a game that you have two different players with five or more steals in the game like Ray [Rice] and Tracey [Abrams] did. I thought that their hands were really active and I thought that they competed and played hard. Right now, I think the strength of our defense is the fact that we’re playing as a team on that end of the floor. Guys are starting to believe in one another and trusting one another that they’re going to carry out their responsibility. We call that being accountable. I think our guys have been much more accountable defensively. Some of it is with our younger guys learning the defense and our guys are trusting them more. Obviously, Nnanna [Egwu] got into foul trouble in the first half. It’s been well documented on how good he is defensively. So, we were able to keep him in the majority of the second half and I think he did a great job there of spearheading our defense.