Michigan State 70, New Mexico State 67
March 19, 2010
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead with an opening statement from Coach Izzo and then take questions for the student athletes.
COACH IZZO: If there's one word I've learned in the years I've been in this tournament, that the word is survive and advance that everybody preaches.
I thought we played maybe our best half of basketball the first half - in every way shape and form when you have 12 assists on 13 baskets, and our defense was pretty good to. They hit a couple threes. I thought we shared the ball. I thought we played well. Everybody helped their teammate, and that was impressive. And with Ray(mar) out, it hurt us a little bit with some other guys.
They came back, so give them credit in the second half. They bounced back and put some pressure on, but we missed the dunk and the long shots right off the bat. They hit some shots, and then it became a dog fight. But I kind of like the character of my team this time. I don't want to say I'm glad we had a close game, but I learned something about these guys that I've been looking for this year and we're ready to play. We played well early, we struggled in the second half, but we finished the game. So we have survived and advanced.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student athletes.
Q. For Kalin (Lucas), what happened with the ankle injury when you went out and came back in, and how did you gut through that?
KALIN LUCAS: I sort of just tweaked it a little bit but I'm fine. I'm good. My ankle is all right.
Q. How personal was this game for you? Obviously, there was some talk yesterday, and it seemed like you were fired up for this game. How much did that play in your performance, particularly head-to-head with (Jahmar) Young?
KALIN LUCAS: Our team was just ready to play. The first five minutes were a real key for us. We just came out ready and came out aggressive, and we just played the whole 40 minutes and we got the win.
Q. For Draymond (Green) or Raymar (Morgan), what were the forwards doing up front in the second half especially. They really started attacking the basket, and it took awhile for you to adjust there. So what were you seeing?
DRAYMOND GREEN: They were more aggressive trying to score. Raymar and I were hit with a little foul trouble early, but those guys came at us and they played a pretty good game. We just had to survive the game, and we're going to get back and study some film and get ready for the next game on Sunday.
RAYMAR MORGAN: They came out really aggressive and in attack mode. (Troy) Gillenwater did an excellent job in executing and scoring in different ways. And those guys just made plays. But we got the win and we're just happy that we're advancing.
Q. Raymar (Morgan), that last free throw, did you see a lane violation there?
RAYMAR MORGAN: No, I was just focusing on trying to make the shot up and in. That's what coach said. My vision was on the basketball and on the rim. But, yeah, I struggled pretty much the whole game. Coach and my teammates stayed with me though and I just got to give them all the thanks.
Q. For any of the players, when they made the comeback, was it as feisty and combative out there as it looked like? There was a lot of talking and a lot of stuff going down. Was it as feisty as it appeared?
RAYMAR MORGAN: Yeah, they're a really physical team, and we're a really physical team, so in the heat of the moment, that's what guys are going to do is trash talk a little bit. But we just tried to keep our composure and keep playing.
Q. For Kalin (Lucas), you were really hot from beyond the arc and from the field all game. How much did you focus on not twisting your body like you said yesterday?
KALIN LUCAS: Oh yeah, that's something that coach always tells me is don't twist on my jump shots. So when I was hot shooting the ball, one thing I tried to do was just stay straight up, straight down on my jump shot. I just did that. I was making baskets, and it felt good today.
Q. For any of you, the switch from man to man, did that bother you guys? Do you think that was a big part of them coming back in the second half?
Draymond Green: I don't think it bothered us because when they first switched because we still ran our stuff good and we executed. And in basketball, it's a game of runs. They made their run, and regardless of whether they were man or zone when they made their run, they are going to make a run. We made our run in the beginning, we got ahead; they made their run to get back in the game and from there, it was pretty even. We were just able to keep our composure and hold them off and get the victory and that's what it's all about, not really what defense they were in when they made the comeback, because we feel comfortable with a team playing man or zone. So it doesn't really bother us. We work on both of them a considerable amount of time. So it's not a big deal what a team does defensively against us, they just happened to make a run, and we were able to hold off their run.
Q. Raymar (Morgan), you had a couple big baskets in your career in the last couple minutes, tip ins, like the tip-in at Indiana last year. Can you just talk about your alertness in those situations, particularly in games where you may not have been playing so well throughout?
RAYMAR MORGAN: Well, what happened on the play was he took the shot and just nobody cut me off. And our job is to go in there and try to grab the offensive rebound, and that's what I did and I just made a play on the ball.
Q. For Draymond (Green), how was the leadership, especially late when Kalin (Lucas) goes down, Chris (Allen) goes down, you're dealing with foul trouble, Korie Lucious got four, everybody's figured in different spots? How was that for you? What did you notice? Was there anything different?
DRAYMOND GREEN: It wasn't really anything different. At this point in the season, I think the leadership is pretty overrated if you ask me for the simple fact that we all know what's at stake. And no one's slacking off. Even our freshmen, they haven't been in this situation before, and they came in and gave us some tough minutes. They gave us what we needed.
So of course, you're always going to need leadership, and that's something that us three and Isaiah (Dahlman) we take pride in and try to offer this team. But pretty much at this point, I mean we're all ready. We're focused and we know what's at hand, we know what's at stake and we know what we're trying to do. So at this point, it's pretty overrated.
Q. For any of the three of you, as Draymond (Green) said, you expected them to make a run. Did you expect them to get all the way back like they were able to?
KALIN LUCAS: Yeah, because those guys are great. They were playing some great defense. So as far as that goes, we had to just keep our composure and still to try to get stops on defense and run our offense. We just had to execute our plays and just make some great plays down the stretch. And that's what we just did as a team.
Q. Raymar (Morgan), before that big tip-in, you moved to the three to small forward. You posted up, got to the foul line and then hit the big tip in. Did you have an idea that you might have a size advantage in either one of those? I think on the tip, I know it was zone after a timeout, so they kind of went away from man to man. Did you feel like you were forcing some changes there and think some things would open up against the zone in particular when that shot went up?
RAYMAR MORGAN: I was just hoping. So my intentions were to crash (the boards) and hopefully get the offensive rebound, and it just happened to go my way. And with me playing the three, coach just designed the play to give me the ball inside, which got me to the free-throw line.
Q. Kalin (Lucas), do you feel like they know what your name is now?
KALIN LUCAS: Most definitely.
THE MODERATOR: All right, thank you guys. We'll take questions for Coach Izzo.
Q. How chippy was this game out there, in terms of the physicality and the talking and then also Kalin (Lucas), he's okay? He's limping a little bit. But what about Chris (Allen) moving forward?
COACH IZZO: We got a lot of guys beat up. Kalin went out, and came right back in. Chris couldn't come back, and yet, I think he'll be okay. And okay, what does that mean? You know how ankle injuries are, it's (what happens) overnight that makes a big difference. But we were put in a bizarre spot in that even the first half with the foul trouble and the injuries and wearing guys down. We just had some bizarre lineups in there and things, and it created some problems for us.
But I think you're right, a lot of guys came in. Austin (Thornton) came in and gave us a big bucket and (Mike) Kebler did some good things and played some defense. So it took a lot of guys, but we are a little banged up. The chippiness, yeah, I thought it was, to be honest with you, different than I'm used to, but it is what it is and we move on.
Q. You said at the beginning of this week that you expected Kalin (Lucas) to come out and have something to prove. Is this what you were looking for and where does this stand among some of the best performances you've seen out of him?
COACH IZZO: I thought he would. It had nothing to do with somebody saying that they didn't know who he was. We had a good week of practice. As I said, in that first half, that ball was moving. We looked like a team that I've been telling you I think we could be if everybody could just kind of spent some time together. Durrell (Summers) was awesome; he did a lot of great things. Chris (Allen) did a lot of great things even though again he didn't get many shots, but he did do some good things.
Kalin (Lucas) was dynamite. They kept trying to wear him down. He was hurt, but you know what, that's the point guard that I recruited. That's the point guard that's been here for a couple of years and maybe the injury had something to do with it, maybe other things did. But just like the game right now, we're just moving on because we're in a good frame of mind and I was really proud of them.
Q. Do you have any theories as to why we have had so many upsets and near upsets the first two days of this tournament?
COACH IZZO: I don't know. I look at this game and even give New Mexico State credit, but geez, we start out the second half, missing a dunk and a layup. A long three, we had three long shots, and then that shot that was disallowed. There were just some things that were going against us. When I watch other games, I think there's been a lot of changes like that and teams up six or eight and then all of a sudden, boom. And I don't know why.
I think that everybody's playing for survival. I've always said I think there's a little more parity in the first games of tournaments when you got everybody on TV saying the nation says 94.612 percent are picking this team and this team and this team. That makes it harder on the favorites. I like the way we handled it early. And I even liked some of the things we did the second half. So I'm about as pleased as I've been in a long time with this team.
Q. Durrell (Summers) had a great start to the game, got a lot of points early on and then kind of disappeared the rest of the way. What happened with him there and in a way does this game kind of in a microcosm kind of show the up and downs your team has had this year?
COACH IZZO: I don't think. So I look at it just the opposite. In the second half, he passed up a couple shots. Those of us in our media that know that, it's illegal for Durrell (Summers) to do that. But I think that it tells you that he made some good passes, so he's becoming a more complete player when he does that. Now, I had to tell him twice and Kalin (Lucas) told him once to shoot the ball. But those are okay problems for us right now. I thought Durrell did a lot of good things. I thought he had a stretch there to start the second half where he didn't defend as well as I think he could but you know what I told him? He already knew it when I told him. And in some ways, I saw my team grow up in front of my eyes. Are we going to maintain that? Only time will tell, but I really did enjoy that about him. So Durrell played very well early.
Q. You had your hands on your head for it looked like 10 minutes there when Kalin (Lucas) went out. Were you just thinking, finally things are going well and then this happens?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, you know, we had just gotten that 3 point basket taken away. Whether it was or wasn't, I don't know. But I was standing right next to him and it looked good to me, but that bothered me. Then all of a sudden, he goes down and I thought we were playing pretty good and they were getting some tip ins in things like that.
In fairness, we were so small at times. That's why I went bigger by putting Ray(mar) at the three, but it was hard to do that when they were zoning because we're not as good a shooting team. So we were so small and inside the big kid, he did a good job and got some tip ins. We held him from making a basket, but we gave up more offensive rebounds than we have most of the year. So yeah, I thought that geez, we're finally playing well and we're missing some easy shots, missing some free throws, not getting rebounds, things that we don't do, but that's why I said I enjoyed the fact that we bounced back even though we got behind and in huddles it was great. Guys were like, I want to win, I want to win, I want to win. And that's like I said, we grew up today a little bit.
Q. Actually about Durrell (Summers), he came out and scored 10 of the first 12 points. Was there something you saw when he started, was there something when you saw in him the last few days or just before the game that you kind of knew he was due for something big?
COACH IZZO: No, I always think Durrell (Summers) is due for something big. But I think he had the most focus that he's had in a long time. And as all of you know, that's what I've been complaining about with this team. And then we moved him to the back of that zone press because we thought we could beat it and get into the middle and get some baskets for him. And there was one play I don't think the ball touched the ground there on that play and I said, wow, we look good. And I don't do that very often.
So I think we put him in a position and I think he put himself in a position. Durrell has been the blunt of criticism at times. From me today, he deserves nothing but praise because even when mistakes were made, he handled them great. He was really into that game, and I was proud of him.
Q. The lane violation late, did you get a look at that?
COACH IZZO: I was upset. There were some things too during the game and I thought, yes, I did think . . . I thought there were a couple of them, to be honest with you. And that's me. But you know, as we always do, we'll always find something plays in the beginning of the game too. There were some physical plays, we missed some long shots and things like that and like I said, I don't know, maybe I'm wrong and the 3 pointer doesn't matter to the official because he had to make a good call whatever he thought was right. But I mean calls like that in games, they're close all the way and I can guarantee you this: they didn't call it for no reason when everybody was watching. So I can't get into that. I'm not a very good official.
Q. You talked about the different kinds of chippiness, how do you think your guys responded to it? There was talking and all sorts of crazy stuff seemed like going on.
COACH IZZO: You know what I was proud of my guys, and I warned them before the game. I warned them a couple times during the game. It just was different than we were used to and we caused some of it, and I'll hold my guys accountable. But the officials did do a good job of that because I think they warned both coaches. They warned the players and they said they're not going to put up with that. They separated them at the critical times and they did nothing, and at different times, they T'd them up and there were some different things that went on.
You know what, just think about it. We're talking about a missed call and this and that. Michigan State played damn good today; we really did and New Mexico State played good too. But we played as well as we played that first half that we played all season long, if you ask me.
As far as the things I was looking for out of this team, we're going to move forward. Hopefully, we're going to be healthy and whoever we face we're going to try to maintain that togetherness that I've been searching for all year. So thanks a lot and I'll talk to you soon.
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