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Post-Game Quotes

March 23, 2008

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DENVER, Colo. -
March 22, 2008

Michigan State - 65
Pittsburgh - 54

Michigan State Quotes

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations to Michigan State. Coach, if you just want to begin with some general thoughts on the game.
COACH IZZO: Well, it was a tough game. I mean, a tough game. It's a very good Pittsburgh team. I thought we got in a little foul trouble with Raymar. I thought our bigs battled. These guys just did an unbelievable job of preparation. Travis with his defense, and Drew shooting the ball, Kalin directing, and G had a little in there, too.

The preparation these guys did in two days was as good as any team I've been with. I'm really proud of them. Yet we beat a very, very good team.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, coach. We'll take questions for the student athletes.

Q. Drew, could you talk about the difficulty of getting your shot off with the way Pittsburgh was playing tonight.
Drew Neitzel: They're a great defensive team. We knew that coming in. Two great defensive teams out there battling. I just wanted to stay patient. I got some open looks in the first half and knocked them down. Coming out the second half, they really tightened up on me, really contested my shots. Didn't get a lot of good looks until, you know, the end there where I hit a few in a row.

But you got to give them credit. They were trailing me hard. They did a great job.

Q. You held Pittsburgh without a field goal for 9 minutes and 39 seconds. Talk about what kind of went on with that.
Travis Walton: Our coaches do a great job of preparing us for every team. We had a great scouting report, two day preparation we had and our team did a great job, you know, sacking in on the gas. They couldn't drive on us. Our bigs did an unbelievable drive of changing our pick and roll defense, as far as feathering instead of stepping up how we usually do. Just an unbelievable job from the coaches and from the team, our team effort.

Q. Goran, in the second half when you got that 10 point lead, looked like you stepped it up a bit. Talk about what your mindset was there. Yesterday your coach wondered about his own team's toughness. Talk about whether you had any question about it.
Goran Suton: We knew that Pittsburgh was a great offensive rebounding team. At the same time they had a mismatch on me with Sam Young. On the other side, I had a mismatch on the offensive end, too. I took advantage of it. I think the guys did a great job of finding me down low, feeding me. I just did a good job of executing.

Q. Drew, I guess earlier this year you've had the rap of being a little tentative with your jumper. Talk about letting it fly late in the game.
Drew Neitzel: Yeah, I just wanted to be aggressive. That's what this team needs from me. Coach has been preaching that. My teammates have been telling me that. They've been giving me the confidence to keep shooting whether they're falling or not falling, just to stay aggressive.

This is it. This is my last run. So I don't want to have any regrets. I just want to go out there and be aggressive and play the game the way I have my whole life. And that's aggressive, take shots. When shots aren't falling, my teammates, they have my back and continue to encourage me to keep shooting.

Q. Kalin, how important was it for you to get your shot going? Talk about the play at the end rushing the length of the court to get that last layup.
Kalin Lucas: Yeah, I think in the first half, you know, I think they was denying Drew a little bit. My teammates were finding me for open shots, I was curling where I was trying to come off screens. My teammates were finding me.

As far as the second half, when I went coast to coast, my coach just tell me when I get the ball to push it, so that's what I did. I just pushed the ball up the floor. I seen an open lane to the basket.

Q. When Drew made those three shots back to back to back at the end of the game, even though he was slumping, do you still look to him as your leader?
Travis Walton: Yeah, you know, Drew is a big time shot guy. He came through for us last year. He came through for us this year. No matter if he misses his shots, he gonna find a way to step up for us, if it's giving the pass to a big or a guard. Today he stepped up and knocked down shots for us that was big time.

A big time player gonna step up in big time moments. He's showing that he's a big time player and stepped up in a big time moment for us.

Q. How satisfying is this victory a week after the disappointment of Wisconsin? Travis Walton: You know, this is a great victory for Pittsburgh as far as up talking about how tough they are and how tough we are. We kind of similar. The question is, could we be as physical as them or who's gonna win that type of game.

We did a great job. We won the rebounding game plus 11, that's a credit to our bigs and guards getting rebounds. Our coaches did a great job of preparing us. It's satisfying to our team, you know, to get to the Sweet 16. But playing a game like Pittsburgh in doing a great job that we did in the one day prep.

Drew Neitzel: Like Travis said, there have been questions this year about the toughness of this team, you know, how physical we can be. I think Pittsburgh is, you know, one of the most physical teams in the country with their big guys inside, Fields is a very physical point guard, uses his body very well. We did a great job of matching their physical play. We stayed aggressive. We didn't back down. I think that's what we needed.

Everybody bought into what the coaching staff was telling us in the preparation. We went out there and executed.

Q. Drew, talk about what was going through your head when you got the ball by your bench? You had missed about seven out of ten. That's when you kind of took over.
Drew Neitzel: To be honest, I just stepped in and knocked it down. You know, throughout the year, I've gone through some ups and downs as fas as my shooting and things like that. You know, I just changed my mindset and have, you know, just been more aggressive. You know, no matter if I miss five, ten shots in a row, that's what I got to do is keep shooting.

My teammates have done a great job of finding me. Naymick made a great pass right in my shot pocket. It was a step in shot. That's a pretty consistent shot for me.

THE MODERATOR: Guys, congratulations. Thank you. We'll continue with questions for Coach Izzo.

Q. There was a stretch where Suton hit a jumper, making moves in the pivot. It works out. Are you comfortable with all that going on?
COACH IZZO: I really am. You know, I'm very comfortable. I told you, he's got great offensive skills. We just got to keep him playing at a consistent level. Because he's got post moves, he can shoot a 15, 16 foot shot. He's a great passer.

You know, I'm not going to lie to you. I just need a little more energy, you know. I'm going to keep searching for it until I get it or he's gone. He's making progress. Did some good things tonight. I mean, real good things. I was proud of him tonight because that was the most physical inside team we've played, no question about it. Very well coached, too.

He had to do a helluva job and he did a helluva job.

Q. Yesterday a couple things you said sort of made us wonder if you had questions about your team's toughness. Did you and how were they answered tonight?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, yeah, you know, I have. I've been pretty honest with the media about that. You know, I just remember, you're talking to a guy who coached some guys that were maybe as tough a team as there's been in the last 20 years, if you ask me, as far as physically and mentally tough.

And, so, I think it's one of the reasons, you know, that we had some upsets and things like that. We really talked about it a lot last night and yesterday afternoon and showed film. We showed rebounding films of them. My staff did an incredible job, you know. I can't tell you how good my staff was. They were just unbelievable. We got a lot of things done in these 20 minute sessions we have. I'd have to say that, as they said, we showed you, Coach. I'm going to love that for tonight and then I'm going to tell them to show me again next weekend.

Q. You said one of the areas of improvement you needed was from your bigs. Did you think you got that tonight?
COACH IZZO: I did. I thought D even did a good job. Naymeck did a great job. He's had two good games in a row. I said before the game, I said yesterday to the media, you know, the dribble penetration, of all things, I mean, that's a 60 some percent free throw shooting team. Give them credit. They went in there and knocked down free throw after free throw after free throw. We started feathering on ball screens, we felt we couldn't give up that penetration, Fields is so good. We did a decent job of that.

Our bigs helped and got back, yet Blair is a load in there, still made some big plays. But I thought all in all we did a pretty good job on him.

Q. Tom, what was the game plan against Sam Young? Was it just a night where he didn't shoot well or were you doing something defensively to frustrate him? COACH IZZO: To be honest, we had a little bigger guy on him that was a little slower. He started driving us in the second half.

I don't think so. I think he missed some shots, to be honest with you. He's really a good player. He's one of the best forwards we've played against. We try to we couldn't put six eyes on him, but we put about four and a half. We tried every time he got the ball to just kind of sag some guys in there because we knew we couldn't cover him one on one. What really hurt us is Morgan getting in foul trouble. He played five minutes the first half and, I don't know, if he even played 20 for the game. 'Cause that was the matchup we thought we could use a little bit. At least they're similar in athleticism.

We couldn't do that. So I think it was a combination of Suton, of our guards helping. But I don't think he had a great night. I think he's a great player that maybe missed some shots that I've seen on film he's really made.

Q. You talked after Thursday's game about how happy you were to have the rest of team step up when Neitzel was perhaps a little off. How happy are you to have him do what he did tonight?COACH IZZO: I'm happy for our team 'cause I've said all along, even back in December, you know, when he had a couple games, don't kid yourself, we need him. He's our guy. He's the guy that we have to have making shots.

But I was really happy for him because it's been a little bit of a tougher year, you know, with everybody on him, with everybody defending him well. For him to respond like he has the last two and a half weeks, three weeks, is awesome.

So I'm happy for our team, but I'm really happy for Drew. It's an example of guys that work hard, good things will happen. He's the all American boy that good things are happening, at least so far.

Q. Drew seemed to say that he struggled with his confidence, aggressiveness. Did you still have confidence in him? Did you like the fact he took those three shots at the end?
COACH IZZO: I love the fact he took those three shots. Everybody condemns me for being hard on my players. I've been hard on Drew, I can promise you that, but for the opposite reasons most people think. He's passed up shots in my mind all year long. The last couple weeks he hasn't passed up any shots. He's got to shoot it. Those guys are starting to learn to get him the ball in the right spot. I'm telling you, if he's open, he can knock 'em down.

We're still going to go as far as he takes us. It's great to have Kalin getting better, growing every day. We still have to get Raymar in the thick of things, keep him out of foul trouble. But Drew Neitzel made some big time plays tonight.

Q. Can you comment on ID?
COACH IZZO: I think he did a great job. For a kid who hasn't played maybe two minutes in a month, we've used him, we've gotten a chance to play against some bigger guys. ID, you know, he's starting to use his size. He got some rebounds. Still misses a shot here and there. But I thought his size, his length maybe bothered them a little bit. And he's physical. So he's not afraid of getting banged. Strong kid. Another kid you got to be happy for 'cause he's just an incredible guy.

Q. Looked like you were emotional again after that win. How emotional has this week been for you when you think about a week ago how tough that loss was? What does this mean for your program to have a seventh Sweet 16 in 11 years?
COACH IZZO: Well, I'm jacked. I'm jacked for the guys. As I said, when you push guys so hard, sometimes you kind of feel sorry for them. Thank God I didn't let that get to me too much because this is what it takes, you know. I mean, the sessions we had, again, and I told my guys today before we left the hotel, I was proud of them for hanging in there with me because it was drive, drive, drive, drive, drive. In fact, the last second, we even went over the missed free throw again in our film room. Sure enough, they just didn't miss any. You got to give Pittsburgh a lot of credit. They didn't miss any free throws. We thought that was going to be an important part of the game.

I just thought they trusted what we said. We told them to be back at 9:00, they're back. Be back at 10:00, they're back. Be there early in the morning. They're there. They're a little driven, and that's exciting to see.

Pittsburgh Quotes THE MODERATOR: Joined by Pittsburgh. Coach, if you want to begin with thoughts on the game.

COACH DIXON: Well, I'm very proud of our team, have been all year. They've been through a lot. Even today they were down, they battled back. Down 10, took the lead in the second half. Made a great comeback. Put ourselves in a position. I think we were up two with the ball. Had a couple good looks. Didn't knock 'em down.

But I'm very proud of these two guys, especially how much they battled, played, got through a lot of different things. I'm very proud of us. I don't think we played our best game. We obviously didn't shoot it well. 2 of 17 from three. I thought we took some good ones early. We took some good ones at the end.

We got out rebounded. That was a problem. But I thought we took good shots throughout. But, again, had the lead, some things never seemed to go our way at the end. Seemed like everything went their way. Took care of the ball. Had nine turnovers, four or five of those were moving screen calls. We really did a good job of taking care of the ball.

But they seemed to have got the breaks at the end, went from a two point lead for us, just some things went their way.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, coach. Questions directed to either of the student athletes.

Q. Levance, their coach said the game plan was to keep you from penetrating, getting to the basket. Did they do a good job of that? Was your shooting difficulty for the team more about what they were doing or you guys missing?
LEVANCE FIELDS: You have to credit what they did. Obviously with they scheme for me, they did a pretty good job.

But like coach said, we felt we had some good looks in the first half, and even in the second half, but they just didn't go down. They still had some late contests. Got to credit them for continuing to play hard, not just giving us easy shots. Shots we normally knock down just didn't go today.

Q. You came in here with so much confidence. Can you talk about the suddenness of it being over, how you maybe didn't see this coming.
LEVANCE FIELDS: It's tough, you know. Obviously we was on a roll. But all along we knew it didn't mean nothing because any time in this tournament if you didn't do the right things, you would be eliminated.

Michigan State is a tough team. I don't think this is your normal second round game in a tournament. But obviously this was the game. We battled. They battled. But, like coach said, they out rebounded us. That was something we couldn't afford to happen. That helped them to prevail to a victory.

SAM YOUNG: I don't know. Felt like a lot of shots that we normally make, we missed tonight. Felt like they played a good defense. I guess I credit their coach. I think they had a great scheme. As far as their defense was concerned, I thought they played great defense. But the shots that we were able to get good looks at, we didn't knock them down.

I just think when you in a situation when you playing in a tournament, sudden death, you couldn't afford for that to happen.

Q. Levance, could you tell us, from your perspective, what happened? You got called for a charge. At the end you were laying down grabbing your leg. What happened on that sequence?
LEVANCE FIELDS: Well, I just twisted my ankle a little bit. But that was it. At first it didn't feel good, but as I got up, I could put weight on it. So that was a good thing. As of right now, I'm fine. I just twisted it a little bit.

Q. What about the play that led up to that?

Q. What happened there? LEVANCE FIELDS: I was trying to go to the basket. Lucas did a great job of positioning himself. I thought it could have went either way. But they got the call. Like I said, he did a great job of positioning himself so it was a charge.

Q. Levance, talk about the future of this team with three starters potentially coming back for next year. Your thoughts on next season.
LEVANCE FIELDS: Well, it's tough to think about that right now. But, like you say, three potential starters coming back. Pretty much our nucleus, the three guys you're talking about. As long as we work hard this summer, learn from this, get better, like we did this summer, hopefully stay injury free next year, we should be fine.

Q. Sam, can you reflect a little bit on what you accomplished this year. I know it's tough right now, but...
SAM YOUNG: Yeah, it is kind of tough right now. But at the same time when you look back on the season, we'll be able to come to things that we were able to accomplish, I'm very proud of the team and I'm very proud of myself as an individual. I mean, the coaching staff and everybody.

I feel like after a certain point in the season, a lot of people counted us out. For us to continue on strong, win the Big East championship, get to this point in the tournament, I think we showed a lot for ourselves.

THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you very much. We'll continue with questions for Coach Dixon.

Q. Looked overall like you guys played pretty good defense. Neitzel just hit tough shots. Is that the way you read it?
COACH DIXON: I thought in the first half, that's what we went into halftime thinking. I thought we were in pretty good shape considering we didn't make some open shots and they hit some tough ones. Neitzel hit a couple at the end. The shot clock kind of shot them at the end and knocked them down. All in all I thought in the first half I felt pretty good, considering what we had shot, the shots that they had made.

Second half, you know, they got some layups in transition. Seemed like every missed three turned into a long rebound and a breakout for them, especially the one play where we were up two, had an open three, turned out to be a run out for them. Quite a difference there.

So I felt like defense was good, not great in the first half. Put ourselves in position to step it up. Again, can't say enough about how we battled back. Things going bad, we're down 10, turn that thing around right away after a timeout and get back and put ourselves up two, put ourselves in a good position.

You know, we just just seemed like nothing seemed to go right at that point. We just obviously some things went the wrong way. You know, we took care of the ball. We got nine turnovers good against a very good defensive team. Like I said, I think pretty much all of them were a moving screen or a charge call or, you know, a carrying call. So, I mean, we took very good care of the ball against a very good defensive team. Could have shot it better. But made our free throws. They made their free throws. They were nine of nine. I think the difference really came down to them making some threes and we didn't.

Q. This wasn't the way obviously you wanted to see Benjamin and Ramon go out. Ronald didn't shoot well. Keith didn't score. Talk about your disappointment for those two guys in particular.
COACH DIXON: Yeah, I mean, I'm not a guy that's going to look at this game. I'm going to look at their careers, what they did for us, the leadership they gave for our team, really everything they went through, from being a young team you recall in the year, to even younger when we they lost their two most experienced in Levance and Mike Cook. Then two other guys go down. I think Keith came so far this year and did so many great things for us.

You know, I mean, those things far outweigh what happened tonight in my mind. Every time I think about them, I mean, you know, I think they had some good looks, some shots. But they battled. They brought us back. Keith made some big plays to put us back and put us up two. Just seemed like the momentum was going our way. For whatever reason, seemed like everything seemed to go their way from that point on.

But they were strong all year long in different ways. Levance I mean, Ronald is quieter, but just doing everything right. Keith really brought a lot as far as commitment and confidence. I can't say enough about how much those guys did, how many games these guys won over their careers. A lot of games. I don't even know what it is. They go home with a Big East championship. But a lot of disappointment because I thought we could have played a lot better tonight. I thought we could have. They played good, to their credit. But, again, we just I thought we could have done a few things a little better. I'm sure they feel the same way, though, too.

Q. It seems like you're always going to be judged on your last game. That's what people remember the most. Is that fair with this team?
COACH DIXON:You know, just everything, we were so ready to play, like we have been these last couple weeks. I mean, things just seemed to be coming together. Again, this is a good team. We're up two. We got the ball late in the second half. We hadn't even been shooting it well. So, you know, yes, I mean, you can think about the last, you know, eight minutes or so when nothing seemed to go our way. But these guys had a great year and, you know, we had so many great wins that people will remember.

This is a loss that will hurt because I think we could have played better.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks very much, coach.

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