Comments from MSU head coach Tom Izzo, Kalin Lucas, Goran Suton and Travis Walton.
April 7, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started. Coach, if you could give us a quick overview tonight.
COACH IZZO: Well, first of all the best team won. That's an easy statement to make. They played well. I was, I guess, disappointed. The first part I'll say that we kind of turned it over early. We missed some shots early, and we didn't check very well early. They got off to that 24-7, or whatever that lead was, and that's kind of the way it stayed.
We couldn't really dig into it. Yet these guys didn't quit on it. I thought Carolina played -- they made some big shots. I thought Chris and Durrell had some pretty good looks and just didn't make some shots. In that stretch, we missed some free throws.
But the turnovers were the big key. To have 14 turnovers in the first half on a team that doesn't really press, that hurt us a little bit. So those are the bad things.
But the good things are, it was awesome to see the place stay filled till the very end when I thought our fans could have left. It was great to see this senior class go out the way they did. It was a struggle to get here, and they had a lot of pressure on them, and I thought they handled it incredibly well. We looked like a team that ran out of gas a little bit, maybe deservingly so.
But as I told them in the locker room, we lost the game, but this program is way better off to have these guys here. And for what they accomplished this year, it will help us take another stride in that ever-growing part that we want to get to, and that's our program reaching a level that each and every year we're expecting to get here. So proud of 'em.
Proud of North Carolina. I guess I will add this. North Carolina, as I walked off the floor, I told Hansbrough that it was really nice to see a bunch of guys that stayed in school and put winning above everything else. Even though we did have a cause - we had a bunch of causes - they had a cause, too, and I was pretty impressed by that.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Kalin, could you talk about Ty Lawson and what he was doing to get in the passing lanes.
Kalin Lucas: Ty Lawson, he's a great guard. One thing he did, he did create for his teammates. And he did play the outlet. You know, there's really not too much to say. He played good, scored, and he got his teammates involved.
Q. Travis, so much was made about playing in Michigan, playing for this State, playing here at home. Was there ever a moment where all that kind of pressure built up, became overwhelming for you guys?
Travis Walton: Not at all. I thought they did a great job of supporting us, a great job of giving us energy, motivating us. You know, they gave us extra motivation, to play even harder to get to Detroit, because of all the things going on.
We knew we'd have a great fan base if we came here. Like coach said, it shows a lot about your fans, when the game is kind of over, and they stay and they kind of cheer for us, and they kept trying to get cheering for us when things was going right for us a little bit.
You just got to take your hats off to our fans, they did an incredible job of encouraging us, sticking with us, not giving up on us.
Q. What at halftime made you specifically think you could get the lead down under 10?
Travis Walton: I thought we had turnovers and it was kind of foolish turnovers, like coach said. Kind of the same thing we did in the first game. We missed some great shots. We feel if we would have made some good shots, and took care of the ball a lot better, we feel we could have got it down within 10.
But like you said, North Carolina is a great team. Every time we made a decent run, our crowd got into it, they gave the ball to Lawson or Hansbrough and they made a great play. That's why they won the national championship, because they a great team and they can stop your runs.
Q. You didn't play against Carolina the first time, G. Can you talk about this time, your effort tonight, how good they were.
Goran Suton: Well, I think they're a great team. You know, usually when you face a team in the tournament, there's a weakness. One of the five players, you can sag off or do certain things. With North Carolina, all five players are scorers. Everybody can do something.
You know, it was tough to help. I think we got caught up trying sticking with our man. They had wide-open lanes for drives and kicks. I think we lost the game in the first 10 minutes when we turned the ball over and they hit pretty much every shot.
Q. Travis, how long do you think it will take to get over the disappointment of not playing as well as you could have today? Looking at the big picture, what you did accomplish.
Travis Walton: You know, one thing you got to realize is two teams left. No matter how you played, you always want to win, but one team got to win and one team got to lose.
Even though we didn't play our best, and it was a blessing we got here first off, nobody thought we even be in this position to be talking about playing for a national championship.
So, we want to drop our heads, but nobody on our team gonna drop their heads because we did an unbelievable job of facing adversity, going through our ups and downs in the season and getting to this point.
So it's a blessing that we're here, even though we didn't play the way we should have play or the way we wanted to play. North Carolina was a great team. We gave effort. We didn't quit. That's the main thing. We had a great season.
Q. It was 15-5, then 31-11 before you could almost blink. What was going through your mind during that period?
Travis Walton: Like we said, they're a great team. So what they do is make runs. When they make runs, you got to kind of stop it. We knew the first five minutes of the game was going to be very important. That first five minutes of the game, we couldn't stop it. When we did try to stop it, we had good looks, we didn't make the shots. And they kept pushing and pushing at us. They were getting to the free-throw line and we were turning the ball over. So, yeah, that's pretty much it.
Q. Travis, you've been so good locking down people in the tournament. What did Ellington do to make it more difficult?
Travis Walton: You know, he's a great player. He comes off screens hard. He gave you different looks. He stayed low to the ground. He's long. He exploded. It's not like -- he got one speed. His one speed is going hard at all times. Even if he's missing shots, I watched film of him, I was kind of surprised, when he wasn't playing as well, he was still going hard, elevating on his jump shot. When he was in his hot streak, it's tough to guard a player like that. He's going hard all the time. He can groove into his shot, put the ball on the floor.
Today was his night. He had a great tournament run, was averaging 19 points, been shooting the balance great. And he kept it going.
Q. Travis, the first 10 minutes they took a 21-point lead. Talk about how difficult it was to deal with them in the first 10 minutes. How good is this Carolina team?
Travis Walton: First, like you said, it was a blur. In the first 10 minutes -- it was a blur the first five minutes when they jumped out on us so fast.
I think in the first five minutes, it was more of us turning the ball over on foolish turnovers. We knew they were going to pressure. But a lot of them was kind of foolish turnovers. Some on my part, some on other players' parts.
The second part is North Carolina is an excellent team. You know, they have no weakness. They're strong in all areas. If you watch them all season, Danny Green was leading them for a little bit, then Ty Lawson come back in. He's the star. Last year, Tyler Hansbrough was the National Player of the Year. But now they're saying Ty Lawson's the best player on the team. Then you got Wayne Ellington. Then you got a great freshman Ed Davis, he's not even starting. You got Deon Thompson. You look at that team, you have five to six NBA players that can maybe go first round to early second round in the draft.
When you got a team like that, you looking at a NBA team kind of that can maybe beat the worst team in the NBA probably. They're just a great team.
Q. Travis, when you tied up the ball with Hansbrough off the opening tip, you saw him fly back up off the floor. Did you see in that team as a whole maybe more of an intensity level than you've seen in most teams this year?
Travis Walton: No. That's the national championship game. If somebody throw you on the floor, you got to jump up. That was just funny we had the jump ball. I found that kind of different, that we were like in the NBA. We had the jump ball, me and him. But, you know, he gonna jump up. He got his nose busted last year, or two years ago, when he looked at him, staring at him, blood was coming down his face. So me and him tying up for a basketball, and falling on the ground, I'm pretty sure he's going to jump up real fast. He's a tough player. You know, it was nothing.
Q. Kalin, what kind of physical toll did it take on you chasing Lawson around on defense, going on the fast break?
Kalin Lucas: None, to be honest. You know, he's quick. You know, he is a fast player. So I was trying to press him a little bit. We just trying to get stops, you know. We were losing by a large amount, so we were just trying to get stops on defense, trying to come on offense and get something good.
THE MODERATOR: Travis, Goran, Kalin, thank you very much. You can go back to the locker room. We'll continue with questions for Coach Izzo.
Q. In the first half, Ty had seven steals. What did you think his performance did to get them going, and what that did to you offensively?
COACH IZZO: Well, it really hurt us. We were shooting -- I don't know what we shot the first half, 44, 45%, which wasn't awful. We just didn't get as many shots. In that, we out rebounded them by one or two at halftime. I said they only missed a few shots, so we didn't get many opportunities. We didn't even get as many on our own because of the turnovers.
I got to give them some credit, maybe a lot more than I should, after I see the film. I did think we made some uncharacteristic, poor turnovers. And I really thought we missed some good shots early. We even missed three front ends of a one-and-one. That's five or six points. So we got off to a start where we looked a little bit either shell-shocked or a little bit worn down. You can't do that against a good team.
Q. What happened to Lucious? How much did his injury affect even trying to get that under 10?
COACH IZZO: Well, you know, we ran Kalin into the ground. He played too many minutes. He was about the only one that I thought, you know, we really played too many minutes. G was a little bit tired, too. But Kalin, we asked him to do the world. Part of it was because Korie couldn't go at the end.
I don't know, heard something pop in there. I don't know what it's going to be, but it's probably nothing real good. And yet I don't know if it's a bad sprain. It was more in the foot, so that's a little bothersome. But can't say I know until the doctors check it out.
Q. I was asking Travis about that first five minutes when they go up 21. Sometimes you've been able to dominate a team. Talk about what goes through your mind when you see something so dominating like that. He called it a blur. How would you characterize it?
COACH IZZO: Well, they made some shots. Seemed like everything they threw up went in. Some of them were tough shots, and some of them I did not think we handled very well either. It was like a perfect storm. There was a lot of things that happened.
I mean, I think North Carolina does a good job defensively. But I think we faced an Illinois or Purdue team that comes at you harder as far as defense. I thought we gave Ty some opportunities to get some of those steals.
But, you know, we went into the game with about three or four factors. Transition defense was one, which we did a good job on off the rebound. We didn't do a very good job off the steal, which you shouldn't be able to. Keeping them off the line was one. We did a great job of that. They had more free throws than the two teams we played this year, and they earned that. Rebounding was one. We did okay in that area. We did okay. Didn't shoot the ball great. They shot 45%. We shot 40.
It really came down to the turnovers in that first, I don't know, was it 10 minutes? Was it seven minutes? I thought it was six, seven minutes. It just kind of went that.
Yet it wasn't in the normal run style. I wanted to use a timeout. I usually save mine. I called one. I probably could have called another one. But it was -- we were getting good enough looks, I thought. When I look at the film or maybe from your seat it wasn't as good. But they're a good team.
Q. You kind of conceded the talent disparity yesterday a little bit. Can you talk about what Davis did especially in the first half. Basically they had a lottery pick coming off the bench. Is that indicative of how rich they are in talent?
COACH IZZO: Well, Davis is real good. And I think -- you know, I mean, they have four guys that looked to come out this year. They all came back. I still say that's what I'm most impressed about. But it is a very talented team. I thought we maybe could wear them down a little bit. I thought Roy did a good job of getting Frasor and Drew in there early. And, of course, as you said, Davis.
And Davis did a great job. He's a very good rebounder. He's long. As he gets more physical, I think he's got a chance to be probably their next great, great one.
But I look at our kid, Delvon Roe, he got seven or eight rebounds, didn't do as much offensively. I like what I got there next year when he gets through that knee injury and gets to play a little bit and work on his game a little bit.
Yeah, the discrepancy, the biggest one is they've got some juniors and seniors. We played some of those guys two years ago, and they're still there. Really, the guys I've been playing more of lately, we've got a couple seniors and one junior, the rest freshmen and sophomores. I think that reared its ugly head a little bit, too. And that's what happens.
Q. How much of a factor did you think the youth hurt your team in this game?
COACH IZZO: Well, I was very disappointed in the start. I did not think this -- this team did not show that in the practices. They have been through a lot.
At the same time, you know, it impressed me to walk out there. So I'm sure they were a little nervous. I laughed before the game started because I could see a couple of my guys singing as they were walking in with their music on. They don't usually do that. So I kind of addressed it that everybody has a different way of handling nervousness. It's okay to be nervous.
But I just didn't think we did the things that we've been doing all year. And when you say that, you're taking away some credit to North Carolina, which I don't want to do. But we were not -- everybody's talked about we're a different Michigan State team than we've been. And we've done it for probably eight games now where we've been pretty damn good in a lot of ways. But today wasn't one of 'em. And I think it's fair to say a combination of both: us and them. But we have to take some blame.
Q. How much will you tonight or tomorrow just wonder what would have happened if you did play as well as you could, or even as well as you did the last couple games?
COACH IZZO: Well, I think if we played as well as we did the last couple games, at least it's a game. The only thing I feel bad for is the biggest crowd to ever see a college basketball game, it wasn't much of a game. I feel bad for the fans in that.
But I don't feel bad for our team. We had a heck of a year. I don't feel bad for our fans. They got a lot out of this team.
I'm gonna feel bad. You'd like to go out playing your best. Maybe after I watch the film, I'll realize it was 90% Carolina, where I think it was maybe 60 right now. If it was 60, then I'm gonna be real disappointed. If it was 90, you know, maybe I'll go fishing or play golf or something, feel good about it.
Q. You mentioned nerves. At halftime, Magic Johnson said there might have been some stage fright. Did you sense that?
COACH IZZO: I did feel a little deer-in-the-headlights look. A lot of it was in our upper class, not rookies. It wasn't Lucas. Summers and Allen struggled. I mean, there were some really good shots. Now, that I will say. They had some really good looks and just didn't buy a one. That really hurts you when you're playing a team as good as this.
But, you know, after we settled down, I mean, I guess when you're down 20, but I've been down 20 and it's gone to 35. So, you know, I felt good that we didn't quit. I mean, we had some chances down 13 or 14. It just wasn't our night, to be honest with you. We didn't make enough shots, we didn't do enough things right, we turned the ball over too much, and we played a damn good team.
Q. With five Final Fours and 12 straight appearances, you've seen a lot of pretty good teams. Can you rank North Carolina among the best?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, I really can. I think Travis or G said it best. Even Memphis was very good. There were some other teams we played in the past that have been pretty good. The Texas team a few years ago. But I don't think they have quite the depth that some teams have had, but there's six or seven players there that arguably could play for anybody. And they don't have a lot of weaknesses. He's right.
When you play a Connecticut, there's some people you can cheat off of, there's something you can do. When you play North Carolina, there's nothing you can do.
And I think Lawson says it all. When they struggled, almost lost a couple games, when Lawson was hurt, he does stir the drink. You know, he's 3 for 10, but he got to the line so much. So we couldn't stop Ellington outside or Hansbrough inside, and we couldn't stop Lawson getting to the line. 40 free throws, 21 turnovers, that kind of tells the story right there.
But in closing, I also want to thank the University of Detroit. They are the host school. I don't know, everybody will have their own opinion of Detroit and what happened in this tournament. But if there was a more beautiful setting for a college basketball weekend as far as in this arena, the job that everybody did. I would just like to thank you, take my hat off to 'em.
As I said, remember that my program got better this year and my team didn't get better tonight. But programs are bigger than teams and we'll bounce back. The best team won, and I congratulate Roy and his players. Thank you.