Nov. 18, 2013
Box Score |
USATSI Gallery |
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo
I can’t say I was thrilled with the first half. We did some good things and some other things that weren’t as good. I think first of all you have to give a lot of credit to Keith (Appling). To me, that was one of the greatest point guard performances in many, many years. If you look at what he shot, if you look at the decisions he made, I think he should have had ten to 12 assists if we had made a few more plays. He just did an unbelievable defensively, and was with the price of admission. I also thought AP (Adreian Payne) played very well. He got a little tired towards the end of the game, because I had him in too long. He should have had a double-double if those three rebounds didn’t go right through his hands, but it’s a lot of minutes to play at the pace we were playing. Those were two big bright spots. (Travis) Trice - he might have won us the game at the end, making that big three-pointer and that steal to get a quick five points. He also played very good defense. However, we just are not getting enough out of a few key people. That’s why, as least I think, we did not play as well during the first half. The second half though, I thought we played a lot better even though they made some plays to get back into the game when we had them down ten or 12. When we executed really well, I thought we made some really good plays, especially on the screen-and-roll and the penetration. We need to get Denzel (Valentine) and Gary (Harris) playing a little better, but I thought (Brenden) Dawson played a lot better and rebounded the ball well. It was a tough night for him, because we have played two games against some of the biggest teams we have seen in years with Kentucky and Portland. They (Portland) had guys playing 6’5” or 6’6” at the guards. They also played both of their big 6’10” guys a lot, but we took advantage of that by running in the second half. They were a very well coached team, played very well and I thought that overall it will help us in the end. I thought we took a big step forward in the second half of that game.
On Keith Appling’s performance…
I thought he was phenomenal, and I do not use that word for many players. I am happy for him, because I think if you watch his progression it really is impressive. I think he likes the guys around him; he is working better with AP (Adreian Payne) and he loves Gary (Harris) and BJ (Brenden Dawson). He is just finding guys because he has that extra gear, which helps his play since we have been running well. Also, his defensive play has been great. Last game, he held that kid who was averaging 18 points per game to zero. If you look at a guy that has been doing it on both ends of the court, it’s him. Like I said, I do not remember a point guard that has been playing this well in a long time. I think he has grown up enough now to the point where he can handle some success. He is working harder in practice, he works extra, and it is paying off.
On concern at the five position…
Yes, it is a concern. I think the best news of the night was the way (Matt) Costello competed. I think the whole ten minutes he was in the game, he worked his butt off. I am just trying to do it a little different this year. We did not get much of an effort during the last game. BJ (Brenden Dawson) was so good at Kentucky, so I just wanted to shake it up a little bit. It’s not any issue with BJ; I just want to make sure he stays at an elite level. When he goes hard, he is still six inches above anyone else on a rebound. It’s going to be by committee. I thought Alex (Gauna) was ok, not great. I thought Matt gave a ton more effort. So we’ll get guys into that position. I think we will play AP (Adreian Payne) there, as well. Like I said, these two teams (Kentucky and Portland) are the biggest two teams that we will play all year.
On Keith Appling stepping up and taking the roll of captain…
Yeah, I would say he has kind of done that on more of a regular basis now. He is starting to control this team. He is still not the greatest of communicators, but he has got the coolest, calmest head out there. He is competitive, but has learned to channel that. I am really impressed and pleased myself with the way he has played all year even when he didn’t have a great game and was very focused in. Maybe that would be a good word I would use, Keith Appling is focused.
On what the No. 1 ranking means to him…
This is the toughest question of all. Let me explain it, it means zero. There is no ring, there are no banners and there are no bonuses. There is nothing for it in that respect. However, when you have been here for 30 years, and you love this institution and what it stands for, it does [mean something]. When you love the Magic Johnson era, and the Johnny Green era, and the (Scott) Skiles and the (Jay) Vincent era, and of course the Shawn Respert and the Mateen Cleaves era - there have only been three teams ranked (No. 1). As I went through, I said to myself, ‘Only three, that’s embarrassing.’ However, I said to myself it’s not because it is so hard to get there. We were two and three a lot of times, and if we would have played the schedule some other teams do, that might have been different. We were three and played Texas at home when they were two. We were two and two weeks into the season we are playing Arizona, who is ranked four, and we are five and pretty soon we are playing Kansas. So then if this happens, we always get a loss or two, like you always do in the preseason, and you are not going to get the No. 1 spot. Then, on top of that, you have to play the conference games and it is hard to work your way back up. I look at it as a real privilege in something that means nothing, except something for the program. Someday, there is going to be some idiot up here like me, and he is going to say to himself ‘You know, we were the fourth No. 1 ranked team in the history of this program. Izzo’s group has two of them.’ That does mean something that your program is thought of that way. You don’t have to watch for the scores on the ticker, that’s a plus. It’s more for the program and the institution than it is for the team. It will be more for the players later on when they can say ‘that was one thing that not many people at Michigan State accomplished, and we did.’ You always want to have those little nuggets that you can pile up at the end of your career and this will be one of them. However, we are going to have to play a little better than we are playing, and quickly. At the same time, I think we have earned some of it and I think it will be good. I look at it as a privilege; not a weight on my shoulders, not a bull’s-eye on my back. I think it is great for us, great for the university and great for the Big Ten. But all in perspective, it does not mean anything in November.
Portland head coach Eric Reveno
Opening statement …
I thought that it was as expected in terms of a real challenging game. Defending in transition and rebounding, those were our two focuses. Trying to make sure that things that could help us benefit all year long were getting better, stopping them in transition and keeping them off of the offensive boards. In the first half, I was a little surprised that it was maybe the threes that were hurting us. I told the guys that was on the coaching, not them. The ten offensive boards in the first half were on them, we needed to clean that up and keep them off the boards. It’s also one of those experiences where, having the opportunity to see them in real life, they’re much better and different than on film. The size and the athleticism of those guys coming at you in transition is really pretty impressive. They do what we call the sprint phase. Those first three steps from an offensive rebound to going is as good as anyone I’ve ever seen and we’ve had some good fortune to play some good teams the last few years. They really do that well and what I like about that from a coaching stand point, is all five guys are sprinting so it was a challenge for us. A great opportunity to play a team like this, the ranking is not a big deal, but the fact is it’s such a well-coached program. They do things the right way and there is just a lot of things that you can learn and respect in the way they do things and have done things and will continue to do things regardless of the rankings. That was an honor to compete with them. I would have liked to have cleaned some things up that we have to. We have the turnovers from breaks and all kinds of stuff to look at. As part of this Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, we’ve got to bounce back and play Thursday so not much time to dwell on this, but something good to look at and a great opportunity.
On the play of Keith Appling…
He was good and sometimes on tape when you’re playing a really good team like this you’re looking for things; you’re looking for weaknesses or things you’re making him up a little bit. He was really good and when he’s shooting the ball like that, that was really impressive. His ability to distribute the ball, make the right decisions, shoot the ball and get to the line was just really, really good. It was impressive; it was very good.
On what was working well for them on offense…
The offense looked stagnate at times, but it was patient. We run some entries into a three-game motion and cut and screen; they’re switching and we’re moving. We were patient with it and when we were patient, we got some good things, we got good looks. We got some good looks and didn’t knock them down and I think that was what worked well in the first half. We limited them. The defense was kind of a wash a little bit, because like I said they got those good-look threes and knocked them down. They had the transition stuff and the offensive boards. Offensively, I felt like there was some good stuff there.
On what his team can take from this for the rest of the season…
We hung in there for 30. It was good and we did battle; that’s the main thing. I love the fact that this early in the season we’re coming to a place that is just known. I think everyone here knows head coach Tom Izzo is playing basketball a certain way and doing things right. So when I talk to my team about playing selfless, tough and with passion, to come here and compete against a team that does that, I think that’s what we can take from it. We can compete that way and good things happen. I also think right now, I’ve seen a lot of good teams over the years and right now in the terms of a team that’s fundamentally sound, athletic and skilled, they’re pretty darn good. There might be more talented teams or there might be more athletic teams or maybe some tougher teams, I don’t know of any, but the combination of the three, they’re pretty darn good. We hung with them and we saw what the top of college basketball looked like. We’re trying to prepare for a very tough West Coast Conference where we have to go on the road to Gonzaga and they’re pretty darn tough. We have to go to BYU and it’s a tough place to play. St. Mary’s little Cracker Jack gym can be a hard place. We’ve got some tough teams, so it was a good opportunity to see ourselves against the best and learn from it.