Nov. 29, 2013
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo
Well it’s been a little bit of a crazy couple of days. Constantly I have a lot of jobs in this job. One of them is that we graduate guys and one of them is that we stay accountable. I’ll address the starting thing; it’s just a minor little thing. It was over a class that they needed to be at. They decided to try their way and their way didn’t work. That was all that there was to that, but it really kind of screws you up. I think I’m doing a better job though, because three or four years ago I would have let outside pressures dictate what I’m going to do and now I’m going to do what I think is right.
As far as Gary (Harris) goes, I made that choice the day before I made the other one, which wasn’t as comfortable. I made that choice and it seemed like the right thing to do. He wanted to play, he’s fine, it’s just that his ankle has plateaued a little bit and it just doesn’t feel quite as comfortable. Not many times do you get a six-, eight-, 10-day rest, so we have this period from last Saturday to this Wednesday with one game and I thought I could keep him out of the game and get that thing 100 percent, a lot like I did with (Mateen) Cleaves. I should have played him against Wright State and instead I didn’t and had one of the biggest upsets in college basketball. I’ve done some dumb things before, but this was a smart thing. I’m thinking about his future, my future, our team’s future and I just thought that we should give him some rest. He wanted to play, I didn’t want him to and that’s one thing you get to do as the head coach, you get to make the call. He’s good.
One of the great pleasures I have in this job is when players came back. Ervin (“Magic” Johnson) has been really, really good and Gregory (Kelser) is down. They’re two of the greatest players that ever played here. I cheated my boss and let Ervin give the post-game speech. God, it was a lot better than I was going to give so I’m excited about that. too.
To the game, a team that’s shooting 30 percent, 29 percent coming in, I told my players that they have to be able to shoot it because they’re going to shoot it. Give number 11, Miller, credit - he had all of those early. I thought we did a poor job on our ball screens and things, partially because we had different people in there. We were a little sloppy the first half. I thought we made some great adjustments at half time on what we were going to do with them. We did a better job the second half; started moving the ball a little better. Got a great game out of (Travis) Trice; he did a great job. (Denzel) Valentine came back and did a pretty good job, too. Keith (Appling) is Keith. He’s just been very, very, very good. AP (Adreian Payne) didn’t get into the swing of it as much. (Branden) Dawson rebounded the ball really well, but with the zone they played, we put him in the middle and he didn’t get that many scoring opportunities. I thought all and all in the second half, we played better.
We’re going to have to play a lot better this week. That’s the good news; I think we’ll be ready to. What a privilege and an honor to play two of the most-winningest programs in the NCAA in Kentucky and Carolina in a seven-, eight-game stretch. There’s no question he’s done a great job with this team, with the guy he’s got suspended or even two. More importantly he’s done a great job, because you lose to Belmont and then you go and beat Louisville, not handily, but you beat them pretty solidly. I think you’ve got to remember the loss to Belmont, they were 22 of 48 from the free-throw line. I mean, I’m not sure we could beat my son’s junior high team if we were 22 for 48 from the free-throw line. It would have been a top-six, -eight, -10 team coming in, but instead it’s a top-12 or 15. We know the difference. I’ve watched the film of that game - they out played them, they just didn’t make free throws. I’m excited about what we’ve got coming up; I feel like we’ve accomplished some things, but we’ve got a lot of work to do yet. Still wasn’t as solid defensively, even though they shot 32 percent; I didn’t think it was a very solid one. Three-point shooting bothered me a little bit early. Ervin had a great line, he said, ‘When a guy makes a three, then when he makes it again, when does the light have to go on? Does it have to be three, four, five or six?’ God it’s fun to hear somebody else say the same crazy things you say. The problem is they all shook their head yes and with me they all go no. Case closed, we got a lot done today.
On lack of offensive rebounds, but shooting 63 percent…
We shot 65 or 66 percent going into the last couple minutes. We’re still not doing as good a job. I think with (Matt) Costello, (Alex) Gauna and (Gavin) Schilling, we got some things out of them. We got Costello going a little bit more, so there were some encouraging things. We’ve got to get more out of that position. (Branden) Dawson gets 10 and he plays 20 minutes. He’s the guy that I’m still challenging the most because I think he has the biggest swing; the biggest change could be in him. He could make this good team a real, real good team. The two disappointing things were probably, or three, contesting three-point shots. Still only got to the free-throw line nine times and didn’t get the offensive boards enough.
On team chemistry and chemistry with him…
They didn’t love me as much this morning or yesterday as they did other days, but in general, I can’t ask more out of a group of guys because they come in and work every day. They worked all summer, they just have to figure out that when someone tells them something they’ve got to do, they’ve got to do it because there’s a reason. It’s not about missing a class or two, it’s about you getting near finals week and there’s certain things you’ve got to take care of. Unless you’re dead, you’ve got to get them done. Those guys just didn’t get something done that I told them they had to get done. They paid the price. It’s more than the minutes, it’s the embarrassment. That’s just the way it’s got to be. They’ll get over it; I think they all understand it. We’ll get better because of it.
On the play of Kenny Kaminski, Gavin Schilling and Alvin Ellis III…
With Kenny (Kaminski), we all know he can shoot it. I was anxious to see how Alvin (Ellis) would handle things starting. He makes that first shot; he made a couple of good steals. He did a couple of things wrong, but he did a lot of things right. I love Ellis, he just knows how to play. He’s got some Charlie Bell in him; he just understands the game and the defense. (Kenny) Kaminski can shoot it. We’re working on him and I told him to see if he could guard somebody and he got that steal. I think he just wanted to shove it up my ear, but that’s the first steal he’s gotten since he’s been on campus. We’re going to keep pushing him, but he is starting to feel a little more comfortable. He’s better in practice. What I love about that is those guys pull for him on the bench and the same with Schilling. I think he has a tremendous upside. He’s quicker than quick. We just have to get a little more out of them, a little more out of that position. Today at that center position, we got a lot. As far as Costello and Gauna, they are five for six. Then Schilling comes in and goes two for three. That’s seven for nine and we got a few rebounds. If we can get that out of that position, and 15 for 15 or 14 for 14, or whatever that math is, that adds up to 40 minutes. I think that’d be good.
Mount St. Mary’s head coach Jamion Christian
Michigan State, obviously the No. 1 team in the country definitely played like it today, especially there in the second half. We just have so much respect for Coach Izzo, his staff and the Michigan State program. Quite honestly, watching them from afar for a lot of years you can see why they’re so talented and so good every year. It starts at the top with him as one of the best leaders in college basketball. He’s able to bring these guys along year in and year out and that’s why they’re one of the best teams in college basketball. We’re really excited about the opportunity to play here today. We always want to measure ourselves against the very best and I felt like we did that today for about 25 minutes. I was pleased with what I saw for about 25 minutes.
On what he will take away from this game …
What I’m looking for is I want to see our guys really compete against the very best. In my tenure here, I always want to try to be measured by how we play in the month of March. The thing we get to do in the regular season is we get a chance to test ourselves against the very best, and no better opportunity than to play against the No. 1 team in the country. If we’re able to put the things together and play really well in our regular season and win our league, then we’re going to play a team similar to Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It’s important for us now to learn the lessons of what it takes to compete and play in those games. Our staff will go back here and really look at the film of the things we could have done way better, ways we could have maybe handled the tempo better. It’s all in preparation for us - which is like our World Series, which would be our conference tournament and conference tournament games.