Michigan State-92, Tuskegee-56
 
 
 

 

 
 

Dec. 16, 2012

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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo

Opening statement...
I thought we came out and got up 19-6 and did a decent job and then missed a lot of open shots. We started turning over the ball a lot and didn't play very well the first half. Second half, we played better. I thought Keith [Appling} played really well. I thought [Derrick] Nix and [Adreian] Payne did a lot of good things. But we looked like a team that it's been a long week for us.

I don't know about you but I'm excited that now we move into the point and time in our year where there's no more games that you just "should" win. Now every game is going to be a dogfight. We're on the road at Bowling Green and it gets a lot tougher.

I thought Appling hit some good things because he pulled up, took some shorts shots, took some 3's, took some layups, only had three assists because nobody made any shots, but two turnovers is not great but not bad. I thought [Gary] Harris and [Denzel] Valentine and [Russell] Byrd all struggled, especially Gary, he had some wide open looks early and just didn't make any. Thank God he got his free throw touch back, so I think we got something out of him. Branden [Dawson] missed a couple of those bunnies, but he had nine rebounds and actually had a couple hustle plays and it was a shame that he had six turnovers, but I thought getting him to get on the floor and do some of those things was one of the things we were looking out. [Derrick] Nix was a lot more aggressive. So now we've got a lot of work and we get to practice and there's no rules, so we're going to practice, practice, and practice.

On the Tuskegee Airmen being in attendance as well as the weekend's festivities...
It was just awesome. As I told my team, this week was five days of finals, two days of having every great player that every played here back at practice and spending time with them, a concert before the game and then a game. I told my staff I've never been through anything like this.

I was worried about how we'd perform and my worries came true that first half, but thank goodness we bounced back, and thank God those fans gave those men that deserved so much the ovation. It was kind of hair-raising on your arms and I really appreciated our fans doing that. It was a different group of fans, so many looked like families, and that was kind of neat. There were fans that stayed to the end because they just wanted to see their Spartans and I appreciated that.

On playing in Jenison and what was his memories...
The popcorn when I walked in. When I came here [as a college player], it was the number of people in the arena; not used to that many people. It was sitting on the bench and feeling the cold air when they opened the side doors when they snuck out and you feel that cold rush of air.

When you look at it from a far, it looks so impressive because it's solid people. You know now you have to have three fire escapes for four people, so there's like holes all over. Here, it's not like that and I love that about the place.

Closing statement of the meaning and special importance of tonight's game...
I'll close it up by saying that it was a challenging week with everything that was going on and all the things we went through for this game. But the ovation that those Tuskegee Airmen got, and the thought of what they went through and what a lot of people have gone through, I just think it's pretty neat that we all got together here to celebrate something good that happened in our country because between what's happening in Connecticut and a lot of other things, there's a lot of bad things that have happened and this was a positive. I got to speak to those guys [the Tuskegee Airmen] at 5:30 tonight and meet two of them, one I think had done 18 missions, 92 years old, and he was just unbelievably awesome. So I don't know what my players got out of the weekend, I think I do but I don't know for sure, but I know for me it was a positive and it was a positive being back in Jenison. It was a positive with our players that came back, it was a positive with the Tuskegee Airmen, and Leon [Douglas] and his group; the team played hard.

I don't think we're quite ready for where we need to be yet, but I think this week will be a good week and we'll get a lot done.

Tuskegee head coach Leon Douglas

On the personal meaning of playing in this game...
Well, you know, this game was beneficial not only to me but to my players because when this game happened in the 60s, for some reason I was not aware of what transpired there. For me to have an opportunity to educate my young men about such an important part of basketball history was really a milestone. More than anything, I'd like to thank Coach (Tom) Izzo and his staff for making us a part of this great event.

On the difference between the halves...
Well, you know, I think size played a big part of it because we were down about 30 rebounds the second half. We are a relatively small team and not powerful and basically 6-4, 6-5. Most of my inside players are young guys, they're freshman. We played a good team. They're not ranked number 19 in the nation for nothing. I think they're more or less a Top-10 team because I've had a chance to look at a lot of tape of Michigan State and he's (Tom Izzo) got a lot of good players.

On his players' reaction to learning about the history regarding this game...
It is interesting you would ask that question because all our young people now are not really educated on what happened back in the 60s or 50s, because they're not a part of that era. Really they're not, for example, our kids are not students of the game, that's not what the basketball goal is; they're not students of what happened during the segregation times back in the 60s. These games were a history lesson to most of them because I've had several come up and ask questions on why the governor of Mississippi didn't want those guys to travel to play. They had a chance to really read about history. What's interesting is that a gentleman that was a manager of that particular team, he's a close friend of mine. He visited with the team before we came up here and told them about the story of how they took a car and drove to Memphis in order to throw the police and the press off. They followed the car while the team went in another direction. My guys have been educated way up about the history of this particular game.

On the key for team during the first half...
We played hard. We played hard and we played smart. We had a couple of guys that made key shots. It's hard to win when your two main guys go 11 for 39. Those guys are my two leading scorers so they were ineffective tonight. That sort of took away from my team. I think together, they have close to 38 points a game so the second half we just got overpowered.

On Derrick Nix...
Physically a good specimen and he needs to work on his footwork. I had a chance to talk to him today after our shoot-around. If he works on the footwork, he could be an effective big man under the basket but his footwork is somewhat off.

Senior Center Derrick Nix

On being aggressive offensively...
Coach has been telling me that I need to bring to the games what I bring in practice because I'm always active in practice and scoring. He said that I am too passive and worrying about double teams and that if I look to be aggressive, then he won't mind if I miss a shot. He wants me to find the happy medium of where I am getting the ball out and at the same time being productive and looking for my offense.

On having a double-double...
I think I went and played my heart out. The environment was fun and this whole memory week was fun and I learned a lot about basketball. To see all of the guys come back, I got a chance to talk to some of my favorite MSU alumni. Last night was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. They played and still competed, and it was just a Spartan thing; everyone was excited and had fun.

On speaking to Tuskegee coach yesterday...
He told me that I am not as balanced as I should be because I'm not as aggressive as I should be and am too worried about looking for double teams. He just told me to make sure that my feet are squared and then my jump hooks will go in, and he noticed on my free throws that I'm fading away. He was a pretty cool guy and I didn't realize how long he played in the NBA, so that was impressive. It shows you the respect that this program and Coach Izzo has. You can say what you want, but it's a compliment when a coach from the other team tells you some stuff that can help you before you play them.

On coming out of his slump...
I just felt like some teams, as soon as I caught it, they were sending two guys at me to double team me. So now, as soon as I catch it I'm looking to pass it instead of score. Some games I didn't even get double teamed, but I'm just so used to it that I wasn't aggressive at all and I was just looking to pass it out of the post. I talked to Kevin Willis yesterday and he told me to just give it a quick survey and if they are not there then to go. If they are there, take a dribble to make them come in and kick it back out. If you're doing that and they are hitting shots, then they can't double team you for much longer.

Sophomore Branden Dawson

On what the Mississippi State team did in 1963...
I'd say we all appreciate it. I was in class last week doing finals, and the teacher brought it to my attention. He asked me if I knew the reason we were playing Loyola and I said no why, and he said it was the "Game of Change" with the starting five of the black, African-American men in 1963. Then he said Loyola was the first team like that to win the national championship. With him telling me that I was kind of surprised that team did that and then Loyola came down here and played us. This whole experience has just been great. Seeing the alumni come back and have fun and just compete against one another.

On the Tuskegee Airmen...
I really didn't hear, I was listening to coach, but that was great for them to get recognized, especially the referee who is retiring. All of that has been great, we had a lot going on and Coach Izzo just wanted us to stay focused. That was great that those guys got recognized.

Junior Adreian Payne

On the different things that have been happening over the last few days (Finals, Alumni Game)...
I think there was so much going on that it affected a lot of the players, especially the freshmen because they've never been through something like this before, then the upperclassmen are not going to go through something like this again. Then we had finals and we were a little more experienced than they were. It was just the fact that we had never been through something like this before, with the concert and there was just so much going on, so much emotion.

On what the coolest thing that happened over this historic weekend...
I think the coolest part was when the players came back and played and we got to meet them and hang out with them for a little bit. After the game we got to sign a couple autographs with them and take pictures, get to meet them and listen to them share a little bit of their wisdom with us.

On giving Coach Stephens a hard time about the alumni game...
We did. We let it go though. We were trying to focus on the game, but we're going to bring it up again soon.

Junior Keith Appling

On the experience of the "Game of Change" weekend versus the Carrier Classic...
It's up there with the Carrier Classic. This had some great significance to it as well. I think it's kind of neck and neck.

On the Tuskegee Airmen...
It was crazy. As I was running up and down the floor I really couldn't believe that all this was happening right before my eyes. I never would have thought I would have the opportunity to play in front of the Tuskegee Airmen. I tried to remain focus and finish the game up.

On the experience of playing in Jenison versus the Breslin...
It was definitely a whole lot different. It`s a whole lot smaller place, but at the same time it had more of a high school atmosphere. The fans were great, the alumni were watching and everybody wanted to play as hard as they could and we were able to come out with the win.

On the thought that this is your team...
I don't look at it like that. The coach draws up the play, it's my job to make sure everybody runs it, but if the defense isn't allowing us to make the play I have to make something happen. At the end of the day if the ball is in my hands I have to make something happen.

On whether his number gets called to make the play like how Draymond Green's was...
I wouldn't really say my number gets called, but if the play breaks down and the ball is in my hands I have to make something happen. It's as simple as that.