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Michigan State vs. Cleveland State Post Game Quotes

Dec. 29, 2017

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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo
 
Opening statement…
I went into the game and I almost feel, wish we were as good as I think we played, but I did feel like the things that we want to get better at, we did a hell of a job the first half. We moved it and shot it well, didn’t turnover, three turnovers. Defense with Nick Ward and Jaren (Jackson Jr.) stepping up on those ball screens was phenomenal, and we rebounded it pretty well so those were four issues that we wanted to take care of and we ended up, you know, moving the ball enough that we got six guys, almost seven guys in double figures. We had eight guys with an assist. You know, I don’t think Cleveland State is as bad as they played. I thought our defense was good and I thought we made shots. We made a lot of shots and so I’m pleased that we didn’t take the day off and didn’t just play, a little bit late in the game we did, but that’s the sign of a team maturing a little bit and I’m hoping that leads to more things here down the road.
 
On things to work on when the team is doing so well…
I’m good. I had no problem, you know, getting after that clipboard with five minutes left. I had no problems whatsoever. I really am not, because I have personal goals for them and I have team goals for us. I’m just going to keep pushing. That’s the only way I know how to do it. Again, don’t get carried away, I mean, we’ve had four games, two or three of them their best player has been out. That aided how well we played. This one, you know, give our fans credit. Our guys were jacked when you know, figured at Christmas there wouldn’t be and that’s why it spoke to them, just the exhilarating night after coming off, watching that football game and all the things they did. You know, it’s a good feeling for us and our fans who were phenomenal tonight. So I still got a lot of things that we got to get better at. You know, we got a little sloppy in the second half, gave up some 3s. They hit 11 of them. Now that team shot 37 (percent) and that team we play next shoots 40 average a game, so you know, that’s still a concern of mine but we still got a lot of work to do. We had more turnovers than they did at the end of the game and that ticked me off, too.
 
On Nick Ward hitting freethrows early carrying over into the rest of the game…
It does. I mean, I think I should get on Nick more though because that’s two games in a row he’s missed a shot. He’s missed one shot in these last two games, I think he’s missed two shots in the last three games. Nick is playing well, but he’s playing better at the defense. You know, DJ (assistant coach Dwayne Stephens), they spent some time with him on his freethrow shooting, they spent some time with Gavin (Schilling) you know, I said those are things we’ve got to get better at. Now, one game or one night doesn’t anoint us at being better, but it gives us kind of a step in the right direction and I think he’s more aggressive because he knows if he gets fouled, he’s going to make them. If that’s kind of where your question is going, I think you’re right on on that, but we’re looking for them more too. I mean, how do you beat – I told Miles (Bridges), you know, look for your shots. I thought early he didn’t look for them. He had seven assists, I swear he had 10. Mex (Carey, MSU Sports Information) is going to try and figure that out. You never know, these SIDs, they do an average job sometimes of giving you the right assists. I thought he had more than that even. We had worked on some things when he drove baseline and those things opened up tonight. It’s nice to see when you work on things and then you kind of reap the benefits of that work and you know, Miles, he gave up like three rebounds in that first, I don’t know if he had one in that first half, did he? Maybe one, but he had like three or four, you know, it would’ve been a double-double night with seven assists. It just kind of shows you the kind of player he is, that he’s almost so unselfish and yet can make an impact.
 
On what it means to him when opposing coaches praise him…
The world, to be honest with you. That’s the greatest compliment that somebody can give me, because the program has been built by the players and the assistant coaches and the fans, so when he says the program, he’s encompassing a lot of people here. That’s the way I feel right now, you know, it was so exhilarating to speak to that group after the game. I didn’t do it for any other than reason than to honestly thank them, but to see how excited they were about Mark Dantonio or football you know, just the things that are going on here, you know we got issues like every place but we got a lot of good things going on and in my program, I’m going to keep grinding these guys but I couldn’t ask for better guys than I got now. We still make our mistakes and we’re going to keep trying to build on that. You know, we’re trying to use tomorrow like an NCAA weekend, you know, where you play a game, you’re off a day, you play a game, you know? So we’re going to go early in the morning and we’re going to walkthrough and we’re going to have meetings all day and you know, we’re just going to try to so that we get more and more out of these games and get through Savannah State and then you know, get ready for the Big Ten. Dennis (Felton) is a good guy, he’s a good coach, he’s taken over a tough situation there that he’ll build that up. He did it at Western Kentucky, he did it at Georgia. He’ll get than thing rolling, but if he wants it like this one, I say thank you to him, to be honest.

On Josh Langford being the wild card of how good this team can be…
Well he has been playing better and his mission tonight was to be more like a Gary Harris. You know, can he play both ends of the court? Can he make some passes? He made some great passes to Nick (Ward) earlier. I don’t know how many assists you guys ripped off on him, but I’m just kidding. He had some very good passes that they had him down for three assists. He kind of did a little bit of everything and we’re trying to make him that player because you need a scorer that can guard people, that is a very valuable player. I still think Cassius (Winston) is making some more and more progress now and he’s going to be a key part of it. It’s kind of funny how we sort of all take Miles (Bridges) for granted and that he’s supposed to be doing this and supposed to be doing that. What he’s doing, he’s doing with much better players around him which means he can’t get all the rebounds he got last year even though he’s almost averaging the same. He’s not going to get all the scoring opportunities he had last year even though he’s scoring a little bit more than he did last year. I think in general we’ve got more than one or two or three guys, but it is nice to have a 4-man who can defend and still score and make 3s and a 5-man who’s a beast down low and then those perimeter guys and then Tum comes in and gives you something different and now McQuaid is starting to shoot the ball. So you know, sometimes games like this help you get a little confidence, but there’s a reality check too. You know we’re not going to get all those kind of shots as the season moves on.
 
On his team’s offensive balance…
You know it does kind of come naturally. I mean we set-up a few plays for different guys. In the first five plays we tried to get everybody a little bit involved, but they kind of involve themselves. That’s why I say I spend a little time early chewing Miles (Bridges) out for not looking for a shot and then he’s making those passes and if you watch his face, I swear to God to you, he gets more excited about a pass then a 3. Now he gets most excited about a dunk, but he really does enjoy making a good pass and that is so cool to see out of a player of his talent and caliber. I think we are a time where not one guy is being hungry to score and that’s a coach’s dream.
 
On if he thought Mark Dantonio would win 100 games in 11 years…
I was on that flight, you’re right. I went down there and met with Mark and I can’t say I did, you know, at the time, but I think it’s such a cool thing because I think he appreciated what I accomplished and wanted to kind of do it the same way and if you look what we’ve done it’s been a lot of things that have been done the same way. You know, including maybe have a year or two where we’ve got more talent, but it doesn’t end up a better team you know and I went through that too, but you really hope for out of a program and this is Mark Hollis’s big deal is can we stay consistent and there’s going to be a drop, I mean look at last year. Yeah we’re 3-9, we lost three or four games by a couple of points, you know, we were competitive. Are we competitive and are we consistent? That’s what I kind of hope to do in this program. I know that’s what Suzy (Merchant) wants to do and Cathy (George) wants to do and Mark Dantonio has not only done that, but if you watch him last night, I think the most exciting part for me was knowing how many guys are coming back and I think it’s pretty cool that his running back, almost a page out of Miles’s book, stated why he was coming back. His fellow teammates he wanted to come back for them. His coach, he wanted to come back for him and an opportunity to have a special team next year. So maybe in his own way Miles is starting to set his own identity in this place and he’s not Magic Johnson yet, he’s not this guy and that guy yet, but he’s had an impact. My hat off to Mark. I am tickled to death, not just because I’m a football fan, but as I told him in a late, late night text last night, when he gets back he better pass me that baton he’s carrying and see if we can take it and run with it and do some of the same things he’s done.

Cleveland State head coach Dennis Felton


Opening statement…
The truth of the matter is that there is no one in the country that has more respect for Michigan State basketball and the job that Coach Izzo has done in building something truly amazing that has sustained such a high level for such a long time. I think about the number of Final Fours in the number of years that he has been here and it’s incredible. We are in the very beginning stages of building a program basically from scratch, and we are literally in the process of building in the model of Michigan State basketball. What I mean by that is a program that is full of players who really understand and embrace the value of the simple things that go into great basketball – teamwork, discipline, effort, tenacity, consistency – all the things that go into championship-level basketball.   

We knew that this was going to be a very tough challenge. Not sure that I expected them to shoot the ball quite as well as they did, which just added onto the challenge. We will literally make Michigan State basketball a case study for ourselves as we work towards building a championship-caliber program ourselves. What better way to come up here and experience it for ourselves, and they make sure we experienced it? I don’t think there is any doubt that they are the best team in college basketball right now and playing at the highest level. Anybody that would have watched them tonight would not walk away with any other impression than that.    

On putting into perspective how good Michigan State basketball really is...
I think they are the best team in the land right now. The season is a marathon and there are always ups and downs. I have experienced it myself. I have been a part of teams that rarely lose and even those seasons – like Michigan State is embarking on – still have ups and downs and challenges. Right here and right now they are playing the best, most efficient, most purposeful and productive basketball as any team in the country. What goes into all that is; No. 1: they have a lot of great pieces. I don’t know if there’s any team in the country who had a long list of inside players like Michigan State has right now in terms of physicality, strength, athleticism, ability to finish through contact and overall tough, good defense. And they make free throws. And then they have explosive scoring ability and athleticism.

Obviously, they have skill, can really shoot the ball well – as coach Izzo’s teams always are – they always execute well at both ends with a lot of purpose. They’re always a challenge to get ready for because they do a lot of good things. They’re not an easy team to prepare for because they have a pretty healthy playbook. You can’t try to transfer everything you know about all their sets and things and their counters to their sets of things to your players, or else you would just give them so much information they wouldn’t be able to operate.

But this team has a lot of great parts. A terrific point guard, obviously, that is a tremendous passer and playmaker, but also he can shoot the ball so well and is such a crafty finisher. We did accomplish one of the things we wanted to try to do, which was to get them out of the game some with fouls, but you know, by that point, it didn’t help us much and Miles Bridges is a spectacular player. He was literally, the summer going into his senior year in high school, my favorite player in the country. It’s no fun having to play against him, because he’s just a load. His size and his skillset and strength and athleticism is a lot to handle. And then they have so many guys that can shoot the ball. So, I could go on and on, but it’s hard to find any weakness’s there.
 
On how hard it is to coach when you’re overwhelmed… 
Yeah, and honestly, they won’t get it going to that extent every night. They’re going to have a lot of tough battles on their hands this year, but one thing, obviously there is a mismatch between them and us right now in terms of size and physical ability and that sort of thing. I would have liked to be able to defend them and make them feel us a lot better than we were able to.

But there is a big gap between them and us right now, just from the standpoint of physical size and talent. But, we went zone and that slowed them down a tad, at least it made the possessions last longer for them searching for a shot. We’re a team that would like to play more zone than we are this year, but rebounding has been such a challenge for us that I don’t trust a zone, I just think we might get weaker on the glass. But, I don’t know. If we didn’t go zone, they might have scored 200 points tonight, who knows.

But, there weren’t many answers tonight, especially the way they were. I mean I would’ve liked to make them feel us better than we did, but I thought they made a lot of, you know decently contested three’s also. And of course, inside, they were able to score through us. We didn’t have a lot of answers in our tool kit tonight for all of it, for the onslaught.

Sophomore guard/forward Miles Bridges

On today’s overall performance...
We just had to limit our turnovers; we did a good job of that.  We wanted to kill them on the rebounds and that what we really aim to do and that got us going on offense.  

On their hot start at the beginning...
We were getting easy baskets, mainly because we were on the fast break after getting rebounds. We weren’t turning the ball over so we got a lot of shots,m and if we get a lot of shots I believe a lot of them will go in.   

On the importance of getting off to a good start after holiday break...
It was very important because we have had a lot of very slow starts, and a lot of turnovers and miscommunications on defense so it was good for us to come out strong.  

Sophomore guard Joshua Langford

On the incredible start...
I think this whole season we kinda didn’t get off to the starts that we wanted to.  This game we really wanted to lock in, start well and take care of the ball and make sure we rebounded well. I think we did a pretty good job of that.   

On the teams overall shooting performance...
The basket was big tonight.  Sometimes we have those nights but i think the biggest thing we did was focus on our defense.  A lot of times when you focus on the defense it bleeds into the offense and you saw that tonight.

On three-straight 100 point games...
It means a lot.  It means that we are really growing.  But that the same time we have a long ways to go and i think the biggest thing with us is making sure that we stay consistent and not settle.   

On the quick turnaround to Sunday’s game...
We approach it just like a NCAA tournament. There is a quick turnaround in the tournament sometimes so we have to stay locked in and stay focused and get some rest tonight so we can come back with the same mindset.  

Sophomore forward Nick Ward

On the importance of coming back strong after the holiday break...  
Every game we try to come out the same.  It was very important because it was a big game for us even though the score reflected differently but it was a big game.   

On what to improve on most heading into the Big Ten season after Sunday...
Rebounding, defensive consistency and bearing down.      


 

 

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