March 21, 2009

 

MODERATOR:  Being joined on the dais by the Michigan State student athletes.  On the far left, Goran Suton and Raymar Morgan, and Head Coach Tom Izzo.  Coach?

COACH IZZO:  Well, I have to say I was pleased with a lot of that game.  Our turnovers, our rebounding was phenomenal.  And I thought our defense was pretty good, other than the start of the game.

And these two guys both played pretty well.  Raymar was in foul trouble the first half, but you know we still got some work to do with our shooters, yet all in all I think this was a good game for us against the team that played awfully well the first 15 minutes and it was tied up and then the run right before the half I think really did some damage.  And our defense second half started out and held them scoreless for a while, and that was the difference in the game.

Q.  Ray, is that the game you told us that you would have at the press conference yesterday?  You seemed to really back up your words, my man.

RAYMAR MORGAN:  I just wanted to come out and be aggressive.  We worked really hard this week on just defending them and working on our offense.  So that was the game plan from the start.  And I think we accomplished a lot of our goals tonight.

Q.  Raymar, you were kind of rocking back and forth on the bench in the second half and you appeared to bang your leg or knee, whatever.  Were you thinking at the time oh, no what's going to happen to my body now?  Do you feel okay?

RAYMAR MORGAN:  Yeah, I am all right.  It's just been    I don't know.  It was a little bit of stress, but I was all right.  The team tonight did a great job and I got through it.

Q.  I wanted to ask you, G, about the 17 rebounds and just how much    you had the matchup advantage with this game, but how much you were able to take advantage of that.

GORAN SUTON:  Well, we knew coming into that game obviously I had a height advantage and everything and that was one of their weaknesses at the time.  And it was something we did the best, I think.  And, you know, I just went out there and I was aggressive on the boards.

Q.  For both players.  Just what does a performance like this do for your guys' confidence now in maybe getting some swagger back and going forward here?

GORAN SUTON:  It just gives us a big boost, especially, you know, after coming off the loss in the Big Ten tournament.  We had a great week of practice and I think we performed well overall tonight.  And, you know, hopefully we will carry some of this intensity and some of this good play into the next game.

RAYMAR MORGAN:  Like G said, it just gives you a big boost.  A win is a win in a tournament.  As long as we win and we keep playing, we're happy about it.  So we just have to go into the next game and get prepared.

Q.  For both guys.  You talk about that run, I think you scored 21 straight.  It seemed like Draymond Green made some key plays during that stretch as well.

RAYMAR MORGAN:  Definitely.  Draymond was a huge boost off the bench.  He is a great inside presence.  A great rebounder.  Whenever he is scoring points it is always a plus.  So he is just another dimension to the team and he helped us out a lot tonight.

GORAN SUTON:  And when I look at Draymond I see a guy who has really good I.Q. and always seems to be in the right place at the right time and that's exactly what he does.  He gets the rebounds, you know, he makes hustle plays and he gets himself involved.

Q.  For both of you again.  I don't know how much of the USC game you were able to see, but what were your initial impressions of those guys?

RAYMAR MORGAN:  Very athletic.  They have a great inside presence with Gibson.  Fast team.  It's going to be an up and down game.  It should be fun, though.

GORAN SUTON:  I think Raymar had the key when he said they are athletic and going up and down.  And I think we just have to contain their transition offense and do a good job of banging inside.

Q.  Goran, a little bit more on your numbers with rebounding.  13 of them were defensive rebounds.  Did you notice that Robert Morris might have been a little bit worried about getting back on defense so much it might have left you with a little bit more air space to clear those defensive boards, or were you just that great today?  Did the transition game help you in that case?

GORAN SUTON:  I am sure it did.  And at times    I can remember two times I missed good cut outs and one of the times my guy got a rebound and I really got mad.  Their inside guys were going through boards and I think I did a good job boxing out and getting the inside position.

Q.  This is for both Ray and G.  Very even scoring for you guys tonight.  Is that the game plan going in or just what they gave you?

RAYMAR MORGAN:  I think it is just what they gave us.  We don't really plan scoring even.  The scoring just comes out how it comes.

I don't know.  I think we just did a great job in the second half and just settling down and executing our offense.  And we just ended up getting baskets.

GORAN SUTON:  I think Raymar had the key.  And I think, you know, it just shows the depth of our team that when any guy can score on this team.

Q.  Can you guys talk about the endurance for your team at this point and how that's going to factor into turning around and playing on Sunday?

RAYMAR MORGAN:  We're used to it.  We did it before in different tournaments and things of that nature.  This is why we came here, to turn around and play the best competition.  It's the reason we came to Michigan State.  That's what is expected out of us.

GORAN SUTON:  Get some rest, get a lot of carbs in and get ready to play.

Q.  Goran, I know 17 rebounds is a lot.  But when you have a size advantage like you did, do you almost expect that out of yourself in a game like this?

GORAN SUTON:  I expected to have a high rebounding game.  I always want to double double on myself no matter who we play.  And when you play a smaller team like Robert Morris, you know, height obviously helps.  You take advantage as much as you can.

MODERATOR:  Okay, guys, thank you very much.  We will go ahead and excuse the student athletes back to the locker room.
We will take questions for Coach Izzo.

Q.  Tom, you talked because of the illnesses and injuries about how it was tough to get a rotation going with the players this year.  You almost seemed to have a real solid eight , nine man rotation.  I would take it that had to please you more than anything you saw out there?

COACH IZZO:  It did.  And our subs came in and did a great job.  I'd like to get to the point when they know when they are going in and coming out.  And Luke, we played Kalin in stretches at times and G stretches at times.  Especially with Raymar in the foul trouble in the first half, that created a little bit of problem.

I thought all in all we kept the minutes down.  We got everybody 25, and we're lucky on that, and under.  And it really paid some dividends tonight, especially the second half when I thought their legs got a little weary in the end.  They missed some shots I saw them make in practice, and maybe they were a little tired in the end, too.

Q.  Tom, is there a magic threshold with teams like this that you have to    can't let them hang around past?  Is it halftime?  Is it a certain span in the second half?  When is it?

COACH IZZO:  I tell you, I was very impressed with them the first half.  I mean, we were scoring pretty much a lot.  I mean, our break was good, we were scoring I thought easy baskets.  And, yet, they were scoring on us.  And they ran some nice plays and Mike's done great job.  I love Chappell, he is a good player, but they have more than just him.

And I was concerned there at the five minute mark, and then we went on 11 0 run.  And I don't know what the threshold is, but the longer you get into the second half the harder it is on you and then momentum starts going their way, usually the crowd starts going their way and usually the necktie gets a little tighter and maybe shots get a little trickier.  So it is a difficult thing.

I was really impressed with their defense.  I thought their weak side defense was as good as I have seen it.  We have good defensive teams with Purdue and Illinois in our league, but they did a good job and I think they deserve credit because we played one of our better games in ways.

The dominance on the boards was a difference.  Draymond, a big, big difference and I thought Kalin did a good job pushing it.  We gave it one of our better shots and still it was a game.  That's a good team.

Q.  Coach, I think maybe during the pep rally when you mentioned or had a discussion with the younger players to discuss your expectations for the tournament.  Can you talk about what was discussed during that meeting and how some of your younger players, especially Draymond Green, responded?

COACH IZZO:  It was after the meeting this afternoon and I brought our freshmen and sophomores in.  And I keep looking at this team and we seem like an experienced team because I have seen G and I.D. and Marquise, I have seen them for 20 years.  Those guys are getting their ARP card at the end.

Yet, I realize I am playing a lot of guys that are freshmen and sophomores.  The only guy that played a lot last year in the tournament is Kalin.  I just wanted to make sure they knew that you come into the tournament with the same intensity, whether you want to admit it or not, is not good enough.  And it is picked up a notch with the media, I told them, with the TV, with the importance, with the one and done.

And I just said, you know, I can deal with missed shots, I can deal with certain things, but I can't deal with effort related mistakes in this game.  And I'm not going to deal with it.  You know, and anything else I will deal with, I'm not dealing with that.

For the most part, Corey struggled a little bit, but he did some good things.  And Delvon early had some big plays.  And Draymond played great.

And, you know, Chris Allen I thought played really well.  And we've got to get a little more out of Durrell.  We need Durrell.  So we have to get him going a little bit.  And Kalin was great.  So I don't know, they responded and that's kind of cool.

Q.  Tom, I realize this is one postseason game, but does this mean Raymar is back?

COACH IZZO:  Well, I like the way Ray played.  He's had an incredible week.  He's really shot the ball well this week.  And he was so good defensively two of the days at home I almost had to tell him to chill out because we had trouble running the scout team offense.  If I get Ray and Travis playing that way defensively    and they will have their hands full.  I was impressed with USC, so I think Ray, yeah, he took a giant step.  I think as a team we took a big step.  We got out, got our running game going, we scored a lot of points.

But I have found it funny around the country, all the major conferences they talk about scoring a lot of points, the scores have been kind of low in most games because that's what it's like when you're playing big games and tournament games.

So all in all, Raymar gave us a big lift on both ends of the court.  And I just love having him back.

Q.  Tom, with Corey, he didn't maybe have the big stat sheet tonight but had four assists.  To have a guy like that who maybe pound for pound is one of the most athletically gifted guys you have ever had, what kind of impact can he make when he's playing your kind of game and in a lot of ways his kind of game?
 
COACH IZZO:  If he gets in the open court, he can pull up on a dime.

The couple of turnovers he had he should have pulled up and shot it, you know.  But he's learning, he's trying to do things.

I was pleased with all of them.  Yet I think we have to understand, as much injuries as we've had, I heard USC has had even more and maybe doesn't have as much depth, so maybe that's a big reason why they weren't as good during the year.  Now with everybody back, they looked awfully good and I didn't see the last eight minutes when they really pulled away.

But you know, it's going to be interesting for a guy like Corey because they have big guards and we're going to have to get our break going.  Because in the half court I think will be more difficult for him in this game.

Q.  Coach, what areas of the game tonight weren't as crisp as you might have liked?

COACH IZZO:  I thought at times we didn't execute as well.  I thought our    their half court defense was pretty good, you know.  In the open court I thought we executed very well.  We got out and ran and got some easy shots.  But in the half court, I think there were times.  And it hurt when we had Ray out, at times we just didn't have lineups in there that could score as much.

And then they went a little zone, they did some different things.  So I was a little disappointed in that.  I was a little disappointed in our defense the first 15 minutes.  They run some nice stuff, and they did a good job.  But we got beat on some things that I thought we had worked on, and that was a little disappointing.
 
But all in all, as I said, they got one of our better shots and they were still in the game.  And were really in the game the first half and I think that speaks volumes about Mike and his program.

 
Q.  Tom, I know you came in with a size advantage, but do you come out feel feeling better about your depth, especially down low in the paint?
 
COACH IZZO:  Yeah, I think rotating guys in there keeps them fresh, but I didn't really get a chance to talk about Goran.  That is an incredible    he hit good shots, but 17 boards, I don't care who you're playing, 17 boards, and he did it in 24 minutes.
 
So I thought that he gave us a lot, did a lot.  Delvon made some nice rebounds the first half where I thought we used our size and athletic ability over them.
 
But we went small sometimes, too, and because they did.  And so sometimes we weren't as big it is a might have seemed.  To out rebound a team by 21 is damn good no matter who you're playing.  And they were a little smaller, but let me tell you, those guards were strong and athletic, and I thought that the adjustment we made was we really tried to muddy things up with our bigs because our guards were getting taken off the dribble a little bit, and then our guards did a little better job, too.
 
So the combination of things maybe wearing them down, maybe a few adjustments.  But, you know, I felt good about the game for us.
 
MODERATOR:  Okay, thank you, Coach.


 

 

 

MODERATOR:  Joined on the dais by Robert Morris student athletes.  On my far left, Jimmy Langhurst and Jeremy Chappell, and Head Coach Mike Rice.  We will begin with an opening comment from Coach Rice followed by questions for the student athletes.
 
COACH RICE:  As I said before, to some of the media who asked how you were going to take on Michigan State, I said we were going to break it up into kind of four minute segments.  And, you know, I thought we competed in every segment except of course the last four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half.
 
And it just    against a tremendously talented team like Michigan State, you just can't have those bad of four minutes.  Because I thought our switching defenses bothered them a little bit.  I thought our guys had a tremendous compete to them.
 
But, again, you go scoreless for those eight minutes, it seemed like we were stuck on 30 for eight minutes.  And we were.
 
Other than that I was proud because when they didn't score they could have hung their heads and really kind of didn't give the maximum effort, but that didn't happen.  And our seniors went out fighting like they should.
 
MODERATOR:  Questions for the student athletes.

 
Q.  Jeremy, was Michigan State the toughest defensive team you've seen all year?  What did they do to kind of contain you and make it difficult for you to operate?
 
JEREMY CHAPPELL:  They put a lot of pressure on the ball.  And, you know, they    you know, they switched out.  And, you know, they did basically what we do.  And that bothered us a little bit.
 
But, you know, we kept trying to fight through.  We couldn't make any shots, but we tried our hardest on defense.  And, you know, just for those eight minutes we didn't play as hard as we should have, and those eight minutes killed us.  And we knew if we had a chance, we had to play for 40 strong minutes and we only played for 32.


 
Q.  Jeremy, is this how you wanted to go out?  Are you satisfied with what happened tonight?
 
JEREMY CHAPPELL:  I am never satisfied on a loss.  Of course, I wanted to win.  Who doesn't want to win their last game.  Who doesn't want to go out on a bang.
 
But, you know, we played our hardest against the Top 10 team, No. 2 seed.  And, you know, nobody quit on the team, and that was the biggest key.  Hopefully next year, you know, with the returning players hopefully they have the same drive to get back to where they are right now.

 
Q.  Jimmy, you guys are up I think 28 26 or so, kind of about six minutes to go.  What's kind of going through your mind there?  Did you kind of start to believe that hey, we have a shot at this?  What was the thoughts there?
 
JIMMY LANGHURST:  Yeah, we got back to the huddle and I was telling everybody we're competing with them and I think everybody's eyes lit up and we knew we could play with them.
 
They are the same age as us, and we were competing with them.  And I think it kind of shocked us for a second.  And then we went on that dry route.  They had an 11 0 run and it kind of took the momentum away from us going into halftime.

 
Q.  Jimmy, on that vein, I know you want to get back next year.  Is it going to be more hard work than this year?  Or what's it going to take?
 
JIMMY LANGHURST:  Definitely more hard work.  We never want to be satisfied.  We didn't want to be satisfied last year going to the NIT, and next year we'll maybe take it a step further, and maybe we want to win the first game next year.
 
But we will just take our goals as they come.  And like next year we will do the same thing.  Have to win the NEC and then go on to the NCAA.  But that's further from now, so, you know, in the summertime I am going to work hard.

 
Q.  Yeah, Jeremy, did you feel like if you could get to half within    what was the number that you needed to get to half within did you think?
 
JEREMY CHAPPELL:  You know, just kind of keep competing, stay close.  And, you know, we played in four minute segments, like Coach Rice said, and tried to win every four minutes.  And that's our goal in every game.  Win every four minutes.  Because if we win every four minutes, then we will win the game.
 
For those first 16 minutes we basically won those four minute segments.  It was just that last four minutes going into the half, went on an 11 0 run.  And so that 11 0 run playing against a big team like that, you just can't let 11 0 runs happen like that because they will not let 11 0 runs happen to them like that.  So that hurt us, and we are just trying to compete as hard as we could.
 
MODERATOR:  Okay, guys, thank you very much.  We'll go ahead and excuse you.  And we will take questions for Coach Rice.

 
Q.  Mike, what Suton does for them you never see in your league, you will never see in your league.  And people around the country don't see that all that much.  How much could you not prepare for that?
 
COACH RICE:  Again, we don't    that size, strength, athleticism, he is just so big it is hard to move around him.  I always tell our big men break contact and use your quickness, use what you have to your advantage.  And he's just so big and strong to get around him takes so many, you know    a lot of hard work.
 
And when they finally do get around him, he seals them to get the offensive rebound.  So he plays the angles great.  He does what he does as far as understanding that, you know, he's always going to be the one who hits first because he is probably not going to out jump people and he's a bear to handle because of his size and kind of his knowledge of where, you know, where to be.

 
Q.  Yeah, Coach, what do you want this team to take away from this total experience?  What were some of the things that really, when you're going to sit back, really makes you proud about what happened tonight?
 
COACH RICE:  Yeah, what I want them to take away is that all of the hard work, all of the dedication, all of the sacrifice is worth it.  They've been on kind of    they've had an incredible last two weeks of their lives.  And something that they're always going to remember.
 
The proudest I was, besides the excitement and the energy when you're up, you know, by 1 on a 2nd seed with six minutes left to go, almost more proud is when they just didn't stop.  You know, there was a huddle time that, you know, we were down, didn't score, and they kind of all looked at each other and they just kept communicating with each other.  They kept fighting, and to me I was very proud of the way that they responded.
 
And they just kind of    we discussed it as a staff, how do you want to    because it's very difficult to come back on Michigan State, but how do you want to go back?  How do you want to go out?  Do you want to go out swinging like you have all year long and never back down?  Or are you going to go out with a whimper.  And to their credit, to our upperclassmen's credit, they kept fighting, they kept scratching and clawing and trying to be successful.

 
Q.  Mike, how does this team compare to Pitt?  Are there a lot of similarities or is that just from the untrained eye looking at it?
 
COACH RICE:  There are a lot of similarities.  It's just Pitt plays because of Levance and Kalin played different paces.
 
The size off the bench is, you know, you just    all of a sudden they keep coming with guys bigger and stronger, more athletic.  So it's, you know    they have that probably advantage.  I just don't    what Pitt has is that wing scorer that just can do a lot of different things.  Maybe a little more versatility as far as that goes.
 
But this team can go as far as, you know, if they're making shots and they're doing    because they are always going to defend.  They are always going to take care of the basketball.  They are not going to beat themselves.  I think if this team hits shots they can go as far as that takes them because they play with such toughness and passion every second.  It's mind boggling really how much he gets out of this team.
 
MODERATOR:  Okay.  Thank you, Coach.
 
COACH RICE:  Thank you, gentlemen.  And ladies.