March 28, 2009


BILL BENNER: We'll start with an opening comment from Coach Izzo and then take questions for the student athletes.

COACH IZZO: Well, I take my hats off to both teams. I thought Kansas played awfully well that first half. Yet I felt we played awfully poor as far as the turnovers.

I think they had 16 or 18 points on our turnovers the first half, two the second. That was probably the difference in the game. We did a better job taking care of the ball. I got some guys that just didn't want to lose. My hat goes off to all the guys up here. They did an incredible job of executing on the timeouts and last minute plays. We weren't always pretty looking, I didn't think. We had some bizarre lineups in there. But even though we got out shot and out rebounded, I thought the shooting was more of those seven or eight layups they got off our turnovers.

Kansas is a very, very good team. We beat a very, very good team. But I'm really proud of the way our guys fought back when they could have died a few times.

BILL BENNER: Questions for the student athletes.

Q. Kalin, can you talk about the play going against Collins, pump fake, what was that all about? A set play or instinctive?

KALIN LUCAS: No, you know, it wasn't a set play. One thing, the shot clock was going down. One thing coach wanted to do is just spread the floor. That's all I tried to do, tried to create. I just got lucky and I got him with the bump and I scored.

Q. Kalin, one more thing about that. The last play of the first half, shot clock was coming down, you waved off a ball screen. You seemed confident to take Collins. Did you retain that confidence going into the last five minutes? How key was that?

KALIN LUCAS: It was real key for us, you know. You know, one thing I try to do is try to create for myself and, you know, try to create for my teammates, as well. As far as the first half, shot clock was going down. I just tried to create. I found G open.

Q. Travis, you get the lead, then they have a run to go up five. Did you worry at that point maybe you guys were out of gas? What were you able to summon there in the last few minutes?

TRAVIS WALTON: I think that's why we got a great team. When we came into the timeout, every time we came on the court, you heard our whole bench yelling, Keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing. It was a tough game. Kansas played a great game. They was digging. We was digging. I think at the end, us pressuring them, us running different bodies at them kind of tired them out a little bit. But we did a great job, a team effort encouraging each other to keep pushing.

Q. Durrell not sitting with you. You talk about your team effort. Two minutes to go, he hung in there. He tipped it in. Gets fouled. Hits one of two free throws, then saves the ball. Talk about those two plays of Durrell at that time.

GORAN SUTON: I think, you know, Durrell is kind of an unsung hero of this game. He got the huge tip in, the free throw. He saved that ball at the end when Collins missed the free throw, he got a huge rebound. He helped me keep Aldrich off the glass.

He just did an unbelievable job. Shows you the little things that win the game.

Q. Kalin, you tried to throw down a dunk in the first half. In the second half, looked like you got into one of Kansas guys' faces. What got into you in this game? Did you take on the intensity of this game? Did you feel you had to get more intense, too?

KALIN LUCAS: No, you know what, first, you know, they're a great team. I know they was going to come out ready and aggressive. I already knew they was gonna play us tough.

So it was a tough game. It was a tough game for both teams.

Q. Kalin, could you talk about the pass you made to Raymar about 1:46 left, how you did that dunk, reminiscent to what you did against Indiana, how important that was?

KALIN LUCAS: It was a big play, you know. One thing I try to do, one thing I did was create it. I seen Raymar on the block. I just passed it to him. You know, he got the dunk, you know. And it was real big for our team.

Q. Goran, you guys were down 60 55, I think you got seven straight rebounds. Is that kind of Spartan basketball, do what you need to do when you need to do it?

GORAN SUTON: Yeah, I have to say yes. I think I didn't realize I had seven rebounds in a row.

But I think, you know, that shows, you know, how much effort and how much we work on our rebounding every day, you know, how much emphasis Coach Izzo puts in our rebounding.

Q. Goran, it was quite a battle down low for you with Aldrich. Did that at all spark you offensively from an emotional or mental standpoint?

GORAN SUTON: Well, yeah, it did. You know, it's tough to guard a guy like him who's, you know, long, heavy, strong down low. I know he was going to be tired, 'cause he's working down there. We had to run some ball screens, make him guard me too so we can get him tired on the other end.

Q. Travis, did you see anything out of Kalin tonight that maybe is a step forward for him, another growth?

TRAVIS WALTON: You know, I said all year, he a big time player. He want the ball in his hands. He showed that to y'all last year when he made big plays, had the big plays against Pittsburgh, against other big players. You know, I think the type of person Kalin is, when he play, gets another big time guard, Sherron Collins, he want to kind of prove himself to the nation. Today I think he took it personal. I think at the shot clock, he wanted the ball in his hands. At the end of the first half, he wanted the ball in his hands and made a play for Goran. And at the end of the game with the game on the line, he took it, made a big play, pump faked, made a great play for us. He's just a big time player. He growing. He young. He got a bright future in front of him.

BILL BENNER: Gentlemen, thank you. We'll continue with questions for Coach Izzo.

Q. Tom, Morgan in the second half, was that a pop he took to the nose or was he out of the game?

COACH IZZO: That's a good question. You know, in all honesty, it started out where he just wasn't playing as good. Then when he got popped in the nose, it was a little worse. Yet I had enough faith to go back to him at the end.

It's been that kind of team all year. As I said, we didn't think Delvon was doing what he could do, so we just moved some people around. That made us a little bit, you know, unsure on some of our plays because we did have some people out of position, and yet we hung in there.

So Ray made some big plays. I thought the dunk he made, he went with authority. He got a couple big rebounds. We put him there in the end. We were able to switch four. On those ball screens, we were switching a bit more even though we made some foolish fouls.

Q. Suton made the three pointer, tied it at 42 all, Aldrich with a field goal, the Goran picked up his third foul. You took him out and then put him back in at 12:05 to go. Was that a call you couldn't leave him on the bench?

COACH IZZO: This year I have just gone by feel. Sometimes I feel sick and it works out. That's about the way it's been.

But he's an important cog to our wheel, you know. At times, when we have certain lineups in there, when we have Chris and Durrell in there, we've got more scoring out there. When we have Travis and Raymar out there, we have better defense and kind of toughness.

So you got to have G out there if you have certain lineups because he can score and he can pick and he can pop. We're trying to keep him off of Aldrich a little bit. We didn't want him to pick up another foul. We played ID a little bit more during that stretch.

Things worked out, but they worked out because we executed some big time plays out of timeouts. I thought we ran some things, even Kalin's last one, we just wanted to. They were starting to switch everything. They did a great job. He's a very, very good coach. They started switching everything up top. We got caught with almost a couple of shot clock violations. So I didn't even want anybody in there. It just worked out.

Q. As you said, offensively you struggled a lot in the first half. How would you account for this?

COACH IZZO: Well, it was easy. You know, we had seven turnovers for layups. I mean, like I said, I think they had 16 or 18 points for turnovers. They were almost direct. Korie panicked a little bit. G panicked a little bit. That ball felt like Christmas, we were just giving it away. They were going down and dunking it.

I think even though they shot 46%, if you take away those seven or eight layups, you know, it would have been a little different game. So I wasn't panicking at halftime except to quit turning the ball over. Second half, they get two or four points off our turnovers. A huge difference.

I don't think it was our shooting. We missed some tip ins, some decent shots. I thought it was our turnovers that led to touchdowns. That was the difference.

Q. Any win at this stage is satisfying, but the way you did it, to come back, do it with defense, get all those rebounds at the end, how good was that to watch?

COACH IZZO: It was. It was kind of Spartan basketball. We got a break going a couple times. I didn't think in general we got our fast break going like I wanted to because they did a good job on the boards. But down the stretch, we did a great job. We really started getting some guard rebounds. Durrell Summers gets five. I think Chris Allen gets three. Travis Walton gets five. We weren't getting any the first half. That made a big difference. If we would have rebounded a little better, I think we could have run a little bit better.

They're a good running team. I think we're a good running team. We kind of negated each other there because one of us rebounded real well, then the other one did. We couldn't keep consistent, either team.

Q. Kalin knocking down the five free throws at the end of the game, what goes through a coach as mind when you're fouling the other team and sending them to the free throw line, stopping the clock?

COACH IZZO: You don't want to know what went through my mind. I just couldn't believe. I didn't understand the one on the tripping. I think he tripped over his own guy, I really do. The other one, we were switching on the side and Travis gets glued into somebody, and he was, you know, like a Tasmanian devil, he was just on him. That was a goofy one. What went through my mind was I was very upset about it and tried not to show it.

Q. Probably don't want to look to Louisville yet. But what does it mean six Elite 8s in 11 years?

COACH IZZO: Well, I'm really proud of that, for our program, our university. I'm really proud of it for the Big 10, you know. I think we were very well prepared this year for this tournament and the toughness you have to display in this tournament because of the teams we played in our league. I think our league deserves some credit. There's no question the Big East is a great league. But our league's been pretty good, too. I don't always look at who goes the farthest because I think it all comes down to matchups.

I'm proud for that. I'm proud for our players of the past, Morris, Mateen, Charlie and Andre. Now I'm proud for the Kalins and Traviss and Gs, all the other guys. Because it means we sustained something and are still building.

You know, that's not easy to do at any university. It's not easy at Michigan State. But I guess I'm excited about it.

Q. Can you talk about the steal Kalin made when he was playing defense on Collins near the end.

COACH IZZO: He kind of helped because we stepped up on it hard. We said we were going to step up. Normally we have Kalin continue through. He just read it. It was a big time play. He just stepped right in front of it. I don't think it was a bad play by Collins. I think it was a great defensive play.

That's where Kalin might be growing the most. He's getting to be a better defensive player.

But I look at Kansas and the job Bill Self has done this year. I even feel better about the win because I know how tough he is, I know how good defensively they are. They've got some great players. I told our team it would probably be a one or two point game either way. It almost wasn't. They almost handled us pretty good. Hopefully it was as good a game to watch. I'm sure each fan base feels different about it.

But I felt great about it, so thanks.

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BILL BENNER: We'll take an opening statement from Coach Self, then we'll go to the student athletes for questions.

COACH SELF: Well, I thought it was it's obviously a hard fought game. I thought we played really hard. I thought State played really hard. Even though we never had control of the game totally, we were up five with three plus left and they made all the plays down the stretch.

But certainly proud of my guys. I mean, a bunch of young kids came in here and competed hard and wasn't in awe of the atmosphere and the stakes. You know, we gave 'em a run. We just didn't finish the game.

BILL BENNER: We'll take questions for the student athletes.

Q. Tyrel, talk about your shot late to hit that big shot. Did you think that was going to put you over the edge when you regained the lead?

TYREL REED: I mean, it was a big shot. But I think it put us up three. You know, felt like we were confident going into the last few minutes. But we just didn't make plays down the stretch.

So it was a big shot at the time, but not enough.

BILL BENNER: We will dismiss the student athletes. Thank you. We'll continue with questions for Coach Self.

Q. When Lucas was driving in the lane, everybody cleared out, it was kind of the game on the line, what were you thinking there? Seems like the best players come up big.

COACH SELF: Well, the best players need to make plays with the game on the line. We've had a couple of guys make a lot of plays for us when the game on the line. But if you go back and look at that possession, I could be off a little bit, they went flat, which basically let Lucas take the ball and try to beat his man to create for himself in the lane.

You know, when he started going flat, there was about six or seven seconds left. We defended the entire clock. Then he left Sherron. After he lifted him, we would have been better off just fouling the crap out of him rather than giving him the easy one. He stepped to the line and made his free throws.

Even with that, we come down and make our free throws to get it back to 63 62. Then we didn't mean to foul after that. But certainly when the ball was kind of being dribbled up the sideline, opposite the benches, we didn't mean to foul there, but we did. Then they made the free throws. Then we missed the front end after that, which kind of put the game away for them.

Q. Can you just reflect back on the season and talk about the team's growth, how you think the guys finished out.

COACH SELF: Yeah, I'm probably not really feeling like reflecting right now. But I do think this. We weren't a very good basketball team early. The guys really came together. They gave us a chance to be good. We had players step up all year long and really became a good team. We got tougher, as evidenced by us winning the rebound advantage tonight. We became a tougher basketball team.

We were never, I don't think, as efficient as what we could have been on both ends. But still the guys really, really did well. I'm really proud of 'em. It was a great group to coach, and I told them in there afterwards, you know, when you're in the game, you know, oftentimes it hurts the way it ends, because ultimately there's just gonna be one team that's really ecstatic leaving the season. So, you know, when you're in the game, it hurts, but can we learn from it in the future? If we're able to keep these guys together, I believe this can be a special group based on how much they improved over the course of this season.

Q. A lot was made about the other guys needing to step up here. How did they play tonight?

COACH SELF: We're up five against a great basketball team with three minutes left. So I thought they did good.

Cole and Sherron is going to lead us in scoring. When you say 'step up' you shouldn't think we're going to have guys take their place from a point production standpoint. But we did better. We still didn't make shots. You know, we I think we were 1 for 7, those guys shooting the ball behind the arc.

But the biggest thing is we turned the ball over. I mean, Michigan State plays great defense. But they're not a pressure defensive team. They play, you know, from step out beyond the three point line, and they really do a good job clogging things up. They really took Sherron's driving ability away because they shadowed him the whole night. We had so many unforced errors at crucial times which led to baskets for them. Of course, they can say the same thing. We got a lot of uncontested baskets in the first half off their errors.

I thought they did fine. There's no reason to say we didn't produce in this area or whatever because when you go back and look at it, hey, we're up five with three minutes left with a bunch of young kids in a big time game, so they obviously played pretty well.

Q. Speak to how difficult it was for you offensively there down the stretch in those last three minutes.

COACH SELF: Well, I don't know the exact situation on the time. But, yeah, we didn't get good looks. We had a couple well, I know we had one turnover that was really a bad turnover. We tried to call a set and we had a bad turnover.

But, you know, we got some fouls called, made our free throws, except for the last one. And it was tough. But you expect it to be tough. They're a good defensive team and they're strong. The biggest thing for us, when you go back and look at it, and I can't remember every possession right now, but free throw block out, the one free throw they miss, they come away with three points. Those are the things that are differences in the games.

We just didn't take advantage of the opportunities we had. I thought we tried really hard, though. And we played tough. We just didn't get enough done down the stretch.

Q. Cole Aldrich, he played an amazing first half, and he had some troubles in the second half. Which kind of learning experience might he have had by playing against Suton?

COACH SELF: I think every time you lace 'em up in these type situations, you learn. He's never been in this situation before. So he can't help but get better from it.

You know, he made a couple plays that he wish he had back. But overall I thought Cole played very well. It's a great rebounding team, and he was by far the best rebounder in the game, so that shows me something right there.

BILL BENNER: Thank you, coach.

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