November 17, 2011

Izzo Six Pack: On Nix, Kearney & More

EAST LANSING - A Six Pack of Tom Izzo's best quotes from Thursday night's post-practice press briefing:

1. On Derrick Nix, who had good position inside a number of times against Duke, but didn't finish:

"Against North Carolina, he made some of those. In practice he usually makes those. I thought his first move that he made (a jump hook with his off hand) was a big-time move. And then he buried the guy so low that I don't know if he knew where he was.

"I was talking to a couple of NBA guys about guys who lost a lot of weight, and they said sometimes you have to learn to play with you new weight, and sometimes I think he was almost skeptical about getting his shot blocked wheh, like DayDay said, he should have gone up and just dunked it. So I don't know if he knows what he can do. So it is going to be an adjustment for a while."

2. What did Keith Appling's 22-point performance do for him in his development and confidence?

"I think he was better. We talked about playing him and Travis Trice together some. And if I made a mistake, early in the second half I should have gotten him back in. But I didn't go by how we were playing, I went by: Are we getting shots that we wanted to get? To me, we were with all those inside shots, we just didn't finish them.

"What happens with Travis is he gives us a little more defensive pressure. That's still where B.J. (Branden Dawson) struggles a little bit. We are looking at maybe moving B.J. around a little bit. So now as we get into things where guys start to understand what we're doing, now we can start to make some adjustments.

2a. Like Dawson at the four?

"We could, some. That will be down the road. We just have to switch better and do things better. But this is the hard part for B.J., and a little bit for Brandon Wood - is making those adjustments and doing things they've never done."

3. On Friday's opponent, Texas Southern (1-1):

"It's an interesting team we're playing. We just played probably the biggest team we'll play all year in Carolina, when you look at their guards at 6-3, 6-4 and 6-8, 6-10, 7-foot inside. Then we played maybe the perimeter shooting team we are going to play all year when you look at all those guards that they've got that can shoot it. And believe it or not, this (Texas Southern) could be the most athletic team that we play. They are extremely athletic. They did get beat by 20 by Baylor, but they were losing the Danner kid (Lawrence Johnson-Danner) who scored 20 the next time out (in a 66-49 victory over Eastern Michigan). He's their best shooter.

"Dangerous team because they've got some experience, they got a lot of guys back, they have a couple of junior college transfers and as athletic a team as I've seen on tape.

"So it will be good for us in a lot of ways. They are a team that is probably going to play a lot of zone, and we haven't faced any. So it is another part of the schedule when we see somebody completely different."

4. You said you would know where you are, after playing North Carolina and Duke. Do you?

"Well I'm learning where we are. I don't know yet. Like everybody says in our meetings with our coaches, we've got to start establishing roles. But I'm not sure of all the roles. Keith Appling, in the second half, is just starting to play better. Brandon Wood just starting making some shots now. It's hard to evaluate the aircraft carrier game from a shooting standpoint because they (North Carolina) didn't shoot so well either, they just got those break-away lay-ups off the turnovers.

"But at least we have an idea that we can play with anybody, and after a couple of mistakes we can get down real quick.

"I still like what I'm seeing. I still like where we're going. I don't think we're even close to being there yet. I say if this team keeps progressing, I think we're going to be a real good team by the end of the year. Maybe even better than I thought we could be. A lot of that is going to depend on: Do we make shots? Do we start turning the ball over? Do we keep playing together? Do we improve? I don't know how to rate our defense. Duke shot 43 percent against us but one guy shot out of his mind and I'm not sure most of those shots were pretty well-defended. I didn't think we rebounded as well, but they were big."

5. How does the strength of competition that you have faced help you in the near and long term?

"I think that's going to help us a lot. The North Carolina game helped us for Duke. I think the Duke game is going to help us for the rest of the year. It does give you some kind of measuring stick on when you do things good, you can be successful. When you do things bad, you're going to get down quick. I think young players need to know that, need to understand that.

"I've gone through the gamut of this scheduling and I don't think I ever felt better about it than when I left Madison Square Garden. I saw some improvement from the first game. I think I know why. We played well enough for long enough stretches that we have something to build on. But now we have to build, we have to get to work on it and that will help us at the end."

6. On Duke's game-changing run midway through the second half:

"When you look at it on film: three missed lay-ups and a short little Branden Dawson shot that I think he should have made. And now it's 50-48 instead of 50-40. Against North Carolina we looked dysfunctional with our offense in the second half. Here, we executed and got the ball where we wanted to get it, we just missed the play."

4. Did you like what you saw out of Brandan Kearney in his first action?

"I did. It adds to the problems. It adds to the good things about it. Kearney went in there and he looked a little more confident. He looked unconfident in practice, and then the last couple of practices before we left we talked to him about it, and he really played well, really competed with Keith. I thought we got something out of him.

"Austin Thornton is still an issue because we didn't get him any shots. So that will be the interesting part now (Friday). We are going against a team that is probably going to play all zone, so we will see who steps up on that."

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