INDIANAPOLIS - Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was joined by Austin Thornton and Draymond Green at the podium for interviews following the Spartans Big Ten Tournament semifinal victory over Wisconsin.
Click below for complete audio of the postgame:
Below is a complete transcript of the press conference.
THE MODERATOR: We'll have the coach make an opening statement, and then we'll take questions for the players.
COACH IZZO: Bizarre game. Never felt comfortable and yet we played awfully well. Probably 30-some minutes, maybe some of the best basketball we've played. Struggled early. Give them credit. They made some plays, and I didn't think we did, but some of that was them. And other than that one run they had, I thought we played very, very well. We rebounded the ball pretty well, at least one guy did. We shot the ball extremely well. When you can shoot 50 percent against Wisconsin, that says a lot. And the 66 and the 3 is something we haven't done, but we didn't take that many of them either.
So I was ecstatic about the win. It's been 11 years, I think, since we've been in this championship game, and I'm going to try to enjoy this part of it.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes?
Q. Draymond, over to your right. This might be a little bit simple, but do you guys win this game without Austin and (Brandon) Wood sparking you as they did in the first half to turn that deficit around?
DRAYMOND GREEN: No, definitely not. Especially when Austin came on to play, he did what a leader does. One of us was down, and I've been saying all year, a lot of the credit came towards me, but this team wouldn't be where it's at without Austin.
I've always said we complement each other so well. I'm kind of a guy who's up front and all that and Austin is just behind the scenes, does the work. And today everybody saw what he was capable of doing when I started off the game struggling very bad.
He hit a few big 3s and got us back in the game. And then from there on, we were all able to pick it up. But the way him and Brandon played, that was phenomenal. Give Keith (Appling) a lot of credit as well. That guy has been playing great. With the assists he's been getting and not turning the ball over, I think that was phenomenal as well. So a lot of our wins has been based around our bigs this year, but I think you have to give a lot credit, and you got to give this one to the guards because they really carried this team today.
Q. Austin, can you talk about the job Tom did today. Obviously you guys came out,
you were a little bit sluggish when he called that timeout. Maybe talk about what he does. Sometimes it's not even adjustments, just things he says.
AUSTIN THORNTON: Yeah, he did a great job. He felt that we were a little bit lethargic there at the beginning and it showed in our play. And he's a spitfire. He got us going. He did his job. And we responded well and glad we came out with the W.
Q. Austin, how foreign is it for this team to have Draymond struggling like that and have to have other guys step up in this kind of situation?
AUSTIN THORNTON: Well, that's what makes this team as special as we are, because there's been times all year long where guys haven't been playing as well or guys have gone down with injuries or guys have gone down with injuries or guys haven't played as much, and other guys have stepped up and increased their roles. So that's why being a part of this group has been a lot of fun.
That's what a team is supposed to do. That's why we play a team game. And it was just a great job by our guys stepping up and making plays there.
Q. Draymond, as it gets to their making the run to get back to about 46-50 and you're at the free-throw line, you missed the first free throw and Austin came up behind you and said something right there. Can you talk about that exchange, and then also, the shot to make it 49-40 coming out of the timeout how important that was?
DRAYMOND GREEN: Well, I'm happy somebody is finally noticing what Austin does. He does a lot. He came up to me, he said, "Hey, you're a big-time player. Just focus, calm down, and knock the shots down. And I think I still missed it, but he stuck with me through that time. Austin's dropping in my head about missing a free throw, he's right there. He's, "Okay, you're gonna make the next one." I came back, hit a few after that. So it just goes to show the type of leadership that he has. Like I been saying all year, so underrated, but then, like I said, I get a lot of credit for it, but this guy does so much for this team and for me personally. He just always makes me keep my head and not necessarily keep my head but keep me positive, because when you're struggling like I struggled, you tend to get down on yourself. But one thing he says, you rebound the ball, keep going off that, keep working, those shots are going to fall, the free throws are going to fall. So I think he did a great job of helping me out and did a great job of helping himself out as well.
Q. Austin, Rob Wilson, obviously had a big game from yesterday with 30 points and seven 3s. What did you guys do today to limit his looks?
AUSTIN THORNTON: Well, it's pretty simple. Don't let him get any shots off. We were able to get in the gaps and help and recover pretty quickly on him. Give him a lot of credit. Yesterday was, for him to come out and do what he did, was a special game for him, special game for the other team.But we didn't want him to do it to us, so we wanted to limit his touches and limit his shot attempts.
Q. Draymond, I recognize you're not a bracketologist, but do you think tomorrow you're playing for No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament? And if you are, does that matter to you guys, the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament?
DRAYMOND GREEN: Well, you know, the way this conference has gone, in my opinion, it's been the best conference in the nation all year. So you would probably think that there's a possibility that you are playing for a No. 1 seed whoever wins this next game.
I mean, whoever wins that championship game, probably playing for a No. 1 seed. So no, but we would love to get a No. 1 seed because one thing we always talk about, leaving your own legacy, doing something that hasn't been done here in a long time. I think the last time we had a No. 1 seed was 2001 or something like that. So it's just another one of those footprints you can leave in the sand.
But at the end of the day, those things will take care of themselves; we just have to focus one game at a time. Tomorrow's going to be a tough and critical game, regardless of who we're going to play. Both teams are very good and, like, you can tell how good this league is. For the first time ever, one, two, three, four is in the semifinals, so it's going to be a tough game regardless. And you can't go in looking for a No. 1 seed because, if you do, it's not going to happen. You just gotta go in trying to win a Big Ten championship. One thing we pride ourselves on is hanging banners, and that'll be another opportunity to hang one.
Q. Draymond, kind of getting back to -- over to your right -- to Austin's comments about defending Rob Wilson. This is the third game you played Wisconsin this year. All three games, they haven't been able to get open looks and made shots poorly. What in general has been the key to your defensive success against these guys?
DRAYMOND GREEN: Well, I think when we played Wisconsin and everybody else, but really Wisconsin, they shot a lot of 3s. And Coach, one thing that our coaching staff, what Coach really hits on is stopping them from shooting 3s. They're gonna beat you from the 3-point line, andone thing we always talk about is (Jordan) Taylor penetrating in.
Majority of the time today he didn't, but majority of the time, when he's penetrating in, he's looking to kick off with those shooters. So we try to tell our wings and guards to stay home, stay on those shooters.
And you gotta give 'em a lot of credit. They played very tough and trailing those pin-downs, they were all on their hip. And you also have to give our bigs, Adreian (Payne) and Derrick (Nix), a lot of credit because when our guards were behind a little bit, they were right there stopping the curl and not letting those guys get open jump shots.
It was a complete team effort, but like Isaid before, gotta give this game to the guards because they did a great job essentially carrying this team and they also did a great job defensively, stopping those guards and wings from getting 3s.
Q. Draymond, as Coach alluded to, this is your first trip to the Big Ten Tournament. What makes this tournament so much more challenging compared to the NCAA Tournament where you guys have had so much success?
DRAYMOND GREEN: I'm not sure. It's just sometimes that's the way the cards are dealt. You're sometimes not successful at some things, but a lot of people always say Coach Izzo takes off the Big Ten Tournament to get ready for the NCAA Tournament. That's such a myth. But, I mean, I think one thing that this team has really done is the focus level. And then a lot of things people don't remember is -- I think it was 2007, one of those years where Wisconsin came and knocked us off and we were on our way to a championship. So it's just different things that take place. And like I said before, sometimes that's the way the cards are dealt.
But one thing we really talked about with this group is really focusing in and trying to get wins because it's something hasn't been done here in a long time. And when you talk about leaving the footprint in the sand, it just another way to get it done.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Izzo.
Q. Coach, any thoughts on last week's Ohio State game, any reference of who you play tomorrow? You had them down 24-9 as I recall
COACH IZZO: You know, I really don't care, and I probably wouldn't say if I did, justbecause I got our arch arrival, one, and I got a game that cost us the Big Ten championship outright in the other. So can't say I'm in love with either group as far as I got motivation for both, but I'm sure they feel the same way. And I respect both teams a lot, both coaches. Michigan had a heck of a comeback last night, really did, and played well. And Ohio State played really well last night. But as those guys said, sometimes it's all about match-ups. A lot of years we didn't match up good with Wisconsin. I think what made me feel good today is I didn't know if was one of those years losing (Branden) Dawson because they were big, you know. But they had to cover us, too, and maybe that was a problem the other way.
Q. Does this team resemble some of your better teams in that you can play completely different style of teams and be comfortable with it like you did yesterday?
COACH IZZO: I'd say yes, but I'd almost have to say no. With B.J., I thought we really were like that. Now we just have some lineups out there today that I didn't know who to go to. And the advantage, I think, that we haven't had here in a lot of years is when I don't know who to go, we got (Travis) Trice and maybe App and Brandan Kearney, so we're really young on the perimeter a couple times, then we said let's get the ball inside. So maybe not with players, but as far as with plays, we can run. We can go inside; we can go outside. And I still think the key of the game was we got a running game going after that bad start. And Appling can push it and we can run, but Wisconsin's not an easy team to run against.
Q. Coach, what's it take to beat a Bo Ryan-coached team three times in one year?
COACH IZZO: Well, it's almost impossible. He's probably beaten us -- I know he's beaten us more than anybody that we've played. He's had our number, and still does in a lot of ways. But, you know, I think like us this year, they've had a heck of a year, too. They lost key people; we lost some key people. And for some reason, we've been able to check pretty good against them, and yet we've been able to check pretty good against a lot of people this year, and that's probably the difference, because they run their stuff. They run it well; they're well coached. I think the only thing we had an advantage of is, one, getting it inside and, two, our fast breaks. So those two things helped us a lot this year.
Q. Tom, the stretch in the second half where you were a little bit ragged on the edge -- it just cut off. Sorry. You could hear, we could hear from the court Austin yelling to take care of the ball. And we heard him several times today kind of yelling out, directing certain things. And then after that, I think that third 3 where he pumped his fist, I'm not sure I've seen him show that kind of emotion all season. What was going on with him today?
COACH IZZO: He was well possessed, which was good, but we didn't take care of it very good. I should've probably got Trice in there more. I had some strange lineups and they did struggle. The guy's been so consistent since the Illinois game, which was back in the middle of January. The guy's been as consistent as anybody in the country. And he made some uncharacteristic bad passes and I think let things get to him, and thank goodness he keeps rebounding.But we didn't take care of the ball very good. We only had 12 turnovers, but we didn't do a very good job of that. And I think for the most part, we were pretty consistent other than that one stretch. And Kearney threw that one lay-up, then we threw the one Wood lay-up. We just didn't have maybe our best ball-handling team in there.
Q. Coach, you've had some real players step up and play some key roles during this tournament. Does that kind of remind you of the 2000 team when your guys like (Mike) Chappell and (A.J.) Granger kind of step up with big times?
COACH IZZO: It does. But those four or five pros we had on that team, they're absent right now. So the step-up guys might be doing a pretty good job, but it was the original guys that are a lot different. But you are right. Hey, Kearney came in and did a pretty good job defensively today. And Nix is -- he's a sixth man of the year candidate, or was, because he's done some pretty good things for us. And Trice, who played pretty well yesterday, just didn't get as many reps because of their bigger lineup. It was a real problem. They post their guards a lot, and that's what we missed in Branden Dawson.
But we are getting some more play out of more guys. Hey, Russell Byrd, those were four, five good minutes that he played today for us. So we're starting to get a little comfortable with more and more guys. And if Russell could keep coming now next week, that gives us another weapon. Trust me. Another weapon.
Q. Coach, with Rob Wilson hitting so many big 3s yesterday against IU, was there any special kind of game plan today to kind of take him out of the offensive equation?
COACH IZZO: I feel good for Bo but bad for Tom Crean because here's a guy averaging three points a game and he has 30. There's where -- Jarrod would have killed me and said the scouting report was bad or something. But we did put a little more emphasis on a couple things. We had our walk-throughs and walk-throughs and walk-throughs, and every time he touched the ball we wanted somebody's toes on his toes. And that's respect. That's respect for what he did. And I thought for the most part we did a lot of that. We did a pretty good job of it. So we weren't great today, but at moments we played really well. It's the consistency now that I think we have to keep building on. And you don't have those runs against us. And it's happened a few times this year. And so we gotta do a better job of that. But it was a big win for us against a very good team, and I can't tell you how excited I am to be in the championship game no matter who we play. We'll play the Pacers. I don't care. Anybody. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.
COACH IZZO: Thanks a lot.