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March 13, 2015

Branden Dawson

Tom Izzo

Travis Trice

Denzel Valentine


Michigan State – 76
Ohio State - 67

COACH IZZO:  Well, I think the first thing is it's unbelievable that we had a 16‑point lead a couple times on a very good team, and our assist to field goals was off the charts, 23 out of 29, the unselfishness, the fact that Branden and even Zel were flirting with a triple‑double and there's only been a couple in the history of our school, and I think both of them should have had one if they would have done a little bit more.  And then Travis had that stretch in the second half where he was just shooting it.  So each one of our three amigos here that need to play well had stretches where they were unbelievable, and that's why you win games.
We made some mistakes.  We got a little fatigued.  I think the week off that we had had some good to it and some bad.  We're still struggling a little bit with some of our subs at times, but to win a game like that, not decisively but to be in control more of it against a very, very good team, I'm pleased.

Q.  You all know Tom talks about it doesn't matter who starts but who finishes, and when money time came up tonight your stats will all be seen but Marvin's won't.  Talk about having him in there at the end of the game?
TRAVIS TRICE:  Marvin did a good job.  He's been doing great the last couple weeks for us stepping up.  You see at the Indiana game he came up big for us and even in this game.  Marv does a lot of things that doesn't show up on the stat line, like where he dove on the floor to get the loose ball, or he gets an offensive rebound and we come down and score.  He gets a lot of credit for this win.

Q.  Travis or Denzel, Ohio State has had a problem all season, they get down by double digits in the first half, and I wonder just the way you guys played the first half, did you want to come out and punch them in the mouth and get them down quick and put them away?
DENZEL VALENTINE:  Yeah, we noticed that, you know a big emphasis was that the top seeds in this tournament came out a little flat and Coach preached about how we wanted to be different.  We just came out with a lot of energy and we were making plays.

Q.  You guys have played on this team for a while and know that this time of year is special.  What was it like to kind of start that off tonight with a big win?
BRANDEN DAWSON:  You know, it felt good.  We have a young team, and as far as myself, Travis and Denzel, we just have to lead these guys.  For us to come out and get a huge win against a great team, a disciplined team, it was great for us.

Q.  Branden, being a senior, can you just talk about what that means to you, potentially playing in your last Big Ten Tournament game tonight and coming out with a victory?
BRANDEN DAWSON:  It was great.  We came out and it was just a focus point that we had at the beginning of the game, and we were really prepared by our coach, Tom Izzo.  He's a great coach, and we were definitely well prepared.
You know, just my last time with Travis, it feels great to get a win.  We just have another chance to win a Big Ten championship.

Q.  At halftime Thad Matta said this was one of the most physical games he's been in coaching in the Big Ten.  Was that what you wanted to do, come out and play physical against Ohio State?
TRAVIS TRICE:  Definitely.  Ohio State is a talented team.  I mean, they're talented from top to bottom, and we knew that we had to come out and be physical and kind of make the first punch, and that's what we kind of did in the first half.  We knew we had to come out and we had to be physical with them because they're a really talented team.

Q.  Branden, you missed the last game and a half of the year, but to pick it up the way you did tonight statistically, what changed tonight?  What was your approach?
BRANDEN DAWSON:  My approach was ‑‑ it was kind of different.  I always have a different approach, different mind sets towards every game and wasn't able to play the last game, so I knew that my team needed me.  So despite how I was feeling or anything, you know, I just told my teammates that I was going to come and play, and that's what I did, along with Travis and Denzel with the performance they had.

Q.  You guys have had a few Big Ten Tournament runs and March runs in recent years.  What is it about you guys that makes you turn it up a level if something clicks this time of year?
DENZEL VALENTINE:  Yeah, this is a big time of year for us.  This is where Michigan State basketball has made their history, and we want to keep the tradition going.  We don't want to be the ones that let the former players down.  That's a big emphasis, and when it comes March, everybody plays better, and our focus is a little bit more, and we want to win.
BRANDEN DAWSON:  Also on that you've got to give our coaches a lot of credit too.  Our coaches, our managers, they do a great job of preparing us every day and every week, whether it's breaking down other teams' film, preparing us a lot of that goes on our coaching staff.

Q.  Tom, you always say it matters who finishes.  You had Marvin there in crunch time.  Would you talk about his performance, please?
COACH IZZO:  Well, they went real small, and God, we did some things that were so good, and we did some things that were, to be honest with you, not so good.  We decided we had to switch 5 at the end, we didn't want to give up a three, and I thought Marv did a pretty good job.  B.J. did a great job of that, and it's funny because I think we're the least physical team we've been in the last 15 years, and I think games that we played against Purdue and that, made it a little bit more so for us, and Marv is a kid that can be physical, and got a couple big rebounds.
I was happy for Marv.  I think his mom came in, first time she saw him play, so that was awesome, too.

Q.  D'Angelo Russell had a quiet 19 tonight.  What can you say about limiting his play‑making ability?
COACH IZZO:  Well, as you can see, we call it‑‑ I don't know if it's the Jordan rules, but it's my version of them, where he always should be looking at four or six eyes.  Anytime he touches the ball, we wanted him to look up and see at least four, maybe six eyes, which means we were helping on both sides.  He's a phenomenal player, he really is.  I thought we made him work for his stuff pretty good, and that was our goal.  But boy, there were times he just put us on his heels.  He missed a couple good shots early, I thought, and we made some shots early, and that was the difference in the game.

Q.  You faced the highlight of it tonight, but I'm wondering what your impressions of the class of freshman guards that have been in this league this year, and do you feel like maybe the Big Ten is starting to recruit at an even higher tier of guard talent?
COACH IZZO:  Well, I think it's sure got some good guards in this league.  I think a lot of teams got very good players.  You look at Indiana tonight, and of course Maryland, and there's no one better than this kid, D'Angelo.  So who knows what it is.  I mean, I don't think anybody thought Melo was going to be what he was, and so sometimes it's what you recruit, sometimes it's how you coach, sometimes it's the right system, and sometimes a guy just makes enormous improvement from the end of his senior year to the beginning of his freshman year.  I don't know, we face another great one tomorrow, so ask me after that one.  I'll tell you.  I'll give you a better answer.

Q.  It looked like you had a bit of an exchange with Coach Matta in the handshake line.  What was that all about?
COACH IZZO:  We were just talking about how hard this job is, and we both kind of agreed with each other.  We've had some incredible games over the last, I don't know, 10, 12 years, whatever, he's been there, and there's a lot of respect between the two programs.  I just told him to go make a run in the tournament.
They didn't play as well.  You know, they didn't play as well.  Some of it was us, some of it was them.  They made shots early when they were put under pressure.  The guy that I think is impressing me more and more, he didn't shoot it great, but I Shannon Scott has really improved for them, too.  They're like us a little bit that we struggle at the post sometimes and it's just a shame because Loving is a very good player, just hasn't been the same.  We talked about that a little bit because we've all been through it.  So it was a friendly exchange.

Q.  When they got it to five with three minutes left and they started fouling you on every possession, with what you've been through this season at the free‑throw line, what was going through your mind?
COACH IZZO:  You think I can say that here?  (Laughter).  I could try.  I'll lie.  I was thinking, gee whiz, do I use reverse psychology and tell my guys to miss the free throw like we did at Indiana, or do I stick to my guns and say would you please make it and fall to my knees or would I threaten?  I had three choices, and I just‑‑ I don't know, we made a couple of them, so I decided to just stay out of it.

Q.  You have Maryland in 15 hours, so having literally played them twice, does it help because you've got to give guys‑‑
COACH IZZO:  We actually played them‑‑ I think was it last year?  That's the one funny thing, and it's the same for them.  That's one hard thing about the tournament, to play in that short a time.  I wish we could do something about that, but it's kind of hard with TV and everything, so we do what we can do.  But they've got almost the same situation.  We'll see what we can do.  We'll have some fun tonight, and I'll tell you, if there's a better thing to do during March Madness than to stay up all night and work, it's the greatest thing there is.  I really mean that sincerely.  I love the moment, I love the opportunity.  I'm getting a little old for it, but it's still a lot of fun.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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