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March 14, 2015

Branden Dawson

Tom Izzo

Travis Trice

Denzel Valentine


Michigan State – 62
Maryland - 58

COACH IZZO:  Well, we don't make it easy, I can promise you that.  I think throughout a season, you try to learn a little bit more about your team, they try to learn about you, and it showed a lot of character.  We were beaten twice by this team, and you get down 15, 16 points, whatever we did, and some of it was our fault, but some of it was incredible offense on their part.  They hit every shot they took at the beginning, and it wasn't all bad defense, it was really some very, very, very good offense.
You know, Trav kept us alive in the first half, and other guys were struggling a little bit, and I thought in the second half Marvin Clark came in and motivated all of us, especially the guy to the right of me.  And then when he started playing, with the energy level that he played with, we're just a much, much, much, much, much better team.
I thought that not only did he score on the great pass from Zel, we made a lot of plays, Branden made his free throws, Zel played very good defense on a tough, tough kid to handle, boy.  I can't tell you how much respect we have for Wells, and I know he had a decent game, but I thought Zel did a great job on him.  In every way each one of these guys did something special.
But the most special part is it's fun to challenge people and have them respond, and I think that's what you saw out of us today.

Q.  Travis and maybe Branden, how much did Coach Izzo challenge you?
TRAVIS TRICE:  It really started at halftime.  Coach came in and said either you're going to get the job done or I'm not going to play you, and B.J. responded like great players do at that point.  I mean, somebody else might crumble, but B.J. stepped up to the occasion, and he came down clutch for us in the stretch.
BRANDEN DAWSON:  Yeah, just to go back to what Travis said, at halftime Coach, he came after all of us, and as far as myself, he told me that I have to play, and I have to pick it up.  That's what I did.  He said that in the four‑minute stretch, my energy you could tell it was different from the beginning of the game.  I think when I play like that, it just gives this team a huge uplift.

Q.  Branden, there were times early in the season in which you didn't play well, you didn't pout but you were frustrated and it affected your game.  You seem to have grown past that.  How?
BRANDEN DAWSON:  I would just say just having a different approach, a different mindset.  Coach, he kept coming at me.  I mean, I didn't get frustrated.  I knew that I'm a senior, so seniors, you just have to step up and lead the younger guys, and like Coach said, Marvin Clark gave us a huge spark off the bench, and I came off and came in and just finished the job off.
With that being said, it's just not getting frustrated and just keep playing, play through it.

Q.  I know you guys talked last night about not getting beat by a team three times, but how much of it was that and how much of it was getting to the final again and defending your title?
DENZEL VALENTINE:  Yeah, that was a big factor in today's game.  At halftime guys were looking a little down, and we kind of‑‑ me, Travis and B.J. just kind of took the initiative of getting everybody motivated.  We came out and we played with more energy in the second half, and we came back against a great team like Maryland.

Q.  Denzel, you made your one three‑ball count there.  Talk about that.
DENZEL VALENTINE:  Oh, yeah.  We were going on a roll and I think we were down 10, and that put us up one.  I knew we had just got a stop and we had momentum, and I always want to be the one to get the lead or make that big shot.  And we called a play, and I came off the screen and just didn't think about it, just let it go, and it went in, and that started off the spark.  Everybody, Trav and B.J. and everybody else just took over from then.

Q.  Branden and Travis, what does it say about a Denzel when he only scores three points but affected the game in so many other areas that maybe get overlooked because they don't appear on the stats sheet, please?
BRANDEN DAWSON:  Well, you know, I always tell Zel, myself and Coach, we always tell Zel that just never let your offense affect your defense.  And as far as myself, I'm not the type of guy‑‑ if I don't score points, I'm going to come down and get a rebound, get a defensive stop, just do something, just help me out, so that's what Zel did tonight.  The shots weren't there, but he just kept battling and against Dez Wells, and I think that's really what stood out the most, that he just kept battling and kept defending.
TRAVIS TRICE:  I think that just speaks to the type of player Denzel is.  Other guys might get down not hitting a shot until that point or not even taking one really.  But that's the kind of guy he is, he just rises to the occasion.  He did a lot of things that don't show in the stat sheet, but he also had seven assists.  I really think him and B.J. carried us down the stretch, just the way he was controlling the game offensively, getting other people involved and throwing inside to Matt.  His stat sheet might not look crazy, but honestly he was one of the key factors in why we won tonight.

Q.  Did you have any specific adjustments that you had to make at halftime to slow down Melo after he started off strong in the first half?
TRAVIS TRICE:  He's a great player, but honestly we weren't getting back in transition early on.  A couple of his threes were walk‑in, wide‑open threes, and that's something we got a jump on at halftime was not getting back in transition.
As a scorer, any time you can see one or two go through easy, it kind of gets you rolling, so it's kind of hard to stop somebody at that point.  Our thing was we just had to get back in transition.

Q.  Branden, did the crowd help you guys today, and how many people did you have coming from your hometown?
BRANDEN DAWSON:  Yeah, the crowd, they do a great job.  Our family and friends, they do a great job of just coming with that enthusiasm and just bringing that spark for us.  As far as that goes, I think they all do a great job of just pushing us, getting into it.  I think when we went on that run, Denzel threw that amazing pass, I think that's what really‑‑ when the crowd really got into it, so they definitely helped us out a lot.

Q.  How many people did you have here?
BRANDEN DAWSON:  I had about 13 people here, so just a lot of family and friends.  It's not too far from home, so it was good.

Q.  Tom, there may be a couple of games that you guys lost this year when guys were not performing well and they let it affect other areas.  To have Dawson and Valentine both pick it up in struggling areas, what did that mean about this team possibly peaking at the right time?
COACH IZZO:  Well, I told them you're going to get challenged a lot in your life.  They got challenged tonight and they got challenged by a hell of a team.  They got challenged by each other, they got challenged by their coaches, and making mistakes isn't a sin and playing bad isn't a sin, but answering a challenge is maybe the greatest thing that you can learn as a young person, to realize it ain't easy.  It's not easy.  That's why there's only two left.
A fitting two if you ask me.  I think Bo and I have got the longevity record in this league, and we've had some wars in the past.  Give Turg credit, he did a hell of a job in his first year out there, a hell of a job.  I love Trimble and I really like Dez Wells.  He's just a tough, tough kid.  But I thought the way our guys responded showed some character, showed some grit.  Hopefully it'll help us down the road.  Hopefully it'll help them for many years to come.

Q.  Following up on that guard question you got last night, what do you think of Trimble?  You said you loved him, but specifically?
COACH IZZO:  Well, you know, he has the ability to get into the lane it seems like whenever he wants, but I think even since when we played him early, he struggled a little bit.  He probably owes me one because he was struggling from the three by the time we played him the second time, and I think he went five for six in the first half of that game and seems like ever since he`s really been shooting the ball better.  When he shoots the ball well, that brings a whole other dimension to his game.  He can get to the free‑throw line, he doesn't miss, he can get in the paint.  He can do a lot of different things.  He's got some size.  He's got some strength.  I'm a big fan.

Q.  Tom, you played Wisconsin two weeks ago, and they clinched the share of the league title in Madison.  What are your thoughts on getting another crack at them?
COACH IZZO:  I think a lot of people would debate when you said we played them.  We were there.  I'm not sure we played them.  We didn't play very well, and it was a hell of a night there with Senior Night and everything, and we didn't do a very good job.  I blame some of that on me.  I did not think we had some answers and adjustments that we made.
I'm going to work a little harder today and see if we can come up with some things because our players seem to respond to what we give them.  I thought one of the questions on Melo at halftime, we just kept talking about shrinking the court, making him see six eyes instead of two or four and getting our bigs to get up on those ball screens.  You've got to make adjustments, and boy, we didn't do a good job of that in the first half of the Wisconsin game.  They have so many different weapons.  Koenig, I guess, had a big game today.  I didn't watch the game.  I was too worried about our game, but my assistants did, and Dekker has been playing well and Kaminsky is Kaminsky, and if you don't like Gasser you don't like real people.
They have a lot of people that are good.  They're very well coached, and I think it's great for the Big Ten that the two of us are playing.  We've been in some epic wars over the years, and I know I'm excited about the chance to play them because we were kind of the dark horse.
Just goes to show that we kind of hung in there all year and fought through a lot of stuff, so here we are.

Q.  You mentioned earlier Marvin Clark stepping up and kind of sparking you guys in the second half.  How big is it to have a guy like that, especially a younger guy step up at such a crucial time?
COACH IZZO:  You know, Marv idolizes B.J., and B.J. spends a lot of time with Marv.  As far as B.J., he`s a very intelligent player, but Marv brought us a little more energy.  His mom is here from Kansas City, I think the first time she's seen him play was yesterday and today, and he just played with a little bit more energy.  That's what we tell our guys all the time; energy matters.  I don't know why B.J.‑‑ he takes the brunt of it because I think he has so much to offer, but you've got to love him that he responded, and I think he said it best.  This time he didn't get down.  Some of us got down on him, but he didn't get down on him.
I think for Marv, he saw that.  We talked about it on the bench, and he just brought some energy, the dunk, and the things he did, the offensive rebounds, the defensive rebounds.  He really did a good job in the minutes he played, and he hasn't played a lot of minutes all year.

Q.  You were down 12‑1 to 23‑7.  I'd like to know what your message was, and also, why does it seem like every one of these games a team gets way on top but it means very little.  At some point they all got very close the last three or four games.
COACH IZZO:  You know, I'm not sure.  I was disappointed.  I thought two things, though:  I did not think we came out as strong as we needed to, but God, they played good early, they made some shots.  I think that's what the battles of the Big Ten are.  If you looked across the league all year, there were so many tight games.  You look at teams that struggled a little bit during the year, Northwestern battled everybody, took us to overtime, Penn State has done an incredible job with what they did, Michigan did a phenomenal job with the guys they had injured, and everybody made it a battle because possessions matter in this league, and I think nobody gets down.
I think we've got a bunch of‑‑ it's a blue collar league, and that's what happens to blue collar people.  They never quit fighting.

Q.  You continue your success in March and this time you're the underdog.  If you had to tell a coach one thing or one way that you can get a team ready to go and win some games into the tournament, what would you say?
COACH IZZO:  I'd say have incredible‑‑ it's a culture that's been developed, not by me, but by the players that played here before.  I say it all the time, but it's Magic calling in this week, it's Steve Smith calling in.  It's still the same thing, and when they call me, they call the players.
You know, like Denzel said it best in the locker room after:  It's what you expect here.  But the mission is how do you live up to what the players have done before you.  That's not a coach.  I mean, I love March for two reasons; it's tournament basketball with chances to win a championship, and the weather is getting nicer.  Those two things.  Days get longer and practice is over and it's still sunny.  It's just a phenomenal time of year.
But I think because we have so many great alums that really look at this month and they call from everywhere and they call our players, and our players, I think, somewhat feel a little obligated.  That's not a bad thing, you know, to live up to the standards of the people that built the program.  So I don't give‑‑ my staff has done an incredible job.  I give them credit on the quick turnarounds, but boy, you've got to give all the players that were here before that still care enough about this program, and that's made a difference why I think we're good in March, so far.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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