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March 29, 2015
SYRACUSE, NEW YORK
Michigan State - 76
COACH IZZO: So as a football fan, we're not going to Disney, but we are going to Indy. We're excited about it. These guys did a heck of a job after a sluggish first half where I thought Louisville played very well. We just didn't defend as well in that first half. They really got back to who we are. Holding a team like that to 5-of-25 from the field in the second half is remarkable. Got our running game going. Each one of these guys did some things that helped us win the game. That's why they're our stars, and that's what I appreciate about them. They're our veterans. They were on a mission to maybe start their own legacy. There's so many times where you're following people, and once that streak was broken last year, I think theirs was, let's start a new one. So I'm just happy and proud and excited. Incredible amount of Michigan State people here tonight. I want to thank them, too.
Louisville - 70
Q. Question for all three guys: Coach just mentioned the crowd. It seemed that they were largely on your side. How big of an impact did that have? How much did that spark you guys during the game?
BRANDEN DAWSON: I think it was great for us. When I looked in the crowd and I saw that we had that so many fans, I was kind of surprised because at the Big Ten Tournament we didn't have those many fans. But just to see them come out and support us, it was motivating. I think they helped us a lot tonight.
Q. For all three of you again: Where are you guys in processing this? Can you kind of describe what it feels like? Travis, I saw you collapse on the floor. What this run, what this moment feels like right now to you.
TRAVIS TRICE: I can't even put it into words. Just all the summers, all the hard work, being so close last year, being like four minutes away and not getting it, it makes it worthwhile. Can't even put it into words really.
DENZEL VALENTINE: You know, you just take a look back and think about all the hard work you put in in the summer, all the hard work in the fall and spring, and all those times where you're working, waking up in the morning, and you're like, oh, I don't feel like doing this, but you have a team full of great guys that, in the summer, we would all text each other, "Indy, Indy, Indy." We would say that every huddle. Through an up-and-down season, we stayed together, stayed strong, believed in ourselves. We had upper-classmen step up and make plays, and now we're going to Indy.
Q. Branden, going to the glass as hard as you did, can you tell me about what you saw on that play. I think at one point you were told, "one more rebound." How driven were you for that one to cinch it?
BRANDEN DAWSON: When I got the ball, I think Denzel threw it to me in the middle, and I turned and faced, and I realized how open Bryn was. He was making shots all game. I was kind of shocked. They left him wide open. I saw him in the corner, and I threw it to him. The shot looked good. When it came off, just being in the right place at the right time. The ball came to me, and I went up. And I was falling down at the same time. So at the end of regulation, Coach said, "Hey, you should have had that rebound." I had 11 rebounds tonight, but Coach is always saying, I should have had 20. It was great just to get that offensive rebound. It was great for this team and for myself. So it feels good.
Q. Branden, some talk before the game, Harrell was talking about you not matching his energy level. Obviously, you weren't named the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year. You've had some motivation late in the season. Can you talk about how that's driven you and led to some of these performances?
BRANDEN DAWSON: It's driven me a lot throughout my career. During the season, we had an up-and-down season, but Coach is always on me. Other coaches and players, my teammates, they're always on me. So throughout my career, Coach G, before the game, he told me, "Don't pay attention to what everyone else is saying." He said, "Just go out and just have faith and believe." I just told myself, hey, don't think about anything, just go out, just play hard, and we're in a great position.
Q. Travis, I apologize if you've been asked this, but first of all, how did you follow the game last night? You were talking about getting someone to FaceTime or something like that. How did that work out? How was the emotion for you there when you got with your family after the game?
TRAVIS TRICE: I was mad because they didn't have it online where I could watch. I had to settle for play-by-play texts. If anybody's ever had to do that, it's stressful, especially in a close game. They ended up pulling out the win. I was so happy for them. I FaceTimed him right after the game. To be honest with you, it's just been a great weekend. I've just got to thank God for not only us winning and going to the Final Four, but them winning the state championship. This has been the proudest weekend of my life.
Q. Travis, Marvin Clark misses these two free throws, and you grabbed him in the chest. Tell me what you said right there and what you were thinking.
TRAVIS TRICE: I told him, "We wouldn't be here right now if it weren't for you. We wouldn't be in this situation." I was just talking about during this game, but if you look back during the past couple of weeks, Marvin has been a spark for us. I told him, "Listen, dude, we're going to get another rebound. You're going to get a chance at this. We are not going to lose because of this. Don't worry about it. Just get a stop on defense, and we'll be fine."
Q. Travis, congratulations. You said last night was stressful following it by text. I mean, was this not stressful today?
TRAVIS TRICE: I think it's more stressful when you don't have any control over it. At least with this, I feel like I had some sort of control, but just sitting back. Plus you want your family to do better. Honestly, I'm more happy for them, my brother and my dad right now, than I am for myself. I think it's just how my parents raised us, that we should care for each other more than ourselves. I'm happy for them.
Q. This is for any of the three players: Do you guys feel like an underdog team since you are the lowest seed in the Final Four?
DENZEL VALENTINE: That's a trick question because we kind of are the underdog. We believe that we can be here. We deserve it. We played great teams on our way to the Final Four. You can kind of say yes and kind of say no.
Q. For Travis, with everything that you've gone through in the last four years, physically and emotionally, was that a big reason for the emotional release that we saw from you? You're not a very emotional guy.
TRAVIS TRICE: Yeah, I was actually trying to hold it in because Tum said he called it out the night before. I didn't want to, but if I look back at all I've been through the last four years -- and not only myself, but my family and our team. We've been through a lot this year. So it was kind of a combination of all of those.
Q. 'Tum Tum' called it out, you said?
TRAVIS TRICE: Yeah, 'Tum Tum' told me yesterday and today, "You're going to cry after the game." I'm like, "No, I'm not."
BRANDEN DAWSON: Honestly, that was the first time I've seen Travis cry since I've known him. First time ever.
TRAVIS TRICE: I try to stay even keeled. I'm mad that I did cry now.
Q. Denzel, can you talk about Travis, playing defense for 44 minutes today, and how difficult that was for Travis.
DENZEL VALENTINE: Rozier is a heck of a player. He has a lot of moves. Travis had like five, and Travis was still here. Travis was determined to make it to a Final Four. Once you're determined, you can almost do anything. He was determined. So he was always right there, right in front of him. Blackshear got hot, too. So he was kind of on an island basically because we couldn't help off of Blackshear. So he was on an island, and he played great defense. He led us.
Q. This is for Travis: You talked about getting to the Final Four all season and how important it would be for you to be in this moment, to have that net around your neck. How do you best describe this feeling?
TRAVIS TRICE: I can't put it into words. Just everything we've been through just this season alone. The ups and the downs, people doubting us. Kind of people that were in our corner leaving it. There came a point in the year where it was just us, just the people in our locker room and our program. I'm just more happy for us as a whole. We stuck together. We could have quit. We could have rolled over and died, but we didn't. We just kept fighting.
Q. Travis, can you walk us through what was going through your mind, those free throws, five seconds left, first one goes in. Coach Pitino said he felt like Louisville is going to win the game at that point, just the way it bounced in and out, and the sequence where you threw up the half-court shot to try and win the game.
TRAVIS TRICE: That first free throw he shot hit the rim, bounced up, rolled around a little bit, then goes in. You're like this can't be happening right now. But we said it, Denzel said it, he's going to miss the second one, or he's going to miss one of them, and we'll be fine. My thing at half-court, I could have gotten a better shot, now that I think about it. There was more time. I could have probably taken two more dribbles, but I'm just happy that it worked out for us.
Q. Travis, Tum texted you after last year's loss and said that those tears were going to become tears of joy, and you thought he was crazy. How are you feeling now?
TRAVIS TRICE: Man, I don't even know what to say. Looking back, I know this is going to sound crazy, but looking back, I'm kind of happy that we did lose last year because it makes us feel so much better to be on the other side of it. It's been motivation. I think it's made, especially us three over here, a lot better. It's added extra motivation for us in the summer, in the fall, even in practice. We push harder now than we ever have. I feel like it's brought not only us three closer but our whole program together. Losing last year the way we did, especially with the expectation, it's just added to this year. It just makes it so much better.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Tum and his role with this group, especially coming in as a freshman.
TRAVIS TRICE: Tum's one of those guys where he does so much for our team that doesn't show up in the stat sheet. Like tonight, he helps break the press, he gets other guys involved. Tum's also that energy guy. I mean, there's times after practice where guys are kind of tired, or even before practice when we're tired heading into it, and Tum's there with all the energy and boosts everybody up. I mean, he's the life of the locker room really, him and Denzel. Tum does a lot of things for us that people really don't see, and he really doesn't get the recognition he deserves for it.
Q. For Denzel, your role seems to change every game in various aspects. What was your job today? It looked like everywhere from maybe point guard to power forward at different times.
DENZEL VALENTINE: My role is tricky because it's not really one thing Coach can say to do, because I've got to do a lot of things. My main thing is just do whatever it takes to win, whether that's get a big rebound, bring the ball up the court, make shots, make passes. Whatever it takes to win, that's what I want to do. I had a bad start, and the team kind of followed. I got mad because I got in foul trouble in the second half. I put it in my mind that I wasn't going to let us lose. Travis and Bryn and B.J. (Dawson) all stepped up big time and made big plays down the stretch. I think that's why we deserve to be in the Final Four.
Q. I'll just follow up on the Denzel thing, Coach, you've asked him over the last three years to do a number of things. Can you just talk about Valentine's versatility and what it means for this team.
COACH IZZO: You hit the nail on the head. We played him at four positions today because I did play him at four and one, two, and three. Certain guys were out, and I put him at the point. Actually had him at the point where he threw that lob to B.J. He got in foul trouble right before that, so Travis did a nice job on that play. I just think Denzel, we're asking him to do a lot because he's always got to guard the best perimeter guy. He's got to play the point. He's got to be a rebounder. He got seven of those tonight. He's got to do a lot of things, and he's capable of it. He's our emotional leader, and sometimes that makes him crazy. I thought early in the game he was so wound up that he took that one shot -- I don't know where that one came from, but I could just tell he was just so jacked. I think, that out of all the things that I got out of these guys today -- and I'm with them every day, but I think the burning desire to be at this Final Four and to realize that they didn't want to be a group that didn't make it. I got a feeling it was more the battle cry all year long, and I negated that halfway through the year to a certain extent, and started talking about taking it one game at a time. But you could just tell listening to them that it meant the world to them to get here. They worked for it. They earned it, and we're going.
Q. Tom, when you guys lost to Wisconsin, one of the things you talked about that hurt was you wanted to give them something tangible, a banner, something they'd earned, at least a smaller step. At that point, did this seem realistic then? Because that one hurt so bad, did you see this one could actually happen?
COACH IZZO: This is a bigger banner. I don't know if it will be in size, but it will be in meaning. I didn't know right then. I said I thought after we beat Illinois there and Northwestern, I just saw this team getting a little tougher, and I started really picturing them. We played pretty good in some games. We'd lose to Maryland when we had that two-point lead or three-point lead with two seconds left. Everyone thought Maryland was an average team, and all of a sudden, Maryland is a top-ten team. We lose to Notre Dame when we had that lead and some free throws, and all of a sudden, they're a top-ten team. We lose to Kansas, and all of a sudden, they are. Yeah, we lost some games. We lost them mostly at the free-throw line, but we were in them. I did believe in that. I can't sit here and I'd like to tell you I thought five different times this year we were good enough to get to a Final Four, but I'd be lying to you. I can't even say I did. I just wasn't sure we had enough size, enough talent in certain areas. And then Trav came along and started playing. We got beat by a team with Shabazz Napier, who I thought took the whole team and put them on his back personally. I know people always talk about we need good guard play. Our guards are playing better, but he's been electric and done so much. So the answer is no, I wasn't really planning on working this late, but, God, I love to work at this time of year. I just love to work at this time of year.
Q. Just how the defense clamped down on them. I think they hit six baskets through the second half in overtime. It's been a trademark of how you guys play and how special and how impressive that was.
COACH IZZO: I thought, honestly, this would be one of our worst defensive teams when the year started. I knew we were better offensively. I thought we were one of the worst. Not only did they hit six, but three of those were just pickups for layups. So they might have earned two or three baskets on our half-court defense. That's incredible against a good team. Let's not downplay it. They are a good team and a hard team to prepare for in one day. I didn't feel like I did as good a job because usually we're working on the offense that the team runs, and you're in a little room and you can go through a walk-through room and you get it done. But it was their defense that we needed to work on. Our offense, we don't play against many zones, and there was no place to do that. So it was a more difficult prep than maybe any we've had in the last three weeks. So I'm just proud of what they did. I'm proud that our defense did rear its head because that was the battle cry at halftime. We have to defend better. That way we can get our running game going more. We did get that. They went hand in hand, and some guys made some big plays. You look at it, and some will say, well, Louisville missed that free throw. I don't know what our record would be if I said some things about some of the things we did. I still think we earned the win in regulation, but they earned the comeback, too. We weren't lucky. I'm not sure they were unlucky. It was just a hell of a basketball game.
Q. Coach, can you talk about the job Bryn Forbes did, especially hitting that three at the start of overtime.
COACH IZZO: Bryn is getting better. He's getting a little better defensively. But him and 'Zel have that connection with each other. I think the proudest guy in the building might have been Trav's dad. But I think it was 'Zel's dad. He not only had him, but he had Bryn. They went to two state championships. I think there was a connection. They found each other. B.J. was right. B.J. made an incredible play. We talked about rescreening that thing and getting the ball in the middle. We didn't do a very good job most of the day, but we did do a great job at that point. B.J. took a dribble, everybody came. He kicked it. That's a shot that Bryn hits at a high percentage. Not only did he miss it, but B.J. was there for the rebound. That's the faith we have in Bryn. We set it up, knowing he'd have a great shot in the corner.
Q. Coach, you said at the start Marvin Clark is a guy you would have liked to have red-shirted. Today he had come in off the bench and scored a bucket in the paint and played the post for you, really the last seven minutes. Can you talk about Clark and his voyage this year.
COACH IZZO: It's been a voyage through some rough seas, and yet we had enough faith in him to put him in there even though he's not as big. It hurt us a little bit. They got some big offensive rebounds late, but it wasn't through lack of effort, it was just lack of size. But I thought in general, he did a lot. I think at the end, when I asked him how he missed those two free throws, he acted like he didn't need them there. He's saving them for next week. So maybe that's okay.
Q. Coach, Gavin Schilling for three straight games now has managed to stay out of foul trouble early in the game. He's also put some points on the board. He was 4-for-4 from the line today, including a one-and-one that he made. How critical has his performance been the last three, four games for you?
COACH IZZO: Really critical for the exact reason you said. He stayed out of foul trouble for the most part. He started to run the floor a little better. He got the dunk. But him making four free throws -- I don't want to make it sound crazy, but that might have been one of the best things that happened today. He just has not shot that well from the line, and they looked good to me. So I give Mike Garland a lot of credit there. He's been working with him a lot. I'll tell you something, somebody out there is making a mistake, my assistants have done a hell of a job, and D.J. and Dane, and they're worthy of some looks. I don't say that because I'm advertising. I say that because I know what they do every day, and I know what this team needed this year, and the work they did to get them where they're at is incredible. Big for Gavin, big for my staff.
Q. First half, you're down by eight points. There were some intense exchanges on the bench. What changed at halftime to go out in the second half and turn things around?
COACH IZZO: We gave up 40 points the first half. Of those 40 points, they hit three threes with nobody guarding them. And they hit 24 points on either layups or drives to the basket, and we're playing "olĂ©" defense, and they made some good plays and then made three free throws. Other than that the three threes, they were just layups and post moves. We had gone over some things, and we did not do a good job, and they did a great job. So it was a combination. So those are the adjustments we made at halftime. We've got to play harder. For the first time, I felt a little nervousness in our team. We weren't moving the ball very good. We had like six assists. They were shooting 53 or 54 percent. They were shooting 60 from the three. I mean, that doesn't happen to us very often. We just said, hey, did we forget who we are and how we got here? And how we can run if we don't ever stop anybody. And I think, to their credit, even with Denzel on the bench there, we checked better. We rebounded better. We ran better. We scored better. I love them for it. This team, they can take the halftimes. You only get what you deserve, remember that. If you're doing everything good, everything's good. If you're not, job's there to hold that guy accountable.
Q. Do you remember that text you sent to Travis after last year about turning things around?
COACH IZZO: He didn't say "Tom", he said "Tum". It was Tum. Where was he? Was he in the Bahamas? No, he was in his high school. That's the first time I heard about it. B.J. was just telling me, and it's pretty cool because this team had a battle cry all summer of getting to Indy, and I ended that about the end of January, beginning of February. I said, "That's over. We're not talking about Indy. We're not worthy of it. We haven't played well enough. We haven't played hard enough." So I used it the other way. And never was brought up again in that locker room. We got to huddle up, say where we're going, and there was some moments to that statement. It was pretty cool the way the guys felt about it, pretty cool.
Q. Tom, you talked about going into this game that the players have to play the game. We're obviously used to seeing you in this type of situation and the longevity. Just what you can say about yourself and your staff and how you've been able to coach teams to get to this point better than many?
COACH IZZO: I said I've had a couple of staff members in Mike and D.J. -- Mike's been here almost the whole time other than a couple of years. D.J.'s been here 11, 12 years, and Dane has four years in now. Those guys have brought him along now. He was a head coach. D.J.'s going to be. They do a good job. They support me. They're loyal. And they work. I mean, each one of them has scouting, and this weekend each one of them had one to do. They argued over who they thought was going to win that first game, but they worked diligently with our video guy. We had everything down. We just really could have used another day. I am really impressed with Rick and his team because it's not like that's the same team for him. He's brought a different team in, too, and they went through a few distractions themselves. You talk about a guy that's gotten it done and gotten it done in different places. He did a hell of a job. I hope it was as entertaining a game as it seemed from my bench. I'm sure I would look at it as not as entertaining if we lost, but it was a heck of a game where two teams gave everything they got. Sometimes it wasn't pretty, but they did, and I think that's a tribute to Rick Pitino and the job he's done. I think my assistants have done an unbelievable job. I say that, again, without humility. I say that with honesty. So I'm lucky. I'm lucky I got players that care and are loyal to me. I got former players that are. And I got a hell of a staff.
Q. Coach, you talked about an improbable run. Can you put into perspective where this Final Four ranks? And also, probably won't get to talk to you by the time the Gonzaga-Duke game finishes. Could you just say a word or two of those two teams.
COACH IZZO: Where this will go, I don't know. If I say it's the best one ever, I'll have the team calling and threatening me. If I say it was one of the surprise teams, I'll have Kalin and them calling me. If I say it was my favorite, Draymond will be mad for no longer than life. Alan Anderson just texted me last night, he was part of the '05 team, that if he hadn't gotten hurt, we'd have had a chance to win it that year. They were all different in a lot of ways, but I think this was the most improbable because the team had lost some games and we had gone through some things. Unlike '10, where maybe the route to the Final Four was a little easier because some teams got upset. You can say the 1 seed did, but we played -- what did we play? The 2, the 3, the 4, Georgia -- to me, Georgia was a very good team, just as worthy as those other three I just mentioned. So we got here the hard way. We earned our way here. I'm not going to apologize for that in any way, shape, or form. And as far as the -- I have no idea who's going to win that game. I have great respect for both. If Duke wins it, Mike and I have had a lot of battles. He's really enjoy it because he's won, I think, nine of them, and I think I've won one. So that's tough. If it's Gonzaga, Jud Heathcote is in for a hell of a week. So either way, I think there's problems for me. But I'm just glad we're going and see what we can do.
Q. You mentioned about what you wanted to get on offense when Dawson had the putback, but the two possessions previous to that Louisville played man-to-man, I think. You called time-out. Did you set up a play -- was that play for either defense, or did you have to go two in execution to result in that play?
COACH IZZO: You sound like my point guard. Travis Trice kept saying, they're in man. They start out in man, and the minute you cut, they switch into it. We talked about rescreening, I think. We thought there were some openings we had. 'Zel got to the hole that one time and missed it. So we felt we did some better things the last ten minutes of the game, but before that, I thought they had us kind of -- we weren't real sharp against it. I think it was a lot for them and our lack of prep time on something like that kind of defense. One day, one short day, real short day is asking a lot of your team because Rick does such a great job with that thing. As I said, just happy where we're at.
Q. [No microphone].
COACH IZZO: Yeah, we put Branden back and tried to pick with somebody else. Then we rotated Branden up. Yeah, we made a couple of adjustments. And Dwayne Stephens actually came up with one of them, and it helped. Then we wanted to rescreen it a little bit more, but hard to tell guys, when the place is going crazy and we're doing things we haven't done before because we've never played -- we've hardly played against any zone, especially that kind of zone.
Q. Coach, Harrell had a big first half. Was there an emphasis to be more physical with him the second half? What did you guys change against him specifically?
COACH IZZO: Really, we just wanted to put a hand up when he turned on a ten-foot shot and just shot it in our face. We thought that was -- I didn't think it was asking too much to tell my guy to raise his hand. As crazy as that sounds, that's what we did. We tried to double down a little more too because he's a load. Good player. We knocked some balls loose, and that was good, but it seemed like every time we got a seven or a six or an eight-point lead, whatever our biggest was, boy, they came down and three-point play, hit a big three. It was a dog-eat-dog day, boy, and I think both teams spent themselves. Just can't believe where we're going. I'm going to feel that way until the plane lands, and then it will be fun to go to work and see if we can keep this magical journey going.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports