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March 16, 2017

Jim Larranga

Davon Reed

Kamari Murphy

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Q. Kamari, how does it feel being back in Oklahoma?
KAMARI MURPHY: I didn't think I would be back any time soon, but only thing I can think about is the good times I had at Oklahoma State. We played in Tulsa a couple of times, but I just remember the cold weather like it is now and then in the summers very hot breeze and stuff like that.

But it feels good to be back. Thought a lot about my old friends and stuff at Oklahoma State, but I'm more focused on the games we have now. But definitely good memories here.

Q. What have been your initial impressions from watching film on Michigan State? What stands out about them?
DAVON REED: Michigan State is historically a great program, led by a great head coach in Tom Izzo. They like to rebound the ball. They like to run the ball up the floor in five seconds to get a quick lay-up. They have a ton of set plays on offense. So we'll have to do a good job of taking care of all those things and keeping them off the foul line because they like to get fouled as well.

Q. How much does it help knowing that you guys beat North Carolina and Duke heading to this tournament?
KAMARI MURPHY: Just playing in our conference. We have the best conference in college basketball. So I feel like every game prepared us for what we could possibly face and Michigan State, like Davon said, five-second layups, like to rebound. Similar to North Carolina, leading rebounding team in our conference, love to offensive rebound, definitely one of the best teams in the five-second lay-up.

So I think we're more than prepared for Michigan State. But they have also, like Davon says, a lot of set plays and key players they like to go to. So we have to key in on that. We had a couple of practices to prepare for that as well. So I think these last couple days we're just freshening up on their plays and tendencies and I think we'll be ready to go on Friday night.

DAVON REED: I think, like Kamari said, playing in the ACC, we've been battle tested all year. The league through and through is tough night in and night out. So I think we're ready to play against anybody in the tournament, and like Kamari said, they're very similar to a Carolina, systemic and rebounding. So I think that experience we're be able to use in the tournament.

Q. Kamari, you have been to four NCAA tournaments. Talk about how this is cool kind of being at your fourth one.
KAMARI MURPHY: I'm kind of like the vet on the team. So now I just have to mold these young guys that we have now and just kind of tell them what it's going to be like, the atmosphere, what it's going to be like. Although we're in Tulsa, we might not have a lot of U fans, so we gotta stick together and not come unglued.

And then Coach also did a good job trying to explain what it's going to be like as far as officiating, you know, teams are going to go on runs in the tournament as well. So everybody is going to bring their best game in the tournament, so we just gotta stick together. Me and Reed as the captains gotta keep them together and do what Coach L planned. But I think my four years of experience is definitely going to show on the court, off the court and just being a leader.

COACH LARRANAGA: We're very excited to be here in Tulsa and competing in the NCAA tournament against the Michigan State Spartans. We have the utmost respect for Tom Izzo, his staff and their program. Tom and I have had a very good relationship since my days at Bowling Green, and my team is looking forward to competing against them.

Q. Can you kind of expand on that relationship with Tom a little bit? I mean obviously he came from his program to your program, and just how much you knew him coming up through the ranks as an assistant coach?
COACH LARRANAGA: I took the head coach job at Bowling Green State University in 1986 and Tom was an assistant at Michigan State at the time. And my first encounter with them was when we identified a player named Steve Smith, who was out of Detroit, and my staff and I watched him play. We started recruiting him very, very hard. And we went to Steve's home in September of that senior year of his. And at that point in time we offered Steve a scholarship and he told me he was going to visit, that he was very seriously considering Bowling Green, unless -- I said, What do you mean, Steve? Unless what?

He said, Unless Michigan State offers me a scholarship because they're my favorite. Magic Johnson is my hero and if they offer me that's where I'm going.

And I don't know if Tom would repeat the story like that, because I think he saw Steve play that next weekend and Steve had like 47 points, and he went to Steve's home by himself, without Coach Heathcote or from the scholarship. And I believe, if I heard the story correctly, Steve Smith committed to him on the spot. But that was our first encounter. And then our teams played.

My Bowling Green team played against Michigan State several times, and then when Tom was named the head coach, I just was so impressed with the job he did immediately. He just took them to a whole other level. And then for those of you who don't know Stan Heath was my assistant coach at the time. Tom hired him back in 19 -- I believe that was '94 or '95. And then five years later they won the National Championship together. And that got Stan's head coaching career started and jumped from Michigan State to Kent State. So known Tom an awfully long time and have the utmost respect for him.

Q. I think most people know that 2006 run that you had started with the win against Michigan State. I'm wondering if that ever comes up very often when you talk to Tom, if that's something you like to remind him about here and there.
COACH LARRANAGA: Well, Tom and I have never discussed it, but the media tends to bring it up a lot (laughs). So but that's in the past. Has nothing to do with tomorrow night's game. It's Michigan State against the University of Miami, and both of us, I think, recognize we have young clubs. We have a lot of young guys making major contributions, and I'm sure we're both hopeful that those young guys will play up to their capability.

Q. You talked about the five-second lay-up that Michigan State likes to get out and push the ball. How do you defend that with your guards? Is it simply getting back in transition or is it something that you have to do in the front court right away?
COACH LARRANAGA: First of all, you have to recognize that Michigan State is a highly disciplined, highly organized machine. Before our season ever began and we started talking about the importance of getting back defensively against any opponent, we used as an example that the University of North Carolina and Michigan State are the two best college basketball programs in the country, that scoring within the first five seconds of their possession, whether you score on them or not. So if they rebound it, they can score on you within five seconds. If you score on them, they can still score on you, and my coaching staff wants me to refer to it now as the three-second lay-up because they're scoring that fast.

And with a point guard like Tum Tum, we can get out and push the ball or either an lay-up open three that quickly. So you have to practice that not for Michigan State but for every opponent, but you have to be at your best if you're facing North Carolina or Michigan State because they are the two best programs at it.

Q. Obviously you guys both have a lot of youth, but you have a couple veteran guys that you can kind of lean on a little bit. Michigan State hasn't had that much this year. How much of a benefit has it been when you are trying to bring along those young guys that you have a couple of veterans at least to kind of --
COACH LARRANAGA: I think it's the reason we're here. Davon and Kamari Murphy two of the best leaders I've ever had and they've done it by example, by how hard they practice every day, the consistency of their effort and execution. They're both tremendous defensive players. Davon Reed was voted to the All-Defensive Team in the ACC, and I believe Kamari Murphy should have been the defensive player of the year. That's how good I think he is defensively. He didn't even make the All-Defensive Team.

But my estimation, we wouldn't be where we are and our young players would not have developed the way they have if it weren't for those two guys and the message they sent from day one about the importance of defending and rebounding.

Q. You just mentioned some of the nuances between Carolina and Michigan State. What are some of the other nuances that playing in the ACC will help you with in preparation for tomorrow night's game?
COACH LARRANAGA: Well, what we like to do is make comparisons so that our players have more of a familiarity with the opponent. So for example, when we showed them videotape of Lourawls Nairn, Jr., and told him that his nickname is Tum Tum, we showed a videotape of him and then compared him to John Gillon of Syracuse because the first time we played Syracuse John torched us with his speed and quickness and ability to score in the open court.

And then we talked about Miles Bridges and the great player he is and compared him to a Jason Tatum of Duke of how well he can score from three-point range but what a great athlete he is and can score in a variety of ways.

And then we compared Nick Ward to a Kennedy Meeks, who Kennedy Meeks in the ACC is one of the premier low-post players, a tremendous offensive rebounder, tremendous jump hook shooter. Kennedy is right-hand. Nick Ward is left-handed. But there's a lot of similarities.

Q. You have some size on your roster and Michigan State right now doesn't due to the injuries and some of that. Is that a situation where you can exploit it with the guys that you typically use in your rotation or do you feel like you can go a little deeper maybe with your big guys in this game?
COACH LARRANAGA: It's an interesting question. We're at our best when we get multiple guys playing very well, not just our three upperclassmen, Ja'Quan Newton, Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy. Those guys have been consistent scoring the ball pretty regularly. But we're at our best when we get a major contribution from an Anthony Lawrence, a Bruce Brown, Dewan Huell, Ebuka Izundu. Guys like that, when they're scoring double figures or having a big rebound game, that really speaks volumes for how well we can play.

Q. You mentioned player comparisons and brought up Tum Tum. There is also freshmen point guard Cassius Winston. I was wondering if he stood out to you and if you had a player to him?
COACH LARRANAGA: Cassius Winston for us is a very high IQ basketball player. Really knows how to play get a pass and a shot for himself. But he's most dangerous at finding an opponent and getting the other guys going.

And quite honestly, there are not a lot of players in the country that play at that high level of basketball IQ. So we had a hard time finding a good comparison at the college level. So we used an old NBA player, now retired, named Steve Nash, and said how important it is when Steve Nash played for you to be ready, because he could find the open man with brilliance. And we find Cassius Winston to be that kind of point guard.

Q. You talked about it already, but have you encountered a team so for this year or in your career that have so many young guys playing so many minutes like you do and what challenges a team does a team with not so much experience provide at tournament time?
COACH LARRANAGA: It's interesting that you would ask that because one of the teams in our league that was picked preseason No. 1 is now a No. 2 seed. They rely very heavily on freshmen, guys like Frank Jackson and Jayson Tatum and those Duke Blue Devils. So we know that youth and the inexperience plays a role very early in the season, and it takes a while for the young guys to kind of get their feet on the ground and know what they should be doing and what they should avoid doing.

But by this time of the year, those freshmen are at least sophomores and have played at a very, very high level for a long time. So I don't think there's an advantage on either side of the rosters.

Q. Coach, what surprised or impressed you most about Bruce Brown's ability to get 25 and 30 points against Duke and Carolina?
COACH LARRANAGA: Well, when we recruited Bruce, the reason we loved him so much is how hard he plays. He just competes every single game we watched him in AAU ball. And he's done that throughout this season, from his very first day in an official practice he went really hard. And he shows that competitive spirit at such a high level that there is no ceiling for him. He can just keep getting better and better, and in games, big games like tomorrow night, I don't know what he's going to do, but I know he's going to play really, really hard. He might score a bunch of points or he might get a bunch of assists or rebounds, bunch of blocked shots or steals, he just plays really hard at the game. And against Duke and Carolina, his shot was falling for him, so he kept shooting. His teammates found like he had the hot hands, so they kept giving him the ball. And he's had the unique responsibility of playing the one, two and three throughout a game, not just the season, but in every game. He doesn't start at the one, but we move him to the one. He starts at the three and then moves to the two and to the one and back to the three. And his matchups change constantly. So from a defense standpoint, he just likes the challenge of whoever I have to guard I'm going to try to do the best I can.

Q. What I wanted to ask you about was Miles Bridges. A guy that you really can't forget. When you look at a guy like that, how difficult is it to defend him, and do you have a good enough base with what you saw in the ACC to really defend him in enough of a level?
COACH LARRANAGA: Well, Miles Bridges is an incredible athlete. And one of the things about Michigan State as a team is they run so well. And Miles Bridges is such a great athlete, he is very, very hard to guard in the open court. Whether he's out in front and trying to dunk on you. Or you close out to take away the three and he drives it and takes it right to the rim.

When a player is so multi-dimensional, you've gotta figure out not how to stop them, but how to at least slow him down, try to limit the number of opportunities he gets to make threes, limit the number of times he beats you off the dribble, limit the number of times he crashes the offensive boards in tip dunks on you.

So we're going to have to do a great job both individually and collectively. There's not just one guy that can stop him.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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