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November 26, 2019

Tom Crean

Rayshaun Hammonds

Anthony Edwards

Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Michigan State - 93, Georgia - 85

THE MODERATOR: We'll start with an opening statement from coach.

TOM CREAN: We knew we were playing a great basketball team, one of the premier programs in the country. We finally figured out in the second half what it takes to compete at the level that they play at. And that's what it was. We did not, we did not sustain that. We got off to obviously a good start, I think it was 15-11 somewhere in there. We were right in the game, but then we let our guard down a little bit. And as impressive as what Anthony did with the scoring I'm far more impressed with the spirit and the energy, I'm more impressed with the 14 deflections, I'm more impressed with the way the ball was pushed. And when our team, when Anthony and Samir, when they figure out how good we can be, running, throwing the ball ahead, rim running the way that we did, we'll get a lot more confidence in our game, we'll get a lot more confidence in our team, and we'll get a lot more confidence that will help us to build some sustainability.

But to play Dayton yesterday and to play Michigan State thus far, two tremendous programs, two very, very well coached, tough disciplined groups, gives us an idea what this has to look like. Now my, our goal is that we embrace it. And the hardest game for this team probably all season long will be tomorrow. And we have got to get them to understand that. But if we're growing in maturity, if we're growing in leadership, if Anthony and Ray are real leaders, they're going to understand what we have got it to get done to be able to come in and compete against either one of those teams tomorrow. And that's the key. Because it's really easy to look at it and say, okay, we did some good things, but we still didn't win the game. And that's what we got to make sure that our players understand that as we move forward and get hungry to get that next game.

THE MODERATOR: Take questions for the players.

Q. Anthony, it seems like, and Tom mentioned it, you and Sahvir have a great chemistry when you're out there together. You can play off him because you don't have handle the ball as much. How much does that play into the production you had in the second half there?
ANTHONY EDWARDS: Not just Sahvir, the whole team. The guys were behind me no matter what. We played hard. We got great players all out there on the floor and coach is a great coach. So we just play and do what he tells us to do and let the chips fall where they may.

Q. For both of you: What did you learn in the second half about your team?
RAYSHAUN HAMMONDS: We're learning playing great teams like that. They're a great team. You learn how to play against physicality and things like that and we learned from it. We just have to get better from it and that's really it.

ANTHONY EDWARDS: I think we learned that we got a great group of guys, tough, just being tenacious rebounders no matter what, just playing hard. That's all it's about, just having fun.

Q. For Anthony, you know, coming in with the hype you came in, you always have a bullseye. And it seemed like the second half, you made sure you were taking it personal and it really pushed your game. What has it been like to play through all those kind of expectations?
ANTHONY EDWARDS: I mean, when I step on the floor I don't really care about what people think I should do on court. I just play for my team. I always been a team player. My team's always behind me. Like I said, coach is a great coach. So we just do what he tells us to do and play ball.

TOM CREAN: I would add to that he doesn't -- he's got an infectious energy with him with his teammates that is rare. And, obviously, he scored a lot of points today. But like I said -- and he brings confidence in that -- but the way he moves the ball and if we build on what he did with pushing the ball up the court like that today and that's going to make, pay major, major dividends for us. Because, obviously, he's going to be at the front, as is Ray, of anybody's scouting report. And when you're moving the ball and when you're getting lost in the game and when you're attacking and doing those type of things, it sometimes puts the scouting report on hold, all right? When you're not playing as quick, when you're in the playing as fast-paced, when you're not moving as well, then it brings the scouting report to life. And we got to make sure that we continue to understand that. And for a young guy, he's doing better and better all the time and learning that.

THE MODERATOR: All right. We'll let the two of you get back to your team and we'll open it up for questions for Coach.

Q. The individual performances that you saw tonight, both Anthony with his game and then Cassius with everything that he's going through, I guess, where does this rank for you in terms of individual performances?
TOM CREAN: That's a hard question. I've been a part of some great individual performances but it's really hard for me, as a coach 20 years in, to grade an individual performance when you don't win the game. That's hard. Because, and that would have made it a happy story, right? But the bottom line is Anthony's just scratching the surface. And if he will build on the leadership that he showed today on and off the court, I mean, on the floor and off the floor today the way he did, and if he will continue to attack, because we gave him the challenge of guarding Cassius right off the bat. And I don't know if that was met with -- there were a few eye rolls, probably, from my staff on that -- but he's got to rise to the challenge. He's a kid that wants that type of challenge. Well, when you say that, you're going against one of the elite guards in all of college basketball. Probably, if there was an all-decade team of point guards, you're going to put Cassius Winston on that. I know he's only played six or seven games this year, but he beats you so many ways and he loves the pass. Our whole thing is we did not want to have to over-help on him. We made some mistakes on screens. We knew that Tillman in the front line would come out with their hair on fire today. They did. And what Cassius does is he's become such a better shooter. Like, last year, I think of his threes. 39 of 84 threes he made were off the dribble. Well, now he's able to do even more off the catch. Like, he can do so many different things. His range has increased. He loves to pass. You over-help, he's going to find the lob, he's going to find the dropoff. And when you got a guy like that that doesn't predetermine what he's going to do, that's what makes him a special, special guard.

Obviously, Tom has his sets and he has the actions that he wants to run, but Cassius can do so many things from a predetermined way and -- or without predetermining, and that's big.

Q. When a guy gets into that zone, that looked like it was out of body there --
TOM CREAN: It definitely was.

Q. Do you, what, do you just kind of back off and just let him go?
TOM CREAN: No, a little bit, a little bit. We keep trying to -- the thing to me is you got to keep coaching the game to get to the bonus, because you're not going to beat those guys if you don't get to the foul line, because you got to be able to set your defense. So the jump shots were good but we needed to keep attacking the rim, and he was feeling it. And that's the first time I've been around him when he feels it like that. And really, we're going to look back at the film. When he misses, there's been, I could spend all day talking about what we're trying to do to build him fundamentally, but when he misses it's always pretty clear why. And today he was making, it was pretty clear why. Because he was stepping into it, he was releasing it quick, he was holding his followthrough. His, even his step back was straight up, not falling away. Those things are important things. But to me, the way that he was, this is the first time he's really understood, I can attack that defense in the fast-break situation. I mean, that's what Michigan State is. Michigan State's a fast break, rebounding unit. That's what we have always tried to be where I've been. We've got to get that built. We're not there yet, but that's a step in the right direction with that.

The next step for us, and it goes with Sahvir too, is how much better are we going to get at throwing the ball ahead. And we started to get better at that in this game. Because he's not going to have those out-of-body experiences every game, but the ball's got to move that fast and that quickly and that efficiently for us to take the next step as a team.

Q. When you have a guy who has just so much attention, and always, that Anthony gets, what's the biggest challenge in keeping everyone else engaged?
TOM CREAN: Oh, they love him. They love him. Oh, that's always -- you're always going to have a -- especially early in the season -- every team goes through it, every team has guys that are going to be a little jealous, going to get a little sullen, get a little quiet. And then that -- I get it, to a degree, that was a heck of an atmosphere to be in and we didn't go to the bench much inside of that once we got on that run. So I get that. But every day with him he moves the ball in an incredibly high rate. He took some leadership steps today. Now the next big thing is can he maintain it. But he is, there's times in practice especially he passes the ball too much. And he will predetermine. And that's part of being a young guard, he will predetermine what he's going to do, where a guy like Cassius doesn't really predetermine it - or at least if he does he don't let anybody know, he makes the play when it's the right time to make it. So that's what we got to learn. But if he didn't engage himself with his teammates the way that he is and if he wasn't working -- I mean, we gave him the Cassius Winston matchup today. And it's important that he feel that challenge and he had to respond to that challenge. So if -- this is not going to be a situation where a guy's playing one end of the floor and just shooting the ball. It's never been that, it will never be that, I'll never coach that. And that's what he's got to thrive to do other things, that's one of the reasons he came is because he bought into the fact that we were really, really going to hold him accountable -- he didn't know what that meant when he signed and it took him about three, four weeks to figure it out, but he's figuring it out and we're going to continue to do that.

Q. Since Sunday morning you kind of had the theme about the toughness and the physicality of this tournament. And even through yesterday's presser and then today you're down 26. How important was it to see your team get off the mat and really fight back?
TOM CREAN: Extremely, extremely. There's no -- you coach 20 years, you don't have moral victories, it's not. And I don't want them to feel that, because we didn't win the game. But the bottom line is identity doesn't always come out in a win. Our identity, the proper identity started to come out today even though we lost the game. And you're trying to build an identity. It's early, early in the season, okay, it's -- you -- we have got to be able to understand what will cause us to lose, all right, before we really understand how to win. And the first half caused us to lose and the second half was starting to teach us how to win. Now how do we put that together over a period of time, with a young group, that's the trick and that's what we got to continue to work on every day.

Q. Aaron Henry is a guy that's sort of scratching the surface for Michigan State and looked more aggressive today than yesterday. From an opposing coach's perspective, his ceiling and what sort of matchup issues he can create for them?
TOM CREAN: Well Michigan -- Tom's lucky that I wasn't at Indiana any more because we would have never let him get out. I love him. I loved him when people didn't really know who he was because he was a blue collar guy. Very blue collar. Played for a great high school coach. And I'm proud that -- obviously I'm proud that he is at Michigan State. I want, I'll now go back 364 days of wanting Tom to be highly successful. But he's going to be fantastic because he's making better decisions, he can shoot the ball, he can rebound, he can post, he's a multi-purpose player. Really, to me, he's a little stronger than he was at the time. He's going to be on the Morris Peterson train there. I mean, I see the symbolism there, and I'm not big on comparisons, but that's one that stands out to me, not just because they're left-handed, but Morris grew to be a guy that could do a lot of different things and that's why he's one of the all-time greats there. And Aaron -- it took Morris a little while to mature, where Aaron looks like he's really pretty mature for a player and he does a lot of things for them. So he's going to be one of the premier players in the country from the wing spot because he can play multiple positions, he can do multiple things, he can guard multiple people and he's very trustworthy. I would, I haven't asked Tom this, but he looks very, very trustworthy on the court. And when you're trying to win a game you got to have trust in your team, trust in the players on the floor, I'm sorry.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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