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November 27, 2019

Mick Cronin

Prince Ali

Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Michigan State - 75, UCLA - 62

MICK CRONIN: Obviously a physically tough game today. Proud of the fact our guys out-rebounded them by one. We took care of the ball. Two areas of improvement for our team. Tough to win a game like that when you go 2-15 from three. We had some really good looks at times. Really, that's the difference in the game. We get outscored 24-6 at the three-point line. That and I thought there was some really tough calls. I thought Prince got a, trying to get out of the way, there's three times where they just dove into us and about, it's a blood bath to try to get a rebound. So I knew that was coming. Been there, done that. Guys have any questions?

Q. Prince, you played Michigan State last year. It seemed like a completely different showing from you guys as far as the toughness aspect. How do you feel you are now as a team in that department compared to a year ago?
PRINCE ALI: Obviously, I think we're tougher than we were last year. We played tougher. What I remember last year, the game was over in seven minutes. This year we played the whole game. I thought we could have given ourselves a chance to win. We had some self-inflicted errors. But overall I thought we played hard. We played harder than last year. And I think that moving forward we need to continue to play with that type of aggression and passion.

Q. It was basically a tie game at halftime. It seemed like the pace increased in the second half. Did they do something to exert that on you guys? And how big of a difference did that make in the way the game unfolded?
PRINCE ALI: It was a big difference. I think at halftime they had 26 points. We gave up almost 50 in the second half. So I mean, we knew coming in defense was going to win this game. If we had been able to replicate what we did in the first half, I think we would have had a better chance of winning this game. So going forward that's what's going to win us games. Defense, not offense. So that's what we took from it.

Q. Jaime had another good game. How impressed have you been with him and what is he bringing to you guys right now?
PRINCE ALI: Yeah. I've been impressed with Jaime since day one. He was playing pickups with us before he even got here. So I mean, he cares about winning. That's all he cares about. He lays it on the line for this team. He's a great dude. I think he's going to be a great player here.

Q. The three-point shooting, it seems like it's been kind of a season-long issue for you guys. I don't know what your percentage is on the season, but is that something where you guys can just get in the gym and work on that or --
MICK CRONIN: No, we're in the 30s there. We're right where everybody else is in the conference. Today it was bad.

PRINCE ALI: Yeah, I mean, yeah, as long as we keep taking good shots, I'm not too worried about that. They will eventually fall.

THE MODERATOR: Open it up for questions for coach.

Q. You said you wanted this game to show your guys what a team like Michigan State was all about. How did you feel that they responded to that challenge?
MICK CRONIN: I think we're still learning. We learned a lot today. Guys learned about playing with their heart. So that's really what we talked about. You got play with your heart. That's 75 percent of it. Now, you got to think, you got to play smart, you got to execute, obviously, you can't beat Michigan State, go 2-15 from the three-point line. We had some really good looks. We went through some different lineups, we exploited their help a little bit. We just didn't knock them down. I thought the big key of the game, we should have been winning at halftime. With the looks we had from the three-point line in the first half we were 2-10. We had some great looks. But we played a lot of young guys. Jake Kyman is a young kid. Hasn't had a lot of minutes. I went to him. I thought we could use him to be able to get some clean looks and we did. But I've got faith in him.

So that's a building process for us. But we're still learning. It's just, it's a night-and-day situation for some of the guys on our team. I thought Cody Riley played with his heart today. You got to care enough to call your teammate out if he's not physical or if he's not paying attention. So we're still learning that.

Q. Xavier Tillman is somebody in this tournament, offensively has been struggling a little bit. What I'm wondering from an opposing coaching standpoint what you see in him as he looks like he's in a little new role --
MICK CRONIN: I can't speak to it because I don't know what role he was in.

Q. I guess what is the opposing --
MICK CRONIN: He's a good player. He's a big strong kid. What I like about him is he's not selfish. That's really what I can tell you. I think he's clearly an unselfish player. Obviously, big strong kid, but I don't really, I'm not familiar with him.

Q. From the, could you tell scouting report or anything?
MICK CRONIN: Did he, he can score in the low post. He uses the same move every time, but we did do a good enough job stopping it. But he's a good passer. His numbers show it. He's a good passer out of the post. But all their guys, they pursue the ball, they're physical, then it becomes a blood bath. Three or four times I felt we could have had offensive rebound put back and there was collisions and no call. But it is what it is. He's a very good player, though.

Q. Jaime got his first career start, played career-high 35 minutes --
MICK CRONIN: Hard to take him off the floor right now. Hard to take him off the floor. We're trying to, we are learning what competitive spirit is and playing with your heart. He goes after the ball. Funny as that may sound, it's pretty simplistic. But if you watch the guys in green go after the ball, whether they run over people or not, they go after the ball. He goes after the ball. He got eight rebounds. He's our leading rebounder again today. We just played Michigan State. I think we're not going to play anybody that rebounds the ball the way they do with the bodies that they have. He's the leading rebounder in the game, so it's just hard to take him off the floor right now.

Q. Have you seen his spirit kind of rub off on some of the other guys a little bit?
MICK CRONIN: He's not afraid to speak up, which I appreciate. I thought Cody started to speak up a little bit today. You look at the guys that played the most minutes, those are the two guys I thought played with the most heart today. It's really not that hard to play for me.

Q. You still are, you said the other day, auditions. Does there ever come a point where you want to kind of narrow down the lineup a little bit?
MICK CRONIN: No. I didn't get Shareef in early, I thought the game got real physical, which is not his strength yet. To be honest with you, I told the staff last night I wished Kenneth wasn't redshirting, this would have been a good game for him, he's our most physical guy. No, I would like to expand the lineup. I think every coach would like would say they would like to expand the rotation. I'm sure Coach Izzo loves the fact that he's got multiple guys that can play. Right now I'm searching for five that will play with their heart and compete. Which today was, I thought we competed at a high level, just hard to win when you go 2-15 from three against a team of their caliber. Because they make shots. Which really, when the game comes down to it, the rebounding is even, the turnovers are about even, they make shots. The problem is it's hard for us to get -- we had chances at offensive rebounds and there was a lot of colliding and collisions. We missed more shots than they did. So my big guys got two offensive rebounds, Riley and Hill. So you got anything else, Ben?

Q. Overall, are you happy with the team these three days do you feel like you saw some growth that will help you moving forward?
MICK CRONIN: I thought the only good thing was the way we competed physically today. And I thought that Jaime's voice -- see, you guys don't know what goes on behind the scenes -- Jaime is not afraid to step up and say something. Enough's enough. Somebody's got to step up and say something. I thought Cody did today. Losing -- as you're trying to build a program, you got to realize what we're going to go through. So people look at me, people call, hey, don't go crazy, it's your first year. I get all that, but what I would tell them is, because I've done this two times, this is my third time, you can never accept losing, you can never let your players accept losing. Your players cannot accept it. They got to understand that you can give great effort, which we did today in a lot of ways, but still it can't be okay. It can never be okay. It can never be okay. So I don't want to give you some sort of answer that makes you think that I think, well we grew over here, and kumbaya. It can never be okay. No matter who you play against, it cannot be okay to lose. You have to build that within your locker room.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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