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November 27, 2019

Tom Izzo

Xavier Tillman

Cassius Winston

Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Michigan State - 75, UCLA - 62

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

TOM IZZO: First of all, I would like to give credit to UCLA. I've known Mick and I think what he's trying to bring out there is what we have in the Midwest, a little tougher, more aggressive team. And I thought his big guys were physical, and a lot of the teams we face in the Big-10, athletic, but they have length, and what you hope to get out of these tournaments, when you go to them and all these big games we played early, and I think they have done a great job in this committee here selecting teams because you got a variety of different teams. I mean, hell, nothing against Kansas, I look at Dayton and I think they might be the best team here right now. And we'll see what happens. But I think there's been a lot of good teams. And we played zone, today was a matchup-type zone. We've run against different offenses. And we got to keep in mind that we are still very young. We were just talking, there's three guys that have any real experience. So when you have tournament and you don't go to a gym, you just have a walkthrough in a ballroom, it's hard for those new guys to pick that stuff up.

I thought these two guys played their tail off. I would say the only problem that I am struggling with a little bit, we go small sometimes. We did get out-rebounded by one, but they're big. We're missing layups. We're missing lay ups. And I already talked to X, he's one of them. But it's not just him. The sad part is I don't think if he would have made his layups in this tournament he would have averaged probably 18 points a game. So his offense is really starting to come along and we're starting to go to him a little bit more. And Cassius is still the guy that stirs the drink, coaches the team, and makes the popcorn.

THE MODERATOR: Take questions for the players.

Q. Xavier, wondering how different your role feels than last year for you. Obviously, you played a huge instrumental role, you started down the stretch, but does it feel different this year with this team?
XAVIER TILLMAN: Yeah, only for the fact that last year with Kenny and Quedo I could only focus on myself and it was a lot easier, so I can just focus on me, making sure I'm doing the right thing and then covering for other people if they made mistakes. But this year I got to make sure everybody's good. For the young guys, I got to make sure I set good screens for Cash and make sure I'm finishing as well. And my awareness has to be not just for myself but for everybody. So that's just the biggest difference.

Q. For you Cassius, the ability to shoot outside, get in the lane, how much did you feel like that hitting those couple threes allowed you to soften up the defense to the drive and dish?
CASSIUS WINSTON: That's huge. Once they got to respect you out there kind of just it opens the floor up being able to hit the threes. And then with my ability to kind of drive and use my, use off the dribble. So they got to close out on me on the three-point line and that opens everything up downhill to kind of make more plays. But when I'm hitting shots it becomes a little bit easier to make those plays.

Q. For both you: I know you would rather be playing this game right now, the championship game, but what do you take from this trip out here? You guys have been through these long seasons and seen how they go up and down. What do you take, I guess, as a positive from -- or negative even, what's the most you can take from this trip here?
CASSIUS WINSTON: We just learned a lot about our team. To come in and kind of get punched in the mouth, we haven't really had a chance to kind of respond to that that fast. We kind of usually got time to practice and go back and watch film and learn what to do to get better. This time we got punched in our mouth and then we had to play the next day. And I think we did a pretty good job of rallying and getting back out there and playing hard for the next couple days. So we got fight in us, we got the talent, we got the potential, it's about bringing every day. This time we brought it two out of three days and that's something that we can fix.

XAVIER TILLMAN: Yeah, I would definitely say our turnaround, even though we had a tough loss at the beginning, they did a good job of just bouncing back in that first, like, two thirds of the Georgia game when we were just on a tear defensively, offensively getting open shots. And then this game coming in on a tear, everybody locked in everybody doing their job. So I would just say our bounce back is what I would take from this.

Q. Cassius, everybody has respect and, for what you've been going through and playing through. I was wondering with the players party Friday and then throughout the week if any of the players have been reaching out to you and supporting you from the other teams.
CASSIUS WINSTON: Oh, yeah. Every game just about every player gives their condolences, every coach, everybody just, it's hard. It's something hard to go through, but the support from all the programs and respect from everyone it's been real genuine and people are showing a lot of love and a lot of support.

Q. I know that the next step is the Duke game. I guess, what do you guys use from this as a springboard into that? And how do you use, maybe, the focus you had to do after the Virginia Tech game and find to go into that next week?
XAVIER TILLMAN: For me personally, I'm going to be working on my free throws. I will not be missing a free throw in the Duke game. I'll be working on my free throws all week. But as a team just making sure that we follow the scouting report to a T, know everybody's tendencies, so if a guy drive left, he's not going to drive left in a game. If a guy's a shooter, he's not going to get an open look in the game. And so for us, I would say following the scouting report to a T.

CASSIUS WINSTON: Like I said, bring the positive that we got out of the tournament. I feel like we did get better as a team. I feel like we did show good glimpses of what we're capable of. So just take those things, that energy we're playing like that, moving the ball, locked in on the defensive end, we play like that, we're potentially the best team in the country. So if we keep that energy, keep that mindset, we're going to take that approach all the way through the next game.

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

Q. It looked like you had a few nice words for Mick after the game. Can you share any of that? And what, he talked a lot yesterday about wanting to emulate what you have done with this Michigan State program. Can you talk about some of the core concepts and what all goes into doing what you have done for so long?
TOM IZZO: Well, I do think, for the most part, we're a pretty physical team. We have some toughness to us, we usually rebound pretty well. We're probably the smallest team I've here for us and that's a little different. He's got a big team. I've known Mick for a long time. He's been a student of the game, what he's done at Cincinnati. I think when he brings that to the West Coast, they're going to have trouble putting up with him early. And as they say, I guess, it was Bo, those who stay will be champions. I see no reason why he, if he can get them to buy into what he wants, because you can get a different athlete out there and there seems to be a lot of length. I don't know, we got to send some of you California people to the Midwest just for the length reasons alone. And if he gets length with toughness, then he's going to really have something. So I just told him he's tougher than he thinks they are, because he gave me a little Lou Holtz before the game, you know, that I was afraid that we were playing their cheerleading squad, not their basketball squad after listening to Mick. But I have great respect for Mick and I think he's going to be the complete different. He's not John Wooden, nobody is, but he's got a whole different way of doing things. I think he appreciates that they scramble, they played hard, they were hard to score against, they have great length. As he gets, he's done great job with Tyger. That kid couldn't shoot it and that. He's done a great job, his individual work, they will improve drastically.

So I'm a fan. I hope they have all the success in the world and I hope we don't play them again.

Q. As much as you would like to be playing right now, what do you take from this week?
TOM IZZO: Well, I tell you what I took from this tournament. I see Dave back there. I gave a lot of credit to him. They changed it some. I don't know how many years ago you put the air conditioning in. That's been good. But I think even the events for the players, that second night, the way you did that, maybe it's been the same for a lot of people, it wasn't like that when I came here last time. It was really, like big-time professional. I mean, I've been in a lot of these and they're all nice events, but that, to me, that night that I didn't know if I would like, the night before a game you always want to get going, both my players and my staff thought it was big-time.

So I think when you get the kind of teams you got here and, you know, you can say sometimes there's a star-studded team. We were out here one year, and I think there were, seven out of eight teams were probably really highly ranked. But you get in the NCAA tournament you're going to have to play against some of these teams that aren't as well known and it's kind of good to tell your players, I mean, he got our butt kicked by a team that is picked towards the bottom of the ACC. Now, I think they will be better than that, but it happened and we learned that we played against a team, real small, 6'6", 6'7", but all five guys that can shoot. This is going to help us down the stretch. Everything that happened here is going to help us. I'm not big on losing helps you get better. I'm just big on playing against different competition and that's what I've tried to do. We're going to leave here playing an ACC team, a SEC team, and a PAC-12 team, and it doesn't matter where they end up. If we end up playing somebody in that league in the tournament, we can kind of compare what they did against them, how they played them. That's what's been my MO for scheduling the way I do. I always try to pick teams from different regions and from different conferences, because I think in the end of the day it helps us a lot.

Q. What do you think Aaron Henry's ceiling is this year and how badly are you trying to get that potential out of him. How important is that for you guys?
TOM IZZO: Well this is a lot higher ceiling than what he's playing at. I'll tell you that. I was disappointed with Aaron today. And, you know, but it's kind of fun. I've been through so much, as I said, at Michigan State and I had to kind of curb my ways back to dog-eat-dog. You don't want to play hard, you don't want to do the right things, your butt's going to sit on the bench. Aaron Henry is a very talented kid. I think his ceiling's off the charts, that's the problem. When his ceiling is off the charts and he doesn't cut out, and he doesn't go in and rebound, he doesn't do this and that, you know, I was really good at yelling at guys, and as you get older, and then the damn TV it catches you saying everything and sometimes moms get mad and all that. So just sitting him makes it easier on my heart and easier on my voice and not as good for TV, but maybe it will bring home what we need. Aaron's a great kid, a great student. He's just, as we learned last year, when some of those, I almost said something I didn't want to, when some of those very intelligent broadcasters around the country said that the finger wave was a bad thing, if you were at practice every day, if you were here this week, you should have a better understanding of what is needed. And right now, we got to find out how we get that motor running again, because he's still a very talented kid. He does some incredible things. How he can consistently do that will determine where his ceiling is.

Q. (No microphone.)
TOM IZZO: If I was in Michigan I would freeze my ass off. You kidding me? You know what, we tried to stay normal, but my daughter gave me this for Christmas, and she said she wanted me to wear it the last day. I thought she was hoping it would be in the championship game. But I've learned the last couple weeks that whatever my daughter says, I'm going to do. So, thanks. Thanks for the compliment. I don't get that very often.

Q. You often talk about lifting the program as high as you can, and I was at the ACC media day and this follows up on what Coach Cronin said. The Duke players all talked about how excited they were not just to play Michigan State, but to see Breslin Center. Just wondered what your reaction is to that?
TOM IZZO: Well, I think that's great. I mean, and I've always been a guy that I'll schedule anybody in the world home and home. We're getting less of those. And I think it's cool to go to Cameron, I think it's cool to go to UCLA. Magic's trying to get me back out there, and with Mick there, I'm probably dumb enough to do it. I'm kind of one of those guys that does those things because I enjoy it. So they're 20, I'm 60 and I still enjoy doing that. I think it's one of the great things in sports that you get to go to venues. And, you know, even to play out here, I do want to thank all of our fans that came out, but I want to thank all of the people from Hawaii and Maui and different islands. They were the kindest people. I think we should bring the California length to Michigan and we should be bring the some of these people with the way they talk to you, the way they are excited to see you. It was a great week for us. Our guys had a great time. It's hard three days, three games in three days. It really is difficult. But what a better example for our players than to realize that you have to prepare. 'Til the wee hours of the night, we all got up at six this morning, another walkthrough, another film session, you know. That is a good practice for your Big-10 tournament, it's good practice for the NCAA tournament. And I just want to thank the committee for having us and I want to thank everybody here. And we're going to get better. We got a long ways to, a long ways to go. At times, I don't think we looked very good, so I'm sure you don't think we looked very good. But trust me when I say this, if we get a rotation down and we kind of figure out, Rocket, big thing, because we lost a great player in Langford there, we're going to get better as the year goes on. And you're seeing upsets all over the country, guys, and it's because people are playing tougher competition. And a lot of these teams, like the Daytons of the world, they're good. They're really good. And so thank you all and have a great Thanksgiving and have safe travel.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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