March 27, 1999
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA
Q. This is for Trajan. Was this the bump in the road you guys expected to hit at some point?
TRAJAN LANGDON: Michigan State's a great team. I don't think there's any bump in the road.
COACH MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Hold on one second. Just let me make an opening remark. Let me just say Michigan State was the No. 2 team in the country. They are not a bump in the road. They're a great basketball team. We beat a great basketball team today in a great basketball game. You know, both teams played their hearts out on the defensive ends of the court. It was tough to get shots tonight because each kid invested all that they had. Now for us to win a game like that, we are ultimately proud, ultimately proud. That's my opening statement. All right.
Do you want to repeat your question again? (Laughter)
MICHAEL REDD: I just don't want this game to be -- it would be disrespectful to the two teams that played it to say that. It was a great basketball game. Sorry.
Q. No problem.
Next question, please.
Q. Could you please comment, the difference in your game the first time you played Michigan State and tonight.
ELTON BRAND: Tonight I feel I was in better shape, better running shape. We got out, Trajan, William, Corey were in great positions to score. So I knew -- I had a lot of confidence coming into this game but I had a better performance than the last game.
Q. Elton, before you got into foul trouble, did you feel you could do anything you wanted on the low block. It seemed --
ELTON BRAND: Before foul trouble I was confident in my moves. The guys were hitting me. I felt I could score most of the time and get fouled, find an open man. I was really demanding the ball a lot.
Q. Elton, could you just talk about the sequence where you had the three-on-one break about ten minutes to go, and it looked like you could have slowed it down a little bit before you made the pass. That gave Michigan State the chance to kind of get back in it.
ELTON BRAND: Three-on-one break, I got the rebound and just tried to push it, push it out. Sometimes in practice, sometimes in games I do that. With teams, we stepped up, took the charge. It was three on one and he made it a three on one if I got the ball up. He made it a brilliant play. That's what happened.
Q. Trajan, you didn't have to shoot the numbers you had the lags couple of games. Michigan State was coming up hard, you took the three. You weren't really open, what was your motivation and why did you take it?
TRAJAN LANGDON: Michigan State was doing a great job on me all game, keeping the ball out of my hands, really shadowing me. So I give them credit. But Coach told me stay aggressive and my teammates did, too. That's a move I made a lot of times. I'm not even worried about my shooting anymore, it's the National Championship game. I waited five years for this. I'm excited.
COACH MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: That's why we need him.
Q. Did Coach K and the coaching staff sort of make an emphasis of the rebounding differential in the first game in trying to kick you along to do a little better tonight? The first half was unbelievable.
ELTON BRAND: Definitely, first game we were out rebounding tremendously. Michigan State coming into the -- I mean into the NCAA Tournament rebounded half their misses. Coach made it a point of interest to get on the boards and block out. We did. I'm pretty sure we had an advantage at half time on the boards.
Q. This is for Trajan, although, Coach, feel free to come in whenever you want.
COACH MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Nice of you to say that. (Laughter)
Q. I just didn't know if you wanted to come in -- You're on a three-point game playing on this floor without Elton, with Elton on the bench. What's going on there on the bench and what's going on with you guys, the thought process.
TRAJAN LANGDON: With Elton out of the game, we've been -- he was playing tremendously. We knew we needed to step up as a team. Primarily what we were concerned about was on the boards. Elton had 15, 16 boards on the game and was in foul trouble. We knew we had to pick it up on the boards and that's the thing we were concerned about, that we didn't have that presence in the middle without him also.
COACH MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: I think a few kids stepped up during that time, Avery hit a big shot, Carrawell drove the ball well and Maggette gave us some big minutes during that time.
Q. This is either for the coach or the players to respond to: Michigan State makes you play a real grind-it-out, survival, physical type war game. Do you feel possibly a little bit more comfortable going against a Connecticut team that likes to play a different style, more up tempo.
COACH MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: My staff -- we haven't looked at Connecticut. I don't think they'd be able to talk about Connecticut now. Hopefully before the press conferences tomorrow we'll give them some information. I mean, for me, I wasn't sure, you know, I can't look ahead and these guys can't look ahead. But they've played against some of those players, Hamilton and the teammates. We know how good they are. But we don't know their style completely yet. We'll know that by Monday night, hopefully.
Q. Trajan, is Michigan State as good a team as you played against this year?
TRAJAN LANGDON: Definitely. Like Coach said, they're the No. 2 team in the nation right now. They're an unbelievable team. You saw the way they responded in the second half, especially getting on the boards, playing physical. They just made it very difficult for us on both ends of the floor. We beat a great team tonight.
Gentlemen, thank you. We'll let you go back to the locker room.
Q. Mike, congratulations. Does it make you feel good that you can win a variety type defensive game like that, because you've been beating teams by 40 points? Does it make you feel good that in the end you win in that situation?
COACH MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, obviously we're ecstatic about winning. The type of game and the type of team we played against makes it even more worthwhile. I mean it was really as fulfilling a win that we've had all year because they're so good. Points were so hard to come by. And then Elton's foul situation put a spin on the game that might have made it even more difficult if our bench didn't step up.
Q. Given how Elton has responded to not starting earlier this year and also that he didn't have his best game sense state earlier, are you surprised about what he did?
COACH MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Elton is Player of the Year nationally. He deserves it. I thought that us being so good defensively and on the boards, that was such an emphasis for us in the first half that I think we even got worn down a little bit. They rebounded better than us in the second half. But overall, it was so important for us to insert ourselves like that and Elton was the key guy for it because he had double-figure rebounds at half time.
Q. Coach, you've been winning pretty decisively. Michigan State was a team that would not go away. How does it make you feel about your team and your players that you were able to respond to two or three strong runs in the second half? Is that going to bode well for Monday night?
COACH MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Certainly having that experience makes you better. We're still a very young basketball team, and some of these kids have been in all of those situations. Because, you know, a lot of them are sophomores and Corey's a freshman. I thought they handled it well. They handled it well. This was a possession-for-possession game. And, you know, even when we got up 11 or 12-point lead, they missed some open 3s, too. We were fortunate on that. We knew we had to play every possession with all of our heart. I thought overall that's what our team did. This is a very well earned win by our team.
Q. Coach, how much did they weigh you down and did your troubles on the freethrow (inaudible) --
COACH MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: I think it's a good point for both teams. When you're playing like that, sometimes the free throws are when you stop. I thought that was more so than nerves, just the physical -- the hard-fought nature of the game put us in that position. Hopefully we'll get refreshed and be at our best on Monday.
Q. Coach, speaking of that hard-fought game, can you remember your Final Four experiences, a team that fought you that hard for 40 minutes?
COACH MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: This reminded me so much of my first Final Four when Duke and Kansas played. It was an amazing game. We were fortunate enough to win that. We then lost to Louisville in the Finals. But that was a game like that, where you had, you know, really two -- we have three of the best -- the three top teams in the country are in this Final Four. And I'm not sure people have given the other teams their just due as a result of their great seasons. So we felt that it would be this type of game, and we know that it will be that type of game on Monday night.
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