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April 3, 2000

Charlie Bell

Mateen Cleaves

A.J. Granger

Andre Hutson

Tom Izzo

Morris Peterson


COACH IZZO: Well, I don't think I've realized -- it hasn't sunk in yet what we've accomplished. I really do want to take my hat off to our whole team, because I think it was a whole team effort. It was a night where we had a lot of guys do a lot of things. Every sub that came in played well. These guys were incredible, the three seniors, I don't know how I can make everybody believe how special they are to me. They've done an incredible job of helping build this program, and hopefully they'll be great alumns and come back and teach the guys what they did so gallantly tonight and that was play with as big a heart and as good an effort as I've ever seen.

Q. A.J., with the three seniors here in the middle -- with the three seniors, you can sort of be the forgotten guy. How have you handled being the third guy? Your impact in the entire tournament, you've stepped up your play. What do you attribute that to?

A.J. GRANGER: I'd rather be that guy. I get more open shots. I'm not so in the spotlight. But I just try to play my role on the team. I know I'm one of the four seniors on this team, I have to provide my leadership to the team. These guys have done a great job of helping me come along as a player, and, you know, they got me open tonight, got me the ball, set some picks for me. It was a total team effort. Almost completely opposite game than it was against Wisconsin the other night.

Q. A.J., kind of in the same vein, Coach Donovan called you the X factor, he said they pretty much had an idea what Mateen and Morris would do, but they had to hold you in check. He gave you credit for being able to overcome. Did you have the sense that you had to produce tonight, that that would be the case?

A.J. GRANGER: You know, it just seems like somebody on our team steps up every night. Tonight it was me and Morris. A lot of guys did some things that didn't show up in the stat column. We had several guys breaking the press tonight. We had several guys on the boards, and like I said, these guys got me open. I just had to make the shot. I have to give my credit to them for helping me out.

Q. This is for Morris, Mateen and Charlie Bell. As you guys were celebrating on the court, I think each of you came over and you hugged Magic Johnson. Can you just talk about what it meant having Johnson and Steve Smith here to celebrate this title with you?

MORRIS PETERSON: Those two guys are the best players to ever play the game at Michigan State. I mean just to have them here supporting us and watching over us, Magic Johnson, he won a National Title back in '79. We always wanted that feeling. He's a great guy, he's always around us, him and Steve Smith. Those guys meant a lot to this program, just to be back here supporting us.

MATEEN CLEAVES: You know, you got guys like Magic Johnson to come back, one of the greatest players to ever touch the ball for Michigan State, it makes it special. It was very special to see him come back and support us. We wanted to get a win for him. Guys like Steve Smith, I was happy to see him. He was a guy I always looked up to as a kid. He was always my player. That's strange, he's 6-8, I'm real little. But he's a guy I always looked up to somewhat, and I loved him so much. I'm so happy to see them here. I'm glad we could get a win in front of those guys.

CHARLIE BELL: Those guys have very busy schedules. For them to take the time out of their schedule to come support us, it shows what kind of family we have here at Michigan State. The young and the old, we all just come together and we're just all Spartans. They came back and supported us, and, you know, we had to go out there and win and not just for the team and our seniors, but every Spartan fan or Spartan out there.

Q. This is for Charlie Bell. I wonder how you feel about saying good-bye to these seniors, and what kind of a load you're going to have to absorb next year and also talk about your game this year. You seemed to do, tonight, a little bit of everything: Assist, rebound, scoring, kind of whatever was needed, kind of what Coach Izzo talked about.

CHARLIE BELL: I just took that as my role. I know we got scores and we got guys who can handle the ball. I wanted to go out and do whatever I had to do for this team to win, passing the ball, rebounding, doing whatever. I'm going to miss these guys, me and Andre, we have some big shoes to fill, a National Championship is going to be hard to follow up, but we know we can do it. We got some great freshmen coming in and we got great guys coming back. And we know what it's like to be champions and Morris, Mateen, A.J., they really showed us to how to work to be champions and we're going to take that and build on it.

Q. Mateen, how much pain were you in? How much pain were you in, what was your emotional state like when you went off the court? And what was the feeling like when you watched that One Shining Moment video after?

MATEEN CLEAVES: Well, it was a lot of pain, you know, when I went down. I had a lot of pain in my foot, and, you know, it just -- was very painful. I tried to walk on it, but I couldn't put any pressure down. We just went back in the locker room and we just added some more tape to it and put on a brace. It was still hurting a tad bit, but it made it easier to play. Back in the locker room, I dropped a couple tears back there. I was going to start crying, oh, no, not now, I really want to play, win this game. The trainer was like no, more, not today. We're going to get you back in there, tape you up. I was a little sad about it. They taped it up good, luckily I was able to come back and play. But, you know, that One Shining Moment, that's been a favorite song of mine ever since I've been a kid. You always watch games, you always watch people who went -- won National Championships. And me, always as a kid, I always couldn't wait for that one last Shining Moment song. I would always stay up and watch that. It got very emotional for me. It was just a blessing and it was a great feeling to see yourself up there on One Shining Moment.

Q. Mateen, was there any chance you weren't coming back in the game, in your mind, though, sounds like you were a little doubtful? But really was there any chance that you weren't going to come back?

MATEEN CLEAVES: No. I was definitely going to try to come back. I told the trainer, they were going to have to amputate my leg to keep me out of this one. The trainer let me be aware that when I went back in, it was going to be sore and I had to suck it up and play on it.

Q. Mateen, did you know that Coach gave Teddy Dupay an earful when you were on the floor? Does that surprise you in any way? What does that say about your relationship?

MATEEN CLEAVES: I didn't know that. It doesn't surprise me. Coach, he covers my back on the court and off the court. You know, and we got a very special relationship, you know, and I mean like it really didn't surprise me. That's the kind of guy he is, a very tough competitor. If he feels he has to take some stuff on himself, but if you do anything to his players, you have to deal with Coach Izzo and you don't want to deal with him if you do something to his players.

Q. Andre and A.J., could you guys talk about the emotional state or whatever you would call it that you guys were in after Mateen was hurt and Morris was already out with foul trouble, the next few minutes were pretty crucial. Did you -- were you guys conscious of what you had to do at that time?

A.J. GRANGER: I think so. He went out and I think we kind of knew how bad he was hurt just because of what he was telling us when he went down. But I think we just, you know, rallied together in the huddle, we had been in that position before. Coach came in, said let's get ready, we looked at each other and said, let's do it. I think we just had a confidence level in each other that when he was out we could still play. If he was going to come back, we wanted to keep a lead so it would be great for him when he came back. I just thought we, you know, kept our composure and got it down.

ANDRE HUTSON: I think it was a big turning point for us. He went down, people didn't get too down about it. We played without him before. We expected the worst and wanted to go out there and do what we could to finish the game. There wasn't any doubt we were going to win. We tried to regroup with each other, go out there and play a lot more harder.

Q. I wanted to direct this question to any of the seniors, Mateen, or A.J.. What part of Coach Izzo's teachings do you carry with you to get through tough situations like this, and also what has he taught you that allows you to accomplish such a goal as this?

MATEEN CLEAVES: Well, one thing, he always, you know, taught me to always keep a level head, you know, no matter how tough times get on or off the court. Always, you know, keep a level head and just, you know, and hard work pays off. He's one -- if not the hardest working person I've ever seen in my life. He's always watching film, I mean and then, in practice, you know, he's down, ready to go. Like us. You know, he's ready to get down and dirty, he's down hollering, doing his defensive shuffles, so if there's anything I learned from Coach, it is always stay humble, stay positive no matter what the situation is, and hard work does pay off.

Q. Mateen and Charlie, you guys must have known going in you were going to make some hay with their press and you really just killed them in transition. Can you talk about what you wanted to do and how you did it? .

MATEEN CLEAVES: Well, one thing, you know, we did is Coach, you know, put together a great game plan. You know, we knew we were going to get pressed and, you know, we kind of went to one-four set, we went to make one pass and let me cut through the middle, let me get the second pass, we just wanted to push it. When we got numbers, he told us to attack it. But, you know, we did a good job of breaking their press. We do got to give a lot of credit to the coaches because they set up the formation, we set up to break the press -- was easier for us.

CHARLIE BELL: We didn't want to sit around and hold the ball and try to get trap. We just really wanted to move the ball, get it in Mateen's hands or my hands so we can try to make things happen. I think we did a great job of getting in the open court and Morris and A.J., everybody just made big plays for us.

Q. A.J., the Flint Stones is sort of how this team is recognized. First of all, do you make jokes with those guys about coming from Findlay? Who else came out of Findlay before you, basketball-wise?

A.J. GRANGER: That's a hard question. You know, everybody keeps asking me when I'm going to get my Findlay tattoo. I keep telling them, "Never." I don't know. (Laughter.) You know, the only -- I really can't -- there's been several Division I players out of Findlay. I came from a small school on the edge of town. But I know John Kidd, the punter for the Bills came out, there's not quite the -- quite the tradition that Flint has from people coming out. But, you know, hopefully, you know, I don't -- I don't get caught up in that. It's a good thing for our team.

Q. Morris, two things. No. 1, I'm wondering what it is about the second half that seems to bring out the best in your game, and secondly, did Mateen tell you to let him down gently when you picked him up at center court in the celebration after the buzzer?

MORRIS PETERSON: Well, I mean I don't know what it is. We got to keep in it to half time so I can play better. I guess it's just a sense of urgency, I wanted to win, I don't know what it is. But Mateen, after the game, he was kind of hopping around a little bit. But I let him down easy.

Q. You let him down easy, okay. For Morris, you had some struggles offensively, then you had to come out with your third foul and you're out for a while. I wonder how tough it was for you to be out of the game that time with Mateen also out and what you were thinking and what you wanted to do when you came back in the game.

MORRIS PETERSON: It was very frustrating. We've had a bunch of guys who really stepped up all year and made some big plays for us. Mike stepped in, had made a big shot for us. Mateen came out. At half time Mateen said he would step up, make things happen. After he went out, everybody got angry. I can't give credit to myself, I think all the guys stepped up and made some big plays in the second half for us.

Q. Mateen, two years ago you guys lost to North Carolina in the Regional Semis in Greensboro. Did you guys take anything from that game that has helped you since, or is it too far away to remember?

MATEEN CLEAVES: Well, the main thing is I think I got -- you just got to go out and play. I mean you got to put together a 40-minute game, if you want to have any chance of beating tough teams like that. You know, the thing I kind of got out of them, too, is I took -- put on us this year is a lot of people were shooting at them. They did a good job of holding people off. When you're playing at a national-ranked program you're going to have guys coming at you. I saw the confidence in their eyes, you know, when they're out there on the floor. They knew we were going to come at them, you see the confidence in their eyes and that's something I try to carry -- I picked up from guys like Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison. I try to carry that same attitude when we play.

Q. Mateen and Mo and Charlie, throughout the course of the game, whenever you did something or needed a little bit of strength or put a basket in, you seemed to turn and look at the Spartans section there. I'd like each of you to tell me who, in specific, you were looking at, if there was one person, and talk about how significant having that group of green was there during the course of the night? .

MORRIS PETERSON: Our parents, that's who we were looking at. They've been great for us, you know, supporting us ever since we've been here. I mean through the good times and bad times. We just wanted to let them know that, you know, we wanted to thank them, you know, just for sticking behind us through all this, all the good times and bad times. And we just wanted to, you know, play with some emotion. That was the biggest thing. Sometimes emotion wins games. I think that was an example for us tonight.

MATEEN CLEAVES: Oh, yeah, we, you know, wanted to look at our parents. Your parents and your family, when you're coming through times like that, we've come to a long time. And just to see your parents support you, they support us all year, they've been at almost every game. It's a National Championship game. I know, I just look over there and give a little wink just to let them know I'm thinking about them and just thanks a lot for supporting me. You know, sometimes you try to do it on a sneak, try not to let Coach see it because sometimes he gets on you. He pretty much just let us play freely today and that helped us out.

ANDRE HUTSON: Like Mateen and Morris, we got our families up there. They've been supporting us all year long, especially my father, my parents, Mateen's parents, they're like family. Those are my brothers. And I know my father played basketball, it's kind of like he's living his life through me. He's loving every bit of this. He's really enjoying coming to watch us play, and this National Championship is kind of for him, too.

Q. Coach Izzo, the comeback situation, the question is, is it something that's being taught or is it a happenstance and it just evolved and maybe you taught it? How do you account for that? Is there a system that MSU has now undertaken?

COACH IZZO: What do you mean by the comeback? I'm sorry.

Q. During the tournament, the team was down in the second half.

COACH IZZO: Yeah, today was one day we weren't. I didn't know what you meant. But, you know, I think we have to give the credit to the other teams. I've been saying all along we don't think we're this team that just walks in and wins games. You know, we got good players and I think we play hard but we have our moments. We have our lulls, you know, Wisconsin put us through an 11-minute one without scoring a basket. You know, it's not like we overpower people. I think we're able to win different ways and I said the other day before the Wisconsin game, you know, we won games 50 to 45 and we won games 90 to 80 and sure enough in this tournament we did it both ways with those two teams. So I just think, you know, we do challenge guys. You know, we talk to them, but I think it was more the other teams than it was just us.

Q. Tom, on the play when Mateen got hurt, it appeared he gave Dupay a pretty good forearm to his head as he was going up. Did you see that? What impact do you think that whole moment had?

COACH IZZO: You know, I didn't see that, but I didn't, you know, I just thought that there was a foul way out by our bench and things got out of hand, and, you know, I'm not going to comment on it. I probably embarrassed myself by saying one thing to him and probably shouldn't have. But I didn't like the way it happened and that was -- that ended after the game. We talked about it. So what impact did it have? What impact does it have when your star is out? It has a major impact. He's our emotional leader, our leader on the court and more importantly, most importantly, was the press. And, you know, I mean I don't have a lot of guards on this team, and so that was a major loss. And yet, you know, when he first went down, I could tell because he never -- he's not one of those guys that puts on -- fakes an injury so his girlfriend gives him sympathy in the stands, so I knew he was hurt. When I walked over and they said they didn't think it was broke, I told him, he's got, you know, a few minutes and he better be back on the floor. He said he would be. So that's the kind of kid he is.

Q. The team's emotional response?

COACH IZZO: I think the team, we went right into the huddle, I said, hey, you know what, we have a war on our hands. Somebody's got to step up right now and we've done this before. If there was ever a reason, you know, and when you look at a season or you look at something great that happens, I guess there's always points throughout the season, it was almost like this is the way to say, "Well, you've played without him for 13 games, now you better revert back and do that for a little bit of time." It was like it kind of was meant to happen that way, I don't know. Yet our guys, there was nobody down. They all rallied together, and I was proud of them for that.

Q. Tom, following right up on that same theme, do you think the adversities that this team had to go through through the season prepared them in the end to handle the situations they came up to in the tournament?

COACH IZZO: Well, you know, I think this team has gone through as much adversity as any team that's won a Championship, from what I could see. Yet I don't know what other teams go through. But this team has had a lot of different little injuries and a lot of different things and a lot of major injuries. You know, losing Mateen was hard. It was hard to get him back and get back in sync, then it was hard to get him in sync and the other guys in sync but they battled through it. They're just a bunch of hard-working guys that want to get the job done. One thing that impressed me about Florida, I do think they have that toughness that I like, you know, I mean I kind of like those guys that mix it up inside. I like those guys that work hard and so it's just our kind of team. Maybe we're both -- the reason we're both here in the Championship game.

Q. Tom, fair to say given opponent and circumstances this is your best game, 40 minutes out of the 39?

COACH IZZO: Well, I tell you, you know, I don't want to sound ridiculous, but boy, we played Connecticut this year in an incredible game and Michigan and probably Illinois. But it was definitely ranked right up there, yeah. Because I think our bench came through. You talked before the game, one of the things we talk to our kids about is everybody's got to play tonight. Everybody -- give each other 40 minutes. Each of you look at each other and give them 40 minutes. I thought, I guess if you looked at it that way, bench, turnovers, you know, they're a great rebounding team. We hung in there and that, I guess, yeah, maybe -- if not the best, it was one of the top two or three, yeah.

Q. Coach Izzo, once upon a time if someone mentioned your name it was like well, who is he? Now that you've won something like this, now you've become a who's-who in college basketball. How do you handle that? Are you prepared for that type of responsibility?

COACH IZZO: That's a good question. Responsibility, because I think that's what it is, just like when you become an All-American, I think you have responsibility. I hope I'm prepared to handle that responsibility. I was brought up well by Jud Heathcote, I think he learned to do it and didn't change any. If I do, I know I'll still have him to make sure that doesn't happen, and, you know, I think I am prepared to handle it because it's the way I lived the whole time I've been here. It's what I try to teach these guys. We're going to find out, I hope, but I think I will be able to handle that and I'm excited to have the opportunity to have to handle that.

Q. Coach, Coach Donovan said he was far more impressed with your offense tonight than your defense. How would you assess your defensive effort tonight and how would you assess what they did on defense against you?

COACH IZZO: Well, I did think we executed pretty well offensively and maybe he's right. Defensively, to tell you the truth, they were hard to guard. You know, they come in with two and three shooters, two or three muscle men, and they can do both things. I'm really impressed with this team of Florida's. I think next year they could be scary because each guy's going to get better. I thought we did a pretty good job defensively except in the post. In the perimeter I thought we checked the guys pretty well. I thought we did everything we had to except on Haslem. Inside he was a monster, and once we got Andre in foul trouble, we were in trouble in there. But on the perimeter I thought we were okay. Inside I didn't think we were. Probably like him, I thought we did execute better offensively than maybe even defensively.

Q. Coach, what does it say about Morris Peterson's game, that in a game so big and with a team as much challenge as you have that he leads you in scoring?

COACH IZZO: Well, you know, Morris has come so far, and I just can't tell you how -- when he came, I have to give my former assistant, Tom Crean, a lot of credit for, you know, Morris' development. He did a great job of spending a lot of time with him individually, individual improvement. His whole game has improved. I mean his offensive skills have improved, his defensive skills, his rebounding, his strength, his running. He's one of the rare guys that has improved in all areas, and when it's time for him to shine, we really did start going to him, why he doesn't do that in the first half, I don't know. The good part is I don't really care anymore. (Laughing.) I don't have to worry about it. But I think he's -- if you get to know Morris, he's an incredible kid and this, too, with the things he went through, is a special moment for him this weekend.

Q. How do you assess his future?

COACH IZZO: How do I assess his future? Well, you know, that's, unfortunately I'm not an NBA guy, but I tell you, I think his best basketball is still ahead of him. I think as he continues to improve his ball skills, which he's doing, I think he's still one of the more versatile swing men in the country. Because I know a lot of swing men that can shoot it. I don't know many with his toughness and his ability to go to the hole and also defend. I think that gets underlooked. I thought he did an incredible job on Mike Miller, who I think's a great player, and I think that was a big key to the game.

Q. Tom, it really was a complete contrast from Saturday's game against Wisconsin. Your players just looking at their faces, it appeared as though they had been let out of jail. Just impressive that you guys could switch from a slug-it-out tempo to an up-and-down game, and comment on the fact that you scored 80-plus points in a National Championship game. That doesn't happen too often.

COACH IZZO: Everything comes down to styles. We always, I think people always maybe question Wisconsin' style, but, you know, Dick Bennett is a great coach. He really does a great job with that team. And I think he brings up some good points, you know, that's what's wrong with passing it around for a good shot and doing some of those things. So we just learned a couple years ago that if we were going to beat teams like that, we were going to have to learn how to be tough enough and defend and disciplined enough. And yet, you know, I think with the athletes we have and the point guard we have, we want to run. That's our style. We do want to get it up-and-down the court. Being a good rebounding team, we think we have a lot of fast-break opportunities. And we'd rather play that style. I mean I think anybody would. But I guess if I had to be impressed with my own team on a couple of things, one of them would be the versatility to be able to play to 50, 45, or the 90, 80 games. I'm not sure a lot of teams can do that.

Q. Tom, granted A.J. gets overshadowed by the Flint Stone stuff and the "aw shucks guy" in the tournament. How big did he step up? Yes, he had a bad semifinal, but the last four games and especially tonight?

COACH IZZO: He's our Mr. October -- Mr. March. Now I have to make him Mr. April. But it seems like in tournament time in the last two years he's really risen to the occasion. He had a tough matchup down there, with Haslem at times, and, you know, they're very physical inside. But what we started to do was run some plays for him, get some shots outside especially when Morris wasn't hitting early. I thought A.J. did a great job, in fact missed a couple shots that normally he hits. He's comfortable with us going to him. He is the unsung hero, in a way, but he has stepped up incredibly big in this tournament.

Q. When you first sat down, you said it didn't quite sink in. Did you start to feel it listening to your players and does it sink in that it's the last time you'll share that podium with some of those guys?

COACH IZZO: That is something, until you said it, I didn't realize that Morris, Mateen and A.J. are gone. That's going to be tough for me, because they did so much for me, you know, forget what we've done for them. They've done so much for me and for our program that I think basketball at Michigan State in general, and, you know, the first group, that's really my first group that all came through, is always going to be a special one. Hopefully this will be a team that will come back a lot, share a lot of the great times, because these guys, they're warrior-type kids and I think back to how many practices and how hard they've worked. I know every team does, but these guys have been, you know, special for me.

Q. Tom, just your strategy on breaking the press. Obviously your seniors were just so poised and so confident. But I imagine if I saw your blackboard session you guys executed exactly the way you do --

COACH IZZO: We actually changed real early. We came in with three different ways we wanted to break it. We wanted to break it with our one-four set, four across, which we did early. And they matched up really well. I'm impressed, what Billy's done with that. They really match up well with you man-to-man, then let their guy, who actually was Wright at the time, trap on either side. So we went to kind of, we call it a tandem set, and we put two guys up at the top or at the ten-second line, and had some success with that. What we were trying to do was hit our wins and bust Mateen. We're always trying to make Mateen the second pass. Early we got it to him as the first pass and that wasn't good. Then we got it to him as a second pass. In other words, somebody threw it in, he was the streaking guy, and we, you know, attacked and got a lot out of it. But we were fortunate, and then later on, you know, we still turned it over some against them and they scored. But I thought all in all, you know, we might have gotten more out of it than they got out of it.

Q. What was the third?

COACH IZZO: What was the third way? We were going to let Mateen Cleaves take the ball out, which we did once or twice because of the way they trap. In fact, I have to give credit to Scott Skiles called me at 2:30 in the morning to give me that little tidbit that he thought would work as he watched the game. And it did work. And then right when we did it, we did it twice and we got it back to him and he pushed it right up the middle, then he got hurt and we didn't go back to it because he couldn't go. We had to change a lot of things, and he could not be the guy to get the second pass and as you saw, that started to hurt us. Thank you. Thank you very much.

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