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April 1, 2000
COACH IZZO: Well, we had a lot of different stars playing against, boy, a very
difficult team to play. To beat them four times, I take my hat off to my players. I think
it took a gallant effort, especially that second half, and it's kind of funny because
these three seniors have done so much and yet, you know, Charlie Bell is probably the job
he did on Bryant, along with Mateen and Pete and whoever else guarded him, I thought was
incredible, along with our rebounding effort, which we bounced back a little bit after a
couple of average games. So I'm just pleased, and feel fortunate that we're moving on,
because we beat a good team and I'm pleased for these three seniors that they get the
chance of a lifetime that they've been, maybe looking for for almost 363 days, or however
long it was back from the Duke game.
Q. This is for Morris. What happened in the second half that you started to pick it up?
Did you just see the shots better? What was going through your mind?
MORRIS PETERSON: Well, I think the first half we weren't playing as aggressive as we
should have. You have to give credit to Wisconsin and their defense. I just think its, you
know, we started playing with a sense of urgency. We started realizing that they could be
our last 20 minutes if we don't pick it up. They got some momentum going to half time, and
we just wanted to come out the second half playing aggressive. The shots started falling
for us and I think we played better defense.
Q. Can you just talk about what might have been said at half time? You guys have had
some inspirational moments in there over the last couple of weeks. Anything in particular
MORRIS PETERSON: We knew we weren't playing aggressive, we weren't playing Michigan
State basketball. I think we got up to an early lead, let them come back. Half time, we
were only up by a couple. We made some corrections on playing harder and trying to grind
Q. Morris, you kind of got your offense going with a couple offensive rebounds early in
the first half. Can you talk about going to the boards when things weren't going real
well? Also, how did you get yourself set with your grandmother's death, how did you get
your mind in order to play the game you did?
MORRIS PETERSON: Coach has been telling me the last five or six games, the last half of
the season, I haven't rebounded like I should have. I just made -- wanted to make an extra
effort to get some rebounds and get some things going because we looked a little sluggish.
As far as my grandmother, I went down to the funeral, spent some time with my family. They
told me just to go out, have a great game and just play hard. I got to give credit to my
teammates, because they came out, when I got back, they came to me with open arms and
really made me feel good. I just wanted to come out and play hard for her. I think we
wanted to win it all for her.
Q. Morris, at one point you pointed up to the sky. Was that to your grandmother? Second
of all, they went inside and posted up Kelley. Can you talk about that?
MORRIS PETERSON: Yeah, after I made a shot I pointed up to just let her know that, you
know, she's watching me. I just wanted to try to make an extra effort to let her know that
I feel her presence. And I just think -- what was the second question?
Q. About Kelley.
MORRIS PETERSON: I think early on, you know, Coach made a couple plays for me and it
worked for me going inside. I just saw it open, I wanted the ball. You know, just like
Mateen said, last week, you know, Iowa State game and the Syracuse game, I just wanted the
ball. Felt like I could make something happen on the inside.
Q. Mateen, can you talk about what it feels like to know that you'll never have to play
Wisconsin's tough brand of defense again?
MATEEN CLEAVES: Well, I mean, last time, you know, I was hugging all the guys, you
know, and I was happy in the Big Ten Tournament, I didn't think I'd play them again. Now I
know I won't play them again. That's a good thing, you know, because they play hard. You
got to give them a lot of credit. They come out and they just never give up. They're going
to stay in your face, bump you, they're very aggressive. You have to give them a lot of
credit. Right now I'm just happy I won't have to face them again. Ever.
Q. Mateen, all year long you've said that the team wins games with defense, especially
in the second half. Did you feel this was a game you had to win with offense?
MATEEN CLEAVES: Well, I think, no, we still play a good defense. You know, we held them
I think 47 points. We still play a good defense. The team, we play defense and Morris
scored. You know, so we came out and we knew that we just had to stay in front of our guy
and continue to not give up any open shots because those guys are very capable of hitting
open shots. We just wanted to keep a hand in their face. When Morris gets hot, he makes
our job easier because that's when you just concentrate on defense. It's like, don't
shoot, just give him the ball and don't let your man score.
Q. Mateen, you're up 17 to 8 with 11 and a half minutes gone in the first half. You're
running up-and-down the floor real quick. Somebody pulled the plug out of the ball. Was
that the coach telling you to stop to run, did you do it yourself? You guys didn't score a
bucket for ten minutes.
MATEEN CLEAVES: No, what it was, you know, we kind of got dysfunctional out there. We
had made a few bad plays in a row and it was Coach telling us to slow it down. I think
that was a good situation. We didn't get anything, you know, we didn't get anything going.
We were just going back and forth. We didn't get anything productive. We should of slowed
the ball up. You know, I heard that voice, you know, I was pushing in there. You hear that
voice, he just told us slow it up. That was a good decision. We just didn't make the plays
that we needed to.
Q. Mateen, I'd like to talk to you about, you're the Big Ten leader in assists. You had
one assist today. You still controlled the game. I'd like to know about you guys winning,
whatever it takes; ugly, pretty.
MATEEN CLEAVES: Well, I mean that's been us all year. We have done a good job of just
winning games, you know. Sometimes they're good wins, pretty games. Sometimes they're
ugly. One thing, I mean, whenever you play Wisconsin, if you win or lose, it's gonna be an
ugly game. We knew that. One thing we wanted to do was win. Like I said, once Morris came
out and started knocking some shots down, you know, and once he gets hot, it's just like
getting the ball. We just concentrate on stopping our guys and let Morris do all the
Q. If you could talk a little bit about that stretch? How frustrating was it for you
guys to go through the stretch at the end of the first half when nothing was falling for
you and they were climbing back in the game?
A.J. GRANGER: I think we started out the game really offensive rebounding well. We were
missing some shots all game. We really got away from that. We quit offensive rebounding.
We still weren't shooting well, shot 25 percent in the first half. I think we got away
from the things that made us get the lead. We quit offensive rebounding, we were still
playing defense and that kept us in the game. It was kind of characteristic of the whole
game. Both teams shot 34, 33 percent for the game. It was just an ugly game.
Q. You guys played North Carolina early without Mateen, beat them by ten. For Mateen
and A.J., can I have you assess the two teams playing right now? What are your impressions
of Florida as well?
MATEEN CLEAVES: I've watched Florida play all year, one thing they do, they play very
intense defense. They're going to press you, they're going to be in your face. They have a
lot of athletes, they can put the ball in the basket, they can go down, I think they have
some bona fide big fellows down low, then they have guys that step outside, Miller and
Dupay and those type of guys. It will be a tough matchup if we play Florida. I mean if we
play North Carolina, it's going to be very tough, too, Ed Cota is doing a good job of
running his team right now. Haywood is playing good right now. Forte is stepping his game
up. Whoever we play it's going to be a tough game for us, so we better go home and get a
lot of rest.
Q. Mateen, can you talk about the way Charlie Bell and Jason Richardson and yourself,
what the mindset was in trying to slow down Bryant?
MATEEN CLEAVES: We knew, you know, we watched a lot of film. It seemed like every open
shot he got he hit. He hit some shots with some guys in his face. Coach, you know, been
preaching all year, never relax. That's a true statement for a game like this. You cannot
relax because as soon as you -- I mean you could play defense for 25 seconds, if you relax
for two, that's when you give up an open shot. We wanted to stay down, trail him off
screens, make him earn everything he got. We just tried to minimize the open shots that
Q. Mateen, Mateen you and Morris obviously go back a long way. I'm just curious if you
had any special words for Morris regarding his grandmother?
MATEEN CLEAVES: You know, one thing I just told him is I love him. You know, it's hard
to say don't think about it, because, you know, he is. He's done a great job of dealing
with it, you know, like I said, I just been myself around him. I've been trying to joke
around him, I still, you know, talk about him, and, you know, just joke and do things like
that. Just to keep his spirits up. You know, I'm gonna be upbeat when I'm around him. You
don't want to, you know, be down and then, you know, kind of get him down. So I just told
him to keep his head up, we love him, if you need anything, we'll be there. But he's done
a great job of dealing with it, you know, and a lot of people ask me how would he play
dealing with his grandmother's death, people can see how he played. She was -- I think she
was with him out there, she carried some of those shots for him. He came out and did a
great job and, you know, he didn't put that behind him. But he didn't let it distract him,
he stepped it up, had a great game for us and that's why we won.
Q. Coach, could you speak to the rebounding, rebounding advantage?
COACH IZZO: We have not done as good a job in the last couple of weeks, we've
outrebounded some teams but not by the margins we were early in February. We really spent
some time, had a week to work on it. We spent some time, talked about maybe spinning off
them, doing a little bit more aggressive athletic movement instead of physical movement.
If you are physical with Wisconsin, it really works in their favor. So we worked a couple
days on hitting and spinning, instead of just hitting and standing and trying to, you
know, fist fight them. We tried to spin off them and be what we are, which is more
Q. Let's say for the sake of argument it's Florida in the Finals. Could you possibly go
from one extreme in terms of scheme to another more quickly than that might be if that
turns out to be a possibility?
COACH IZZO: Nope. We couldn't. I mean those are two opposites, and yet, in our league,
we've played, you know, some teams like that. Not as much this year, that Iowa, since Tom
Davis has left, but, you know, the pressing they do and the things they do, the way they
can spot up and hit threes. You know, Billy's done a great job with that team. Both Bills
have done a great job with their teams. Who we play, I'm just happy to be playing. But if
it happens to be them, yes, it would be opposite styles for what we've had to prepare for.
Q. Coach, I know you've got an experienced team with a lot of experience playing
against Wisconsin. But was there any worry in your mind at half time when you're up by
only two that they're going to get frustrated and let it get away from them?
COACH IZZO: Yeah. Yeah, there was. I mean, you know, that stretch we had where we
didn't score any baskets, it was more that I thought we were taking too many threes for
our team. We wanted to get the ball inside, got it in real early, Hutson did a pretty good
job. I knew it was getting frustrating. Players were actually a little down at half time.
That's why we didn't have our normal half time. We kind of had a little kiss-and-hug half
time because we couldn't -- we didn't feel it was the time to get after them. They were a
little down. It was an incredibly physical first half, I thought. And so, you know, to
bounce back in the second half and do what we did, I thought was very good. We got our
running game going. One of the reasons we did slow it down a little bit, we weren't
getting much of a break, we had a few guys tired. When we made some subs, we really lost
some intensity defensively, and that's one of the reasons we did slow it down for a little
Q. Coach, you guys came here last year and you talked about coming back this year and
trying to finish the job. What advice would you give or how do you foresee how Wisconsin
can use this experience to rebound into next year even though they were a Cinderella and
weren't supposed to be here this year?
COACH IZZO: I guess your advice is set your goals today. Last year when we got beat by
Duke, I think we got back to the hotel and set our goals. Wisconsin has, I believe, a lot
of guys back. What, only Bryant and Duany are the seniors, so they have a lot of players
back, and you know, as I said, they're extremely well-coached. I think not be afraid to
set your goals. That's a gray area. Are you going to come out and say our goal next year
is to win the Big Ten, win a National Championship or compete for one and whatever you
want to say. It's a gray area, once you make the student, the bullseye goes on there and
-- but I think if you don't make the statement, I'm not sure you get back to that level.
Q. Coach, I'm curious about your approach as well as Morris' approach with the things
that have gone on with him in the last couple of days. Did you have to become a counselor
in some ways with him?
COACH IZZO: You know, I did. But Morris has, I've been saying this about his
basketball, now it's about his life. He really has great parents. I say that. I mean he
has parents -- everybody I think has great parents. But his parents are, you know, were
there for him. They were in the locker room with us when we told him. They've been very
supportive. His mother has done an incredible job of being supportive of his goals and
dreams, you know, you wonder how Morris has handled it. I wonder how his mother has
handled it. She's had to go from the top to the bottom in one night. She drove, I think,
all night from Mississippi to here. I opened my curtains to go for a little jog at 6:30
this morning and her car was pulling up and they were unloading. So I wonder how she has
handled it. She's the warrior in this thing.
Q. Coach, could you be just a little bit more specific about what happened at half
time, because the change in character and pace and everything was so different, could you
tell us a little bit more about what was said in the locker room at half time?
COACH IZZO: We just felt like we had to make some adjustments. The adjustments would
be, we thought we could handle -- we could hurt them on pindown picks and make sure we
kept moving. The minute we became nonathletic, it really worked to their advantage. And
so, yeah, we wanted to get our running game going more but we felt if we defended a little
bit better from the inside out, we did get some penetration, they would take maybe more
threes or more outside shots, we could get cleaner rebounds, where it would help our fast
break, then we got into the half court, we were going to try to post up Pete a little bit,
that was an adjustment we made at half time. We were trying to get him coming off screens
down around the block instead of up around the top. I felt we were taking too many threes.
We asked them what they thought would work, then we made the adjustments and, you know, I
don't think you people can appreciate, honestly, how good a coach this guy is. Because he
had adjustments for everything we did. I've never seen a guy change his offense in the
middle of the season as effectively as they did when we played them the first time, second
time or make adjustments with us outrebounding by 27, they outrebounded us by 3 six days
later. In the end, we might have wore them down a little bit. I think our athletic ability
might have helped us a little bit in the rebounding area. But, boy, I still think they're
going to be awfully good next year. And were awfully, awfully good this year.
Q. You addressed Florida a little while ago. Is North Carolina a different team than
when you played them the first time at Chapel Hill? If so, how?
COACH IZZO: I think they definitely are. Forte is better. Even though he came off the
big Maui tournament, I'm not sure he's as confident as he is now. Haywood is playing
better than he was then. The Peppers kid, at least the games I've seen, I haven't watched
them, I don't ever look ahead much, I watched a half of each game, that's what I've done
the whole tournament on the other teams we could play if we won. My assistants did a lot
of work on it, I've watched one half, that's it. But what I've seen on TV, Peppers really
helps him. He gives him another athlete with some physical ability and when we played them
the first time, Lang was not -- I think he was hurt, not playing very well. So, yeah,
they're a lot different team.
Q. Coach, are you concerned about the knee injuries to Charlie Bell and Andre Hutson
going into Monday night?
COACH IZZO: You know, Charlie, actually, was pretty good tonight. Andre is, he's a
warrior, he's a tough kid. So I'm not as concerned as I was going in, you know, to last
week for Charlie, and maybe tonight with Andre. I thought he withstood it pretty well,
Q. Tom, you had said last week at Auburn Hills that you guys asked so much out of Pete.
Mateen is really the vocal leader at least in this team, but did you see more leadership
out of Morris today, particularly in the second half?
COACH IZZO: You know, he wanted the ball. Very seldom has Pete really asked for the
ball. I said I think that's my fault. When he was a freshman I used to kid him about how
many shots he took. We kind of molded him and worked with him. Now he almost becomes too
unselfish. He said he thought we could post up, he wanted the ball down low, and the other
players were obliged to get it to him. So, yeah, I think Morris realizes, like all seniors
do, that the end is near and he'd sure like to go out on a positive note.
End of FastScripts