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March 20, 2009
Michigan State - 77
Robert Morris - 62
MODERATOR: Being joined on the dais by the Michigan State student-athletes. On the far left, Goran Suton and Raymar Morgan, and Head Coach Tom Izzo. Coach?
COACH IZZO: Well, I have to say I was pleased with a lot of that game. Our turnovers, our rebounding was phenomenal. And I thought our defense was pretty good, other than the start of the game.
And these two guys both played pretty well. Raymar was in foul trouble the first half, but you know we still got some work to do with our shooters, yet all in all I think this was a good game for us against the team that played awfully well the first 15 minutes and it was tied up and then the run right before the half I think really did some damage. And our defense second half started out and held them scoreless for a while, and that was the difference in the game.
Q. Ray, is that the game you told us that you would have at the press conference yesterday? You seemed to really back up your words, my man.
RAYMAR MORGAN: I just wanted to come out and be aggressive. We worked really hard this week on just defending them and working on our offense. So that was the game plan from the start. And I think we accomplished a lot of our goals tonight.
Q. Raymar, you were kind of rocking back and forth on the bench in the second half and you appeared to bang your leg or knee, whatever. Were you thinking at the time oh, no what's going to happen to my body now? Do you feel okay?
RAYMAR MORGAN: Yeah, I am all right. It's just been -- I don't know. It was a little bit of stress, but I was all right. The team tonight did a great job and I got through it.
Q. I wanted to ask you, G, about the 17 rebounds and just how much -- you had the matchup advantage with this game, but how much you were able to take advantage of that.
GORAN SUTON: Well, we knew coming into that game obviously I had a height advantage and everything and that was one of their weaknesses at the time. And it was something we did the best, I think. And, you know, I just went out there and I was aggressive on the boards.
Q. For both players. Just what does a performance like this do for your guys' confidence now in maybe getting some swagger back and going forward here?
GORAN SUTON: It just gives us a big boost, especially, you know, after coming off the loss in the Big Ten tournament. We had a great week of practice and I think we performed well overall tonight. And, you know, hopefully we will carry some of this intensity and some of this good play into the next game.
RAYMAR MORGAN: Like G said, it just gives you a big boost. A win is a win in a tournament. As long as we win and we keep playing, we're happy about it. So we just have to go into the next game and get prepared.
Q. For both guys. You talk about that run, I think you scored 21 straight. It seemed like Draymond Green made some key plays during that stretch as well.
RAYMAR MORGAN: Definitely. Draymond was a huge boost off the bench. He is a great inside presence. A great rebounder. Whenever he is scoring points it is always a plus. So he is just another dimension to the team and he helped us out a lot tonight.
GORAN SUTON: And when I look at Draymond I see a guy who has really good I.Q. and always seems to be in the right place at the right time and that's exactly what he does. He gets the rebounds, you know, he makes hustle plays and he gets himself involved.
Q. For both of you again. I don't know how much of the USC game you were able to see, but what were your initial impressions of those guys?
RAYMAR MORGAN: Very athletic. They have a great inside presence with Gibson. Fast team. It's going to be an up-and-down game. It should be fun, though.
GORAN SUTON: I think Raymar had the key when he said they are athletic and going up and down. And I think we just have to contain their transition offense and do a good job of banging inside.
Q. Goran, a little bit more on your numbers with rebounding. 13 of them were defensive rebounds. Did you notice that Robert Morris might have been a little bit worried about getting back on defense so much it might have left you with a little bit more air space to clear those defensive boards, or were you just that great today? Did the transition game help you in that case?
GORAN SUTON: I am sure it did. And at times -- I can remember two times I missed good cut-outs and one of the times my guy got a rebound and I really got mad. Their inside guys were going through boards and I think I did a good job boxing out and getting the inside position.
Q. This is for both Ray and G. Very even scoring for you guys tonight. Is that the game plan going in or just what they gave you?
RAYMAR MORGAN: I think it is just what they gave us. We don't really plan scoring even. The scoring just comes out how it comes.
I don't know. I think we just did a great job in the second half and just settling down and executing our offense. And we just ended up getting baskets.
GORAN SUTON: I think Raymar had the key. And I think, you know, it just shows the depth of our team that when any guy can score on this team.
Q. Can you guys talk about the endurance for your team at this point and how that's going to factor into turning around and playing on Sunday?
RAYMAR MORGAN: We're used to it. We did it before in different tournaments and things of that nature. This is why we came here, to turn around and play the best competition. It's the reason we came to Michigan State. That's what is expected out of us.
GORAN SUTON: Get some rest, get a lot of carbs in and get ready to play.
Q. Goran, I know 17 rebounds is a lot. But when you have a size advantage like you did, do you almost expect that out of yourself in a game like this?
GORAN SUTON: I expected to have a high-rebounding game. I always want to double-double on myself no matter who we play. And when you play a smaller team like Robert Morris, you know, height obviously helps. You take advantage as much as you can.
MODERATOR: Okay, guys, thank you very much. We will go ahead and excuse the student-athletes back to the locker room.
We will take questions for Coach Izzo.
Q. Tom, you talked because of the illnesses and injuries about how it was tough to get a rotation going with the players this year. You almost seemed to have a real solid eight-, nine-man rotation. I would take it that had to please you more than anything you saw out there?
COACH IZZO: It did. And our subs came in and did a great job. I'd like to get to the point when they know when they are going in and coming out. And Luke, we played Kalin in stretches at times and G stretches at times. Especially with Raymar in the foul trouble in the first half, that created a little bit of problem.
I thought all in all we kept the minutes down. We got everybody 25, and we're lucky on that, and under. And it really paid some dividends tonight, especially the second half when I thought their legs got a little weary in the end. They missed some shots I saw them make in practice, and maybe they were a little tired in the end, too.
Q. Tom, is there a magic threshold with teams like this that you have to -- can't let them hang around past? Is it halftime? Is it a certain span in the second half? When is it?
COACH IZZO: I tell you, I was very impressed with them the first half. I mean, we were scoring pretty much a lot. I mean, our break was good, we were scoring I thought easy baskets. And, yet, they were scoring on us. And they ran some nice plays and Mike's done great job. I love Chappell, he is a good player, but they have more than just him.
And I was concerned there at the five-minute mark, and then we went on 11-0 run. And I don't know what the threshold is, but the longer you get into the second half the harder it is on you and then momentum starts going their way, usually the crowd starts going their way and usually the necktie gets a little tighter and maybe shots get a little trickier. So it is a difficult thing.
I was really impressed with their defense. I thought their weak side defense was as good as I have seen it. We have good defensive teams with Purdue and Illinois in our league, but they did a good job and I think they deserve credit because we played one of our better games in ways.
The dominance on the boards was a difference. Draymond, a big, big difference and I thought Kalin did a good job pushing it. We gave it one of our better shots and still it was a game. That's a good team.
Q. Coach, I think maybe during the pep rally when you mentioned or had a discussion with the younger players to discuss your expectations for the tournament. Can you talk about what was discussed during that meeting and how some of your younger players, especially Draymond Green, responded?
COACH IZZO: It was after the meeting this afternoon and I brought our freshmen and sophomores in. And I keep looking at this team and we seem like an experienced team because I have seen G and I.D. and Marquise, I have seen them for 20 years. Those guys are getting their ARP card at the end.
Yet, I realize I am playing a lot of guys that are freshmen and sophomores. The only guy that played a lot last year in the tournament is Kalin. I just wanted to make sure they knew that you come into the tournament with the same intensity, whether you want to admit it or not, is not good enough. And it is picked up a notch with the media, I told them, with the TV, with the importance, with the one-and-done.
And I just said, you know, I can deal with missed shots, I can deal with certain things, but I can't deal with effort-related mistakes in this game. And I'm not going to deal with it. You know, and anything else I will deal with, I'm not dealing with that.
For the most part, Corey struggled a little bit, but he did some good things. And Delvon early had some big plays. And Draymond played great.
And, you know, Chris Allen I thought played really well. And we've got to get a little more out of Durrell. We need Durrell. So we have to get him going a little bit. And Kalin was great. So I don't know, they responded and that's kind of cool.
Q. Tom, I realize this is one postseason game, but does this mean Raymar is back?
COACH IZZO: Well, I like the way Ray played. He's had an incredible week. He's really shot the ball well this week. And he was so good defensively two of the days at home I almost had to tell him to chill out because we had trouble running the scout team offense. If I get Ray and Travis playing that way defensively -- and they will have their hands full. I was impressed with USC, so I think Ray, yeah, he took a giant step. I think as a team we took a big step. We got out, got our running game going, we scored a lot of points.
But I have found it funny around the country, all the major conferences they talk about scoring a lot of points, the scores have been kind of low in most games because that's what it's like when you're playing big games and tournament games.
So all in all, Raymar gave us a big lift on both ends of the court. And I just love having him back.
Q. Tom, with Corey, he didn't maybe have the big stat sheet tonight but had four assists. To have a guy like that who maybe pound-for-pound is one of the most athletically gifted guys you have ever had, what kind of impact can he make when he's playing your kind of game and in a lot of ways his kind of game?
COACH IZZO: If he gets in the open court, he can pull up on a dime.
The couple of turnovers he had he should have pulled up and shot it, you know. But he's learning, he's trying to do things.
I was pleased with all of them. Yet I think we have to understand, as much injuries as we've had, I heard USC has had even more and maybe doesn't have as much depth, so maybe that's a big reason why they weren't as good during the year. Now with everybody back, they looked awfully good and I didn't see the last eight minutes when they really pulled away.
But you know, it's going to be interesting for a guy like Corey because they have big guards and we're going to have to get our break going. Because in the half court I think will be more difficult for him in this game.
Q. Coach, what areas of the game tonight weren't as crisp as you might have liked?
COACH IZZO: I thought at times we didn't execute as well. I thought our -- their half court defense was pretty good, you know. In the open court I thought we executed very well. We got out and ran and got some easy shots. But in the half court, I think there were times. And it hurt when we had Ray out, at times we just didn't have lineups in there that could score as much.
And then they went a little zone, they did some different things. So I was a little disappointed in that. I was a little disappointed in our defense the first 15 minutes. They run some nice stuff, and they did a good job. But we got beat on some things that I thought we had worked on, and that was a little disappointing.
But all in all, as I said, they got one of our better shots and they were still in the game. And were really in the game the first half and I think that speaks volumes about Mike and his program.
Q. Tom, I know you came in with a size advantage, but do you come out feel feeling better about your depth, especially down low in the paint?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, I think rotating guys in there keeps them fresh, but I didn't really get a chance to talk about Goran. That is an incredible -- he hit good shots, but 17 boards, I don't care who you're playing, 17 boards, and he did it in 24 minutes.
So I thought that he gave us a lot, did a lot. Delvon made some nice rebounds the first half where I thought we used our size and athletic ability over them.
But we went small sometimes, too, and because they did. And so sometimes we weren't as big it is a might have seemed. To out-rebound a team by 21 is damn good no matter who you're playing. And they were a little smaller, but let me tell you, those guards were strong and athletic, and I thought that the adjustment we made was we really tried to muddy things up with our bigs because our guards were getting taken off the dribble a little bit, and then our guards did a little better job, too.
So the combination of things maybe wearing them down, maybe a few adjustments. But, you know, I felt good about the game for us.
MODERATOR: Okay, thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts