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March 22, 2009
Michigan State Â– 74
USC - 69
MODERATOR: We are joined on the dais by USC student-athletes, from my far left Dwight Lewis, DeMar DeRozan and Daniel Hackett, in addition to Head Coach Tim Floyd. Again, we will start with an opening comment from Coach Floyd followed by questions for the student-athletes.
COACH FLOYD: Well, we played a fine Michigan State team that, you know, we knew was terrific in rebounding areas and offensive transition.
They defended us very well tonight or this afternoon. We didn't shoot it particularly well in the second half, 33 percent from the floor. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we were unable to continue playing through the inside with the loss of Taj Gibson. We use him as a play-maker, we use him as a poster for cheap looks.
And, you know, we've had the same thing in our three trips to the NCAA tournament, we've lost him, you know, with a 16-point lead to North Carolina three years ago. We lost him last year to K-State and lost him in this game. And he has been a guy who really haven't been foul-prone through his career.
They did a fine job on him in the minutes that he had. I thought that was a real key to the game. And Walton played exceptionally well for them. He surprised us with his ability to make 17-foot jump shots.
MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes, please.
Q. Daniel, can you take us through that sequence where there were a couple of turnovers and you had the ball and you were going to the basket and it looked like you were about to tie the game and what happened there.
DANIEL HACKETT: Saw the cross-court pass and ran through it. And I was going for the basket and, you know, the ball just slipped out of my hands, you know. It was unfortunate. That's all I can tell you.
Q. Dwight, were you surprised by a guy like Walton who, you know, really wasn't an offensive threat for them for most of the year making the shots that he made?
DWIGHT LEWIS: Yeah. We were kind of caught off guard with that. You know, he is a good player and had a great ability to get to the basket. But we didn't think he could knock down a 17-foot jump shot consistently, and he proved us wrong today.
Q. For any of you. Can you talk about how deflating it is when Taj is on the bench and obviously you guys played well at the end of the first half and part of the end of the second half when he went out with the fifth foul. Can you talk what the mindset is with him on the bench.
DANIEL HACKETT: The mindset is to keep playing basketball. We can't put our heads down. It happened before, and I think that this year we acted in a positive way. And we didn't put our heads down. We kept fighting. And, you know, these guys had a tremendous effort. And Leonard Washington they called on and Marcus Simmons. It was great minutes off the bench.
Q. For any of you guys. You know, this is a back-and-forth game, very close, tight at the end. What in your minds tipped the scales just that one way?
DEMAR DEROZAN: You know, just any play could be the whole change to the whole game. It was a couple of plays like for instance when Danny lost the ball. It's little things that can happen that can change the whole transition of the game. And we had a couple of those late in the game.
Q. DeMar, the last few minutes it's tied and it's going back and forth, lots of lead chances and stuff. Did you have it in your mind that you guys were going to pull this out? How confident were you that it was going to go in your way?
DEMAR DEROZAN: You know, we have been in this position before, all season. We had games where we fought our way through it, you know. And that's the mindset that anybody had on this team is that we was going to give it all to fight through and give it our all and that's what we did. Unfortunately we came out with the loss.
Q. Dwight, what do you guys lose when a guy like Taj isn't on the floor? What isn't there anymore?
DWIGHT LEWIS: Like Coach said, we lose Taj as a play-maker. We lost a play-maker when we lost Taj to foul trouble and lost a great poster that demands respect in the post who can make plays for us. He fouled out, we lost that. But we kept fighting and just didn't pull it out.
Q. Daniel, can you talk about Walton, some of the shots he hit? I know once you kind of punched the air and obviously seemed really frustrated. Was it more that you guys didn't think that obviously that he was going to have a night like that, or just that he was making these contested shots? What was the frustration?
DANIEL HACKETT: I mean, I heard Coach Izzo from the back saying that he has been struggling all year long making shots, and the game plan was to help on drives and still having an awareness on him. I thought we did a pretty good job closing out, but he was able to rise and make shots. And, you know, he felt good all night long.
But, you know, it's tough. It's tough when it happens like that and when a kid get it going. But I thought we fought and played hard.
Q. DeMar, obviously it's a tough loss right now. But if this team stays together and everyone comes back, do you feel like the future's bright for this program and this team?
DEMAR DEROZAN: Definitely. We had a lot of ups and downs where a lot of people didn't get a chance to see our true talent, you know. We have a great team. And it's nothing but great things that can happen for this team.
MODERATOR: Okay, guys. Thank you very much. We'll excuse the student-athletes back to the locker room and continue with questions for Coach Floyd.
Q. Coach, I know you're not supposed to talk about the officiating. Were you surprised at all that Taj got the fourth foul and fifth foul on plays that really didn't look like, you know -- that they were anything more than incidental contact or -- compared to the rest of the game?
COACH FLOYD: You know, you're never surprised. You've done this a long time. It happens. It happens.
Both teams were aggressive. They're aggressive defenders we are aggressive posters and it's a difficult game to officiate.
You know, it forced us to play -- we had three freshman that played 83 minutes tonight. Our front line, DeMar, Leonard and Nikola, was on the floor for 83 minutes. That is a big difference in this game for us, although I thought that our two -- all three freshman played exceedingly well.
Q. Coach, my apologies if I missed this during the opening statement. But I was just wondering what you thought about MSU's defense on Gibson, both Suton and the whole team collapsing in on him?
COACH FLOYD: I thought they did a fine job. That's their -- there are so many things they do well. They convert offensively with those little guards. They just keep putting pressure on you by driving it and driving it and driving it in the open floor. They rebounded as we all know at the highest level of anybody in the country.
But they've always been outstanding defensively. They had a stretch in Big Ten play this year where they held three opponents under 50 points. They do that very well.
Q. Tim, decision to start Washington instead of Simmons, was that just a matter of having to deal with their bulk?
COACH FLOYD: It is a rebounding game, a rebounding game. You are playing the number one rebounding team in the country, and they just pummel people on the glass. Just -- Suton had 17 the other night in 24 minutes. And we felt like Leonard could play in this game with his size and strength and his aggressiveness. I thought he played extremely well for us. I wish we could have kept him out there longer.
He picked up his fourth foul early, at the 15-minute mark. We got out of the box really good in the second half, both halves really. And those two fouls kind of -- it changed it for us, you know. They got ahead, they got -- where it really hurt us is in the open floor in transition. Having those guys back to Phil to where they have to kick and make them a jump-shooting team versus a driving team.
Q. Tim, explain Taj going out to watch your team hang in there and really bring it down to the wire, what were just your impressions overall of the way they were able to, you know, stay in it?
COACH FLOYD: Yeah, really proud. Really proud of them.
You know, we're a team that has talent and it's young talent. Maybe that's the nature of college basketball today. But if there is some way we can keep them together and add what we have coming back next year, we've got a chance to be, you know, a special team.
But we could have said that last year with O.J. and Davon coming with this group and could have said it the year before with Nick and Gabe coming back with O.J. and Daniel and Dwight and Taj.
But that's the nature of the college game right now. And hopefully these young guys will return and we will improve as a basketball team.
And I loved the heart and spirit that we played with against, you know, one of the elite programs in the country.
Q. Coach, do you feel for Taj? I mean, he certainly has been such a huge part of your team the last three years. Doesn't go out the way I know he would want, that you guys want for him. Do you feel for him?
COACH FLOYD: If I did I would be the only one. They're not going to feel for him in Michigan and our guys.
But I've just done this a long time and I understand it's part of the game. And, you know, he is a great competitor. He really led this basketball team when we went through six losses in seven games. You know, he wouldn't let us die and set a standard in practice by working harder than anybody in practice. You know, brought that effort to the floor. Played extremely well through the Pac-10 tournament and, of course, through Boston College and the previous games against Oregon and Oregon State. He is a great player and it's been a lot of fun coaching him.
Q. Can you talk about Dwight Lewis's tournament? Two big scoring games, shutting down Tyrese Rice and doing a pretty good job on Kalin Lucas today.
COACH FLOYD: Yeah, you know Dwight's -- we talked about it early in the season, felt he was one of the most improved players in the Pac-10. He's a good athlete, a guy who can make shots.
He got his confidence back about the time he started playing well. Really started shooting in the Pac-10 tournament. And we needed that extra shot-maker. We were 10-30 and only 1-10 from the floor in the second half. 1-10 from the 3-point line, 10-30. But Dwight was able to get himself to the line. He's become a better driver and finisher, in addition to his ability to make the perimeter shot.
Q. Tim, you said you were surprised by Walton's performance. Coach Izzo said he was.
COACH FLOYD: By his own players' performance. That doesn't make me feel so bad, then.
Q. I was wondering how difficult it is when you game-plan for everything and something like this happens. A guy that is averaging 5 scores 18 in the biggest --
COACH FLOYD: Yeah. Well, I bet you, you know, we had, what, 48 hours between games somewhere in there. I bet you we watched 36 hours of film, you know. Phil had his group of films, I had my group of films. And we came back with the same thing; that we could provide help to a great poster in Morgan, a great poster in Roe, you know, a great driver in Kalin Lucas, and provide help in fill and try to make them a jump-shooting team. And, you know, he made some jump shots. And he had open looks, you know.
We watched him shoot the first couple in this game and he didn't look real good either. Felt like maybe this is going to work out, but it didn't over time.
Q. You mentioned the 1-10 on the 3-pointers. And 0-for-something in the second half. Did you want them to slow down on those in the second half?
COACH FLOYD: You know, a couple of them -- I think three of them were desperation late. Daniel took one, we got the offensive board with Nikola and kicked it to Dwight and he missed one, and we took one late. And DeMar took one, so three of them were desperation. We took basically, I guess -- they all count.
But we got ourselves in great position to start the second half with five quick team fouls against Michigan State. We got ourselves into 1-1 and that's where you try to play through Taj. It just so happened it coincided with the time when Taj picked up his fourth foul, and then we became, you know, a drive-and-kick team trying to draw fouls in that area.
Q. Coach, Michigan State obviously demonstrated their depth this weekend. What can that do for them going down the line, do you think?
COACH FLOYD: Well, I think it will serve them well. They have a lot of belief in all of those guys that come in and play. They play fresh minutes, they play live minutes and I think it allows them to continue their assault on the boards and continue their assault and conversion, in terms of getting it from one end of the floor quick to the other end.
You know, three have difficult matchups, I am sure, as they move forward. Everybody can play this time of year. But they are a fine basketball team. A well-coached basketball team. They guarded us at a high level. They deserve credit for that.
The foul trouble did not beat us. You know we got beat by a very good Michigan State team.
MODERATOR: Okay, Coach. Thank you very much.
COACH FLOYD: Thank you.
End of FastScripts