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April 4, 2009

Tom Izzo

Kalin Lucas

Raymar Morgan

Travis Walton


Michigan State – 82
Connecticut - 73

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Michigan State. We'll start with an opening comment from Coach Izzo, and then take questions for the student-athletes.
COACH IZZO: Well, you know, it was hard to explain the emotion of the day. I told my team before, I'm not gonna try to. I've been to four Final Fours. This was our fifth. I should have some experience. But I didn't have any experience of 70-some thousand people, and a lot of them pulling for us. I told those guys that honestly. I said, I don't know how it's gonna be. Somebody might take the first shot, might hit the tuba player, but we got to play for 40 minutes.
All three of these guys were a huge part. Kalin hit some big shots early. Then I thought he controlled the game. I mean, we kind of wore him into the ground. We wanted to keep running him. We thought we could run him. I put a lot of pressure on K and Travis. I mean, he really should have been up for best defensive player in the country. The job he did, the help he gave was incredible, just incredible.
And then Raymar Morgan. You know, we needed somebody to step up, and he stepped up in a huge way. Not only rebounding the ball, not only defending, not only being physical down there, but the way he scored, and what he did, and the way we didn't turn the ball over, at least battled them on the boards. The two best rebounding teams in the country ended up tied.
It was a memorable game that I won't forget, except we got another one, so we're going to put it to bed a little later on.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Raymar, how does it feel to have this big breakout game here on this stage?
RAYMAR MORGAN: It feels great. My teammate, I just got to give them all the credit. They did a great job. Coach just supported me and just keep telling me to keep on pushing and keep on working.

Q. Raymar, is there any way that what happens during these three days at the Final Four can take away any of the difficult feelings you have about a season that had all these injuries and illnesses in it?
RAYMAR MORGAN: Definitely. If we win it, yeah, I would have to say so (smiling). I think that everything would be erased. It's just a great feeling we got here, but we know we're on a business trip and we still have one more game.

Q. Travis, coach mentioned the idea that they're a really big team, you had to get out and run, talk about the way you got baskets in transition.
TRAVIS WALTON: We a run-type team. That's what coach want to do. I think when you look at the Big-10 type of play, they take away your strengths. You know, early on when we was running on teams, we was doing a great job of getting down and scoring a lot of points. We was averaging almost 75 points. You get into conference play, they take away your strengths.
But we ran, and today we opened up on our break. K did a great job of pushing the ball. Our bigs did a great job of running up the middle. And our wings did a great job of doing what we do.

Q. All week, since you beat Louisville, you've talked about the hardships in Michigan, how you were playing for other people. Could you talk about maybe a name or two that you know who is having a tough time and maybe what your thoughts were as you stood there in the end and had the noise pour over you.
KALIN LUCAS: Yeah, really I'm not gonna give no names out. I won't give no names out. But I do know some people who have had hard times, who have been laid off of they jobs or whatever. So, you know, in Detroit, it is hard times in Detroit. So we just came out tonight, you know. We just played hard, played aggressive for the whole 40 minutes. We just ran 'em. That's what we wanted to do.
TRAVIS WALTON: I think everybody having hard times. Rich people losing their money. You know, poor people ain't getting no money (smiling). You know, I think everybody having a hard time during this time.
But like K said, we came out and we played hard, like we said. When you in this type of atmosphere, you want to play for yourself and your team, but you also want to play for the Detroit and, you know, your state.

Q. Kalin, was there any concern about too much emotion in this game? How did you keep that under control, especially early in the game?
KALIN LUCAS: No, it wasn't. We already knew it was going to be a tough game. We knew it was going to be a physical game. So we played hard. They played hard. One thing we had to do was rebound. If we rebound, we knew we was going to get to run and get some easy baskets.

Q. Raymar, this is your first game with that new mask. It seemed to go fine for you. Could you talk about that, how it felt, if you felt maybe it brought out something in you.
RAYMAR MORGAN: Maybe it did. The mask felt great. It's a perfect fit for me. It's a lot better seeing-wise. I can see out of my peripheral. So it's a great fit.
KALIN LUCAS: Raymar, keep wearing the mask, please (laughter).

Q. Kalin, throughout the season you've been listed as a native of Sterling Heights. Today you started to go as a native of Detroit. Can you talk about the reason you made that decision?
KALIN LUCAS: Yeah, it was my decision, you know. You know, I do have a -- my grandma, she stays two minutes away from here. I have lived with my granny before and I have lived with my parents also. So today I just wanted to represent the hometown of Detroit.

Q. In your preparation for this game, what do you think was the best sort of coaching advice, strategy, tip that came out of it that benefited you tonight?
TRAVIS WALTON: You know, just pretty much execute, do what you been doing. We been doing pretty good, you know, focusing in on our game plan, knowing what to do. And so the best advice we got from anybody was, you know, execute and follow the game plan.

Q. You have been very eloquent talking about the financial times in this area. At the end of the game or throughout the game, could you actually feel this crowd was getting something from you guys?
TRAVIS WALTON: You know, I think the way the crowd was for us, how they was cheering, you know, pumping, I think when you watching us, you know, just the fact that we in the Final Four, you know, I think they kind of forget about they hard times. You know, that's one thing we talked about is, you know, bringing hope to the city, you know, kind of for a whole weekend. People forgetting about they problems, forgetting about what they going through, just focusing on us and focusing on Michigan State.
So I think, you know, for the moment we was on that court and we won that game, you know, people didn't think about what they was going through outside of this. They was just happy that we won and they can continue to cheer for us on Monday.

Q. After what happened December 3rd, are you going to go out there and root for Carolina? Do you want to see them?
RAYMAR MORGAN: It really doesn't make us any difference. Whoever we gonna play, the coaches are gonna do a great job, create a scouting report, getting us ready for the next game.
KALIN LUCAS: Yeah, he pretty much says it. I really don't matter who we play. You know, UNC is a great team. So is the other team. I really don't matter which team we play.

Q. Raymar, I want to ask you about Durrell's dunk, looked like Durrell brought it all the way back from 8 Mile. You had the steal that led to it. What did you see on that play? How big was that for the bench?
RAYMAR MORGAN: Durrell's play was definitely a freakish play. He's a tremendous athlete, can jump out the gym. I just tried to tip it, luckily it went straight to him and he got a dunk. Two plays that got the crowd into it and the momentum went on our side.

Q. Kalin, so many people have stepped out throughout this run, how much security as a point guard do you have knowing anybody can beat a key player on any given night?
KALIN LUCAS: Yeah, you know what, that's the type of team we got. We got the type of team where anybody can step up. Tonight, you know, we all stepped up. G only had like four points, but he had seven rebounds. So we play on Monday. G might play better. He might score more. Korie Lucious came off the bench and played great for us, as well.

Q. Can you talk about late in the second half, you have an 11-point lead with two minutes to go. They came back on you, the resolve you were able to show in closing out a big game as a team?
KALIN LUCAS: Yeah, in the second half, we just had to get stops. That's what coach talked about, he wants to get stops on defense. On offense, we was going to come down and we was going to run something good, and that's something we did.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. You can go back to the locker room. We'll continue with questions for Coach Izzo.

Q. When you saw that little tussle before halftime, you saw how the guys reacted, how they played in the second half, the physical nature of the game. Do you think that set things off in a positive way for your team?
COACH IZZO: Well, I do. You know, I knew we weren't going to back down from anybody. But neither were they. This was a a very physical, tough team. Adrien is as physical a player we played against. Robinson is fairly physical himself. We got some guys, too.
We brought Magic, Mariucci and Pat Morris, a couple football guys, a big basketball guy to talk to our team about it's gonna be a football game, so you might as well be ready for one. I thought they were the most physical team we played all year.

Q. Your bench outscored them 33 to 7. Can you expand on some of what Kalin was saying, that there's a lot of guys on this team that can deliver the goods.
COACH IZZO: We thought we had depth over them. That's why we had to run and wanted to run. We could run if we could rebound. We rebounded the ball pretty well.
I really thought the first half, the hardest part was we ran. I thought we got some good shots with Summers and Allen. Both guys had some shots that I think they normally knocked down with our running game, and we missed 'em. That was frustrating, because then you start -- I think everybody thinks we don't run in the Big-10. A lot of people do. We just check pretty good in the Big-10. So it makes it hard to do that.
I think one of the things that helped us in this game, our league is physical, our league is tough, our league is good defensively. Purdue, Illinois, the way Michigan played this year, Ohio State, Minnesota, I'm not going to name them all, but that helped prepare us as much as anything for this tournament. They probably deserve a little more credit for helping the Spartans than has been given.

Q. Who were the guys you brought in to talk to them?
COACH IZZO: Pat Morris is a line coach for the Minnesota Vikings. I was really trying to dig deep. He was a good Michigan State guy. But nobody tops Earvin. He's the best. I just love having him around and love what he did. I think we had a lot more guys coming in now for Monday night, since they're not playing Monday night, I guess.
I think that's what's made this so special for me.

Q. You have been very good about responding to what's going on here in Michigan and throughout the country. Were you able to feel it tonight, what you have done?
COACH IZZO: I felt that the day we came here. I felt it at the hotel. I felt it driving to practices. I felt it at practice. We had a pep rally yesterday, I felt with all the people there. But my favorite time today was driving to the game. You go by some tough homes, some tough places. I did make that, you know, the important part of this game. I always said, as a player, you got a chance to be a difference maker, a role model, a chance to do things to make other people smile and other people feel good about you.
We are the blue-collar team. This is the blue-collar city. It was just amazing, amazing to walk out of that tunnel, give the people in Detroit, Ford Field people, everybody credit, that was an incredible setting.
Yes, there were a lot of Michigan State fans in there. I think other people thought it was an incredible setting. I am appreciative for that. I'm appreciative for the people. I hope we were a ray of sunshine, a distraction for them, diversion, anything else we can be.
We're not done yet, so hopefully we can continue to make them feel a little better and us feel a lot better.

Q. You stressed the importance of running in transition in this game. Can you talk about how you saw it grind down Connecticut.
COACH IZZO: You know, I defend our league and I defend our team so much. We want to run. That's what we really do. It's just hard in our league. There's so many good coaches in this league that don't let you do what you want to do.
But there was never a time, not against Louisville, not against anybody, that we don't want to run. And we felt like against this team, the way they played, they wanted to run, and we wanted to run. And so it would be a good up-and-down game.
But you have to rebound to run. We had a couple stretches in the second half when I'm not sure we made the best decisions. But I thought we got some looks. I thought we did wear them down a little bit. I thought depth worked on our side. We knew that going in for sure.
And, you're right, some of those shots, they didn't shoot very well from the three, didn't take many. When your legs go a little bit, that happens. That is a very, very, very good basketball team.
You know, we've beaten, I think, a couple of the best teams in world in Kansas, Louisville, and them.
But today we were a little better. I'm not sure 9 out of 10 that would happen, and I really don't care. I'm just glad we got ours today (smiling).

Q. As a coach, how rewarding is it to have a guy like Raymar, who once you said was your best player, have struggles, have him deliver in a night like this?
COACH IZZO: I pulled Ray into the shower room before we had our team meeting to go out at the very end. I said, Raymar, just let the game come to you. Defend and rebound, because you can do that. We're going to run, run, run. Today they're going to let us run. Get out in this break, get some open looks. You're physical and strong enough to be able to cover some of those guys inside, so I'm going to flip-flop you here and there.
His versatility was great. A couple those out-of-bounds plays we scored on, Ray was either key in making a pass or a pick or doing something. He's a very cerebral player. It's been a miserable month for him. Nobody is dodging that bullet. It's been hard on him, hard on me, hard on us.
But he was our best player. I knew we didn't have to reinvent the wheel. We just had to go back and find a way to get him to remember it. I told him to watch stadium films of when he was playing good, do some other things. I'm really happy for Raymar. As you can tell, I think the rest of the guys are, too.

Q. Was there ever any time that you really kind of had to work on him psychologically to keep him from going completely in the tank, Raymar?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, you know. Raymar, his mother's great. You know, she spends time. She's supportive. You know, it's trying to figure out. He's a very quiet guy. And it's sometimes hard for me to find the right buttons.
Today the button was, Ray, I need you, you know. I mean, all but get down on my knees and beg him. That's what I went to. All the psychological things, all the big things, just came down to old-fashioned begging, and it worked pretty good.
He knows he's a good player. He knows he's been through a tough time. I think he did the little things today. He was a bear on the boards. He got some great offensive rebounds. Missed a couple of put-backs that, you know, could have iced it, too. We didn't shoot great, but we missed some good shots, I thought.

Q. You called a timeout, 2:22 left. You're up by 9. You immediately ran a back-cut for Summers. Were you thinking you'd catch them by surprise? And also, do you remember a specific point when this became a joyride and more than just your fifth Final Four?
COACH IZZO: Hmm. The first one was yes, definitely. You know, I thought that they'd pressure us. I thought they'd step up and really pressure us. You know, we have a play in there that we run that, you know, 90% of the times your plays don't work, this one worked. In fact, our players executed, and even talked about, Coach, run this, run this, you know.
It goes back to my oldest theory: a player-coached team is better than a coach-coached team. When they do that in the huddle, I feel comfortable, confident, because they know what's going on on the floor. I can just figure out which play to run. That's pretty simple. My job is easier than theirs.
As far as when it's been a joyride, you know, after the Louisville game, I got to admit, I felt joy. I felt joy for the university, our team, our conference, and our city, and our state. It's just a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Those other Final Fours have been great, but, boy, when people you really care about can go right around the corner and see you play, that's a special time, a special feeling.
I'd say after that game is when I really felt a little bit of joy, till I started looking at UConn, then the joy went all to hell (laughter).

Q. You've had such a symbol with Michigan State in the state of Michigan. Can you put in the words you're going to wake up Monday morning and coach a game in the City of Detroit to play for a national championship?
COACH IZZO: I'm not sure that's registered yet. I'm trying to make sure my team realizes that the goal of great programs is to win the weekend, not win the game. We got another game to play. I spent more time with 15 seconds telling them we got to make sure, let's handle this right, let's do it right. You go in your locker room. Mark Hollis, my AD is there, he's been with me since he was a manager, and I was a GA. Earvin was there. Mark Dantonio. The people that have been closest to me. You kind of look and realize what we have a chance to do.
I'm sure tonight when I'm watching film, I'll get a chance to enjoy that. But it hasn't happened yet.
I don't mind. I was on the CBS show after the game, and they were waiting and waiting. I think Jim Nantz felt like I'm keeping this guy forever. I said, Jim, chill out. I can stand here for another day. If we can prolong our game and play it later, I don't mind standing here at all.
It was surreal, it was impressive, and yet now it all turns to scouting and whoever we play and see if we can make the dream, the miracle, everything come true one final time. Whoever we play, it's gonna be a tough game, but it's not like we've dodged anybody so far. I think we've played the best.
Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

End of FastScripts

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