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NCAA MEN'S 2ND & 3RD ROUNDS: COLUMBUS


March 18, 2012


Brian Conklin

Rick Majerus

Kwamain Mitchell


COLUMBUS, OHIO

Michigan State テや 65
Saint Louis テや 61


THE MODERATOR:テつ We'll start the news conference with an opening statement from Rick Majerus.
COACH MAJERUS:テつ Well, we fought our guts out.テつ They're a terrific team.テつ I don't know that we could have played better.テつ We could have shot free throws better.テつ And we had a few turnovers.テつ This has us down for six.テつ I'm trying to remember a second half turnover.
But I thought the guys competed.テつ Michigan State's a great team.テつ Last time I played them I said this:テつ They should win the national championship.テつ They're extraordinarily well coached.テつ They have great kids.テつ They compete.テつ They do it the right way.テつ The one kid is a great, great collegiate player, Green.
But, again, they made big, big shots there.テつ Made smart decisions.
And we missed a few opportunities.テつ I think some of our anxiety on offense‑‑ and I don't want you to think I'm out of breath or anything, I'm just very emotional for me with Kyle and Brian.
You get attached to kids.テつ I'll see them again, not in the capacity that they're in now.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Questions for Coach.

Q.テつ I think it was zero turnovers in the second half.テつ At the start of the game, did the guys just come out a little‑‑
COACH MAJERUS:テつ They were nervous.テつ And they had like‑‑ and Michigan State has that aura about them.テつ And then the whole thing.テつ I mean, listen, we're three sophomores, a junior and a senior‑‑ and two seniors who were inspirational and emblematic of a student‑athlete and what are all the best in what this tournament represents.
The referees refed a great game.テつ I apologized to Vern, because I did think he hit him in the face; he didn't.テつ He hit him in the shoulder.テつ And although it was a foul, like Vern said, I can't go backward, I said, I have no issue with that.
He's a class guy.テつ They were good refs.テつ The game was well refereed.
And I want to thank Ohio State for a great tournament and the NCAA and the people in charge here, the police officers. テつI'd be remiss if I didn't thank everybody.
I never take these for granted.テつ It was run extraordinarily well.テつ It's an honor and privilege to play in it.テつ You know, these guys look to Brian and his career, we have a good chance of being back.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Questions for the student‑athletes.

Q.テつ Brian, looked like it took a while for you guys to get started.テつ By the second half seemed like things were rolling pretty well.テつ It was a slow start and a fast finish.
BRIAN CONKLIN:テつ Yeah, definitely.テつ We needed‑‑ Coach talked about a lot of player movement and ball movement to start the game, and we didn't come out and really do that necessarily the first half.テつ We were getting great shots, but we just weren't knocking them down.
In the second half we started moving the ball a lot better, started knocking down shots, started getting to the free‑throw line.テつ So it was rolling in the second half, just needed a couple more stops.
KWAMAIN MITCHELL:テつ Like Brian said, the first half, seemed like some of the guys weren't ready.テつ That's where me and Brian and Kyle had to get these guys ready for this game.
But, like Brian said, first half, great shots.テつ Our defense was there.テつ And missed some open shots the second half.テつ We settled down, more player and ball movement, but it came down to the wire where we needed to execute and we didn't.

Q.テつ Brian, we've heard a lot from coaches talk about Draymond Green and why he's effective.テつ But, I mean, you're out there against him.テつ Why do you think he's effective for Michigan State?
BRIAN CONKLIN:テつ Because he's such a tough and smart player.テつ He reads ball screens and he reads downscreens like a guard.テつ He's able‑‑ if he sees me going over the top, he's able to fade it down; if he sees me going for his body, he curls.テつ He's got a great low body.テつ He knows how to use it.
He plays the angle with the game and he plays the game slow and lets it come to him, and he's really smooth and hits some very tough shots today.
He's just got a motor, works hard every time.テつ He's working on the ball and working on rebounds.テつ And all the credit goes to him.テつ He hit some really tough shots, and he's a really tough guard.

Q.テつ Brian and Kwamain, to lose by four points to Michigan State in a game in which you shoot 35percent from the field, how do you explain that?テつ What does that say about this team to do that?
BRIAN CONKLIN:テつ I mean, it just shows that we played great defense on them.テつ We made them earn every shot that they took.テつ The game plan worked to perfection.テつ The guy that we wanted to make shots, he hit a couple.テつ And that's the difference in the game, four points, but that was the whole game plan.
And it really did work to a T, and we got open shots and weren't able to knock them down.テつ They played great defense, and they were long, too.
So it was a great defensive battle.テつ I said it was going to be a war.テつ Dirty basketball.テつ A defensive battle, and it ended up being that.

Q.テつ Brian, if you don't mind answering this in front of your coach, I'd love to know what you think Coach Majerus has done for Saint Louis basketball and maybe even for the university in his time there.
BRIAN CONKLIN:テつ Coach has done so much.テつ Being his first recruiting class, he told me that we were going to help him build something special here.テつ And it felt like this year it really came together, and Kyle and I, Kwamain, we were able to take what Coach taught us.
He's a great coach.テつ I couldn't imagine playing for a better coach, a better person.テつ He doesn't just teach you about basketball, it's about life.テつ And he's a great figure for the community and for the city, and he's really brought Saint Louis basketball to where it is right now, bringing in great guys.
We all love each other in that locker room.テつ And he just knows how to read a person and he brings us all together and we buy into his system because it works, and it brought us this far this year.
And you know they've got a great nucleus coming back next year and they're going to be a really tough team, really tough guards, because it's the guy that's leading it.

Q.テつ Kwamain, can you talk about when you guys made the comeback, you were down 11points kind of midway through the half, and then you kind of just chipped it away and you got within two.テつ Is that another ‑‑ you've had all along, the case they've made their run, you're going to make your run, your feeling on that?
KWAMAIN MITCHELL:テつ The game of basketball is all about runs.テつ The one thing that Coach was proud about when they had that run we didn't give up we were out there fighting and scrapping, and Coach told us coming into this game it's not going to be easy.
So I just know‑‑ I'm proud of everybody who didn't give up.テつ There were some mistakes that were made, but just knowing that we gave it our all.

Q.テつ You got within two with a little under three minutes to go.テつ At that point were you thinking the chance is there for you guys to get this one?
KWAMAIN MITCHELL:テつ Yeah, Michigan State is a great team, but they're beatable.テつ And we're a great team.テつ But it was certain situations where we couldn't execute at that time.テつ And that's where it hurt us late in the clock.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Thank you.テつ Questions for Coach.

Q.テつ Can you talk a little bit about your defensive game plan; you really seemed to have an effect on the game, particularly in the first half?
COACH MAJERUS:テつ Well, we didn't want to get beat in transition.テつ And then we were helping off of Appling and trying to make the perimeter guys bounce it and not get 3s, and we did a good job for the most part of blocking out.
And then we‑‑ I think sometimes your defense is driven by your offense.テつ Our guys have what it takes, the right stuff to drive the defense without the offense.テつ Obviously because we were missing‑‑ we missed foul shots.テつ We held them to very few offensive rebounds.テつ We made them hit tough shots.テつ Draymond Green does what great players do; he creates his own shot and makes it.
When Conklin had him on that one, he cut back underneath the 5 man and then he ducks back for a 3.テつ I mean, like Tyler Hansbrough, other real good players, they're not doing that, and they're not doing it when they have a great low post presence.
You get a lot of guys who are good on the perimeter, but it's a really smart call, and then a big basket was Dwayne was packing off of Appling, and then he gets backdoored by Appling on that one right wing out of the timeout.
That's a guy he had played well all game long, but what happens is they're sophomores and playing alongside other sophomores, and he just got carried away.
When he fouled 13 there, he wasn't supposed to fall in that trap.テつ He said he tripped into him.テつ And I think that Green‑‑ they wore us down with 5 and 25 in the post.テつ They have two good post players.テつ And Green is highly conditioned.
Green does a great job of being a good defender for an outstanding scorer.テつ I think he's the best player in the country.テつ Is he the best potential player in the country?テつ No, I take the kid probably from Kentucky.テつ But if I had to take a kid right now to win the national championship, I'd take Draymond Green.

Q.テつ Going forward, what do you think you've been able to establish with your program and how do you feel about the foundation that you're taking forward?
COACH MAJERUS:テつ I'm proudest as I have been on every stop.テつ I've had nine Academic All‑Americans, Dwayne Evans will be the tenth, the eleventh might be coming in.
Everybody graduates.テつ Everybody's going to graduate.テつ Most of all, everybody who is a C student is the best C student they can be.テつ Like Andre Miller and everyone who should be an A student, like Dwayne is an A student, and academically I'm very proud of these guys.テつ It's a very difficult school.
I'll always be a graduate of Marquette.テつ I've got a couple of degrees there and went to law school, but I won't always be the coach of Saint Louis.テつ But Saint Louis is a much more difficult school:テつ smaller classes, more demanding, more terminal degrees, more undergraduate‑education oriented.
So when these kids go on, like Dwayne has a chance to take MCATs or LSATs, they'll do well.テつ But they're good kids.テつ They're really involved in the community, like the fight cancer program, the Betty Kroener (phonetic) run.テつ Thanksgiving evening before a big game they were stuffing baskets for homeless people.テつ And they wanted to do it.テつ They're good kids.テつ It's not me, it's them.
And so I like that.テつ You like going to practice and they're good guys.テつ There's some guys in this tournament I wouldn't coach if you gave me a million dollars.テつ That's why I didn't take pro ball.テつ They work hard.テつ I've got a great staff.テつ I would be remiss.テつ The school gives me great support.テつ Chris, the AD, and Janet.テつ Great school to recruit to.
Unfortunately in this day and age that's not the priority for a lot of these kids.テつ And I'm just burnt out right now.テつ I mean, it's kind of like one of the coaches said, Can you go to Iowa tomorrow to see this kid?テつ And I said, Can I just take a day off?テつ And I probably will go to Iowa tomorrow.テつ I think I'm going to‑‑ the kid's really a good, good student.テつ He's like the kind of kids that I've got, like Conklin, that want to be good.テつ If I can get them now, I can avoid somebody in the Big Ten getting them.テつ Conklin wasn't that way, but this kid is.

Q.テつ You just said you're burnt out.テつ Please forgive me if this is bad timing, but you've made some references to being old‑‑
COACH MAJERUS:テつ Well, I am old (laughter).テつ Listen.テつ My AARP card says I'm old and my senior citizen discount‑‑ when you go to the movie and they say, Are you a senior, no one's going to‑‑

Q.テつ So my timing might be a little bit bad, but can we assume that you're going to come back to bring this foundation that you built forward?
COACH MAJERUS:テつ Yeah, I would really like to come back.テつ I've told the kids coming in, our one guard that's going to be really good‑‑ remember the name, Keith Carter‑‑ he lost to Simeon last night by two.テつ He signed, so I can talk about him.テつ This is NCAA, guys, so‑‑ but the kid's good and his whole deal was:テつ Are you going to be there?テつ I said yeah.
But you're born and you die alone.テつ I could get killed driving home tonight.テつ But I really plan to be there.テつ I wouldn't do that to the kids.テつ I told all those kids at Utah I would stay, and I did.テつ Urban Meyer and everybody else left Utah.テつ They tried to get out.テつ I made commitments to kids.テつ I liked it.テつ I was happy there, and I had good kids there.
So I think we have a real good‑‑ we've got a lot of good guys coming back.テつ I just want to take some time off.

Q.テつ Did Appling surprise you with some of the shots that he did knock down today?
COACH MAJERUS:テつ Yeah, a little bit.テつ And I think what happens is LaRussa‑‑ I learned some stuff watching‑‑ we're not good friends or anything.テつ We live in the same place.テつ But he has a good line about you walk that batter intentionally who is like a .350 hitter, and then that .260 hitter behind him becomes a .300 hitter.
I think with Appling, Izzo played it really smart, told him to shoot, andthey took away a little bit of our ‑‑ most of all, like with Green, Green's a load, and then they have those other two big guys.
The two Australian kids, the Australian and New Zealand kid are soft.テつ Now, they're getting better.テつ Cody led our team in charges; now he's got to lead our team in a physical presence defensively next year.テつ And the New Zealand kid has‑‑ fights the same thing Gasol and all the guys fight, a more physical presence on the court.
Now, the two freshmen that didn't play are extremely physical.テつ They're going to be good.テつ You can write this down, too.テつ Manning is going to be an All‑League player.テつ I couldn't get him on the court this year because I had these other guys ahead of him.テつ But I think we can make strides in that.
But here's Michigan State, extraordinarily well coached, unselfish, guys who can create their own shots.テつ They stretch you with the 3 ball and they play very good defense.
We scored on a timeout, he scored on a timeout.テつ It was like, okay, we're coming out of a timeout, which of the 50 plays are each one of us running?テつ When we did get the ball inside, I think we aimed a little bit on the foul line.
We tightened up a little bit.テつ I think we got the tight shorts a little bit.テつ Because these kids have been on this stage before.テつ And these aren't the nets he wants to cut down, nor are the Elite Eight nets.テつ He should be able to cut down the Final Four nets, and I hope they do, because they would be a great representative of the national championship team and what the NCAA and the student‑athlete stands for.

テつテつテつテつテつテつ THE MODERATOR:テつ In the aisle on the right.
COACH MAJERUS:テつ This guy asks a question, this is a student, he's a great kid.テつ He went off to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, missed school, his parents‑‑ yeah, you did(laughter) ‑‑ and the guy was like‑‑ came back, it was like he was down there with Brett Favre and he missed two games.テつ And he seems to love it.テつ I want to live your life.
So, I mean, it's appropriate that I gotta take some solace here you're asking the last question.テつ The circle of life.

Q.テつ My question real quick, considering you had 36hours to prepare, you have a young team, would you qualify this as perhaps your best defensive performance all year?
COACH MAJERUS:テつ No, we played good D.テつ But you ask Dick Weiss back there, he came up to me and said:テつ When you won at St. Joe's, only two teams won at LaSalle.テつ And you go through our league, we played three teams in 48hours to win the 76 Classic to open the season against good players and coaches.
And so I wouldn't say‑‑ I think we made a great defensive effort today.テつ But I think we almost always consistently‑‑ we don't win because we can‑‑ we can't get a ball to a Draymond Green; we win because we share the ball and we defend.テつ We usually take good care of the ball.テつ We usually make‑‑ we've been making our free throws better.
A good friend of mine, can't mention his name, he asked me not to, but he gave us $45,000, wrote the check that day to add two baskets, which is a lot of money, so we could shoot better free throws.テつ The kids have been taking advantage of it, and it's been great.
Because it's all about reps.テつ Everything in life is reps and percentages.テつ But today we‑‑ as I said, we were apprehensive.テつ We were a little tight.テつ We choked it off.テつ You know why, though?テつ Because they tried too hard.
Like sometimes you aim the ball or you putt, those guys that get the yips, like Tiger, they try too hard.テつ The worst thing is not trying hard enough.テつ But the second toughest thing to contend with in life, that's the great mystery of the free throw, the putt.テつ The dichotomy of where is that middle ground that you find success.テつ And it's hard.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Thank you, Coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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