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NCAA MEN'S REGIONALS SEMIFINALS & FINALS: NEW YORK


March 29, 2014


Keith Appling

Branden Dawson

Gary Harris

Tom Izzo

Adreian Payne

Denzel Valentine


NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK

THE MODERATOR:テつ We'll go ahead and get started with an opening statement from coach and then take questions for the student‑athletes.
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ Well, first of all, I'm so excited to be here.テつ I thought we beat a very, very good Virginia team.テつ Very well coached team.テつ And now it just turns right around.テつ It seems like all the games I had against Calhoun over the years, who is a good friend, and now his protテδゥgテδゥ has taken over and has done as good or is on his way to the same kind of stardom that Jim had at UCONN.
I think that we go from two different teams, a team that was so physical and big, huge guards, to a team that has maybe the quickest guard tandem in the country in Shabazz and Boatright.
So it's going to be a good challenge, but I'm proud of these guys, too.テつ They have been through a lot this year and have weathered the storm and hopefully we're into playing our best basketball down the stretch.
THE MODERATOR:テつ We'll now take questions for Coach Izzo or any of the student‑athletes from Michigan State.

Q.テつ Tom, for you, on the Big‑10, three teams in Elite 8, what that says about the league and maybe a league that wasn't supposed to be as top heavy this year as it was a year ago.
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ Well, it's kind of funny, when you go through the league like we did, everybody talks about the top teams getting beat.テつ And instead of giving credit that the bottom teams were really good, we just automatically assume that the top teams weren't that good.テつ I'm not saying the NCAA Tournament validates all that, because it's all about matchups and who you play, but I know we all thought this league was one of the best since I've been in it.テつ I think the best top to bottom, because I think some of those perennial teams that have been down in the bottom were really, really good.
And I don't know if this helps validate it, but the next thing is the Big‑10 still hasn't won a national championship in a while.テつ Those things all come down to matchups and things like that.テつ I don't think it comes down to how good your league is all the time.テつ But this sends a pretty good message that our league was pretty good.

Q.テつ Tom, if you are playing your best basketball right now, when and where do you think it turned?テつ Was there a specific moment or a specific game where you thought, okay, you are going to be okay and get this turned around?
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ Well, the one that was scary was Illinois, because that's when we got everybody back and I thought that was one of our worst games of our last seven or eight.テつ And they played good, but we played poorly.
I equate it to‑‑ I told our guys, it was like when they got Westbrook back, they lost three in a row.テつ When you have guys out it's hard, but when you get them back, now you got to redo everything.テつ That's what's made it hard on these guys.テつ I think, why weren't you as good a rebounding team?テつ We had two of our best rebounders out.テつ Why weren't you this and that?テつ And Keith's gone through so much, and that make it's harder and Gary and Zel.
So was there a game?テつ I think the Big‑10 Tournament in general kind of was the shot in the arm for us.テつ We beat two potential one seeds, and I thought we played very well the whole weekend.テつ I thought we found our identity again, which was that we needed to defend better than we were defending.テつ When we started to defend better, we started to rebound better.テつ I think we have been one of the best offensive teams we've had.テつ We're shooting almost 40 percent from the three as a team.
So we are pretty good offensive team, it was our defense that had let us down a little bit and that came back in that tournament, and we have been better since.

Q.テつ Tom, this was kind of supposed to be the year of the freshman.テつ Obviously other than Kentucky, some of the other teams are out, Duke, Kansas.テつ You're up here without any really big freshmen.テつ Can we draw any conclusions from that about freshmen talent and their impact on college basketball?
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ I think talent in general has a big impact on college basketball, but I should be asking you that question.テつ It was the media that made all the hype with the freshmen, and kind of no insult intended, but forgot about some of these sophomore, juniors and seniors.
As I said all along, Kentucky has done a good job, but can prove you wrong, but experience is good in coaching and experience is good with players.テつ And any time you have some experience, I always tell these guys, that you can win a lot of games one way, but to win championships and advance in tournaments, usually you need some key things and toughness is one.テつ And I think the experience they bring and the hunger to get there, if they haven't been there yet, is one.
I think it's a shame that we put so much pressure on these freshmen and sophomores instead of letting them just enjoy their time.テつ Our whole society is trying to speed it up.テつ Trying to put 16‑year‑olds into Harvard and I don't understand it.テつ I like being a snot‑nosed kid.テつ That was the most fun I ever had.テつ And we're trying to take it away.テつ So I struggle with that a little bit.

Q.テつ Kevin Ollie had to be the guy that followed the guy, and that you were the kind of the guy that followed the guy.テつ How hard is that?テつ How do you make that work for yourself as a coach?
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ Well, I'm sure just like Jud, Jim I'm sure has done a good thing.テつ He was there to support Kevin in his first game over in Germany.テつ I've known Jim for a long time, and he wanted Kevin to have the job.テつ He told me that the summer before.テつ I just think it's how the former guy handles it.テつ We're going to have pressure on us to try to live up to certain things, but how the guy before us handles it.テつ And in Jud's case, he's been so supportive.テつ I got a call from him this morning, he's still coaching my team 19 years later.テつ And I accept that and I actually enjoy that.
I'm sure, as I told Kevin when we played him over in Germany, and Jim was sitting there, I think he was doing the radio that day, I said, "Hey, and find a way to embrace it, because he's got a lot of knowledge and can really help you."テつ And just like Jud did for me.テつ He wasn't there day to day, but he was yelling at me still when we won, but when we lost, he was there for me.テつ I think that's what's really critical.
So maybe not as much how we handle it, how they handle it.テつ I've been very fortunate, my guy's been dynamite.

Q.テつ Tom, all the talk about UCONN is about their guards.テつ I was really impressed with their big guys last nights, especially defensively.テつ Can you comment how we have to respond to that?
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ Their big guys or our big guys?

Q.テつ Their big guys.
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ Well, what we have been is really balanced.テつ Last couple games Adreian and B.J. have been so good, but for half the year when Keith was out it was Gary and Zel that was carrying us when these guys were out.テつ So it's just finding that mixture now.
Their big guys are good.テつ If you look at it, they get more scoring out of their guards than their perimeter guys, and we have gotten more scoring lately out of ours.テつ But I think for the most part Gary and AP have been our leading scorers throughout the year, so we have maybe a little more balance.
But their big guys impressed me, too.テつ Then when you take a kid like Daniels, who has an incredible, incredible night, doing it inside and outside, we got our work cut out for us.テつ That's why we're in the Elite 8, a lot of good teams around the country.

Q.テつ Tom, do you expect this to feel like a road game tomorrow?テつ And do you think that will matter at all?
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ I hope so, because I think it will be.テつ But we have actually played better on the road than we have at home.テつ We lost four home games this year, which is unAmerican and illegal.テつ We played actually pretty well on the road.テつ I thought last night Virginia brought a lot of people.テつ They're closer.テつ We had a good group following us too, but UCONN, it's as you say out East, it's just a little 20‑minute train ride, which who knows what that means, an hour, two hours.テつ You guys do it different.テつ We're on mileage where we're from.テつ You guys do it a little different out here, but put it this way:テつ They're a lot closer, a lot easier to get to.
And I wish the Virginia fans would have done like I heard the Louisville fans did, and that's, they tell me that Kentucky fans were trying to buy tickets from the Louisville fans, and Louisville fans wouldn't give up the tickets.テつ They would rather lose the money than give them the advantage to going in the arena.テつ I don't know if Virginia feels the same way.
But I'm sure it's going to be a road game for us.テつ These guys, that's the advantage of having some experience and I think some toughness.テつ I think you got to do that when you go on the road.

Q.テつ For Gary and Keith, what do you remember from playing UCONN last season and how similar is that team?テつ There's a lot of the same guys on both sides.
GARRY HARRIS:テつ I remember that, that was my first college game, so I had a lot of nerves that game.テつ The guys were messing around because the first time I played them, I forgot the first play of the game.テつ It was just a new experience for me.テつ I have become lot more comfortable and a lot more experienced since that game.
KEITH APPLING:テつ I feel like it's pretty much the same team that we played last year.テつ They still have two great guards on the perimeter that we're going to have to just try to contain as much as we possibly can, and just try to remain solid for 40 minutes and see what happens.

Q.テつ Gary, what was it like, as Coach was talking about, as these guys are coming back from injury, trying to adjust to having everything is going to be a little bit different, even though it's great that you're getting these guys back.
GARRY HARRIS:テつ It was frustrating at first.テつ You experienced some growing pains, because once you get everybody back, you kind of expect it to go smoothly like it was before.テつ But you have to get that chemistry back, get the timing back down and just get familiar with playing with the guys again.
But now that we have done that, it's been a smooth transition.

Q.テつ Adreian, last night Coach Izzo talked about how he feels it benefited you to stay the full four years.テつ Not only on the court but off the court as well in your relationships with Lacey and then also as a student.テつ Can you just talk about your maturation process over these past four years.
ADREIAN PAYNE:テつ It's been great.テつ You just asked a lot of questions in one, so I kind of forgot some of them.
(Laughter.) So my growth in all four years I've been here has been great, especially on the court and off the court.テつ It took some time for me to learn the system here, and by my sophomore year going into my junior year I had started picking up on it more, watching film so I could understand it.テつ And it's been great because I watched a lot of film with Coach, and he was able to break it down and just help me understand it better.
Going into my senior year now I'm able to‑‑ I know the system and I'm able to take my shots within the offense and just help my team.
The relationship with Lacey has been great.テつ It's been tremendous for me to be able to help somebody out within the community.テつ Me still being able to, you can say, you know, profit or just get something in return from her.テつ It's been great for not just me but especially for the team and for the community at Michigan State.

Q.テつ For the players, as you guys, any couple of you can answer, but as you were dealing with the injuries in the middle of the season, and the lineup is changing and you're not winning, how often were you hearing around campus, like, "what's wrong with the team?"テつ And do you think people were just missing the point that this wasn't the group together?テつ And how frustrating was it to deal with sort of that criticism when it was kind of obvious why you were struggling?
BRANDEN DAWSON:テつ It was definitely frustrating and a lot of people on campus, we went to go get something to eat, went to the stores a lot of people were just asking us, what's going on with the team?テつ Some people said it was my fault and I just kind of laughed it off.テつ But it was definitely frustrating and not having our chemistry, and not having our rhythm back.テつ But now that we are healthy and we're in full effect, I think we look good as a team.
DENZEL VALENTINE:テつ It was frustrating on the court just figuring out our role, especially for me.テつ I wasn't always the spotlight player or whatever, and when guys got hurt, I had to step up and I had more pressure on me.テつ So it affected me on the court and especially off the court.テつ Everybody expects a lot out of you a little bit more, and I'm just glad everybody is healthy now.
THE MODERATOR:テつ All right.テつ We'll excuse you to the locker room and take questions for coach.

Q.テつ After the game in Germany, you were one of the first, if not the first, coach to kind of call for Kevin to get a long‑term contract.テつ He had the one‑year contract.テつ I just wonder what you saw from him technically in that game, what you saw in him prior to that whatever experience you had, that kind of moved you to do that.
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ Well, No. 1, like I said, I developed a closer relationship with Jim Calhoun as the years went on, and we played in different games.テつ We played in that Final Four and I just respected the toughness he had with his program.テつ I talked to him, I was on one recruiting trip, I think we were in Indianapolis when I first met Kevin, and it was through Jim, and I would say one of the reasons I did that is, A, they beat us, but B, I liked the way he handled himself and the way his team played.テつ And maybe C, Jim Calhoun told me what an incredible coach he was going to be and what a great guy he is.テつ I talked to some of my NBA players and that have played with him or played against him and the same words always came up:テつ "Hard working", "classy", "good guy".テつ I think he's been every bit of that.テつ And he's going to have a phenomenal career here and keep that tradition that Jim built so well at UCONN, he's going to keep it going.
What he's going to find out is, it's so much easier, too, to keep it going from a standpoint of all those great players they have had, he's part of those guys.テつ He played there and he's been part of them, and he knows them and he's never really left there.
So I think that he's going to enjoy as much as anything.テつ There's been, I've been at Michigan State now this is the 31st year, from a graduate assistant on up.テつ I think that's helped me with the‑‑ that's why the Magics fly in, you're part of both groups, the past, the present and hopefully the future.

Q.テつ The cohesion between Branden and Adreian, Branden at one point might have been your three and they have become quite a tandem as four and five.テつ It's just come together nicely.テつ Can you talk about that a little bit and how that's developed.
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ Well, it is funny because I think at times they were more adversarial.テつ We had the big Penn State incident, which really wasn't nearly as big as it seemed, but that really started the turnaround.テつ So it's kind of funny how they're having success together, when it all started out they both probably had one of their best games over a little scuffle.
They're really working well together right now.テつ Branden is a very smart player.テつ I never thought Adreian would throw some of the passes he has thrown into the post or the lob pass he threw last night.テつ They are fric and frac.テつ They're working together, they're playing together, they're starting to get a feel for one another now that they're back.テつ They both went through injuries, so I think they have an appreciation, and it's been really good and it's been fun to watch those two grow together.

Q.テつ Has this team taken on any characteristics of your past Final Four teams, either in the last two or three weeks or last two or three months?テつ And which characteristics would you like to see them maybe take on that other teams have had that you think this team is capable of?
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ Well, No. 1, they have because I think we got our identity back here in the last two, three weeks of that.テつ We are tougher, are better defensively, are a better rebounding team.テつ We have become a better offensive team throughout the year.テつ I think our offense has been pretty steady.テつ It's as good as some teams are in our league in Michigan and Wisconsin, and those teams are good and good three‑point shooting teams.テつ We're right there with them as far as number of attempts and percentages.
What I think this team is still missing a little bit is that edge, that the Cleaves group had or even the Travis Walton group.テつ It's been hard because Keith has been so hurt, and he's that toughness guy who you need to be at that spot.テつ And he's been trying to find himself still, and his wrist still, as well documented, isn't back to normal.テつ So I think that's the thing we're still ‑‑ we do have an edge about us.テつ We have a toughness about us, but you got to have an edge that just refuses to lose, and I think we're still trying to find that.

Q.テつ We are 30 miles from the Rutgers campus here and obviously a Big‑10 rival for you next year.テつ Curious, if were you to give them, or anyone, a blueprint for how to build a successful Big‑10 program, what would you tell them?
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ Well, if I was 10 years ago I would tell them you better get in the weight room and it's smash mouth.テつ It's a football team on hardwood.テつ You better become that.テつ But we have changed a lot.テつ No. 1, the rules.テつ No. 2, the number of different coaches.テつ We have guys pressing, we have guys zoning.テつ It used to be I think like Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes, it was three yards and a cloud of dust and everybody took on that persona within the league, because those were the two best teams.
When it was Knight and Keady the way they played, I think that the rest of us took on that persona.テつ There's been so much change in our league that I think they will do fine whatever they bring.
But what they better bring is, there's a ‑‑ I think we have a phenomenal group of coaches in our league right now.テつ I think it's pretty cheating‑free.テつ I think that's important.テつ So they better bring that to the table.テつ I just think that every night they're going to play in arenas that are going to have 14, 15,000 people.テつ And we have led the nation for 30‑some years and it is hard to go on the road in our league.テつ I don't care if you're playing the last‑place team or the first‑place team.
Because maybe the Big East at one time was played in a lot of pro venues and that, it's just not the same as being on campus sometimes.テつ Everywhere they go now they're going to be playing on a campus and it's going to be packed.

Q.テつ Middle of season you made your disappointment with media and more specifically social media kind of criticism of the team and the players pretty well known.テつ Now you are probably not surprised you guys can't do anything wrong on there?テつ Did that change your enjoyment at all of this season?テつ And how do you feel about just sort of the "I told you to be patient" and here we are?
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ You know, I wasn't as disappointed with the media.テつ The social media I hate.テつ So I leave no‑‑ I don't have any problem.テつ If this was HBO, I would get more in depth into how much I despise it because I still, and I'm going to say this, I think it hurts kids.テつ I think everybody has a job to do.テつ So the media part of it didn't bother me.
I just don't like people, when you're a media member and you got a newspaper or even if have you a talk radio show, there's somebody that you got to be accountable to.テつ When you get behind some of those things that you don't have to be accountable, I struggle with that.
I thought it was unfair for me more than the players, because I'd go to press conference after press conference, and "Why aren't you rebounding as well?"テつ And we had 17 rebounds out of there.テつ Then you're making excuses or you're being real.テつ I've always been pretty real with our media, and yet I felt like every time I went there I was making excuses.テつ And that was the worst ‑‑ I dreaded those Mondays.
And then I thought towards the end there was some games that we just played bad.テつ I did not think we played very well against Nebraska or Illinois.テつ And then come to find out, the Nebraska was one of the first couple of games that Appling came back.テつ The Illinois was one of the first couple games that I got Payne and Dawson back.
So trying to look at it, it was difficult, and I think the social media creates problems for you and me.テつ I used to laugh at you guys early on because it seemed like you guys were kids in a candy store; the social media did all your work.テつ You just sat back.テつ But then you realize you've got to be following it every second of a day, and I think your job is now worse than my job because you're on 24/7 or you got a boss that's chewing you out, like I got a president or an AD chewing me out.
So maybe we're closer to each other than we think we are.テつ We got the same problems.テつ But I'll stick to my guns with it.テつ But I'm finding out more of you are starting to agree with me, and we're and where it really hits home is when you have kids.テつ I mean my own kids.
So it's hard to deal with.テつ It's hard to deal with because there's no happy medium.テつ I call it, you're never half pregnant; you either are or you aren't.テつ It's either you're really good ‑‑ my favorite line is when we played Kentucky and I told them, we had a guy from this an expert on social media come in, that's an oxymoron in itself, but we had one come in and he said that you have to learn how to deal with it.テつ So I told my guys, if you beat Kentucky you're going to have 10,000 fans Tweeting you and everything, and you are going to have to deal with that.テつ Then if you lose to Kentucky, because we are, we love the negative in our society, you're going to have 100,000 fans Tweeting you telling you how bad you are.テつ Well, just think about it.
There were people putting a fork in us two weeks, and then two weeks later the President's picking us to win the whole thing.テつ That was not easy to deal with from their standpoint.テつ And I feel for them a little bit on that, but it's been a good learning experience and hopefully it will make me a better coach and them better players.
But I really wasn't mad at the media for it.テつ We weren't playing as good, I just knew why.テつ And I'm not vindictive about it, I'm really not, because it's hard unless you're there every day.テつ It was hard for me to get my arms around it.テつ I can't tell you how much coaches and people I called around the country to try to get a feel for who lost a lot of guys, how did it go, what happened, but it was a learning experience that I'll be an expert at next time.

Q.テつ Everyone sort of knows about the streak of getting into the Final Fours with your four‑year seniors.テつ Did you ever worry that that would become a burden to this group or maybe any further group that no one wants to be the class that sort of stops that?
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ Well, I'm hoping for true competitors.テつ Fear drives us all, you know.テつ I fear a lot of things about my job every day.テつ One is that it goes down a little bit, so that fear keeps me working.
Rivalries, everybody talked about Michigan being good.テつ And did I enjoy beating them every year?テつ Yes.テつ But I also was on the other end when they beat us every year.テつ But when they're good and we're good, that drives you.テつ That makes you better.
I didn't bring it up as much in the last two months, because we had so many other things to deal with.テつ It's something we talked about early in the year, but even to this day I have not talked to those guys as much about it or anything, because I think they have had enough other things.テつ But if they didn't like pressure, they picked the wrong school to come to.テつ If they didn't like the pressure of playing in Elite 8s or going to Final Fours or having streaks or having NCAA Tournaments bids.テつ Those streaks mean that the players before you lived up to the standards that the players before them had.テつ And that's part of your obligation when you come here.テつ They don't like it?テつ Bad choice for them.テつ And yet I'm trying not to add to that burden by hammering it every day like ‑‑
You know, when I had Travis Walton in 2009, every day he was alive he walked in, "I'm not going to be the class that didn't make it.テつ I'm not going to be."テつ He put pressure on me.テつ I felt like an anvil on my back by the time I got done.テつ But it worked out okay, too, because it drove him.
So this one we have been a little bit more‑‑ we have been like our society has, we got a little softer on this one.テつ You know, we kept it a little more mellow, and yet I'm starting to hear them talk about it and I think it's a good thing.

Q.テつ You've touched on experience a lot, they run out basically played two point guards and a lot of experience.テつ What kind of challenges does that present you?テつ And experience overall, how do you expect that to impact tomorrow's game?
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ I think both teams have a lot of experience.テつ They got a little more at the guard spot than we do, but Keith's been starting three and a half years, and Gary Harris and Valentine and Trice.テつ I think we can match up.テつ Hard thing was last night it was hard to play Trice and Appling together a lot because their guards were so big.テつ At least now we're going to have two smaller guards.テつ So there will be some pluses in that.
We have got more experience inside.テつ They have probably got a little more outside.テつ I think for the most part both of us got a decent amount of experience to be playing in an Elite 8 game, and I think that's what should make it a great, great game.

Q.テつ When you're going up against a team like Connecticut, where Napier is the guy that everybody knows, do you do anything differently getting the team ready, like, to make sure they don't overlook the other guys, a guy like Boatright or do you have to focus on that?
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ I think Daniels took care of some of that last night, averaging 11 points a game and getting 27.テつ But they played against Boatright and Napier, most of our guys have.テつ So they know how good they are.テつ And them being pretty solid on TV all the time, you get a chance to see them more than maybe some teams.
The kind of year they have had, I mean it's been phenomenal.テつ They can score in a lot of different ways.テつ And Shabazz is unbelievable on some of the degree‑of‑difficulty shots he can make.テつ Can make them through contact, he can make them from the three, he can make them through penetration.
I think our guys know that you don't get to an Elite8 if you're a one‑dimensional team.テつ But just to help us out, Daniels had one of those games last night that says, hey, don't forget the other guys.テつ I think it's a great point you bring up.テつ We're going to hit all players because we got to stop everybody, but there's definitely going to be some emphasis on not stopping him, but making him earn everything he gets, and trying to keep him where maybe his numbers might even be the same but he takes more shots to get there or wear him down a little bit by making sure he can't have free rein.テつ He seems to be able to go where he wants when he wants against a lot of good teams in this league that he's played in.テつ So that's going to be the challenge for us.

Q.テつ In terms of length and I guess the areas of emphasis and maybe structure, how different are the practices that you have now compared to maybe before the Tournament started or a month ago or three months ago?
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ Well, that's one of the problems with today for me.テつ We were still going at it pretty good because we didn't have our players a month and a half, two months ago.テつ If it was a normal year, this would be a lot of walkthroughs and this and that.テつ And that's been the challenge, because I got Keith, I got Adreian, I got Branden, who need more practice time to get together.テつ I got Zel and Gary Harris that are probably walking on their elbows, and yet you got to have them all in there together if you're going to get the timing.
I think somebody brought it up in here, maybe it was a player, maybe it was one of you, about timing, and cohesiveness as a team.テつ But what I didn't realize until maybe the Big‑10 Tournament, that takes place offensively, everybody knows that, but it takes place defensively too.テつ And we just weren't as good defensively as we have been other years.テつ I guess I didn't put two and two together, or when I did it came out to five instead of four, because I didn't see it the same.テつ And I think we're getting to be a much better defensive team now, too.
We're going to keep practicing somewhat.テつ I mean I'm not stupid, I'm not going to wear my guys out.テつ I have so much respect for Bobby Knight.テつ He really took me under his wing when I got into this league, but I listened to him talk about "dial it down, dial it down" and that would be fine, but I got four or five guys that most of the middle of January until the middle of February, they were sitting out having pizza and watching practice.テつ So the circumstances make it a little different for me.

Q.テつ You played UCONN to start last season in Germany, it was a while ago, obviously, do you have a lot of memories of that?テつ Obviously it was Kevin's first game as head coach.テつ Do you recall it being significant for them, that game in particular?
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ Well, I think what I was most impressed with him and most disappointed with myself is his team came out and played within credible passion.テつ Now we started a couple freshmen that game and Gary was one of them, and he had the proverbial deer‑in‑the‑headlights look.テつ I remember he forgot the first three plays we were going to run.テつ So they had a little more experience at that time.
But his team has changed, too, couple of those guys like Olander and Calhoun were playing a lot more than they are now.テつ But the two guards, they're still staples.テつ So I guess what did I get out of that game?テつ Kevin's teams are going to play hard and will play disciplined.テつ I don't think we have given them enough credit how they are defensively.テつ This is a pretty good defensive team in UCONN, and it's just those guards are so dynamic that we kind of overlook that sometimes.

Q.テつ Coaches are like parents in that they tell their kids adversity can help you learn, if you trust me and give it time.テつ Was last night and how you guys were able to beat the Cavaliers, was that the first time that you saw the players actually believing that you know what, all the hardships they went through to get to this point really helped them in that game?
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ I'm not sure it's the first time.テつ I do think that Big‑10 Tournament, because we held Michigan, who was playing out of their minds, shooting the ball so well, to 31 percent.テつ I think that's what we started to get our identity back.テつ But the one part of the identity that we didn't get in that tournament that we did get last night, can we play a smash‑mouth team?テつ Can we play a team that just knocks you right on your tailテつ and tough and physical and big?テつ I think in that respect you're right on, I think our team started looking at it, okay, we got better defensively.テつ We got our tails beat a little bit on the boards last night, but they knew they were in a war.テつ That was a battle.
It's almost, we don't get to have those as often in this day and age.テつ I had an appreciation for it, I think Tony had a appreciation.テつ I think fans had an appreciation, but mostly I think our players understood that to move on in this tournament you're going to have to lay it on the line every minute.テつ So I would agree with that statement.

Q.テつ You just were talking about how the timing was also an issue in playing team defense.テつ What were some of the things you started to see that things you would usually want to do on defense that took a while to get back, just because these guys had not been on the floor together?
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ One of the biggest things was Branden Dawson, sometimes we'll switch four, sometimes we'll play ball screens completely different than we started playing them without ‑‑ when we had Payne and Dawson out, those are two athletic kids and all of a sudden we're playing with two guys that are still good players, but aren't as athletic.テつ So you couldn't do as many things.テつ And I'm going back and forth.
I think I made it difficult on the players.テつ Some coaches coach strictly to their systems.テつ Bo does an incredible job of that in Wisconsin in our league.テつ I've never been one of those kinds of coaches.テつ I take a scouting report or a team and trying to kind of adapt things a little bit more.テつ And this is one time where the system stuff would have been better, because I tried to adjust to personnel we had and personnel we were going against.
And those changes, and it's been successful for us.テつ So I wouldn't change it.テつ But those changes when you're getting guys back you don't know if it's one week, two weeks, three weeks or four week.テつ The only injury we had that we knew was going to last five weeks was Dawson's.テつ Other than that, I was telling my media, it could be day to day and all of a sudden week to week.テつ I was embarrassed because I just didn't know what to tell them.テつ And that made it more difficult.
So I learned a lot about chemistry defensively that I think this will make me a better coach in the future and realizing those things.
THE MODERATOR:テつ All right.テつ Thank you, Coach.
COACH TOM IZZO:テつ Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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