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November 26, 2019

Tom Izzo

Aaron Henry

Cassius Winston

Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Michigan State - 93, Georgia - 85

THE MODERATOR: We'll start with an opening statement from coach.

TOM IZZO: Well it was a tale of maybe two thirds of a game and a third of a game and I'm going to take it as I'm pleased because it's good to get Cash back on track a little bit here. Aaron was pretty solid until we started giving up threes. And give Georgia a lot of credit. Give Tom a lot of credit. He did a better job than I did keeping his team in the game. I think we got to learn that when a guy gets hot that's a prolific scorer. If somebody let Cassius do that, he could maybe not make the shots he made, but we got a lot of guys letting them get into the rhythm and then trying to guard them and actually doing a hell of a job but it's too little, too late. I thought we quit running, I thought I did a poor job of substituting. I was going to make this guy next to me play today, and I did. But Foster Loyer played pretty well. If I could have got him a couple minutes here and there it probably would have helped him.

We're still struggling at the four. And yet early in the game Marcus did a lot of good things. Just disappointing to go back, but I'm happy for Tom and for Georgia. That's the true colors of a team to be down almost 30 points and find a way to come back and almost tie it up. So a lot of work to do yet.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. Take questions for the players.

Q. Cassius and Aaron: What was the conversation last night leading up to the game amongst the players trying to give that effort after a disappointing loss?
CASSIUS WINSTON: We just focused on a lot of, just focused on within ourselves. We got all the pieces. We got everything we need to be a really good team. We just got to figure out what's going to get us going and how everyone's going to bring their best each and every night. And that's more of less than focusing on our opponents, less than focusing on the outside noise, we got to come together as a group within ourselves and make that commitment to ourselves to be the best that we can be.

AARON HENRY: Everything was more of an internal conversation as far as what we can do to control the things that we can on the court. Of course, we got other teams to play and they have great players, but if we don't do the things we're supposed to do within ourselves then it's going to be hard to even get to that point where we have to focus on them.

Q. When Edwards started hitting those shots, I guess, how did you rally to kind of stop them at that point in terms of he's hitting shots after he gets into that rhythm there just turning around just throwing it up from way outside.
CASSIUS WINSTON: Yeah, it's tough once a player like that gets going. It's the reason why he got all the hype, it's the reason why he got a name like that. You let a player like that get going it's very difficult to slow him down and that just feeds into everybody on the team. So you got to focus on getting the rebounds, you can't let them get second chances, you can't turn the ball over, things like that that's going to just kind of keep the game in your hands as much as possible. Those are the types of things that we got to kind of shore up at the end.

AARON HENRY: We put an emphasis on a scorer like that not to get let him get going. And once we let him get going it's hard to get a player like that just to slow him down. So got to do a better job of that and just continue to play solid defense.

Q. Cassius, your coach mentioned he wanted you to play tonight. Did this feel like, from the sideline watching you, it looked like, to me, it looked like watching what we're used to seeing from Cassius Winston. 10-16 I think. Only a couple turnovers. Did this feel like the best you've kind of felt, I guess, on the court in a while?
CASSIUS WINSTON: Yeah, definitely. Just, I mean, it just it was a tough day too. I think I cried before the game and things like that. But once I got out there, I was able to find my rhythm, find my peace out there on the court and that was really good for me, getting up-and-down, just having that rhythm that I usually play with, I feel like this is the first time I kind of had it in a while.

Q. Aaron, wondered if, what conversations you had with a guy like Anthony Edwards when he gets that hot. I know he's smiling at you a little back and forth. I'm just, I mean, have you dealt with guys who have been that hot before? And what sort of is the conversation that's happening on the court when that's happening?
AARON HENRY: More of like he's just trying to get going, I mean, really wasn't too much conversation. He was doing more talking than me but I'm just playing the game. And he hit some tough shots, credit to him. I feel like I was down some but I got to start earlier and make sure he doesn't even get going. But that's where I got to improve. And as far as the conversation goes, I mean, I don't know too much about it. It was loud in there.

THE MODERATOR: All right. We'll take questions for coach.

TOM IZZO: I have something to say once they leave. Guys, especially for our writers, we have gone through a couple tough years, gone through some things that I never dreamed I would go through. And when I was going through them they told me that the fact don't matter. The facts don't matter and sometimes in some of these things we all went through. Well damn it, I'm here to tell you the facts do matter. And the fact is I had to get that kid off the bench up in that locker room because Rocket Watts said to me, Coach, everybody else left, him and Rocket were left. I look over there was a puddle under his chair, a puddle. He's been struggling, his mother's been struggling. I actually enjoyed the way you asked that question, because you did it so gingerly, and to be honest with you, that's the way I'm coaching him. It makes what I went through two years ago seem like nothing, because we always try to make games or events in our life, life and death. This was life and death. And it's hard. I mean, I know what happened yesterday, but we got beat by a good team that played well and they really did and they deserve all the credit. But that even wasn't half my player out there. He didn't even play the half because of the foul trouble, but when he was back it was just a wicked day. And I've been told by the people that there's going to be these ups and downs. So somewhere if one guy says I'm making an excuse, there's going to be a fistfight, because the facts do matter. They matter. And the fact is the best friend in his life lost his life, and we're struggling, as a team. But he is struggling as a human being. And so when I listened to you ask that question, that's how I've coached him, you know, Cash, you got to play better, but I know you're giving me your all. You gingerly ask questions. This ain't going away. We're just going to try to build on it as a family. And I'm going to listen to Tony Dungy, I'm going to listen to Reggie Winston, and I'm going to try my hardest to coach him back to normalcy, which means I have to be normal too. It's the most difficult thing I've done.

So now I'll open it up to any questions that has nothing to do, he played good today, but there was a lot more that went into him last night mentally than went into my preparation for the game. And I don't want to take anything away from Georgia. I thought that was an unbelievable comeback by a good, one of my best friends in the profession. And Antman, I recruited Antman. He's every bit as good as Steve Smith told me. So he deserves it. My only negative, I thought Aaron let him go a couple times early. We had him which way we wanted to force him, we didn't do a good job. But once a guy like that gets in a zone, so was Tyrese Maxey, then it was my man from Seton Hall, and now it's this guy. You know, you tell your players when you're highly ranked people are going to bring their best. I'm not sure that we're mature enough yet to handle that with some of the losses we have had of Langford and, really, Winston. So we're going to grow on that. So now I'll open it up to any questions, thank you.

Q. You talked about Foster and I think that he's a potential opportunity for scoring. He's a great scorer coming out of high school. What can you do to kind of give him more involvement in your offense?
TOM IZZO: Well, the problem we had with a team like this tonight, Tom started those big guards and strong guards and to put Cassius and Foster in there together would have been a way to do it offensively. Defensively, it would have been a struggle. And yet not everybody has -- you know, the sad part is we did such a good job of guarding Antman, we did such a good job of running the ball, we did such a good job of taking care of the ball. And then all of a sudden, boom, boom, boom, I mean, they go zone and we throw the ball right to them. I mean, it was -- but I think, you know, this group is a little fragile still and this group is very young still. The experience we had, some of it is gone. And the experience that we're going to get, we're going to get better. But we got an All-American that's probably gone through one of the toughest things that any human being would go through, and we're just going to have to keep working him day-to-day through that and see if I can do a better job and a better job of getting a couple of those other guys. I told Foster -- it's interesting you asked that. First thing I said in the locker room, Foster, you got screwed by your coach. You played good enough to play more minutes. And yet, let's not forget this: When they cut that lead to 10, to eight, to two, different times, we answered the bell too. That wasn't easy and we had some guys make some big plays. But, boy, you got to give Antman credit, I mean, he made some shots that I wouldn't even allow a church league team I used to play on take. And he made them and he made them well.

Q. Xavier seemed to have a tough night again, but he does hit that shot late when you talk about answering and stuff like that. What have your conversations been with him as he's, I guess, struggled to some degree offensively? And what do you think of his overall play because his game is not entirely a scorer?
TOM IZZO: I got to get my shot at the media so this is a good question. Thank you. You know, when there gets to be talk about NBA and doing this and doing that, it really affects different people in different ways. And I think he started putting too much pressure on himself. He fumbled the ball, I mean, he dunks and layups in the last two nights, what did he get tonight? 15 and 11. I mean that's a 21, 22-point night. Last night he should be leaving this tournament right now with averaging 20-some points and probably 13, 14 rebounds and we don't think he's playing great. So, you know, Xavier has, as I told him, the things he did last year, you always listen to the outside world and think you have to do more. The reason he became a household name is what he did last year. So don't worry about changing those things. And I think, I think he has a little bit, but I think he'll bounce back.

Q. I did want to ask you about the, you mentioned the 4's, still struggling with the 4, you made the switch in the starting lineup. Just kind of your thought process where you're at with that right now --
TOM IZZO: I'm going to be really be hard on you guys, both on media and talk radio, because I'm probably going to change it again and again and again. I'm not happy with it. There's different guys who bring different things. Everybody has a serious plus and everybody has a couple of minutes. Even a guy like Malik had played so well, but a little bit tougher in different positions kind of -- that high post, he struggled a little bit. Marcus did a great job in the first half. When he gets tired, it kind of goes down. Julius did some good things. Thomas Kithier has got, he's just got to play harder and not go in the game and take a three the first shot he takes. So everybody's got some issues, coach got some issues. We had a bounce-back game. I mean, that was a disappointing loss last night. We had a bounce-back game. And like I said, half of last night was spent on our mental health. That's not good when you only have 20 hours or 15 hours to prepare for a team. But that's the way we're going to be for a while, guys. And at the same time I love the way Tom's team played, came back, they attacked, they got a lot more fast-break points than us. Didn't rebound quite as good, but for their size -- and he should be on them about that, because that's one of mine and his staples -- but I thought the things we wanted to do, not shoot as many threes, get the ball inside, we did that. Not turn it over, we did that for about two thirds of the game. Defend, did that for two thirds of the game. One of these days we're going to put a whole game together. So appreciate it, I'll see you tomorrow.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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