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April 3, 2000
COACH DONOVAN: Well, the first thing I want to do is congratulate Michigan State and
Tom Izzo and obviously all their fans. They're a great basketball team, they were
certainly well-deserving of the National Championship. Of all the games we've played this
year, maybe the best team we've gone against. They're certainly well deserving. I also
want to say how proud I am of our kids and what they've accomplished this year and how
hard they fought. Tonight's game, the difference was they're seniors. Mateen Cleaves,
Morris Peterson and Granger stepped up, made play, made shots, opened the game up for
them. Every time we got to six or eight points there in the second half. Obviously it's a
difficult loss. It's tough when you get this loss. But close at the same point, we lost to
a better team tonight. I could not be any prouder of the two guys sitting next to me and
the rest of our team with how hard they fought this year, everything they gave me as a
coach, and I'm just really, really proud. And, you know, for me, I know they probably
don't want to hear this, I wish it was October 15th tomorrow and getting right back
started at it again. But we have a chance to take some time. Like anything else in life,
you go through a lot of learning experiences. This was hopefully a tremendous learning
experience, made us all better people from this.
Q. Billy and Udonis, can you talk about the way Udonis played and what opened up for
him, he had a career high.
UDONIS HASLEM: You know, I just had the ball one-on-one on the post. Any time I get the
ball one-on-one on the post, Coach has always been telling me since I've been here, he has
total confidence in me to make strong moves to the basket. Tonight was a night my
teammates got me in a great position to score. It was a tribute to those guys looking for
me, I didn't have to make post moves all night. Just layups.
Q. Mike, talk about just Mateen and the difference he made out there and the type of
game he had. You hadn't had a point guard do the things he did against you this year.
MIKE MILLER: Well, Mateen Cleaves is a great point guard. He showed it tonight. Senior
leader, been through a lot of things. You know, I think he just did a good job of running
his team. He knocked down shots tonight. I think he's, like I said earlier, a good point
guard, great point guard. He has a lot of guys around him. That makes it easier for him.
You can't take anything away from him, he knocked down a lot of shots tonight, ran his
team, came back after the injury and did a good job. So I give him a lot of credit.
Q. When Mateen went down, considering how well he was playing, did you think this is
our opportunity to jump on these guys?
MIKE MILLER: Not really. You know, if you look at it, not that I was thinking about it
in the game, but if you look at it, they did a great job without him at the beginning of
the year. They're a great basketball team. It's not like this is Mateen Cleaves and a
bunch of spastics. They're a great basketball team. They deserve -- they played well, they
deserved to win. But, you know, when we're out there playing against him and he went down
injured, we just knew that we had to try -- it was getting later in the game. We knew we
had to start making a run. We couldn't make a run. Any time they cut it down, we just
couldn't stop them. You have to give a lot of credit to Michigan State.
Q. Were you surprised at how easy they handled your press, especially early, going over
the top the way they did?
MIKE MILLER: That's just, I think, our fault a little bit. We knew Coach told us
earlier, before we stepped on the court, they're going to go sideline, middle. We just
weren't doing a good job of jumping in front of their guys that were flashing across the
middle. They even went middle, sideline on us, too. They did a good job. They had a great
game plan. We had a great game plan, too, we just didn't execute.
Q. For both players, did you think that maybe experience was ultimately the difference
in the game?
UDONIS HASLEM: Well, you know, if you look at it, definitely when we made it run and
cut it down to six, Mateen Cleaves, Granger and Morris Peterson were the guys that stepped
up. And, you know, just kind of took the leadership role and knocked us back down when we
were trying to pick ourselves up. They definitely stepped up tonight and showed everything
that everybody was talking about, the will to win that these guys have. They've been
through the wars and they showed it tonight.
MIKE MILLER: Like he said, you know, they played well. You have to give a lot of credit
to the other guys, too. Their seniors were good tonight. That's what you're going to get
out of seniors in big games. You have to give a little bit of credit to the guys that
played with them, too, they did a good job. Whenever we made our runs, it seemed it was
the seniors that stepped up. You do have to give them credit as seniors being leaders.
Q. Mike and Udonis, can you talk about the journey ending and your emotions?
UDONIS HASLEM: You know, it's been, you know, a great season. You hate to end it like
this, but, you know, if we look back on all the good times we've had, we accomplished a
lot. We came together as a family and made this run to the Championship. I'm proud of the
guys, the coaching staff, they've been here for us. They're the reason why we're here.
It's been a great season, just hats off to Michigan State. They played a great game.
MIKE MILLER: It's definitely a difficult loss. You know, we definitely came in here
wanting to win, and we had a great run. We had a great tournament run, a great season run.
We tied for SEC Championship, came in here, not a whole lot of people expected us to do a
lot. We went against a lot of odds. A team that was young and didn't know what to expect
coming into the situation, we did a great job. You have to give credit to the coaching
staff. They put us in situations that made us believe in ourselves. Any time you get in
situations like that and come out losing, it's definitely difficult. But I think we grew
up, and that's the most important thing.
Q. For both players, because you guys are so young, any sense that you're going to be
back here on the stage again?
UDONIS HASLEM: Well, we definitely, you know, want to try to get back here again. The
fact is we wanted to win tonight and nothing's guaranteed in life. You know, we had a
chance. We tried to seize the moment. It didn't happen for us. But, you know, we
definitely want to try to get here again. Like I said, nothing's guaranteed.
MIKE MILLER: We'd love to be back in this situation next year. But like Udonis said,
there's no guarantees in life. You never know what situation will be thrown at us. You
know, like I've always said the whole tournament, you can have a great team. Without luck,
you're not getting anywhere. I bet you can go down to almost any team that's ever won in
the tournament or gotten into the Final Four, they've had luck on their side. Next year if
we're in the same situation, barring everything's the way it is, we're going to need luck.
If luck's not on our side, it's just not our year. This year we kind of had a little faith
on our side and we got to the Final Four. Like Coach said afterwards, maybe it wasn't our
turn. We all believed in, you know, God and we pray a lot and like Coach said, maybe God
meant for us to take a different path this year. You know, I hope that's the case and I
hope something good comes out of it. If not, we're going to fight and scrap to get back
here next year.
Q. Billy, early on I think they went 12 minutes without a turnover, only had four in
the first half. Did that set a tone in your mind, they were sort of throwing touch down
bombs over the top and maybe actually using your aggressiveness against you?
COACH DONOVAN: We had a gamble. We watched a lot of tape. I did not see one team press
them all year long, probably obviously for a good reason teams didn't press them. Once we
figured out what they were doing, we just had a very, very difficult time taking those
things away. I think that's a tribute to Charlie Bell, Cleaves, and Morris Peterson, they
did a good job. Fact of the matter is, in the second half we turned them over eleven times
and we could have done that in the first half if we would have done a better job taking
away the things that we took away. The press put us in a position to get back in the game.
I thought the press against them was effective, when you look at the fact that they only
turned the ball over ten times in the game in one half, I think we turned them over eleven
times. So the fact of the matter was, to me, was every time that we made a run, they
answered. And to me that's a sign of a great basketball team. A sign of great leadership.
And, you know, we got the lead to I think it was six maybe, and Granger knocks down a
three right from the top and it goes back to nine. That was about at the eleven-minute
mark. You have to give them credit. They stepped up and made plays. You know what? For us
to get to this point that we got to, different guys in our team stepped up and made plays,
too. You've got to give those guys credit at Michigan State. They did a great job.
Q. Coach, how tough was their defense? You did score 76 points but how would you assess
their defensive effort?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I would say this: I thought their defense was okay. We had answers
up front for them that maybe they hadn't seen. They did not have an answer for Udonis. I
thought that we did a poor job at times, our back-court people, where we took too many
ill-advised shots quick and hurried out of transition which enabled them to get out on the
break. We never really -- you know, people think that our press wears people down. It's
our offense. And we let them off the hook several times. We got the ball inside against
them just about any time we wanted, Udonis I think had a season high against these guys.
They didn't have an answer. I thought some of our perimeter guys taking some quick rush
shots did not enable us to get the ball inside more to him. But the one thing about them
I'd say is they do a great job, when we dribble penetrate, they slap in, they slap at the
ball, they provide tremendous help. But I would say this, every team that we've gone
against to get to this point from Oklahoma State to Duke to Illinois, I think were all
really good defensively. They're a very, very good defensive team. I was much, much more
impressed with them offensively than I was defensively.
Q. Coach, it was obvious the impact that Cleaves and Peterson had. How do you assess
what Granger did? How did he hurt you that you didn't anticipate?
COACH DONOVAN: We called him the X factor going into the game. We knew that Cleaves and
Peterson were going to probably play well and do a good job handling our press. We called
Granger the X factor, that we could not allow him to step out and make three-point shots.
He did that. I said this, I think, in my press conference yesterday, the three-point line
has revolutionized college basketball. We lost because of what they did from behind the
three-point arc. I would say that not all the time did we do that poor of a job defending
them. I thought Morris Peterson made some tough shots, I thought Granger made some tough
ones. You have to give them credit. Granger played a great game and I think at times
opened the game up every time we got close.
Q. Billy, Tom Izzo said the other day after the win over Wisconsin that he started
thinking about next year as soon as they lost to Duke last year. What did you tell the
guys as far as focusing on their goals? What were your first words to them in the locker
COACH DONOVAN: It's always hard for me to talk to the guys when the season comes to an
end. Probably like anything else there's not a whole lot that they want to hear at that
point in time. I told them I was proud of them, we lost to a better team tonight. There
should be a tremendous motivating and learning experience for us. I was really proud from
this standpoint. Last year we get to the Sweet Sixteen and we lose on a tip in to prevent
ourselves from going to the Elite Eight. I thought our guys, once we got into the NCAA
Tournament, played on edge, focused, they went out fearlessly, they tried to make plays,
they tried to do the little things all the way through. To me, from last year to this
year, I saw great strides in jumps. What we've got to do as a program is try to make that
next stride, that next step. But as Mike Miller said, that doesn't guarantee anything.
There's been a lot of good basketball teams getting knocked out. I think the one thing
that's so impressive about Michigan State is getting back-to-back Final Fours and
obviously the second year winning a National Championship. Would love to have that
opportunity to do that, but we've got a lot of work ahead of us. I think if we can use
this as a learning experience to make us better as people, as basketball players, then
maybe it's valuable. I'm sure Tom, looking back, really struggled with the Duke loss.
Looking back on it now, I'm sure he probably feels that was a tremendous help for him
doing what they did in the Final Four.
Q. Coach, did you think that in the end perhaps your youth showed, you talked about
maybe some hurried shots and maybe there were things that didn't even show in the box
COACH DONOVAN: I think so a little bit. I'm not making excuses for our guys. We were
beat by a better basketball team. There was times where we did some ill-advised things.
And we rushed a little bit. We got beat a few times in our press. I think what happened a
few times was when you have one day to prepare like we had, you got to really be able to
do a great job defending. I thought we broke down a couple times in our defensive
assignments, gave up some shots. Then I thought a couple times our guards took some quick
hurried shots out of transition which weren't high percentage shots which they were able
to rebound and that put them out on the break. Where if we just needed to keep jamming the
ball inside and we should have been playing more off our post people in the first half. We
really didn't do that. That's why we dug a hole, eleven points.
Q. Billy, tonight, even before the game, did you sense any extra jitters or anything
different at all about your team? I mean because of the enormity of the game?
COACH DONOVAN: I would say there probably was. At shoot-around this morning, this
afternoon they were pretty loose, very, very focused. I was very concerned coming in with
our legs. I felt like after the Duke game coming after a day later, two days later,
playing Oklahoma State, I thought we played tired. I really cut back on what we did
physically after the North Carolina game to this point in time. There had to be some
jitters. I would lying to say there wasn't. I'm sure Michigan State, Mateen Cleaves, those
guys being seniors had them. The magnitude of the game, every year, National Championship.
There's a lot on it. I'm not going to say our guys were cool, calm guys, nothing fazes
them. They probably were nervous, no question about it.
Q. Did they do something different to break your press in the first half? Did you do
something different to adjust in the second half, or was everything the same and you just
got better at it?
COACH DONOVAN: I thought we got better at it. We gained a little bit more confidence.
You know, what we wanted to do with our press was when the ball was inbounded to Mateen
Cleaves was to trap right away. When the ball got inbounded to Charlie Bell, wait, deny
Cleaves the ball, force Bell to bring it up and then trap him. What they did a very good
job of is they kept on flashing guys up the sideline, Morris Peterson, and Hudson, and
then what they were doing was hitting the sideline then slashing Mateen Cleaves over top
and they were hitting him. At times, he just outran our guards, was just faster. Outran
our guards. That's when they got some easy baskets. I thought our press really enabled us
not to have to play half-court. If we would have lined up tonight and just played half
court offense with them, had to guard them, it would have been very, very difficult.
Because I was much, much more impressed with their offense than I was their defense. And
their defense is very good, obviously so that would give you an idea of what I think about
Q. Coach, with all the film that you looked at of Michigan State, did you see them in
any game play a better wire-to-wire, have a better wire-to-wire performance than tonight?
COACH DONOVAN: I saw some pretty impressive games. I mean I think they won eleven
straight games in a row. When you look at the talent they were playing against, their road
to get here was very, very impressive. I would say the most impressive thing I saw was
their discipline against Wisconsin, to beat Wisconsin the way they did. I mean that's like
-- when you beat Wisconsin like that, that's beating them by 40. Their discipline, their
toughness, that was a very, very impressive win. I think that they have played well.
Everybody's talked about the fact that, you know, they were down late in the second half
or they were down in the first half, but that happens in the NCAA Tournament. You're
playing against good basketball teams. But to me, they always seem to rally, come back and
win. I thought they played a very good game. They were ready to go, and I think you got to
give Tom and his kids and their staff certainly a lot of credit.
Q. Billy, did you think Michigan State did a good job handling your depth tonight?
Bringing all your guys in? Seemed like they got some key minutes out of their reserves?
COACH DONOVAN: Everybody keeps talking about our depth. The bottom line is Michigan
State's a deep basketball team. I knew we weren't going to wear down Michigan State. I was
just concerned that we would have a difficult time guarding all their sets. I watched the
Iowa State game. We got 24 hours to prepare. I watched the Iowa State game, they ran 21
different sets in the first half. We had a lot of sets ourselves, probably run about 40
sets. I can imagine what it's like trying to scout us a little bit. They ran 21 different
sets in the first half, which, you know, makes it difficult to guard them. But I think,
you know, you just got to give them credit. They played well.
Q. When Cleaves went down, what did you tell the team at that moment and wasn't that
the key moment when they came out and hit the three-point shot to go back up by nine?
COACH DONOVAN: I'm not actually sure. I believe he was out when they made it. I didn't
tell our guys anything, just that we were back in the game and we needed to continue to
play defense and rebound and continue to do a good job in the press. But to their credit,
you know, they did a good job all the way through and played a great game. There's nothing
more I can say. The bottom line was Michigan State was better than we were tonight. I mean
in every facet. They outrebounded us, shot a higher percentage from the three-point line,
shot a higher percentage from the field. They were just a better basketball team tonight
all the way around. And you just got to give them all the credit in the world. They played
a great, great game. Thank you.
End of FastScripts...