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April 3, 2000

Billy Donovan

Udonis Haslem

Mike Miller


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 room?

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 score?

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 their offense.

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...

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