MICHIGAN STATE PRESS CONFERENCE
March 21, 2013Eastern Indiana Sports
AUBURN HILLS, MICHIGAN
Michigan State – 65
Valparaiso – 54
MODERATOR: We'll start with opening statements from Coach Izzo.
COACH IZZO: Well, thanks.
I guess I was really pleased with about 33, 34 minutes of that game, first couple were a little sluggish and the last five were a little disgusting, to be honest. We didn't do a very good job of some things, but in between I thought we guarded. I thought Keith ran it, we got the ball inside.
B. J. did a good job of slashing and working on the backside of that zone at times, but I do got to give Bryce and his crew credit. I mean, watching them on film number of threes, I thought they had some open looks the first half that they didn't make. He did, you know, a very good job. I just thought we were a little overpowering inside. We were worried about their perimeter shooting outside.
We took advantage of our stuff inside, and they missed some shots outside.
But, God, he's got a nice team. Good guys and good shooters. So I don't have enough good things to say about them and yet I feel pretty proud that we found a way to do what we said in the game plan, get the ball inside. Derrick got it in, got it out, and when he did get it back in, he scored in there and we did hit the offensive boards and that was the difference in the game.
MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Derrick, can you talk for yourself about how big of a motivator it is that this will be the final run for you.
For BJ and Keith, how big of a motivator that is for you when you see Derrick playing like that?
DERRICK NIX: Well, you know, it's my last go-around and I'm not ready to be done yet.
Coach told me every day just make sure I'm having the guys ready in the hotel and the locker room.
The game plan was go inside. I don't know we did that when they doubled I was able to hit my shooters, but they just kept feeding so I just kept taking it to them.
BRANDEN DAWSON: I'd say the same thing Nix said.
When the ball go into Nix, he does great thing in. There he's a very good passer and the double team came he kicked it out.
For him, being this is his last go-around, we feed off him and we look up to him like he's our big brother.
He tell us, you know what to do, what not to do off the court. That's what motivate us.
KEITH APPLING: I feel like it's very important that he comes out and play the way he did each and every night because you know, he's our only senior and he's one of the leaders on this team.
His play really dictates how we go as a team.
I feel like that's one of the motivating factors.
Q. Derrick, I read that you quoted the other day saying the cleaner your hotel is the better you play. How spotless was your room today?
DERRICK NIX: It was real spotless. I'm a superstitious guy. Once I get to the hotel, I lay all my game stuff out the first night. And tournament time I call the people and make sure they clean the rooms when we leave for our walk-through in the lobby.
That's just how I am. It's rubbed off on Costello. Now when he gets in there he lays all the stuff out. We make sure our bathroom's clean before we leave and make our beds and throw away all your trash.
Q. Keith, early when things were sluggish, can you talk about the three pointers that Gary Harris made?
KEITH APPLING: Those were very important.
I mean, one of the game plans was to go inside and let the bigs make something happen, but each and every time they dove, they made the right play and kicked it out to myself or Gary.
Not only me but he was able to make shots and those were big for us because at the time things were a little rugged, but it kind of gave us a little momentum.
Q. Branden, I want to ask you about the defense you played on Broekhoff.
Keith, if you could also comment?
BRANDEN DAWSON: Well, Broekhoff, he's a very versatile guy. I know we were watching for him.
He plays the floor, but we look at him as a big guard. He was coming off pick and rolls and he was bringing the ball up the court. It was sometimes when he came up the court and we didn't communicate on the ball screen that he came up.
But we play defense on him I say me and myself and Adrien Payne, we played solid and we just -- Coach just kept telling stay solid and don't gamble.
KEITH APPLING: Personally I think Coach gives myself and Gary a lot of credit for being two of the better defensive players on the team, but I think Branden is just as good as we are when he wants to be.
He did a great job on Broekhoff. Every time he was able to score, it was off one of our mistakes. So throughout the course of the game, I feel like he did a pretty good job trailing and contesting the shots.
Q. I had two questions, one for Keith and one for Derrick. First one to Keith. Did it seem a little bit like the game at Pershing when you guys played there? To Derrick, talk about the patience that you have to have when people are double teaming you?
DERRICK NIX: Sometimes coaches don't understand being double teamed is frustrating when you got two big guys coming at you.
You got to just take your time. They taught us how to crabs over here. So now I just crabs and want to hurry up and get it out. He just said if I get it out, it's going to come back in. So don't try to force shots I don't practice on in practice.
KEITH APPLING: Could you repeat your question for me, please?
Q. The question was did it seem like the game at Pershing?
COACH IZZO: You think their gym at Pershing was like this one? (Laughter) You'd get a lot of money if that's going to happen. I'll tell you that.
KEITH APPLING: No, I don't think it felt like the game at Pershing.
We just followed the game plan, did things that we were supposed to do. Things worked out for us.
DERRICK NIX: Maybe BJ gambling was more of a Pershing style of play when we were going for those steals.
BRANDEN DAWSON: One time (Laughter).
MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.
Coach Izzo opened up for questions.
Q. Isn't this what really good, dare I say, great teams do? They step on a team like that that you're better than?
COACH IZZO: Well, you know, I think we are a little better than them, but I think you didn't see their best either.
And I think we had something to do with it, but it's a very well coached -- they run some great stuff. In fact, I'm going to steal a few thing from them.
They had a lot of shooters. But we did do -- what they did well, we guarded. And what we do well, they struggled with, the guards especially when they got in foul trouble. And I think that's the beauty of this team. There aren't a lot of things, but one of them is we have versatility to play different teams. We can bring different guys in like Branden who can cover. You know it's a hard job for AP to cover a four that really plays like a guard but Branden can cover them a little different. We can switch a little bit more.
We do have some versatility and when Keith's playing well, you know. Gary was okay today, but I think he's got a ceiling yet that we can get to.
I don't know if it's stepping on anybody, but I thought we played awfully well.
They got us in one of our best games. I think we got one of them in their poor shooting games.
Q. What did you think was the big key where you guys pulled away in the first half?
COACH IZZO: Well, it was Nix. And he made, I think, one basket in that one run, but I think Gary hit two threes in a row, both on kickouts.
They have to guard a little different. They doubled. I thought they did a great job doubling the post early, and then we just -- we did something we haven't been very good at. We kept going back in there.
Sometimes when teams doubled us, we got away from it. We pretty much stayed with that same plan the whole game, and I thought that was good on our part.
Q. Tom, for a game that you were up 20 points a lot of, you looked like you were going to kill somebody about five or six times in the course of the game. Is that part of the thing that when you're playing a team that might not be up to you that you got to stay on your guys that you've got to stay on your team?
COACH IZZO: You know, when you don't have a player coach team and it's been widely publicized -- I mean they're doing a better job, but that it's not the strength of this team, it's harder to stay focused. And you know, you come out of huddles and somebody -- Day-Day's got to grab somebody and tell them on the court.
You know, I just decided after watching some games and listening to some coaches' interviews, if there's anybody that's gotten a little soft, it's been me, and I'm not going to tolerate anything but their best.
You know what, if people don't like the way I do it or how I do it, I really don't care anymore. I'm getting back old schoolish a little bit.
And I told them, 40 minutes, we're playing. If you don't want to play 40 minutes, you're going to have a problem. So guys that didn't play 40 minutes and didn't get back are going to have a problem, and that's the way it used to be.
So, you know, you're right, I didn't want mistakes when we were telling a guy who he's got and all of a sudden they hit two threes in a row before halftime because we didn't listen, inexcusable, and they're going to pay the price for that, and the price is you're either going to sit, or I'm going to tell you.
So, yeah, I worry a little bit about this team keeping them focused, and yet I got to give them credit that they did a lot of the way, and I think they -- some guys in the locker room took blame for not being as focused as they needed to be. So that's good. It's all good.
Q. Tom, can you talk about Branden Dawson?
COACH IZZO: Well, it gives us a big advantage.
He looked like he was a little bit back. He got some big rebounds. His spin move, he hasn't done that. The balance I thought made a couple good kickouts in there, one to Trav early in the game that was part of that. And Branden felt more comfortable, but I think he played harder. He was really engaged. I bet you the first half he was my favorite guy in the huddles. He was really engaged in there and really after a lot of people, and that was good.
Nix is actually sicker than a dog, if you can believe that. He was really -- I don't know if it was nerves or what, but he was throwing up and everything early. So he didn't have the energy even though he played well.
But I thought Dawson did the best job of that, and he can guard a lot of people, you know, as he gets better back to normal, moving laterally and that could be a big plus for us, especially when we -- who knows who we'll play. I mean, the two completely different teams, you know. If it's Memphis, it's more of an athletic team like Louisville. We really felt we were trouble last year in that Louisville game. We didn't have an athlete that can match theirs.
Brendan Dawson's the athlete that can match most.
Q. You've talked a lot throughout the season about Derrick's growth and maturation throughout his time here, but he seems a little bit different the last two and a half, three weeks. Have you noticed that?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, you know, he's -- it's kind of funny, because he's like all of us were.
The end is here and he doesn't have an answer where he's going next -- two months from now. When you're in a junior high, you know when you're going to high school. When you're in high school, you're already signed with a college, you know where you're going. All of a sudden, you don't know what you're doing, and I found a sincere -- he's almost scared sometimes like a big teddy bear, like what am I going to do. Well, play well and maybe that will help determine what you're going to do.
So he has been a little bit more that way. At times I can just see it in him and yet at times it drives him and that's good too.
It has worked both ways. There's some times you see him out there he almost looks sad and he said to me with five minutes left and I took him out and he says, Coach, you know, this is one of the last times I'm playing. You know, so I put him back in because I thought, you know what, that was -- that's kind of why I want him. I want him hungry to do that and that's not always his personality. So I did put him back in for a couple minutes, and that's the way it went.
Q. You talked about how Valpo got some open shots. What is it about good teams where they seem to kind of figure it out defensively?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, after the first four or five minutes, I thought they had a couple good ones, and then I think we clamped down. I think that's what good defensive teams do, we clamp down. You're rushing the shot a little bit, you're getting it off a little higher over an arm.
I did think we played better, and just like at the end, I thought we played sloppier, you know, when we let them ball screen and drive off his kickout for threes. That's what they're very, very good at.
So we are a good defensive team. We've been a good defensive program. We sure played everybody and their uncle this year, and so, you know, a couple of those early timeouts, it was about, hey, we got to get after it. We're missing shots. We better get long rebounds and push the ball and get some on our fast break, and we did that too.
Q. The obligatory crowd question, were you guys feeling that?
COACH IZZO: I did. I always feel bad at these NCAA tournaments because sometimes, you know, the way we will get so few tickets, and I know that's the fair way to do it, but you never know who's going to come and what's going to happen, but it was -- you could definitely tell it was a more pro Michigan State crowd.
I think that helps us, but at the same time I think that's the advantage of playing in the Big Ten. You got to learn to play on the road. People are booing at you. People are hugging you. People are yelling at. You got to learn how to do it. Definitely feels better and it's great to be back in the Palace.
Q. When Nix came out early in the game and you talked to him, was it to check on his health or was it an adjustment? How did he show patience?
COACH IZZO: I told him I'm going to be checking on my health the way he was playing. He wasn't doing anything. He missed a layup. He just -- to me, he wasn't playing very good. I'm trying to figure out guys still at the end of the year, and so I took him out. I said, you know, I'm going to put you back in, but I'm going to take you back out too.
I mean, he gets it. I thought my team was a lot more in tune today for 90 percent of it, and he did miss some -- he missed those two layups right off the bat, and then he just wasn't guarding like we wanted him to. Once we put him back in, I thought he really turned a corner, so give him credit.
Q. Did he show patience?
COACH IZZO: He showed some great patience. We talked about their double teams.
This is a very well coached team, I'm telling you, they do some nice things even defensively. They tried to do what they could to take us out of our stuff, and that little matchup zone they played at the end I thought was impressive. We didn't do a very good job in tacking it but he did a pretty good job staying in it.
Nix needed patience because they doubled. The only thing we messed up on, we thought we had B.J. on some slashing cuts and sometimes Nix gets off balance and so we try to talk about that.
But, yeah, I thought the way they doubled, because it was -- they came at him. They didn't just, you know, dance around, and I thought he did a pretty good job in there.
Q. You can't teach Derrick size but you can teach his ball handling and decisions. How does that develop over the years and how important is that?
COACH IZZO: Well, I got to give him credit. He had a good high school coach that taught him. He is a great passer. I mean, he's a Zach Randolph kind of passer where that ball goes in. If you remember last year he was almost passing too much. You'd have a layup and he'd pass it out. And now he's kind of finding the happy medium but he's learning to keep the ball lower.
I think that's one thing we've helped him with. That ball was always up. He calls it crab dribble. Whatever you want to call it, but when you got the ball low and you're getting doubled, you get the ball in your hands quicker and you can do stuff with it.
But he sees the court very well. He's a very cerebral -- he's one of my more intelligent basketball players. He has a great understanding of the game and a great feel for the game. Once in a while he gets a little sloppy, but for the most part he's really good at that.
Q. Tom, when you had a guess the other night of who was the guy who grabbed the ball return machine out of the corner and put up shots, you guessed Gary Harris and it was him. When you've got a guy that talented, how much does that help you in those shots tonight that he made?
COACH IZZO: Gary Harris and Keith Appling -- now, Harris, he drags all those freshman in with him, but him and Appling, Appling's been in there every day at 8:00 o'clock in the morning shooting. He's worked his way out of his slump. He's done it the way you're supposed to do it, you know.
Instead of -- everybody was down on him, including me some, and I told him, you know, he starts working harder at it, he's got to spend more time. He's always been a hard worker in practice, but it's the extra time.
Both those guys do it, and Harris is going to be, you know, a special player. I mean, he guarded pretty well today too, and he can really make some shots. And we just got to -- you know, he was off a little bit that first half. I think he was, what, two for seven or eight or whatever, six, and then we just -- we need both those guys to play well. If our guards play well -- and we'll get Payne playing better. He's been our most consistent player. Struggled a little bit today. I didn't think he was -- you know, guys get frustrated easy, I think, and I got to get him out of that.
Q. How much of a relief was it to come out of Chicago and the Big Ten tournament and begin this tournament?
COACH IZZO: Well, it wasn't a relief from the standpoint of when you play the same teams. You know, you play Ohio state three times, they know what you do, you know what they do. Things get a little tough in that situation.
I thought, you know, all in all, it helped prepare us, and I think it was good, but I bet you -- I talked to John Beilein yesterday. I think everybody agrees that it's going to be fun to move out of the conference for a while. If we meet again, let's make it down the road, and that would be awesome for a lot of us. But we had enough of each other for that two-and-a-half month stretch when we just beat the daylights out of each other.
Yet, I said to my team at halftime, you know, look, they're going to throw some zone at us, they're going to throw some different things, they might throw some matchup, but we faced everything. When you look at Northwest and how they play and this team, how they play, that's the beauty of our conference. I think that helps us make our team that way, that we can adjust to different styles.
Q. You seemed to get a good laugh when Derrick said coaches don't understand what it is when you get the double times on them. Is that part of the give-and-take that you guys were having?
There's going to be a lot more giving on my part than taking, but if he can get a kick out of my size and his size once in a while, I'm cool with that. It's when he's not listening to what I'm telling him to do that I'm not cool with.
You know, it's part of the relationship we've grown to have. You can't be a demanding coach if you don't have a relationship with your players. It's just not right. It just doesn't work. Maybe it did work when Vince Lombardi said, Do it my way or the highway, you know.
Now, guys take the highway, and so you got to give and take a little bit. You got to make them understand, you know, that when they know how much you care, then I think they adjust. And sometimes we just try to do it in a dictatorship manner, you know, Do what I say, Boy. You know, it's not working. It's not working. It's just the way it is.
But what's the bottom line is, you get them to do what you say. So you got to go around it. And then, you know, I've grown with Derrick. Derrick's grown with me. And I like the fact he can have a little fun up here because it's been a grinding year for us, but it's been a good year and we get to live another day.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.