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March 9, 2012

Postgame Transcript and Audio: Michigan State 92, Iowa 75

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo was joined on the dais after the Spartans 92-75 win over Iowa by senior forward Draymond Green and sophomore point guard Keith Appling. Below is complete press conference audio.



Audio: Izzo and Players at Podium





Below is a complete transcript of Michigan State's postgame press conference.

MODERATOR: Opening statement from Coach, then go to questions for Draymond and Keith. Coach.

COACH IZZO: I thought Draymond didn't have one of his better games, even though his stats did, and I see why now, because he can't even keep clear of his water. But turnover.

You know, I thought actually, I thought we started off kind of sluggish and weren't very good defensively early. And then these two guys picked it up. I thought they both played outstanding. I thought we got a lot of Adreian Payne early, and after that 20-20, I thought we really started checking better.

But what did impress me today was our passing and our unselfishness for three-fourths of that game. I thought it reared its ugly head a little bit at the end, but I thought we were very unselfish. And we had to get a lot of guys in, guys that haven't played because of the foul trouble that he had. (Austin) Thornton was sick again and he was struggling and both (Derrick) Nix and Payne were in foul trouble.

So all of a sudden, (Russell) Byrd comes in and he makes his shot, and, you know, we got some minutes for him. We got (Travis) Trice a few more minutes, which I was amazed that he was able to play after the ankle thing again on Wednesday. And yet a lot of work to do defensively now. But offensively, we really moved the ball and played pretty well.

MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes?

Q. Draymond, for you, when you went out with two -- with two fouls in the first half, the team seemed to really step it up for you. You've played great games before and didn't win. Watching you on the sidelines as they started to play when you went out, you became their biggest cheerleader. How important is it for this team that they step around you?

DRAYMOND GREEN: That's very important. I think Keith played a great game today, and I thought that was big for us the way -- you may look at his stats and say he only shot three for three. He made all three of his shots. And the big thing for me with him was six assists and only two turnovers, and that was really big. Plus I think he played a great forward lane. And when I went out the game, he really took the game over and got us some great things and that was really big for us.

So far as me going to the bench, I'm a big guy on history, and I just always remember back when Mateen Cleaves was injured and the one memory that sticks in my mind when they were down there beating North Carolina, the biggest cheerleader on the bench, and that kind of lifts his guys up, and that's what I tried to do for my guys as well.

Q. Keith, how much easier is your job when Travis is heathy and playing well like did he today?

KEITH APPLING: It's a lot easier. It gives me a break. I get to come off the bus, I can kind of coach him when I'm on floor. It makes my job a lot easier, posting and playing on the ball. All 30 minutes it hadn't changed, the other team's best player.

Q. Draymond, you probably won't play him a whole lot, but if you get Indiana tomorrow, can you talk about what it's like playing Cody Zeller, what issues he presents?

DRAYMOND GREEN: Cody's a great player. That's why he's Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and that's why that team is where they're at. They still have the majority of the same guys, they just came and took that program to a completely different level. But at the end of day, we still have to go into this next game with open minds, knowing that it's not set in stone whether we're going to play Indiana. Wisconsin is a great team as well.

So it's going to be a brawl out there. We're just going to watch the game and get a good feel for both of them. It's not like we haven't played both of them twice, which is an advantage. Only had to play Iowa once, kind of get a better feel for them.

But if we do play Indiana, Cody, he went off on us his last time down there, and that will be something that we'll have to do a better job of, but when you're playing a great player like that, you just try to contain him. It's almost impossible to stop great players, but if you can contain him, you have a better chance.

Q. Draymond, can you talk a little bit about Adreian's performance today and his career high of 16 points.

DRAYMOND GREEN: It was a great performance for him. I was on the bench yelling at him because he only had one rebound the second half, and that's another step. We're trying to get him and Nix to take his rebound better. I think he did a great job tonight. I think I started off really slow and he carried the load for us, and then Keith, so that was pretty big for us.

But we know the potential that Adreian has and the things that he can do. It was just a matter of him going hard every second that he's on the floor. And today he did that and he came up with some huge rebounds for us, some huge buckets for us. But I think the one thing I was impressed with early is how unselfish he was. He finished the first half with I think 12 and 6, and he was very unselfish passing out of the post, so that was big for us.

Q. Draymond, just talk about bouncing back from those two losses and how important it is for you guys to start the month of March off this way.

DRAYMOND GREEN: It's very important because, until Coach reminded us before the game, I forgot we had two losses in a row before for the simple fact it's a brand-new season, and I just completely forgot about it. And knowing that we were 0-0 and we had new life and can start all over again.

So to get a win coming out, like Coach said after the game, we're 1-0, now one step closer, but we gotta keep it going. And I think a part of that was when we ratcheted up on the defensive end, everything changed for us. And that's what's been good for us throughout the season.

If you look back at the last couple games that we did lose, first half against Ohio State, we defended very well and we had a 17-point lead. Indiana we didn't defend at all and we lost by 17.

So I think that's going to be the key to us,
just keep on defending, staying consistent on the defensive end. And we didn't start out good today, and tomorrow if we don't start off good on the defensive end, it could cost us, so we just gotta make sure we keep on nailing that into the ground.

MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Izzo.

Q. Tom, with about four and a half minutes left in the first half, we were watching and Adreian started barking out and communicating with his teammates. And for him, you've talked so much about the things he has to do to improve. At one point you looked around, I think you looked at (Branden Dawson), like, am I watching what I'm seeing? Will you talk about how big that was, please.

COACH IZZO: You read my mind. I said is that Adreian or an imposter. And Adreian did a great job. I thought at the end we were trying to play -- I have so many new guys now that I gotta get into that rotation. One thing is Adreian playing the floor so I can go bigger if I have to. One is those other guys understanding that sometimes it's time to build the lead and hold the lead.

All in all, I thought Adreian did a great job early. He blocked some shots, he got some rebounds, but he is communicating better on defense. We made a couple of adjustments on those ball screens right off the bat. First time out, they hit three 3s I think early. He adjusted to it. It was the most focused I've seen him, and he's had -- we sat there on the bench before the game, had two big, great practices, and we felt the number one key of the game was transition defense, especially with the bigs because they run so well. And the second one was rebounding because they had rebounded so well against Illinois, and those two things were big for us today.

Q. Coach, can you talk about coaching against Bruce Weber and just your thoughts on him leaving the league now?

COACH IZZO: How about if we do this, because I do have something to say about that. How about if we hold that until the end because I'd like to say some good things about my team and I'd like to get to some things that I think are not very good. I will come back to it, I promise.

Q. With Payne, did the pace of the game help him or is he just at the point where maybe he's able to play with the flow of the game more and not worry too much.

COACH IZZO: You know, I think he's growing. I think all sophomores -- we're in such a screwed up society, where we try to speed everything up. And normal maturation process of kids is freshman and sophomore Years, most of them take to get there, and we're in the Kentucky mode now where every freshman and sophomore is supposed to be at a certain level.

And I do think we got to remember he was out more or less all last year. He lost the year because of the injury, and he's actually making some progress. He frustrates me sometimes because I think he has so much to give, and yet I've been really pleased that his practicing has been better. I think it's him maturing, not the pace of the game. I thought it was him maturing because he's getting stronger. He's able to bank more.

He's got great skills in there. He can shoot left and right hand jump hooks. And the little jump hook on the baseline was a pretty play, so I think Adreian is starting to take some steps.

Q. Tom, two parts: Can you talk a little bit about what Trice brought. You mentioned the passing of the ball a little bit. And also (Brandon) Woods's defense on (Matt) Gatens.

COACH IZZO: I told Wood, I gave him a little star at the end, pasted it on his melon here. It was great because I think that was one thing he came in, everybody questioned his defense, and he's been a little up and down and we've missed -- I didn't think he did as good a job on (William) Buford but I'm not sure anybody could have covered him. He hit three or four big-time shots. But we did a pretty good job on him.

And I don't think Gatens was quite as fresh as he was yesterday. So it was probably a combination. But it's nice to see Wood step up. He made some shots. He got a couple rebounds and he definitely defended better than he's defended probably in his life.

Q. Tom, talk about the number of guys you gotta work into the rotation. Russell Byrd, eight points tonight. What did you say to him? He air balls a three and then you guys have an exchange. What did you say to same at that moment?

COACH IZZO: Let me give you the PG version: What the hell you doing out there?
When a great shooter shots an air ball, it means it's a bad shot, he rushed it. Right now, Russell is like a kid learning to walk again. It's been a year and a half and he's -- we've all been waiting for him to come back. Unfortunately, it isn't going to happen this year like we'd hoped, but he is getting a little better. And if he sets his feet, then someday he's going to be great, great, you know, I'm hoping in the (Jon) Diebler mode, a guy that can really just stroke it if he sets his feet and gets himself ready.
But Russ' mind is going a thousand RPMs and his body is going about 10. So he's -- the coordination of it just isn't there yet. So when he's really set, he nails it. When he tries to rush it, I mean, you never see a great shooter take two-foot air balls, missed by two feet.

And that's what I told him. I said, hey, it's your fault. You rushed it. You're not there yet. Frustrating for you, but that's the way it is.

Q. Zeller, has he met or exceeded your expectations and in your 25 years around the league, can you think of a guy with similar characteristics?

COACH IZZO: Well, I hate to say this. I do hate to comment on it. I think Wisconsin is awfully good, too. And this isn't a Zeller press conference, but I do love the kid. I think he's a great a kid. I think he has a variety of good skills offensively and defensively. I mean, I think he's -- what he is is an extremely solid player. When the date comes where there's some flash to his game, which will, it will be scary because right now, he's just like solid right hand, left hand. He can do things. He can shoot at the 15, he can make free-throws, he can block shots. His defense is pretty good. Nothing bothers him. He does not get frustrated. You could probably punch him in the mouth or you could kiss him and it doesn't seem to affect him either way. And I'm sure some day he'll show a little more passion, and then he goes from very, very good to, you know, I think one of the better players that has ever played in our league if he sticks with it.

But I've been very impressed with Cody Zeller, very impressed with the job Tom has done with him, very impressed with the fact that some days he gets the ball and some days he doesn't. And again, nothing bothers him. Impressive.

Q. When you've had so many teams put it together in March, are there certain things you're always looking for this time of year? A look in the face, a look on the court? And if there are, are you seeing them right now with this team?

COACH IZZO: That's funny because I wasn't real happy with my team the last five, six minutes. And I was trying to explain to them in the locker room that there's a time when you put the second team in and you just let them go. But those guys are going to have to play tomorrow because I know where we're at.

So we're still very inexperienced, but when you gotta have it, you gotta have some toughness, we had some. And you gotta have a leader, and we got a great one. And you gotta know that whoever you play, it's not going to be any harder than North Carolina on an aircraft carrier with the President sitting there. So you got things to look back at and say, been there, done that.

And this team, it has I think the energy to make a little run. What worries me, Thornton still worries me, you know, coming around, and the loss of (Brandon Dawson) But Trice playing better today, I didn't know if he could play, guys, to be honest with you. So he surprised me twice, and that helps.

But you gotta have a go-to guy, and we got one. We got one that can -- he's the only one that didn't make a three today. And right now he's been shooting the best of anybody. And he gets five assists, he can hurt you in a lot of different ways.

And I think also you usually got to be able defend and rebound in this tournament because you don't have many 90-point games in the NCAA Tournament or in this kind of tournament. And I think we do that pretty well most of the time. Although today, it let us down a little bit.

THE MODERATOR: Do you want to address the Coach Weber situation?

COACH IZZO: Yeah, what was your question? I'm sick about it. I'm sick about it. And I'm sick about it -- and make sure you understand the reason why.

They beat us early in January and I beat Ohio State, and so I have three problems. Bruce is a friend of mine. He's been here since the Gene Keady days. He's done it the right way.

He doesn't cheat. He man's up to his own
responsibilities. Incredible, incredible person. I've recruited against him and lost and I've recruited against him and won, and hasn't changed things.
Number two, we have to understand that we blame kids for a lot of things. Kids have changed. Now we have administrators that are pulling the rug under ourselves in the middle of January when you're 16 and 6 or 7 or whatever it was, and we publicly talk about -- we'll make decisions at the end of the year.

I don't know what you guys think of kids because they haven't changed much, but if there's one place they've changed, they're a little more fragile. Not as many two-parent homes. Not as good a school systems that are holding kids accountable and demanding. And so now we put that on those poor kids? And then we're surprised that they lose 9 out of 10?

I don't know who's beaten me the worst, probably Bo, but second on that list -- and I'm canonized as something some of the time.
I think it was ridiculous the way that thing was handled. And if I take abuse for that, I really don't care because I'm also the president of our association. This isn't about a friendship. This is about a profession.

And whenever you're in an organization, whether it be yours, whether it be mine, or whether it be a business one, the only way you can be successful is if, top to bottom, from the president to the trainer, we're all on the same page, and that in five, six months you can determine something.

I feel bad for the Illini nation because somebody's -- somebody pulled the rug out from under them. I feel bad for those players that have been there that, in my estimation, weren't given a fair chance back about the middle of January, whenever that famous statement was made.

But if you look at that team from that statement, it went directly down. And I feel worse for Bruce because we lost a good soldier. And yeah, friendship is some of it, but it's not all of it. We lost a good coach. We got a coach that beat me and my team more often than not, and I just -- I can't figure that out.

I can't figure out how you guys allow it. You guys are always figuring out the negatives of things. I can't figure out how you guys allow it.

And my wife and I shed a tear this morning over it, and it was half for Bruce and half for my profession.

But unless there's things -- and I will publicly state this -- that I don't know, but when I heard those comments back in January, it made me sick and I said there's a problem.
And so I hope the administrators that made those statements have a good game plan, but you guys lost a good guy, we lost a good guy, and I think -- I just hope he gets another job. And I'm going to do everything in my power to help him.

And I guess that's all I'll say because I'll probably put my foot in my mouth because if it was HBO, we could get at it right now and I'd really be fired up about it, because I just think -- I can't believe -- I can't believe nobody's looked at when those comments were made and where that team went.

I mean, this guy has won more games than anybody -- percentage than anybody that's been at the school. And he's done it the right way, and that's not easy to do. And it's not an easy job there. And when a big time recruit's father, I think -- watch what I say here -- comes out and makes statements, I mean, you better have a good idea the guy you're dealing with.

And I know this. I've known Bruce Weber since the day I was a grad assistant. There's not a classier, better guy -- and I don't want to just hear he's a nice guy -- better coach. He's had some things thrown at him, too, with injuries and guys leaving early and stuff like that.

So I'm sad, more sad for my profession than I am for Bruce because he's a man. I've seen him in his press conference. He'll man-up and he'll get it done.

So sorry I had to get on a soapbox, but I'll leave it at that. And if there's any other questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.


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