Groce Quotes: Win Over Michigan State

Coach John Groce discusses his team's win at Michigan State on Saturday.

Opening statement:
I'm really proud of our guys. That's the fourth game in a row we've held an opponent under 50. That's hard to do in this league, with the great coaches, great teams. The guys in our locker room, I thought their toughness on the defensive end now has been obviously fairly consistent for several games. We're playing as good as we have on that end. I thought offensively we did some good things. Obviously we don't want to turn the ball over 15 times. We'd like to take care of the ball a little bit better.

The offense...
All in all we shot it fairly well. I thought our shot selection was good. I thought we executed well. We were able to get off to two really good starts in both halts. I thought that was key. We got off to a great start and they came back, as good teams do, they storm back and tied the game at halftime… We got off to a great start there in the second half. I thought those were two really key junctures in the game. There late our defense was really good. That's a really good basketball team, a well coached basketball team. I certainly have a lot of respect for coach, not only what he's done with this team, but in his career. We certainly feel blessed to get out of here with a win.

Michigan State now as opposed to earlier in the season...
Obviously, I'm not privy to information on how healthy everybody else. That's none of my business. I don't know that. I knew they had everybody tonight, playing the game. I thought that it would be a much different game because Payne did not play in game one. Watching the video of him, he'd had some pretty explosive moments since his return, both from driving the ball, shooting 3s, posting the ball. I've always been really impressed with him, but really impressed with how he's added dimensions to his game each year that he's been here. I thought he was going to be a handful, so that was big in terms of my mindset coming in into the game. You're always worried about Appling gutting your defense, Harris making shots, Dawson on the glass. He's great on the glass. Really, that first thought was that first thought I had, and they got a ton of transition points in game one. You're hoping you can set your defense. It's hard to do because they're deep, they're fast, they're committed to running. Those were some of the thoughts we had coming into this game. For me to try to look inside another team or program, I'm not there everyday. That's a question for him. At the end of a day, we have a ton of respect for him, they're players, they're program.

Playing in the Big Ten and for his team to get a win against a top team...
I'm really proud of our guys because they've had to handle a lot of adversity. Some of our young guys have had to grow up, and I think that's made our team better. Some of our guys have to adjust, whether it's coming off the bench, and I think we've adjusted to where we're really hitting on all cylinders with that. I'm really proud of the way they've stayed the course In terms of the conference, my wife will tell you I'm wrong about a lot of things. When the year started, I said this is going to be the deepest it's ever been. Five wins for every team in the league? That says it all.

This win compared to others in his career...
I think more about the fact I'm proud of guys. I want them to enjoy this one and then we've got a two-day prep and have to get ready for the league leader. I don't know. Maybe I'll reflect on that when my wife and I go on vacation in May. … Obviously it's a big win. They're certainly not an easy team to beat because of things I mentioned earlier.

Responding to Michigan State run...
I just thought we were responsive all night. We had a mindset that we wanted to play for 40 minutes. We knew that Michigan State was going to go on runs during the game. They're a good team, they've got good players, they're well coached. We wanted to play 40 minutes. That's the biggest thing we talked about. We wanted to play as soon as the bell rang and not stop playing until the bell rang again and not come up for air. I thought our kids did that.

The team playing better defensively as of late...
We've been pretty good defensively all year. Obviously the last four or five that's been ratchet-ed up a little bit. I just think it comes with experience. People ask me, I say we should be better than we were two months ago. Why shouldn't we be? I fully expect them to understand it better than what they did at that time. I think we have a team that values that end of the floor. I think our upperclassmen have done a great job leading by example at that end at that area. When you put on that jersey we have expectations that everyone will contribute in that area and rebounding the ball and I think certainly that's helped. I think experience and repetition has helped.

Closing out the game down the stretch...
Well we've been trying to teach them why you win and why you lose when you're in those situations. Fortunately our guys are coachable and teachable. Our guys have gotten better at it. Tonight wasn't the first time they've been in that situation and closed. Nebraska, similar. Minnesota, similar. That certainly helped. Experience is a great teacher.

Forcing more turnovers, Ray and Tracy with five steals each...
Maybe more activity with their hands. It's not very often where you have two different players gather five steals in a game like Ray and Tracy did. I thought their hands were very active. I thought they really competed hard. You know, right now I think the strength of our defense is that we're a team at that end of the floor. Guys are starting to believe in one another and trust in one another that they're going to carry out their responsibility. We call that being accountable. Some of our younger guys are learning more and guys are trusting more. Obviously, Nnanna got in foul trouble. It's been well documented how good he is defensively. I thought he did a good job in the second half spearheading our defense.


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