On the passing of ESPN's Stuart Scott:
"A couple things first and foremost, two things - the sports world and the media world obviously lost somebody that was pretty talented, widely respected and well-known by many in the sense of what he did professionally in Stuart Scott. I don't pretend to know him personally other than to have met him a couple times but a great respect for him and how he went about his business - not only the entertaining value he brought but the knowledge value he brought. Our sympathy is with his family, our empathy is with his family, not just our sympathy and to all his colleagues and friends at this time.
"What I think now is you'll see that speech he gave at the ESPYs is capable of becoming the next version of what Jim Valvano's speech was and the Jim Valvano speech is one where people just stop what they're doing when that comes on and it's raised so much money for cancer awareness. I imagine Stuart's words are going to be much the same over the next few decades and I hope that they are."
On Michigan State:
"As far as Michigan State and where we stand, I think they are playing at an extremely high level, especially defensively and certainly their offense has gotten a lot of attention because the way they shoot the 3 and they can play inside-out. They really have the ingredients of a very special team and I know they've had their injuries and situations like that, sicknesses they've had to deal with, but when they're clicking they're really, really good. But, as good as their offense is their defense is incredibly impressive.
"They make it very, very hard to find space on the court. They're very good defending the pick and roll. They're very physical inside, and their help defense is as good as I've seen and we've played some really good defensive teams this year. Certainly we need that to help us as we go into this game but they really don't give you much so our keys are not going to be to complicate it but to keep it as simple as possible but we've got to do those simple things that are hard things better.
"We've got to screen better. We've got to pass the ball even quicker, certainly when there's an opportunity for transition we've got to take it. At the same time their break is outstanding so we've got to get back, we've got to draw a crowd and make the pass not be in a situation where we're driving it into a crowd trying to make a play, they're too good at challenging shots, they want you inside that two-point line where they can get great shot challenges and let their help defense come alive. So, we've got to be very, very efficient inside of the game.
"Last year we went there and had far too many turnovers after we got up, we gave them too many easy chances to score. One thing that really helped us the other night and it helped us in the Butler game and somewhat in the Georgetown game until the end and then not at all in the Louisville game is our mental toughness in the heart of the game. In that second half when that game is up for grabs, and how do you get momentum, keep momentum and get momentum back, hold onto it, stem the tide so to speak and that takes a lot of work because it's mental more than it is physical and our guys are continuing to learn that. If we're trying to harp on anything right now through the video and situations in practice, it's to understand that and understand the value of the possession.
"We certainly want to play faster. I enjoy watching this team on offense a lot of times, but at the same time we really have to make sure we understand the ball's got to go through the paint, whether in the post up or the drive. It's got to be reversed and we don't need to take the first shot that we see. We need to make sure we're breaking down the defense.
"That's easier said than done against Michigan State because there's really nothing they haven't seen. They've dealt with everything - they've dealt with all the zones. They've dealt with all the switching. They've dealt with all the traps. They've played a conglomerate of teams that have given them everything so we've just to be very efficient in this game.
"Our respect level for them is enormous. It's always a different challenge for me personally. With Tom (Izzo), it's been this way for a long time. He is as close of a friend as I could possibly have and there's not enough adjectives to describe him to me personally. The biggest thing to me is every time I think my respect or admiration for him can't get any higher well, in turn, it does. Something comes up. Something's said and you just see the sides of him that are so incredible. He's a pure Hall of Fame coach, it's just a matter of when he's up for the ballot and when that time comes.
"He's got a tremendous staff, certainly Dane (Fife) made his mark as a coach just like he made his mark at Indiana. Dwayne Stephens worked for me my first four years at Marquette. Mike Garland, I worked with their strength program, Mike Vorkapich, Dave Pruder, the whole group, Dr. Jeff Kovan - that's a whole extended family to me. "It's always hard because there's only a couple times each year I don't want to see them be successful and other than that, I want to always see them be successful. But, tomorrow night is one of those and we need to come in with an incredibly focused mindset and game plan and stay to it, weather every storm we see inside the game and play to the best of our ability tomorrow."
On Michigan State's perimeter defense:
"It's their help. It's the elbow block theory that he's employed since basically our first year, maybe the second year is when he really started to spend a lot of time on that. But, he just does a great job of taking your elbows. There's always good coverage there. They help on the ball, and they recover quick to the shooters.
"The game's got to be about movement. If you play a game where you're just standing and waiting for them to make a mistake, that's not going to happen. They don't make many mistakes when you play into their hands that way. The game's got to move, that's why the simplicity of ball movement - and I say it's simple, but it's not and it's easier said than done, but the ball movement, the screening, the cutting, the basics of basketball really got to be in effect.
"There's certain things we have to find - are they there when we get into the game? - can we take advantage of this, can we take advantage of that? There's a lot of maneuvering once you're in the game but, the bottom line becomes you have to have great body movement and the ball moving is certainly one thing but the bodies have got to move and they've got to move through screens and they've got to move through hard, sharp scoring cuts even when it's not set up for you and make a back door cut or you make a back cut or you set a screen, you've got to set it with efficiency because he's got a lot of like defenders.
"He's got a lot of guys who can do a lot of things and he's got guys who can play a lot of minutes now. You look at their experience with (Branden) Dawson and (Matt) Costello's played since he was a freshmen and Valentine's now a veteran, (Travis) Trice a four-year player who's got nothing but better, (Bryn) Forbes is new to them but not new to college basketball, (Gavin) Schilling now has a lot of experience. They've got tremendous experience so they're not going to make a lot of mistakes defensively."
On the importance of the road win at Nebraska:
"I don't think there's any question that it validates to them that they can go on the road, that they can follow a plan, that they can trust one another on the court, that they can move the ball, that they can weather storms and at the same time, come back home and learn that there was all kinds of mistakes we made. I think that's the key to the team. The key to the team is no matter what happens in that result, especially when you win it becomes even harder because when you win, you lose sight sometimes as a player how hard it was to get that win and you've got to make sure you point that out and there's a growth process.
"Young players are constantly - unless it's rare - are constantly going to validate their game and their impact based on how many points they're scoring. You've got to really help them through that to see there's so many things to it, to see the things that impact the win, that impact the game and there's so many different ways. When we're watching film - how many more points could we have scored if we had done this, if we had done that? It's not about slowing the game down for us, it's about speeding it up and speeding it up with efficiency. When you have the experience, they'll be able to fall back on that, but the bottom line is are they improving from it? That's what we've got to continue to hold to."
On getting the back into the paint and then back out to the perimeter:
"I don't know if we're real good at that yet and I think Michigan State does a great job of being physical in the paint. I remember back to Cody (Zeller)'s first Big Ten game at Michigan State and what he learned inside of that game and all the things we had done early on in that year for him in games, even in the Kentucky win, things of that nature and that wasn't close to the physicality he dealt with in that game.
"Cody was such a quick learner, he was able to turn around two-three days later and we beat Ohio State. But, it's a different deal. They're very, very hard. You cannot lose your spirit and get discouraged in a game against Michigan State because you've got to keep playing. They're going to take a lot of things away and that's when the movement and the concepts become more important than the players. Now, getting the ball into the paint and back out is huge, we've gotten good at that but there's times we get tunnel vision down the rim.
"We've got to make sure that when we see one defender, when we see an open path to the rim, we take it and if not, somebody's open. So those become things you've got to continue because players get, and it's not a selfishness you can correct that pretty quick, just take them out of the game, but it's more 'okay, I can do this.' It's not quite that way when you have an efficient team. When you only have two or three offensive players on your team on the court at one time that can make plays, that's another story.
"Last year we had a lot of that. They did a great job of boxing Yogi (Ferrell) in last year because there weren't enough places for him to go and it's almost like when we watch that, I'm not sure we want to show that film from last year because it was so easy for them to guard us based on where we kept the ball because they didn't have to guard the corners or the wings with efficiency. Now they do.
"Now, the more you get into the paint, that creates more kick outs and that's where we've got to get threes or the next pass after that. As far as going inside to the post, I think we've got to be able to read the defense.
"Hanner (Mosquera-Perea)'s improving at that, but it's still an area he's got to get better at. But, we want Hanner to be able to score quickly, we want him to be able to trust his moves and the same thing with Emmitt (Holt). At the same time, we've got to find more ways to post the guards."
On the importance of using the defense to create offense:
"It just validates how important it is, and we have had moments of it, certainly. They have got to continue to understand - and I think when you know you can score, the whole 'trading baskets' part doesn't register. So to answer your question, I think that part registers a little bit.
"We got going a little in the second half, but we were scoring and they were scoring and then all of a sudden we weren't scoring as much. And then they got momentum because we didn't get momentum back. We did get it later in the game, but we don't want to be in those situations. We have to harder to scoring against more often.
"Every game we can look at, and this game against Michigan State is another one, there are a lot of matchup issues for us. There are not a lot of 'like-size' matchups where we can guard this guy with this guy and that guy with that guy. We can't do a lot of that, but we also couldn't do it against Nebraska. So you have to have great team defense. You are going to have a guy like Walter Pitchford, who is 6-10 and you are going to be guarding him with a guard at times because that's the way that it is.
"What you want the players to understand is the old adage that it isn't about the matchup or the mismatch, it is about the open shots and the open driving lanes. You don't want to give those up. With us, we have to do the hard things better. We have to keep coming, For example, if we get hit on a screen, we have to keep coming. If we don't keep coming when Michigan State hits you, they are going to score. You have to keep being active.
"We can point to players (on the opposing team) sometimes on film and show that they don't want to go through that fight. And then there are times where we can show where our guys don't necessarily want to be in that fight. And what happens sometimes is that you grow out of it and you have a will and a desire to compete but you get hit and somebody scores and then you get disappointed. That's even worse. You have to play through your disappointment. You are going to get disappointed every possession if you don't keep coming.
"And the bottom line, on the offensive end, is let's just keep moving the ball. Let's keep the defense in rotation. Well, on defense, you want to keep it out of rotation by fighting through the screens so you don't have to be in an over-help situation. That's what we have to continue to grow through. It's a youth thing. But it's also an experience thing. The youth part of it is they get disappointed. The experience part of it is they just have to keep going through these hard, tough battles to get it understood."
On still playing defense when shots aren't falling on offense and understanding how to be able to impact the game:
"It takes time. Guys get disappointed when shots aren't falling, but that is universal and not just unique to us. We have some guys that can make shots, but the other team knows it too.
"There are so many details that go into, not only defense, but also scoring. It's not just come down, throw the ball in and make a shot. That's not what the defense is going to give you. It's the setups (on screens), it's playing off how you are being played by your defender and reading where the ball is at. It's the setup for the backcut and finishing the cut. It is setting your man up and coming off the screen being ready to shoot because there is a going to be just a little bit of daylight to get the shot off.
"It's understanding personnel. It's not driving and trying to shoot over a guy that is 6-5 or 6-6. It is really realizing where the ball screen is taking place and where can I be effective and not as effective. We are kind of growing into that. Our older guys are a little more explosive with the ball - look at the jump that Troy Williams has made. He has gotten so much more explosive with the ball.
"We had a situation in the Nebraska game where (Troy) got the ball and there were six or seven seconds left in the first half. He came off a ball screen and finished with a layup with one second left because he had the presence of mind to wait for the ball screen. That comes through repetition in drills and breaking it down in practice so you get to the point where you wait and don't rush it. That split second that you wait makes all the difference in the world for you to be effective and finish. So those things take time.
"Where it is a young player or an old player, you have to make sure you keep staying with that, just like you have to work on your defensive stance, defensive slides and blocking out."
On looking at the Big Ten standings early in conference play and thinking it is wide open:
"I don't look at it that way. I take that back. I have looked at it like that from the beginning of the year that it is wide open. Why wouldn't we? Things are done on paper and on experience and predictions are made. That's not what coaches do. You might talk about it once in a while because you have to go inside of the media. But you don't go into any game not expecting to win it and trying to give your team that kind of a game plan to win.
"I think there are a lot of great teams in this league. I think it would be a disservice to think anything else. Penn State was 12-1 going into Big Ten play. This is a tough, tough league. So everything that you do, you have to make sure you are better at the end of the day as you get ready for that next game. As cliché as that is, that's the truth. Now, the coaches start working ahead on scouting reports and the players watch other games on their own - I don't watch a lot of other games. I watch enough here.
"I will watch my friends some or watch some of our guys in the NBA if I'm able to catch it. I will also watch some football here and there. But you are spending so much time preparing for the game - it is like a marathon of the TV show 'Bluebloods' at my house. My wife, Joani, and son, Riley, are always watching 'Bluebloods'. I know more about that show and New York City police and law than I ever thought I would. If they are watching that late at night when I get home, I sit there and watch that with them.
"But to me, it is really staying locked in to what your team is doing and what your team can do in a short period of time, building it for the long term and know exactly what you have do to win that particular game."
On being able to answer opponent runs when the 3-point shots aren't falling:
"The shot chart (from the Nebraska game) had a lot of dots all over it. In the Georgetown game, there were far too many from behind the 3-point line. Not that it was too many 3s, because I'm not of the belief that we are going to take too many 3s.
"When you look at our shot chart from the Georgetown game, they had a lot of points at the rim. In our game against Nebraska, we had a very good mix - there were some mid-range, there were some at the rim, there were 3s and we were using all sides of the court and we were scoring some in transition as well as the post. It was just a good mix. I don't know that I would look at it and say that there has to be a balance, but you have to play to your strengths and what the defense is giving you.
"But it can't be so different. We had 38 points in the paint against Nebraska and we scored 70 points in the game. To me, that is good. You can't have a game like Georgetown where it is double the points in the paint and expect to win.
"So to me, the number one thing is how are we going to get dribble penetration? That is one thing that Michigan State does a great job in trying to take away. We are going to have to be creative in some areas but a lot more simplified in others to be able to get that and then be able to get those inside-out kind of 3s that we need."