TODD LICKLITER OPENING STATEMENT
For me, I don't know where you were sitting…it was like a green blur going past me at a very high rate of speed. We told our guys, and you can show them on tape, but I don't think you can really understand the speed they play at in the full court. By the time we realized it, we were in trouble. They are well coached, skilled, physical team, that really presents a lot of problems. As I told the team, if you don't get your defense set and you don't keep them off the glass, I am not talking about the Iowa Hawkeyes, every team in the nation will be in trouble. Their speed in transition is incredible. Their commitment to rebounding is second to none.
That said, I thought there were times when we played well. I thought our team showed some resilience, something to build upon. I said earlier today, when you look at our Big Ten record, it looks bad. I am disappointed, but when you look at our play, I don't think that it's equal to the record. I am not satisfied completely, but I think our play has shown progress. I am hoping we can build on that. I do think we struggle with understanding our teammate's strengths, and we struggle with situations at times. I think it's a very simple rule; shoot when you are open, pass when you are not. We struggle at times with that. We struggle to know how deep to go with the ball into the paint, we struggle to shoot when we are open, we struggle to know what is a good position or pass for a teammate.
But we are getting better at it. This is a group that is very coachable, they want to do well, so I think they will continue to get better. I don't know if I have ever seen a league from one year to the next…it was good last year, but it's terrific this year. There will be no breaks, which is a good thing for a team that wants to get good. It will be demanding for us.
Q: In the first half, did you pick your poison to attack the offensive glass or just get back in transition?
Todd Lickliter: You can't really send everyone in. You have to take the best shot you can, let your four and five's get the boards. You have to have good enough judgment as a player to know you are not going to get a rebound. It's a futile attempt to try to take the ball away from someone. The court is too big to do that, and now you are behind the play and your teammates are in trouble. A few times we hung back there, and that is just not a good decision. Once you have made an effort, you need to turn and get back and get your defense set.
Q: Talk about the crowd tonight.
Lickliter: I think that it's a neat thing…I was saying on the radio that whatever we need to do to get our students here, we need to do it. It's really special. I know our team really appreciates it. It's something we don't take for granted. As I was saying, it would be very special for our students to commit and for this team to commit, and watch us both invest and recapture what we know Carver should be. It will take both of our investments. We are willing to work with them, show them we appreciate them, whatever that is. If it's SID buying pizza for them all, we will do that. Whatever it is, we want them to know that we appreciate them. I do think that it can be very satisfying for us and for them. It will take an effort on both sides.
Q: In looking ahead, Illinois has a similar team to Michigan State.
Lickliter: Thanks, Bob (Brooks). (Laughs). I was wanting to sleep. You are right, I am really impressed with what Illinois has done. Last year, they had their share of struggles and you never know…when you look at this year's team and the way they share the ball and the position they put you in, it's obvious to me that they have really committed to what Bruce wants them to do. It has put them in a great spot. The curls that you saw tonight that we struggled to trail and defend, we had better learn how in the next two days how to handle that because we will see more. Size wise, I thought our guys battled pretty well inside. I was proud of their effort on the glass. I didn't think that we could beat them on the glass, but I thought we could manage and we did. We didn't in transition.
Q: What is Cyrus' status?
Lickliter: It's day by day. We sure would like to have him back, but everyone respond differently. It has been a struggle for him. He wants to be back. At halftime, he mentioned something he saw on the court. It was very good. Cyrus is such a proud Hawkeye and a great team guy. It's a pleasure to have him, to help us build this. Whether he is playing or not, I am glad he is around. I would really like for him to play, I miss him. But that will be when he is healthy.
Q: Talk about their guard play, and how Michigan State extends their defense.
Lickliter: They did a great job. But we figured that would happen. They have a lot of depth, and the players they play are good. Skill at every position, strength and a terrific coach makes for a tough night for the Hawkeyes tonight. Again, I have to say that I thought it looked bad in the middle of the second half, and if you watched our guys, they had resolve and that is a step. We are not going to accept anything other than winning. But we have to understand that there are things that lead to that, and that is one of them; to keep competing at all times.