Novak, Douglass, Morris on MSU

The three team leaders talk about the Big Game coming up at Crisler Arena today at 2 PM against a certain team 'over east'.

Question: Would you rather have a week off or would you rather be playing a couple of days later?

Zach Novak: "I think it will be good. We got a chance to get some of the guys legs back, little injuries, just get them healed up. I think it will be a good thing for us."

Question: Compared to other big games that you've played here for Michigan how does this one rate?

Zach Novak: "It is right up there with the biggest ones I think. This is probably…if it is not the biggest it is tied for the biggest. We know what's at stake and we're just looking forward. It is going to be a fun game and it is just a perfect situation."

Question: How important is it for you guys to stay loose for this one and not get tight, especially the young guys?

Zach Novak: "It almost seems like we've been playing must win games now for like a month. I think we've done a pretty good job of not being too tight and just playing. I'm not really worried about that."

Question: It has been a long time since Michigan has taken two from Michigan State, what would that mean to you guys from a program standpoint pride, with them being your in state rival and considering that they've been to the tournament 13 straight seasons.

Zach Novak: "You want to beat those guys when you come here. That's one of the things you sign up for is to beat Michigan State. We're glad that we have the opportunity to do this and it is a great rivalry. So any time you can beat your rivals twice in a season it is a good thing."

Question: We've seen it even with you, how you as a team have responded when you've lost the first game, the second matchup you bring a different intensity, do you almost expect that from Michigan State considering they lost that they are going to bring a different intensity tomorrow?

Zach Novak: "I think both teams are going to bring a whole new level that they haven't brought all season. I think it is good. It would be good for the fans. I think it is going to be a great game."

Question: Was Peedi's (Deshawn Sims) comment after this game last year, when he said ______ didn't want to play any more. Is that the kind of influence about this game in what it means to people that it is serious -- it means so much to people on a lot of levels?

Zach Novak: "I think this is not a normal game. Michigan-Michigan State for us that is our biggest one. You can throw everything else aside, at the end of the day, it is just us and them and we'll go at it tomorrow."

Question: Do different things happen on the court between the players during this matchup that you get to know each other so closely and you know each other games so well, is there a different sort of atmosphere on the court during this game?

Zach Novak: "There is a little bit of a little feel to this one. I think everyone just brings a little bit more energy, intensity. You're coming ready to play."

Question: Is there a true hate for a team like Michigan State?

Zach Novak: "You really don't like the other guy. You step on the court, this is a strong dislike. It is such a heated rivalry, that's just the way it is. They don't like us and we don't like them. That is the way it is with any rivalry."

Question: You're so entrenched in it every day, but can you look at he win in East Lansing as a springboard for when you guys started to win?

Zach Novak: "Yeah. I think that Minnesota game before that, in between that and the Michigan State game was kind of when I think we got our season going back in the right direction."

Question: How has coach been this week in practice?

Zach Novak: "He's been good. He has been telling us that we're in a good situation, we just got to go and got to fight. It is going to be a tough game and we're going to have to play as hard as we can but there is no reason we can't go in there and do the things that we need to do to get the win."

Question: Their coaches talk about the game that you had up there, do you expect a little extra attention given the six for eight from three?

Zach Novak: "I have no idea. We got a lot of guys that can shoot the ball. We'll just see."

Question: Is home worth something, you guys have been so good on the road. It seems like you play as well on the road as at home, is home worth something tomorrow for you guys?

Zach Novak: "Yeah I think, especially with a sell-out crowd, got the Maize Out. I think there is definitely an edge. We've been good on the road, but it is better to play at home in front of your own fans."


Stu Douglass: "The way we started the Big Ten wasn't our plan, wasn't what we wanted. It was tough to swallow a little bit. We regrouped and really matured quickly over the whole Big Ten season, so it is nice just to have this opportunity."

Question: Do you look back at that first game against Michigan State as sort of a turning point for your season, where you guys kind of got it going in the right direction?

Stu Douglass: "Yeah a loss at home to Minnesota really hit us hard, I remember that. It was just a tough stretch there and we knew that we had to change something real quick or our goals were not going to be met and luckily we turned things around."

Question: The Spartans have said that they are looking at this game as a win and we're in kind of thing, all or none, one game and that' sit. How do you guys approach it mentally?

Stu Douglass: "Just with our game to reach our goal and reach what we've been talking about all year and making the tournaments. There is no denying, I've seen (Joe) Lunardi' last four in, so it is a huge game for both teams. If we win, it'll give us even more security, but at the same time, we have the Big Ten tournament to worry about too."

Question: Win or lose, you guys have played well in big games this year. Did you guys take a different approach at the beginning of the year, did you talk about how you were going to treat them differently than you did in the first couple of weeks this year?

Stu Douglass: "You mean against Michigan State?"

Question: In big games in general through the year.

Stu Douglass: "We try to treat every team the same coming out. The next game is the most important game. That's what we've been talking about all year. That's the way we've been approaching it in practice, the film session it doesn't matter. We take every game as the most important one."

Question: Have you guys ever been in this type of situation where it is the rivalry game and it has so much meaning to both teams?

Stu Douglass: "Maybe not quite like this, not this magnitude with us beating State at State and kind of security that we could get from this win, it is a little different situation."

Question: What about the feeling overall? Tom Izzo was talking about with the invention of Twitter that it seems like the rivalries are going away; what about from you players, is there a general hatred for Michigan State?

Stu Douglass: "Sure. A lot of it is a little artificially made but at the same time, going into State and beating them the way we did. I know it definitely increases the hate they have for us and I know we love that, we embrace that. We have the same feelings for them. We respect them as a team but at the same time, we want to come out."

Question: How are different are each of these teams since the time you guys met on January 27th?

Stu Douglass: "I think we've matured a lot. I think they are finding themselves. Kalin Lucas is playing really well, Draymond (Green) is playing really well. We'll still take a lot of the same approach, see what we did looking back at the film, see what we did well and see what we need to work on against them, especially defensively against their bigs. Nothing too drastically different."

Question: Is there any part of our that thinks they took you lightly the first time and that's not going to happen this time?

Stu Douglass: "I wouldn't put it that way. There has been tough games throughout the entire year of the Big Ten season. They've had tough games against a lot of the teams and so have we and I don't think they have taken anybody lightly, especially coming in preseason with their rank and the struggles they've had, I don't think they are taking anybody lightly at all."

Question: How impressive is what Darius (Morris) has been doing during the conference season without really making a lot of three pointers in this offense.

Stu Douglass: "We keep running ball screens and teams keep trying to play it differently and it is hard to contain him one on one. We run our sets and sometimes we get switches, get good mismatches on him and he just exploits them and makes big plays."

Question: How much is really at stake in the game with the rivalry, you guys haven't swept them since '96-'97, just recruiting, everything in general and the tournament bid; how much of that is as important as it sounds?

Stu Douglass: "It definitely is, but right now we're just focusing on getting this big win for us, for the tournament to reach our goals, but it does have those big picture implications but right now we can't think about them."

Question: How can you gauge the intensity of this week of preparation compared to other weeks that you've put in?

Stu Douglass: "The same. We want to approach it the same. We want to feel like we've had that same intensity, same focus, same drive all year. We haven't had the success, we had a tough start to the Big Ten season, but we don't want to treat this game as some holy grail. It is just any type of game in the sense that we play for the next game."

Question: I remember when there as like five games left, Coach Beilein said to us, we're playing like this is our five game tournament. How much has that helped you guys along that it has kind of been like tournament time?

Stu Douglass: "It has definitely helped us. We've refocused every single game. We haven't let the last game affect us win or loss. I'm really proud of the way we've just been focused in on the game plan and practice. We haven't had the greatest practices during that stretch, but we've gotten better every single day, every single game, we just keep improving."

Question: When you think back to last year, and I don't even known if this enters into but how last year's game here ended and how close it was, do you think about that and how does that motivate you?

Stu Douglass: "It is definitely motivating. All the close games we've had lately just adds on to it and it is hard to really add on to the motivation that we already have. For me Zach (Novak) and Darius we'll definitely think about that."


Question: Can you sense how badly the Michigan fans and Michigan nation wants this one too?

Darius Morris: "Definitely. I think anything against Michigan State they want really badly, we want really badly. This is a rivalry that goes way back and we're ready to get the win."

Question: It seems like that victory over them on the 27th of January has been the springboard for all of the things that have come since. How much have you guys changed since then?

Darius Morris: "We've changed mentality and also our play on the court. It definitely helped us at a time when we were at our lowest I think after that win, it really gave us confidence and we've just carried that on to other games."

Question: I was just talking to Zach (Novak) about this, you lose the first match but you come back with a different intensity that second matchup, do you almost expect that from Michigan State, a little more respect?

Darius Morris: "Definitely. I think they are going to come out here and give us their best shot. They are going to be really up for this game, a lot of emotions are going to be high. I anticipate that early in the game and our emotions are going to be high as well. It is just going to be two good ball clubs going head to head."

Question: Talk about how this is set up to be worth so much, have so much at stake. The last game of the season, both teams are on the bubble and rivalry, everything kind of at stake.

Darius Morris: "You really wouldn't want it any other way. This is what makes rivalries, rivalries. We're fighting for something, they're fighting for something. Both teams have something to fight for and it really makes it interesting."

Question: Has this team enjoyed bigger moments, have you noticed that this year?

Darius Morris: "I think we embrace it. Nobodies scared. We're ready to attack the challenge and I think everybody brings that great focus. Although we're really up for it, we also play smart about it. I think us being in big games in the past season has really helped us this year."

Question: Is there a certain measure of needing to keep the emotion in check so that you're not kind of pressing?

Darius Morris: "Yeah. There comes a point in the game where things calm down, but it is going to be key if we can get their early while their emotions are still high. I think both teams are going to try and find that equalizer as soon as possible."

Question: You talked about hearing some things that were shouted out up there in that building, are you excited about having them down here?

Darius Morris: "Definitely. You always feel comfortable in your own place and you got a majority of your fans are going to be here. I anticipate some Michigan State fans are going to be here, but I feel like our crowd is going to outweigh them."

Question: Away from this week, do you have any friends on that team?

Darius Morris: "No (laughter)."

Question: So it is easy to kind of dislike these guys?

Darius Morris: "Yeah, I'm from LA. I don't love none of them."

Question: Is it almost taught to you when you get here that there has to be that natural dislike if not hatred for Michigan State?

Darius Morris: "Yes, but over time you just develop it yourself. I don't hate anybody, but I strongly dislike Michigan State."

Question: What has this week been like not having a mid week game, you get to get your legs back a little bit. Do you worry about the rust of maybe not being as sharp as you were?

Darius Morris: "Yeah a little bit, but I think coach did a great job of making practice game like. Even though you cannot simulate that, we had a tough practice I think on Tuesday because a lot of the other teams in the Big Ten were playing. He is such a great basketball mind, he knows that we still play like were playing in a game because everybody else in the conference is. So that was one of his things was to make practice as hard as possible to simulate the game, so I think that helped a lot."

Question: Stu (Douglass) was talking about he reads Joe Lundari, and he has you guys in as the final four at least right now, do you kind of look at that stuff as well?

Darius Morris: "No because it doesn't matter. We just need to approach this next game. That's good, that's fine, but if we don't go out here and win our games and keep approaching every game like we have been then that really won't mean anything. What really means stuff is when teams are announced on Sunday, until then you can't look ahead, you got to approach every game one by one."

Question: What is tonight going to be like for any player and specifically you as you know what tomorrow is going to be like?

Darius Morris: "It might be a little hard to sleep, but you're just going to be sitting there visualizing. You see yourself in the big game doing good things. I guess people on their side are going to be sleepless as well. They can't wait. They can't to come in here and get a chance at revenge. Emotions are going to be really high and everybody is going to be really pumped up."

Question: Michigan State has experienced winning in March, they know what it takes at this time of the year. For a lot of you younger guys having never been in the NCAA tournament, what is it going to take to match that focus and intensity that they're going to bring?

Darius Morris: "They do have the factor that they've already been there before, done it. They've been to the final four. I feel like our youth helps us a lot because we don't know what to expect, so we're just approaching every game like another game and every game for us is a big game. For them, playing in the Final Four, some games might not be as important and that could be their downfall but also could help them out because they have so much knowledge and experience. For us, we're just embracing our schedule and who we play next and I think that helps us."

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