Amaker and Wolverines Prepare for Illinois

Head Coach Tommy Amaker met with the media in a Monday press conference to discuss the team's victory over Michigan State, and their preparation for Illinois.

On beating Michigan State without a field goal from LaVell Blanchard:

"He is key to everything that we are doing. I thought that, in terms of our team, we were riding him and getting the confidence from his shots. The fact that he didn't have any field goals, I think that it's another sign of this team growing and maturing and finding different ways to be successful. To do that on Sunday afternoon against a great program, I would hope that it would give us added strength as we move forward to play in other games along the trail. We can prevail even if one of our veterans or one of our key guys isn't playing up to par in a scoring manner."

On the leadership of the younger players:

"It is somewhat rare. For our program and our situation, we have some freshman players who are growing and are becoming more confident. We felt this freshman class was going to be a huge mark for us in terms of the foundation of the program we are trying to create and build in terms of our staff, our administration and our school. You want these younger players to have that kind of input and you want them to follow the lead of the veteran players because they are creating their own situation and their own identity in a very positive way within our team structure."

On receiving points in the national polls:

"All the good things that come about from hard work and fighting to persevere, the guys in the locker room have earned that and they deserve that but the reason we've had some success is because we've been hungry, we've outworked and outhustled and that's been our mantra."

On holding the nation's second longest win streak:

"I think we are striving to play the best that we can play and I think we still have a way to go to accomplish that for 40 minutes. It's hard to look around and see what everyone else is doing and how they are playing. We are so engulfed and so focused on right here and that's the way it should be."

On playing defense:

"That's one of the pillars we are building our program with. This program is going to play defense and we are going to enjoy it. It's going to give us a sense of pride and I think our players have adopted that and enjoyed that and embraced it."

On the win over Michigan State:

"I think you'll see how much it means to people around us, how significant that game was yesterday and all of the things that come with that. A lot of that has to do with the fact that we haven't fared well in this particular matchup over a number of years. I was really impressed along the way with the atmosphere. I thought that was as good a help to us as any. It was a good atmosphere for a great game."

On the play of Daniel Horton:

"That was incredibly impressive against a great defensive team. I'm not talking about an average team or an average defensive team. Certainly for a young player to play the minutes he's played and the way he's played and delivered in clutch situations and being able to run our team and do all the things we've required him to do and not to turn it over, I was very impressed."

On the presence of older players in the Big Ten:

"You see older guys in the Big Ten and that's why it's very difficult, in our conference, to win on the road. Illinois has a number of younger players but they have some older kids in the program with Brian Cook, one of the best in the country. It's nice to see that and we certainly have a benefit with LaVell (Blanchard) and his leadership and his experience in the league."

On being the "marked" team of the Big Ten:

"When you look at some of the games we've played, that's one of the satisfactions we've gotten out of winning certain games thus far. We've been in that position where we've taken some people's best shots. That makes us feel very proud that we are in that position and we are still standing."

On looking ahead:

"It would be unwise for us to have so many different kinds of thoughts in our heads. We are a very young team and we are very much in the developing stages of our program. Programs like Illinois or Michigan State have been there and done some things. I like the fact that we are hungry."

On Illinois:

"It doesn't get any bigger, in terms of what they have done and how good they are and playing them at their place on the road. I think they could be as deep and as talented as anybody in our league. If they are that way in our league, you could stake the claim that you could be that way in the country."

On Illinois' Brian Cook:

"He's so consistent and he's playing as well as any senior in the country. The way he plays is very confident; he has a quiet confidence about him. He goes inside, he shoots the three-point shot, he's a good free throw shooter, he rebounds the ball, he's a force. He has to be one of the players you have to think of as a candidate for Player of the Year. He's playing that well on a great team."

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