UNC-MSU: Spartans Press Confrence (w/audio)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. --- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and players Raymar Morgan, Drew Neitzel and Travis Walton addressed the media following the game. Read & listen to what they had to say...

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Part I (9:52)
Part II (10:09)


On what this team means to Izzo and Marquise Gray's earlier tribute to Izzo -

This team to me means a ton, because they did give me everything they had. Marquise and I spent a lot of time the past couple of weeks (together). (Like) I kept telling all (of) you, I think he's a better player. His free-throw shooting – he really, really spent some time on (it). I thought he went to his jump-hook tonight, a shot that he hasn't shot, and I thought it was a good shot. We just couldn't keep him in the game. We've had some bizarre lineups this year. When I'm looking out on the court the last four minutes of the first half and I see things like Jake (Hannon) at the five and Raymar (Morgan) at the four, I had to start laughing. Then I looked at the five subs, that little hockey substitution that (UNC head coach) Roy (Williams) has there with his different line. I was proud and yet disappointed because I thought we made a couple of foolish fouls. As I've said all year, our margin for error is just so small that we just couldn't overcome some things.I appreciate that from Quise. I hope he loves me as much in a couple weeks because this team's going to work this summer. Earvin (Johnson) had a lot of great things to say at the pre-game meal in here and we're going to savor some of those.

On playing against UNC's Tyler Hansbrough -

I don't know if everybody knows it, but I've never seen a guy like him that has (such) good hands. He gets his fingernail on the ball, he keeps it. We had a kid, Zack Randolph, that was a lot like that. I think sometimes everybody expects everybody to have good hands, but that's one area that's his strength. I didn't realize he shot that well from the line, but his hands make him have the abilities (he has). Hands and balance are probably two things that he has superior to a lot of people. He's always on balance. He draws a lot of fouls. I thought some of them we were vertical on, but he does draw a lot of fouls. He's a heck of a player.

On having to play Drew Neitzel so much and the prospects of playing him less in 2007-08 -

It was really sad when Travis (Walton) got his fourth foul. I don't know how many minutes were left, maybe nine or eight. That's when we started wavering. Drew had hit a couple of big threes, and all of a sudden, his legs just went. When he had to have the ball in his hands all the time, that takes more energy out you. I tell my team and I told Earvin (Johnson) that we're going to run more than his teams did. Everybody thinks of us just as a defensive team and (of our) rebounding. We got our tails kicked on the boards tonight, although with some of those bizarre lineups, we should have. I thought our execution on offense tonight was maybe as good as it's been all year. We have been trying to spend more time in the last couple weeks on our offense. We had a little practice time with everybody together and I think it's paid many dividends. We had some great back-door plays. We felt like if we could run good enough stuff and we could get some shots, we just ran out of gas to make them. Then we ran out of bodies. We really went through a stretch where we couldn't throw it inside because we had Quise and (Goran Suton) on the bench. Then they (UNC) just started pressing up. I'm looking forward to next year already. We have three guys coming in and we're going to have depth at the position that we had zero at this year. We're going to have speed at a position we had little of this year. We're going to start running when we get to the airport tomorrow and hopefully quit when we finish next year.

On Reyshawn Terry's strong second half for UNC -

The three he hit late and then the two he hit over Neitzel were big shots. He made some big shots. .He had some energy. Everybody's playing 23-25 minutes, except for Hansbrough. I felt like he did what Lewis did for Ohio State. We talk about the freshmen, and I get tired of hearing about all of the freshmen. It's usually the juniors and seniors that really earn their keep in money time. Give him credit, he brought in the money time and did a heck of a job.

On the prospects for next season with everybody returning -

We have the same dreams that probably a lot of fans have, that we could knock off North Carolina. I think we felt that we'd have to play awfully well. I said to you yesterday that we couldn't get in foul trouble. We got in foul trouble. I (have) to quit saying what we can't do, because it always comes back to haunt me. I don't want to say we're satisfied with it, but this is one of those years where I can look them in the eyes and say we made a lot of mistakes, but nobody didn't give a 100 percent effort. Some didn't have it. I think you saw Raymar (Morgan) really grow up a lot in the last couple of weeks. In that respect, I don't feel like it totally ended. I guess feel like hopefully there's a continuation. Unlike last year, when we started lifting a day later, we're going to take a little time off because we have some beat up guys in there. (Then) we'll regroup and see if we can really make a serious run, not only for the Big 10, but in the NCAA Tournament next year.

On the many defenders Drew Neitzel faced and his fatigue -

We talked about getting him a rest at the nine-minute mark and then let him go the stretch, (but) Travis (Walton) picked up his fourth foul. I just didn't have another guard I could put in. He was walking on his knees, as you say. (UNC's Ty Lawson) is that power driver like (Mateen) Cleaves was, except he has that warp speed. He is as impressive a guard as I've seen. We broke down. Our bigs did a great job of corralling, we call it corralling, all year long. We did a great job against Marquette. He's a little quicker, but we broke down a little bit, too. The number of guards they run at you, and they all have size – they're 6-4, 6-5, 6-6 – that was hard for him. What happened is, when we had to put him at the point totally, now they can guard him one-on-one and their size speed and athleticism makes a difference. We couldn't bring him off picks like we were doing earlier. That really hurt us when Travis got his fourth foul.


What was it like going up against a player like Tyler Hansbrough?

He's a very strong versatile player. I give him a lot of credit. He stepped up when his team needed him the most. He made plays.

Did Magic Johnson say anything in the locker room?

To work on our game over the summer and be ready to get back to this point.

Do you think it was an advantage for North Carolina that they were basically playing a home game?

It really wasn't that big of a factor for us. We've been playing big teams in their houses all year, so it was just another game.


Do you think it was an advantage for North Carolina that they were basically playing a home game?

Yeah, they did have a lot of fans here, but we're used to going up against those Big 10 arenas with packed houses every night. It wasn't a huge change for us. It got loud a few times, but definitely nothing like Indiana or Illinois or other places like that.

Do you remember the last time you had this many quality shots in a game?

No, I've never had this many shots. My whole basketball career, I can probably say. I got a lot of open looks, and it felt good coming off my hand. That's my role on this team, to be the scorer and the go-to guy on offense. I tried my best to carry us and make big shots. We just came up a little short tonight.

Did it ever feel overwhelming with all of the fresh bodies that North Carolina brought in?

Yeah, I think that was their game plan coming in, to try to wear us down by sending fresh bodies at us and pressuring us trying to break us down a little bit. I think we did a good job of handling the pressure. We only had 10 turnovers, which is a low for us this season. That says a lot about our preparation going up a team that is as talented and athletic as North Carolina. We handled it for the most part, but it was just foul trouble and lack of depth that hurt us down the stretch.

You said yesterday you guys have played at Wisconsin and Ohio State. You felt you guys were prepared to play in this type of environment. What are your thoughts about the way you played?

We played our butts off. I think we left everything we had on the court. Like Coach said, we got in foul trouble. It limited our depth, especially inside. Travis (Walton) got into a little foul trouble. We just got worn down a little bit. But I'm proud of this team. It's a good group of guys, and we left everything we had on the court.

Did you want to slow the pace of the game down?

We really didn't really talk about slowing the game down. We just talked about limiting their fast break, trying to get back and stop them from getting easy layups and penetration. Like I said, anytime you play a team like that, that's so athletic and can get up and down the court, it takes a lot out of you. It just took a toll on us the last 5-6 minutes of the game.

Can you reflect on what you guys accomplished this year and what are your expectations for next year?

I'm proud of these guys and the things that we've been through. From the very start of the season, people didn't expect us to have this type of a year….make the NCAA Tournament and win a game in the NCAA Tournament. We just fought a lot of adversity this season with a lot of injuries. We'd get a couple guys back and then another guy would be out with an injury. We just fought a lot of things to have this kind of a season. We're still young, we have everybody coming back. We're excited to get back to the tournament and make a deeper run. We'll see what happens next year.


Did Magic Johnson say anything in the locker room?

Yeah, just we're going to be back here next year. We're going to work hard in the summer time. He told everybody to work on their game and what they need to improve on, and we will be back here next year.

Did it ever feel overwhelming with all of the fresh bodies that North Carolina brought in?

They got a lot of bodies, but I feel we played pretty good. We were leading in the second half, and I got in foul trouble. That kind of hurt us a little bit. We just ran out of energy. For the most part, I feel we did a good job.

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