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"That was a fun night - a fun night for us. The first half, we really played well. The second half, I don't think we were as attentive to detail and lost our concentration a little bit, and yet we made some big plays even during that stretch.
"It's not typical for our team to miss free throws and yet it's not typical for Will Graves to do the little things he did with those two big tip-outs. He's been in my doghouse so bad and I said a few things to him that I wouldn't ever say out in public, but those were two big plays ...
"Ed Davis I thought was huge for us. The key in the first half was that every one who came in gave us something positive ...
"You're up 16 at half and we felt good, but we also knew how good that team was and how competitive we are. I wasn't pleased the way we handled it down the stretch missing those free throws and yet we got defensive stops a couple times and when they penetrated we didn't fly in to help and let them to pitch it back out for threes - we did give them layups, though.
"The keys to me were what our bench gave us the entire game, Larry was big time for us again today and for Ed and Deon to do the job they did inside. But it was 12 guys who did a heck of a job and really helped us."
Talk how your matchup with Kalin Lucas tonight?
"I was just playing my game - I just went out there, tried not to think about it much and play the way I know I can play and things worked out for us. ... Probably just proving to myself - I can say I'm here for a reason, but not really getting as many minutes and experience last year, I wanted to make this game a statement to myself that, 'Ok, you're among the top point guards in the country. You can do this.' This game, I'm going to try and feed off it for next game. This was one of three games I marked on my calendar and making sure I tried to lead my team to a win."
Your confidence is growing in your offensive game, that seems clear ...
"Increased confidence, increased playing time - just overall experience. I was born to play this game and this position. As long as I'm out there, I'm going to make something happen. I came out here to run the team and to win games."
This game was promoted as the national championship game rematch, but was that on your mind during this game?
"I was sitting talking to Larry and Justin about how they were going to be gunning for us because I know if I lost to a team twice last year that I'd really want this. So we knew they really wanted this one but we wanted it more."
The freshmen played a key role in this victory. How far have they come along since the start of the season?
"Everyone is just starting to know their role, Coach is getting the rotation right and everyone is starting to fit in and know what they need to do every night. I'm proud of everyone and how hard they fought the entire game."
You seemed like you were much more comfortable tonight and things were clicking for you ...
"Yeah, I think I played comfortable - I've been playing like that in practice and I just had to bring it to the game. Like they say: 'practice how you play.' ... This is a new experience for me so each game I'm gaining more confidence - each game that goes by is going to help me improve on my game."
This will be an ongoing process, but how far away are you in your point guard development?
"Far. I've got more work to do to get that point guard mentality. I've been watching film - watching Raymond, Chris Paul, Steve Nash - to see how they think and what they do on the court."
You came out in the first half and made an impact right away, and looked like you're starting to figure this all out ...
"Coach Rob and Coach Haase have really gotten on me all week about playing with intensity and taking my game to the next level. I felt tonight I took a big step in that direction. After the game they told me that's what they want to see. I just felt in my skin, wasn't thinking about it and was just playing ... My goal is every game to get better. I feel like every game I'm making strides and one day it's all going to come together and it's going to be a great day."
What'd you think of your first big game at the Smith Center?
"It was a fun experience. I told Dex on the bench, 'I love this.' It was a different atmosphere - more intense - and that was probably one of the best games I've experienced in my life."
So much of the pre-game talk was about Michigan State and what they needed to do to get past you guys - you guys were presumed to now have a big stake in this game.
"There's no question that all the talk was about Michigan State and them getting revenge. But here they are coming on our home court and we're trying to protect our home court and we were just as excited as they were - a chance to put them away for a third time. So we were very excited to play tonight and I think it showed."
Can you speak to Larry Drew's play tonight?
"I've always said that everybody was worried about Larry Drew as our point guard, but he's a big time player. I don't think these games from Larry should be surprising to anybody anymore. He can be huge for this team and give us a great lift - like he did tonight - and I think he's going to continue to do that. ... There's no question he was excited about that matchup [with Lucas] and I think he did a great job, being calm and helping the team out."
MICHIGAN STATE HEAD COACH TOM IZZO
If you had your choice, would you put in for this game again?
"Sure. Do you want to schedule it? I'd love to… It's a good game. I always like playing some of the best teams in the country and there's no doubt North Carolina is one of them. You know what? I'll guarantee you one thing. In 15 years, I've never backed down from anybody and I sure as [heck] ain't going to start now. So you want to schedule it? I'll schedule it."
What are your feelings on the last five times with North Carolina?
"Well, I think it's evident. I've said all along – we're not where those guys are yet. And I think it's evident. It's okay to lose to them, but it's the first time we've really competed in the last three games. So maybe that's a start in the right direction. But you've got to win games, too. Our program is not where theirs is, but our program is not where there are moral victories because you kept it close. Some guys have got to step up. I was really disappointed in a couple of guys' performances and we're really going to have to take a solid look at some things here in the near future."
With all of the hype, do you think this loss will linger for this team?
"No, I don't think so at all, to be honest with you. This is what I live for. I think every Michigan State fan should be happy and pleased. They won't be, and I really don't give a [darn]. But they should be because we're playing in these games. And you don't have big games if only one team is good. You have big games because both teams are good."