Izzo and Players on Loss to UCLA

Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo and playes Draymond and Kalin Lucas answered questions about their loss to UCLA...

COACH IZZO: Yeah, you know, I'm crushed and disappointed because we just got off to such a poor start, and yet I'm so proud of these guys for -- they've been knocked down so many times this year that -- I don't think I've ever had a team that's gone through as much, and yet to battle back and almost put themselves at a chance to win was incredibly -- I'm incredibly grateful to them.
I give UCLA a lot of credit. They just seemed to have more energy than us early. And we found a way to bounce back, and these two guys had a big part of it in the second half. And Durrell played a lot better, and we just fell a little short.
Q. Draymond, can you talk about in the second half when you guys finally kicked it into gear and were able to come back and cut the lead down and the whole run at the end, just what sparked that, and just what changed over the course of that time?
Draymond Green: I think we started pushing the ball more. I think Kalin started getting more involved in the game and we started getting some things in transition, which is one of the biggest strengths of his game. We got some easy baskets out, and I think we started checking better. And once we picked up full court, I don't think they handled it as well as I thought they would and we got some key turnovers.
I think the most important thing was our energy level picked up a lot. The first half we pretty much came out and dug ourselves too deep of a hole, did a great job of fighting back, but we were two points too many down and just couldn't come back from it, but I think the energy level pushing up and it started with Kalin pushing the ball up the floor and getting some easy buckets in transition.
Q. On that last possession, Kalin had the ball and was called for traveling. Did you feel that there was contact at that point?
COACH IZZO: You know, I didn't have a good view, and it was going to be a prayer anyway. I don't think it had anything to do with the final outcome. I think those guys said it best; you've got to give UCLA a lot of credit. They just kind of -- I think that's one thing Ben Howland has done, he's taken smash-mouth basketball to the west coast. I think they out rebounded us bad in the first half, they got every loose ball. That was the only thing I was disappointed about all night. And so we had our chances at the end, but I didn't see it good enough, and I don't think it had anything to do with it. It would have been a 60-footer or 50-footer, I'm not sure either one would have gone in.
Q. You just mentioned in passing that Draymond Green's triple-double and a lot of those rebounds and assists came down the stretch. How critical a role did he play in that comeback to go from 23 down to 1?
COACH IZZO: Well, he hit a couple of threes and he made a couple of great assists and he got a couple of great rebounds. You know, we went through him a lot. We were doing such a good job on Kalin. We didn't run the ball like I wanted to. That was one of our big game plans, to run, and again, we looked mentally sluggish. Trust me, I'm one guy that knows some of the reasons why, but it was a team that we needed to be in all gears. We just didn't have enough firepower left, and to dig a hole like that and bounce back is almost incredible, considering the lack of maybe numbers of scorers we have with the two guys gone.
And so his effort was great, and after a little bit sluggish start, I thought even the first half got five or six rebounds, but he was in there by himself for a while, so I'm proud of him.

Q. There was a big differential in the points in the paint. UCLA scored 52, you guys had 34. Talk about the impact that Joshua Smith had, their big guy inside, and what adjustments you guys tried to make at the end of the first half.
COACH IZZO: Well, I made two major adjustments, number one, on the ball screens at halftime, we tried to trap them a little bit more because they were hurting us on that. We were so worried about him inside.
I thought it was a great move on Ben's part to start him. They haven't been starting him, the first three plays right into him. He didn't always score, but a couple times we had help so much. He's a load in there, and we haven't faced anybody like that so it was something new. I thought he did a good job, yet those guards played pretty well. They had a lot of guys -- Honeycutt played pretty well. Their break hurt us. We got some turnovers in the first half, too, that really hurt us. We had 16 for the game, but points off turnovers were incredible in the first half, and then the second half we flipped it a lot.
But you can't give a team 47 free throws, you can't give them a 20-some point lead with a team that doesn't have a million three-point shooters or even 100,000 or even two. So I guess the right team won tonight. They earned it. I mean, Ben did a great job. I like what they did, and they were active and tough.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the job they did defensively on Lucas? There were some questions about Lee's knee. His knee looked good today and he's a long guy. And he was really after it. Team defense against Lucas by UCLA?
COACH IZZO: I thought team defense early was really good. I thought they were sagging on the weak side. They were denying him. They were really bumping him off screens that they were trying to -- they did a great job. And yet we looked so sluggish early. We ran our stuff a lot sharper the last ten minutes than we did really the first 20.
And then second half we bounced back, and as soon as we'd do something good we'd make a dumb mistake. I mean, we made some dumb mistakes, too. Not to take anything away from them, but we deserve our share of the blame and some of the credit for bouncing back.
So they just got into him, they had size on him, they were switching a little bit, which they normally don't do, and I thought they did a hell of a job on him.

Q. You keep using the word sluggish to talk about the first 30 minutes or so, but from about the eight and a half minute mark you got down 23, and then you did look like a different team, a lot more bounce in your step. What do you attribute to almost like a snap and all of a sudden there's a completely different energy level?
COACH IZZO: You know, as all of our writers know, it's been one of those years where there's been so much mental strain on this team. We've never gotten in sync sometimes because of injuries, sometimes because of guys being lost. We just never got any kind of rotation, and we just couldn't find the right combinations early.
And I think Kalin has been a lot of why we've played better lately, and unfortunately they took him away, but we didn't do a very good job in helping him, either, if you want the truth.
The second half we went to some more things that kept him with the ball. I thought he was more aggressive and did it both ways, made a couple of shots and made a couple of great assists and put the pressure on them. And sometimes because they did such a good job on him, shacking those ball screens and coming off of them and almost doubling him sometimes. Other guys had some open looks, but they played it right. And we were lucky to come back, we really were. But there was a little more energy in our step, and I don't know why it didn't start out that way. We practiced well. I just think we're about as mentally spent as any team in America or any team I've ever had.

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