“They Just Were Way Better Than We Were”: Bob Huggins Discusses Kentucky’s Dismantling of WVU

It wasn’t even a game. The Kentucky Wildcats demolished Bob Huggins’s WVU team on Thurday, dominating from the start to finish in a 78-39 victory. Huggins talked about the game in his press conference afterwards.

Q. Bob, can we get your take on what occurred the first eight minutes of the game?
COACH HUGGINS: Well, I think pretty much what I was afraid could happen. They shot the ball really poorly the last game, and they’re too good to have a probably back-to-back bad days shooting the ball, and they came out and made a bunch of shots. We’re trying to scramble around and leave the right guy open. They were aggressive, they took it to the basket and we couldn’t score, which was my biggest fear was that we would have a hard time scoring.

Q. Bob, obviously scouting them, they’re big. Are they even more impressive when they’re running at you, just the size factor, trying to deal with them, do they seem bigger on the court than what you were even anticipating?
COACH HUGGINS: I don’t know, I don’t know if they seemed bigger, Dan. You watch all the film and nobody scores around the basket. I think that’s the people that have given them a decent game are people who could make enough shots to get them spread and people who could offensive rebound and either kick it out or be able to finish around them because you can’t finish over them. I don’t know if they — no, I wouldn’t say they were bigger than I thought they were. They looked awful big on film to me.

Q. What do you think you guys were able to establish as a program this year, and what do you think you need to further establish to take another step?
COACH HUGGINS: Well, we’re still — I mean, this team’s pretty young. I think it’s attribute to Juwani and Gary and Devin that really were three veteran guys. You look down the roster, this is Jon Holton’s first year, this is Daxter Miles’ first year, this is Jaysean Paige’s first year, Jevon Carter’s first year, Tarik Phillip’s first year, Elijah Macon’s first year, so we’ve got a lot of young, inexperienced guys that are only going to get better, and I think these three games of the tournament are going to make us better. We’ll be more seasoned a year from now. We lost some games early, we lost some games when those two guys were out that we didn’t want to lose certainly, but it did give those young guys a kind of baptism under fire. So there’s a lot returning, you know, so I don’t know, what did we establish? I think we’re back where we’re used to being, where I’m used to being anyway.

Q. You said watching them on film and so forth, was there anything they did tonight that surprised you?
COACH HUGGINS: No, not really. You know, we couldn’t practice on Monday because we didn’t get back until 4:00 in the morning, so I had really all day and I did nothing all day but watch film. And I know John and John knows me, so I don’t know, how are we going to surprise each other, you know? They were what I thought they were. I thought they were the best offensive team in the country. Everybody kind of gets caught up in their size and all that, which is certainly a part of it, but to get those guys to play as hard and to play together the way they do, I mean, you look down there, you’ve got guys that, you know, are going to be lottery picks that they give the ball up, they share the ball. John’s done an incredible job. A lot of what we do is managing people and managing egos and attitudes and all those kind of things, and he’s done an absolutely terrific job of managing them, getting guys to play together and to care about one another. They’re just — they’re terrific defensively. They’ve got — that’s the best defensive team I think that I’ve ever coached against. And when they’re making shots, and they made shots today, when they make shots, there’s nobody going to beat them when they make shots like that.

Q. You kind of just answered this, but what would it take to beat Kentucky for any of the teams remaining in the tournament?
COACH HUGGINS: They’re going to have to have a bad day. They had a good day today and we had a miserable day, you know, so we lose by 40. If they have a really bad day shooting the ball, you can pack it back in, and try to keep the score down and close, but when they’re making shots, they’re making shots, they get you spread, they’re too big and too skilled inside. And you’ve got to be able to create some offense and transition or something because it’s just, it’s really difficult to score against their half-court, their half-court defense. I think Georgia kind of did the best job, kind of got them spread but they still didn’t win. And that’s probably as well as Georgia’s played all year and probably Cal would say Kentucky didn’t play very well and they still win. I think that’s the difference. I thought going in really that the 2010 team may be more talented but they weren’t near as good defensively. I think they were, you can’t argue with what John Wall and Cousins and Bledsoe and those guys have done in the NBA, they’re very, very talented guys, but I don’t think that team guarded the way this team guards, I think that’s the difference. I think this team is absolutely fantastic defensively. When you’ve got two guards that are 6’6 and as long and as athletic as they are, they just take up so much space. Back in Rough Run’s the biggest guy was about 6’5. He had to be a point guard or he’d never got in now, it’s just they’re just so big and so long.

Q. Some of the Kentucky guys just said that the comments before the game really motivated the team by a couple of your players. Do you wish in hindsight they hadn’t been made or does it not matter?
COACH HUGGINS: No. You know what, honestly, I think that’s a bunch of BS. I think once you throw the ball up, you play. It was a freshman that said it and I’m kind of happy he had some confidence. I’m kind of happy he wasn’t hiding under a chair somewhere, you know? There’s nothing wrong with having some confidence and wanting to go out and compete. They just were way better than we were.

Michigan St. Slight Favorites Against Oklahoma: Sweet 16 Press Conference

The Michigan St. Spartans remain slight two point favorites against the Oklahoma Sooners in Friday night’s sweet 16 game in Syracuse. Spartans players Branden Dawson, Travis Trice, and Denzel Valentine joined Coach Tom Izzo to talk about the upcoming game in this press conference on Thursday:

Tom Izzo: Just that we’re excited to be here. It’s been a different Michigan State year. That doesn’t mean a negative. It’s just not maybe the same kind of team we’ve been. I think a little less in talent, a little less in maybe the physicality of our team, but we’ve really grown as a team, and we’ve done the ultimate. That we play as good of a team defense, meaning everyone helping each other. So, again, it’s taught me something. You never quit learning in this job. I’ve learned a lot about our team this year. I’m really proud of what they’ve accomplished so far. We’ll see what happens from here. We’re playing against a very good Oklahoma team. I know Lon very well. I was in the Big Ten at one time. I have all the respect for them, and the way they play has been incredible, too. So it should be a heck of a game.

Question: To follow up on your opening statement and how different this team has been, knowing that you went after Okafor and after a couple of the big names, how much more — is there a validation or satisfaction in knowing that you were able to do this without landing those big recruits?
Tom Izzo: When’s the trade deadline up? I’d still trade. If it’s before tomorrow, I’m still doing it. I don’t know if it’s a validation. It’s just you do what you do. There’s a lot of different ways to win. I think a lot of coaches have done it different ways. One of the biggest ways is you’d better adjust to the talent you have and play somewhat within your own system because you don’t want to change everything, but make adjustments to the personnel you have. I know one thing: I wouldn’t trade anybody as far as the way these guys have handled things this year, the class in the way they’ve dealt with things, winning and losing, the frustration of the free-throw situation we went through and how they handled that, what they are as students, what they are as people. I’m cool with it all.

Question: Tom, your friendship with Mark Dantonio is well documented. I wonder specifically are there any things that you picked up from him? Habits, dealing with players, drills, anything specific?
Tom Izzo: Mark and I talk often. We have a meeting — we’ve got a neat situation where our AD, our football coach and our president, we meet every month or so, but him and I talk all the time. I think the biggest thing, when we were struggling a little bit, back a few years ago when they were struggling a little bit, he’d always ask me what we did and we’d talk about it. When you can share with somebody — because nobody in the outside world understands what’s going on, whether it be an injury or whether it be a problem. So that has helped me immensely because now they’re winning at a level where there’s more credibility, there’s more media attention, there’s more Tweeting and Twittering and all those great things. I think the one thing he told me this year that I’ve stuck to and I’ve really pushed on Branden Dawson and Travis Trice is your seniors, especially in football where you have more of them, but your juniors and seniors in basketball have to play well to have special seasons, and the better our juniors and seniors have played, the better our season has gone. I think that was the best advice he gave me. “Stay the course,” he said. “Just don’t waver when you’ve had a few of those games where you’ve struggled. Just stay the course.” The course has been pretty good to me over the past 20 years, and we’ve stayed the course.

Question: You mentioned your relationship with Lon. He was at Illinois when you were first building it. He’s been about 12 places since. Can you imagine how your life would be different if you had taken that Hawks’ job and not him?
Tom Izzo: It’s funny, you know, when I was thinking about that job, Lon was one of the guys I talked to, and I barely knew him then, but I knew he had a chance to go to the NBA when he was at Florida. We talked about it, and as soon as I said no, my phone rang, and it was him. We talked about him going there. I don’t know how different my life would be. I’d have probably been fired a week later, and who knows if I’d have found another job. But I have great respect for what he’s done. He’s done it a different way than I’ve done it. Yet when you build something everywhere you go and take over a program that maybe wasn’t in as good a shape when you got there, that means you have a hell of a system and your system works. I think Lon Kruger has proven that, no matter where he goes, he can make tweaks in what he does, but his system works.

Question: Coach, could you talk about Buddy Hield, the Sooners’ guard. And could you talk about the relationship between him and ‘Tum Tum’ Nairn.
Tom Izzo: When I was recruiting ‘Tum Tum’, he talked about Buddy. When we got him, he follows him like a brother. He knows — before we ever knew we were going to play. There’d be different games, and Oklahoma would be winning, and ‘Tum’ would come in and say something about Buddy. I think he has respect. I think he looks up to him. I don’t know if he was a role model for him since he’s a little older or what. I’ve got to make sure to let him know that’s all cool except for the two hours we’re playing them. ‘Tum’ is a lot like what I hear Buddy’s like. They appreciate everything about life, and I keep telling them, “Don’t become Americanized.” I like the way they are. There’s not a spoiled part of him, and I’m sure that Buddy’s in the same boat. What he’s done this year, the MVP of the league, the fact that he could score inside, outside. He seems to play hard every day. I just have great respect for what he’s accomplished.

Question: Coach, you said Lon has done it differently than you. Would you expand on that? Also, what similar things do you guys do coaching?
Tom Izzo: He has a tendency to exaggerate. He hasn’t been to 12 different places. Probably been about seven or eight, though. Just kidding. Just he traveled. He moved every four, five, six years. He moved, and I stayed in the same spot. That’s what I meant differently. I think coaching-wise, their defensive field-goal percentage is better than ours, but I think he’s always been a guy that’s relied on his defense. He wants to run; so do we. So it should be more of a track meet. We just came off a weekend when it was just the opposite. So it will be interesting to see how that works out for us. But I think in a lot of ways our styles are similar, what we demand and what we want. We just got there in different ways.

Question: Last time you met Oklahoma in the Sweet 16, it was ’99 in St. Louis. There was a nice little collision there at the Dome. What do you remember about Najera and Cleaves in each other? And how scared were you when you first saw that?
Tom Izzo: I had recruited Najera a little bit, so I had known of him. What I loved about him was he was tough and Cleaves was tough. Speaking of Dantonio, I think Bill Parcells and guys like that would have been envious of that hit. They really did, and it was right in front of my bench. I was worried for both guys, to be honest with you. He got it in the jaw, and Cleaves got it in the head. It was a hell of a clean hit, an accidental hit. But, wow, those two guys, I mean, it was a full — it was a hockey hit or a D-back against a receiver, something you don’t normally see in basketball. I just talked to the team about that the other day. This day and age, both guys probably would have had four concussions, and they wouldn’t have returned for a couple of years. Back then, they just both shook it off and played on. So shows you where we’ve come.

Question: Since we are in Syracuse, I want to get your reaction to Jim Boeheim last week announcing he has three years left. And if you can imagine college hoops without Jim Boeheim.
Tom Izzo: No, I can’t. I’ve been on a board with Jim. The one thing I will say is I don’t know all the circumstances. I just know this, that I’ve never seen a guy give more to the game than he’s given. When we’re on those boards — in fact, he went off and came back on. That’s like illegal. You spend 10, 11, 12 years beating your heads in and not getting very far usually, but he has such an appreciation for the game and the players. I’ve learned a lot from Jim in that respect. I’m not sure, Syracuse basketball is going to be the same and the game’s not going to be the same. Boy, we had some battles early, too. I remember coming out here and getting killed, and then Carmelo had his coming-out party, I think, at our place. He hadn’t been shooting well. He hit five threes, and we missed a couple shots at the buzzer, and that was the year they won it. I will miss that. I don’t think I’ll come back out here anyway because we didn’t do too well out here in that game. But he has done a lot for the game of basketball.

Question: Tom, as you said, this is going to be an up-and-down offensive game, but in that sort of a situation, how valuable is someone like Denzel and his ability to guard a number of people?
Tom Izzo: That’s one thing that Denzel Valentine has been. Sometimes he’s made a mistake or two here or there, but it’s partially my fault. I’m moving him all over. He can play the point. He’s played the four for us, the two, the three. He’s guarded post guys. He’s guarded point guards. Not the greatest athlete, but probably one of the more intellectual players I’ve had. So his ability to do that is enormous, and that’s one of the things that has hurt us in a couple of those games is when he gets in foul trouble. That’s why I tell him, for a coach’s son — he doesn’t have to play any harder, he plays hard, but he has to play a little smarter because we can’t lose him. Him not being on the floor is a problem. It’s a big problem.

Question: Tom, how much more special does each Sweet 16 appearance become for you? I mean, here you were courtside and you were catching up with people that you know, and you almost missed the center-court huddle before practice. How much more special, given the amount of times you’ve been here, does it feel?
Tom Izzo: The players love when I miss the center-court huddle. They have no interest in me being in it. I always believed a player-coached team is better than a coach-coached team anyway. So they probably did a good job of that. They are very special. I appreciate, from the bottom of my heart, every opportunity. Last weekend was a special weekend for us because we’ve done it with different groups. We’ve been 7 seeds. We’ve been a 9 seed. We’ve been a 1 seed. We’ve been a 1 seed and not gotten there. You realize this tournament is brutal. Every time you think you’ve got it figured out, it smacks you right in the mouth. So every time we get to play a game in this tournament, even when we got in this year, there was time when we weren’t looking real good at 13-7. Every time I’ve gotten in it, I remind our players it is a privilege, and I believe it’s a privilege. And I believe — I have a list in my desk of so many of the great coaches that never went to many of them or never went to many Elite Eights or never went to a Final Four, and I just appreciate that more than you’ll ever know.

Question: Coach, could you talk about the matchup between your defense against Oklahoma in the sense that they like the three, but TaShawn Thomas inside has been good recently. Should be a dynamic matchup.
Tom Izzo: Yeah, I think there’s been an edge there. He’s been a man. He can put the ball on the floor. He’s got great post moves. He shoots a little bit, but he can really put the ball on the floor, and that’s what I’ve been impressed with. So we’re going to have to combat that a couple of different ways. I mean, we’re not going to just go ahead up on them. You’re right, they can shoot the three. They can penetrate. They can do a little of everything. Sometimes they’re not maybe as deep, but we’re not that deep either. So I don’t know how we’re going to stop it. That’s what today and tomorrow is for, still some sleepless nights, but we’re going to try to just make them earn shots. If they make shots over us, they make shots over us. I think the big key is going to be getting back on defense and transition. They rebound well out of their transition offense; that’s not normal. We don’t run into a lot of teams that rebound as well as they do out of transition. But they still guard, too. But we want to run, too. So it should be fun to see two teams getting up and down the court, where last year it was a little bit more slugfest. But I’ve said it a million times, and one thing I think our program has done over the years is we can play smash-mouth and we can play racehorse. Sometimes we’re a little better at one or the other. This year, I’m not sure. We’ve done both. We’ve won both ways, and we’ve lost both ways. We’ll just try to do our best to get back and see if we can put some pressure on them in the same way.

Question: Guys, all of you can answer if you would like. I wouldn’t mind the seniors starting first in whatever order. I’m from Oklahoma City, so I’m curious as to, having watched this team Oklahoma on tape here the last few days, do you compare them to anybody you have played in the Big Ten this year?
TRAVIS TRICE: I don’t think so. They’re a unique team. They’ve got some really talented guards, and their bigs are kind of interchangeable with their skill set. So it’s hard to compare to anybody else.

BRANDEN DAWSON: Yeah, it’s kind of hard comparing them to a team in the Big Ten because they’re a team that likes to get out and run. Like Travis said, they have guards that can really score the ball. I think, from watching them last year, we watched them on film, they’re a much better team than last year, much better defensive team than last year. I couldn’t compare them to a team in the Big Ten.

DENZEL VALENTINE: I agree with these guys, too. They’re different in that they’re really talented as far as their guards, and their bigs are unique. They can step outside, and they’re also a low post threat. So a different team, but we’re going to be well prepared.

Question: Denzel, question for you: Michigan State is so good in March. You guys come in as a 7 seed, but I don’t think people think of you as an underdog. Why do you think the Spartans always turn it up a notch? Is it something that’s kind of expected when you join that program?
DENZEL VALENTINE: That’s a funny question because it just happens like that, I think. Our focus remains the same throughout the season. From day one, Coach Izzo is hard on us, just like it’s March. When we get to this time, our focus steps up a little bit, but nothing changes. I just think it’s unique. We just have the type of players, when the money’s on the line and the game’s on the line, we step up to the plate, and that’s what Michigan State is about.

Question: Travis, Coach was just up there saying, “We can play smash-mouth. We can play racehorse.” After having two grueling, tough, smash-mouth type games in the first two games of the Tournament, how do you think this will switch to maybe a more up-tempo style, knowing what Oklahoma can do?
TRAVIS TRICE: I think it just comes with preparation and film and really just changing our game plan. Our coaches do a great job of watching film, breaking things down, and creating a great game plan for us. But running is what we like to do anyway. That’s what Michigan State’s been built on. So we feel like it is good that we can do both. So it’s time to get back to what got us to where we’re at now. Just running.

Question: Denzel, two-part question here, one serious, one not: I was wondering, first of all, if you saw what people did to your picture on the Internet, if you had a favorite. Secondly, Coach Izzo was up here saying earlier, on a more serious note, that defensively, he’s moved you around so much that sometimes he’s worried it’s to your disadvantage. Has it been difficult for you? You have to answer the part on the Internet, too.
DENZEL VALENTINE: I had 40 text messages of that picture sent to me. Other than that, as far as defensively, I mean, I’ve guarded multiple people this year, whether it’s guards or big three men or a tiny point guard, it really doesn’t matter. I’ll just guard whoever I need to guard and whoever Coach tells me to guard. It really doesn’t matter. Yeah, whoever he tells me to guard, I’ll guard.

Question: This is for Branden: We talk a lot about Coach’s visits to the Sweet 16. I’d like to get your thoughts on how does that translate to you? How does his experience in the Sweet 16 help you guys? And also, how would you describe his personality?
BRANDEN DAWSON: Coach has been going through this thing for so long. We trust in Coach. As far as myself and Travis, we’ve been to a few Sweet 16 games, and just to see his approach towards getting us prepared and his enthusiasm towards everything, just practice, the films and the walk-throughs. A lot of guys complain about, oh, we’re watching too much film, but you know Coach is going to always have us prepared. Coach around this time just has passion for it because he knows and he expects us to be great.

Question: How would you describe his personality?
BRANDEN DAWSON: I would say his personality, it’s kind of like unexplainable. Today in practice, he was kind of getting on a few guys, but he was still in kind of a good mood. Sometimes he’s in a crappy mood or he’s mad and he’s yelling, but like I say, he really knows what it takes.

Question: For all three of the players, I guess I just wonder just how relaxed you guys are at these tournaments, and if you think that the open locker room after every game helps? Because it seems like I know we asked a lot of tough questions right out of Izzo’s press conference. Does it take a while to get used to that, or do you think it helps you in settings like this where the bright lights are on and you’re under more scrutiny?
TRAVIS TRICE: I think we’ve just got to stay focused and locked in. We’ve had a lot of distractions this year, a lot of ups and downs. I think we’re at our best when we just try to focus on the game and focus on the task at hand, whether that be media or if it’s going through a walk-through or practice. We just try to focus in and lock in, honestly.

BRANDEN DAWSON: Just what Travis said. Around this time, we just try to remain focused. We’re a No. 7 seed. So a lot of people really weren’t expecting us to be here. So we just have to stay focused and dialed in. We had a late practice the other night, and Coach said, after our walk-through that we had at 3:00, he wanted us to go out and deal with the distractions because he said he wanted us to come back and practice and just see if we were going to be locked in.

Question: Guys, what has been the key down the stretch to the success that you’ve had? What would you say would be the most important thing, the biggest key to beat Oklahoma tomorrow?
DENZEL VALENTINE: I think our defense has been our biggest key in making this run. Everybody has stepped up from Colby to Tom to Travis to B.J., everybody stepped up their defense. That’s what we kind of rely on is the defense.

BRANDEN DAWSON: I would say just our leadership, myself, Denzel, and Travis. We definitely have a different team from last year. A lot of those guys, they know what it takes to advance and keep, like, the focus and the mentality going, but they’ve never been in this position before. So whatever we do, they’re going to follow us. So if we play good and lead the team, I think they’re going to do the same thing.

Question: Branden, what does the experience, knowing that you’ve been to a number of Sweet 16s, how much does that level help keep you even keel? Because there’s no surprises really in some ways, from the attention that goes.
BRANDEN DAWSON: I think, as far as just making it and advancing, you have to enjoy it. You have to enjoy just the experience of making it into a Sweet 16. But as far as myself and Travis, we’re seniors. This is our, what, third one?


BRANDEN DAWSON: This is our fourth one. Like I said before, we just have to remain focused. Like I said, we have to enjoy it while we’re here. Our number one goal is to win a National Championship. Last year, just watching Keith and Adreian and watching Draymond and how he led us. So we just kind of took after those guys and just really watched what they did.

Question: You lost track of how many?
BRANDEN DAWSON: Yeah, I did kind of lose track. It’s been four. So that’s a good experience.

Question: Branden, for those of us on the outside, we hear a lot about Michigan State’s toughness and culture. We’ve seen how you guys play. Can you give us an example of what that really means and what it’s like on the inside, how you guys view your own culture and that tough mentality.
BRANDEN DAWSON: Just come to Michigan state. That was one thing that Coach mentioned. He said we’re going to — his program, they really emphasize toughness, defense, and they have a saying, “Players play and tough players win championships.” When we first came here, that’s what really — with Draymond Green and Derrick Nix and all the New York guys focused on. So us three, the way we carry the team, we just have the same mentality, just playing hard, playing with toughness, and really just rebounding the ball.

Wichita St. Humiliates Kansas, Advances to Sweet 16: Press Conference Transcript

The Kansas Jayhawks have long feared playing in-state Wichita St. in basketball. Sunday’s game in the round of 32 was a good reason why. Wichita St., playing angry, outmatched a listless Kansas team to advance to the Sweet 16. Coach Gregg Marshall, and players Ron Baker, Tekele Cotton, and Evan Wessel had this to say after the Shockers 78-65 win over the Jayhawks:

THE MODERATOR: Victorious Wichita State Shockers are here, Ron Baker, Tekele Cotton, Evan Wessel represent the student-athletes. Gregg Marshall, the head coach, is in the middle. We will ask him for a statement on the game and then we’ll go to questions for all four gentlemen from Wichita State. Gregg?

COACH MARSHALL: Just a great day to be a part of Shocker nation and to lead these young men into battle. I thought they played a beautiful basketball game. We calmed down about midway through the first half and stopped taking bad shots and started to execute some offense. Both teams were in foul trouble in the first half, but then once we did that, we got the lead and continued to play with the lead throughout the second half, made the right decisions in transition, hit enough free-throws and got enough stops to make it a wonderful victory.

Q. Evan, is it fair to call this the best game of your career so far? What allowed you to achieve the balance that you did in all areas, and Coach, can you just encapsulate Evan’s performance?
EVAN WESSEL: Yeah, I’d say it’s definitely up there. I just got to give credit to the my teammates; they were able to attack, find me, give me shots. And this was an all-around team effort, offensively and defensively.

COACH MARSHALL: First of all, Evan is nothing but a tremendous winner in ever way, shape and form. Great student, great person, leader on campus and a fantastic basketball player. Giving up 3, 4 inches to Perry Ellis most of the day, his high school teammate, and fought him, evenly I thought, and then stepped out and made four three-pointers and took one that was probably a little bit ill-advised, but he was in such a good rhythm, that one with about 25 seconds on the shot clock and 3 minutes to go in the game, heck, if he makes that, he’s 5 for 6, so we will take 67% from him. That’s what our offense has been lacking at times this year, just one more guy that can step out and make the shots, and all three of these guys stepped up and made ’em today.

Q. The opportunity to coach veteran players, guys that have been in your system for a while, I thought that was a huge difference today. How much of an advantage is that?
COACH MARSHALL: It’s a huge advantage. These guys know me; I know them, we kinda think alike at times. They have a wonderful understanding of our system and what we’re trying to achieve out on the court, on both ends. But I thought we got some good contributions from our young guys today, I thought Zach Brown was good, I thought Bush Wamukota gave us some quality minutes today, defensively especially, around the rim. But for us able to have guys that have been in our program two, three, four years is a huge advantage.

Q. Tekele, with 4:39 left you hit a 2-pointer and there was a time-out called and Fred gathered everyone at half-court for his own little huddle. What did Fred say?
TEKELE COTTON: Fred really was just trying to make us stay poised, tell us to just stay level headed and just stay in the game, keep the pressure on; and we just went back into our huddle and just continued with our game plan. He didn’t say too much; he just kept us poisoned, like a leader.

Q. Ron and Tekele, how much did you guys go to school on West Virginia’s games against Kansas and how they were able to be physical and kind push ’em out of what they wanted to do? How much did that play into today?
RON BAKER: Credit Coach Forbes on the scout; he obviously watched games where KU was not victorious and Iowa State film, West Virginia film. We knew we could heat ’em up after free-throws and a couple of dead-ball possessions, like we do most teams. So I think we just got our pressure into the game, kind of slowed ’em up, and I think our bigs did obviously a really good job of hand-and-foot in the post. Like Coach said, Perry is a couple, 3, 4 inches taller than Evan, and we had the backside covered, us guards, and it was just a really good team defensive effort today.

Q. Tekele, how big a deal was it keeping them from getting the ball inside, and how were you guys able to execute that so well?
TEKELE COTTON: It was a pretty big deal, because like Ron just said, we gave up a few inches, and we just tried to push ’em out as far as we could, and Evan and all of our bigs, Darius, Bush, everybody pushed ’em out; and we helped out as much as we could on the inside, and we were successful at it.

Q. For all the players, it’s been a long time since Wichita State played Kansas. Fans have made a lot of that; media has made a lot of that. You sorta have been downplaying it. Now that it’s over, does it have special meaning?
RON BAKER: To me this is probably one of the biggest wins I’ve been involved with being a Shocker, just because we don’t get the opportunity to play KU, and we’re going to the Sweet 16. Both tremendous achievements. Really, really proud of what we have accomplished, and thankful that I’m a part of this wonderful group.

TEKELE COTTON: To me, I mean, I’m speechless. Like I heard Fred say, like in the locker room he said, like, he didn’t know what to feel, like this feeling was unreal, and he was right about that. And this is one of the best wins that I’ve had as well, and we’re just going to keep trying to advance, and that’s our goal. That win for Kansas and for Wichita in itself was a tremendous win, and I’m glad we got that win, so now we can move on.

EVAN WESSEL: It’s definitely one of the biggest wins I’ve been a part of, definitely hits home, being a Wichita kid, growing up a Wichita State fan. My family went to Wichita State, and it’s big for the community, and I’m just glad we got the win and ready to move on to the Sweet 16.

Q. Tekele, after you hit the kind of Blake-Griffin-style shot in the second half, did you think you surprised him with your athleticism, you’re 6-2, you’re going against 6-10 guys, 6-8 guys the whole game?
TEKELE COTTON: I think I probably surprised them a little bit. I looked at their faces, and they looked a little surprised. I didn’t really get it like I wanted to, but I think they were a little surprised.

Q. How much did you want it?
TEKELE COTTON: All the way! (Laughter.)

Q. Gregg, I guess the same question as Bob, this match-up was a long time in the making. What do you feel now that the team won this the way that it did, convincingly, and also, did you sense any more energy out of the team simply because of this match-up?
COACH MARSHALL: Honestly, I’ll stick to what I’ve been saying for the last couple of days. I’ve got a tremendous respect for their program, unbelievable coach, great athletes, but we’re pretty good, too, and the game was about the right to go to the Sweet 16. Anything other than that is just a side — sidelight. We wanted to go to Cleveland and play Notre Dame. So now we get that opportunity. And if it was Duke or North Carolina, it would have been the same. Tremendous respect for their programs, tremendous respect for Bill and what he’s achieved there, but it was just the next game in this tournament, and we wanted to continue to play; get a chance to go home now, rest, relax, and get ready for an unbelievable challenge come Thursday or Friday of next week. But Indiana and Kansas in one weekend is pretty special.

Q. Ron, they cut it to 63-55, crowd kind of got it going. You guys ran through the press and you got — you dribbled through and got Darius that layup and a foul shot, take us through that play and how much was that important to kind of stop their momentum.
RON BAKER: Like you said, obviously the “and one” with Darius. Obviously at that time of the game you can pull the ball out and run clock. But we’re a really aggressive team and we make smart decisions with the ball, and that’s what we did. Fred didn’t panic in the corner, he made a good pass to Evan, I believe it was, up the sideline, and I streaked down the middle. Just being the athlete and basketball player I am, just playing the game, I got it, 3-on-1, just playing basketball. It wasn’t a set play or anything like that; we were just playing ball, and I didn’t even know that was a score at the time, honestly. We were just being aggressive and playing within the game.

Q. Evan, you kind of at the end of the game turned and gestured toward the crowd, was that a “let loose” moment for you as far as your emotions go, and Ron and Tekele, is Evan more emotional than maybe he gets credit for sometimes?
EVAN WESSEL: I have to say it, maybe it was. I guess a lot of times I don’t show my emotions, pretty straightforward guy, but at that point I just wanted to give it to our fans, give it to my family out in the crowd, I had a bunch here, and just excited for the moment.

TEKELE COTTON: Like he said, he doesn’t really show his emotions a lot, and when I see him show a lot of emotions, that gets me hyped, so that was a good feeling to watch him get hyped, so it was a good feeling for me.

RON BAKER: I live with him, so do we really want to talk about this? (Laughter.) No, it was really good to see Evan let loose there, let the crowd know that this one was for the fans of Wichita State that made the trip here, especially our families, able to enjoy this win with us. It’s just really exciting, and I’m glad we got such an awesome fan base to share this win with.

Q. Gregg, if you could attract one-and-done players who hit the campus with one foot out the door already, would you go ahead and recruit ’em and try to get ’em or is this blueprint maybe just as good?
COACH MARSHALL: You know, Tom, it’s not something I have to worry about, because I haven’t had any one-and-done guys really interested in our program. Maybe it’s a two-way street. I’m not saying I would or I wouldn’t. It’s not something that I’ve had the opportunity to even explore. But I do know that four years ago we recruited these three guys in one recruiting class, and two of them had redshirted, that’s why they’re juniors. But I remember them coming in that summer, and we were able to practice like for two hours a week and then take a trip. We got 10 days to practice because we took a foreign trip down to Brazil. And we were down in Rio, playing games, going to the beaches, got to know each other, had a really good bond, coach-to-player, player-to-player, and I knew then that we had something special. We really had a great group of young players, and now they’ve developed and achieved so much that it’s been beautiful to watch.

Q. Gregg, now that you’ve probably screwed up any chance to get a series with KU —

Q. Is the result okay?
COACH MARSHALL: Is that what they said? We haven’t called them yet.

Q. I just assumed from the result today that might be tough. Do you think your fans would be okay with that?
COACH MARSHALL: You know, who knows? They may want to play now. Who knows. I have no idea; I’m not worried about that. I’m fine letting the series lay the way it is right now. The series is good with me at this point.

Q. Evan, your interaction with Perry at all during the game? Did you say anything to each other? Just talk about your match-up with him and the fact that high school teammates, all that stuff. How did it feel to match up with him?
EVAN WESSEL: First of all, he’s a tremendous player, tremendous athlete and he had a great game. It was a battle down there. As far as did I say anything to him, we’re both pretty quiet, we don’t say much, so I mean not really. I said good luck before the game, and that was about it, you know, wish him the best. But he had a great game, and it was definitely a challenge and a great opportunity to go against him.

Q. For Tekele, you took a shot from Oubre at the end of the game when you went up to dunk. Are you okay? Where did you come down? What did you hurt?
TEKELE COTTON: Yes, I’m okay, and he just hit me a little bit on my head, and I came down on my head a little bit, but I’m perfectly fine.

Q. Coach alluded to you not getting the shots you wanted for the first 15 minutes or so, you turned it over a few times. What changed offensively? Ron you hit a shot; Tekele, I think you might have taken one to the rim, and Fred hit a shot, too. Did things just open up? What did you see to help your offense get in a rhythm there?
RON BAKER: I think we were taking questionable shots. They might have been good looks, but I think we could have got something better. We had set out to run a type of motion that Coach called out, which is our break-down offense; and we just weren’t getting in depth into that motion offense, and we weren’t carving the defense up like we wanted to, and we were just taking okay shots instead of great ones. After about the 5-minute mark, I guess, we started taking better ones, and that’s when we kind of made that run and got the lead to end the half.

TEKELE COTTON: Just to chime off what he said, I think we were just — I know I came out and took a questionable shot, a questionable layup. I mean we weren’t just — we weren’t flowing into the offense that he called in the first couple of minutes, and I mean, we just had to get into it and get into the flow of it, and everything opened up from there.

Q. For everyone, does this win mean more than the win against Gonzaga in 2013?
EVAN WESSEL: To me, obviously the same outcome came from winning those games. I think from Gonzaga it was kind of like the highlight game for me becoming the player I am now, but just from being a Kansas kid and growing up, knowing all the times Kansas has been in the tournament, knowing exactly their — each player and all that stuff, this is definitely, to me, tops the Gonzaga game.

TEKELE COTTON: For me I didn’t get to play in the Gonzaga game, so this one is definitely up there. That was big win, the Gonzaga game, but this one is definitely a big one too. They’re both going to the Sweet 16 and they mean a lot for our program, and we got the win, and that’s what our goal was.

Q. Gregg, once again, Darius and Shaq got two fouls in the first half. Seems to happen more often than not. In this particular game were you tempted at all to get one or both of them back in the game in the first half?
COACH MARSHALL: It’s like a broken record; it seems to happen quite a bit. I’m sure Notre Dame will try to exploit that as well. Not really, because I thought when Bush came in, he played well, and the score started going in a positive direction, the plus/minus deal that we try to keep up with. That’s the most important stat of all, how the scoreboard goes in your favor or against you when you’re in the game, are you helping your team be positive or helping your team be negative. So when he was in there, that’s when we took that lead at the end of the first half.

Q. Gregg, you’ve averaged right at 30 wins over the last five years, three straight years with 30 or more wins. Final Four, now two Sweet 16s. I know there is much more to come, but can you stop and just give us a little pulse check right now on just what that means, that kind of success means to you personally and to this program?
COACH MARSHALL: It’s just — it’s awesome! You know, all those years we spent at Winthrop, nine years, seven NCAA Tournaments, the best seed that we got, other than that last year, was a 14; and that’s difficult to advance. So finally, we got the 11 seed, against Notre Dame coincidentally, and we were able to win the game. So getting to the second weekend is no comparison, able to now have a shot to go to Indianapolis and get to the Final Four. When you are able to go home and get a few days’ rest and deal with all the media and whatnot, it kinda sinks in, your one of the top 16 teams in the country at this point, with only an upside. That’s the basement. So we’re just going to continue to work, and Fred, unfortunately, has go to home tonight, and his family — he lost his grandma this past week, so keep him in your thoughts and prayers. He will come back on, I think, Tuesday morning, and we’ll start to work on getting ready for Notre Dame.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations. Thank you very much.

Michigan St. Advances to Sweet 16: Press Conference Transcript

After a hard-fought 60-54 game over ACC Champions Virginia, the Michigan St. Spartans advanced to the Sweet 16 to take on Oklahoma. The Spartans are favored by two points in the upcoming game. Tom Izzo and some of his players had this to say at the post-game press conference:

Izzo: I can’t tell you how proud and excited I am for these guys. Especially the seniors, juniors, the guys that have been through a lot. I’m not sure of all the great teams we’ve had, I’ve ever had one in a day that change what we do on a game plan and execute it as well as they did. I’m just proud of them, excited for them and looking forward to moving on.

MODERATOR: Raise your hand, please.

Q. This is for Trav and Branden. Early on you scored 13 quick and, Branden, you were big at the start of the second half. As two seniors, was part of that, did you guys talk about not wanting this to be your last game and, I don’t know, I guess coming out big and carrying the game early?
Travis Trice: It’s funny that you say that. Draymond Green actually this morning said don’t let this be your last game and I texted him back and said, I won’t. But that was our mindset coming in. We knew they were a great team, we had to jump out on them early.

Branden Dawson: Coming to the locker room after the first half, we just kept telling each other that we definitely want to practice tomorrow and coming to this game, myself and Travis and Denzel, but being that Travis and I are seniors, we just kept telling each other hey, we definitely don’t want this to be our last game, so we kept playing hard and we just kept playing with passion.

Q. For either Branden or Denzel, when you look at what Travis has done from where he was last year to this year scoring 23 points in a game like this, is it hard to believe how far he’s come?
DENZEL VALENTINE: No, not really, he’s always had that capability. We just had basically a three year starter in Keith Appling playing in front of him, so Travis was always ready but it’s his senior year and this is his time to shine. He always just stayed humble his three years and always calm and he just kept working and now he’s shown what he can do.

Branden Dawson: Just playing with Travis since AAU basketball, those shots that Travis made throughout the Big Ten tournament and shots he made in the regular season, a few of the shots he made in today’s game just shows Travis is a bigtime player. He’s been in moments like this plenty of times and the shot he made, I think, late, I knew it was going in for a fact. That’s just what type of player he is. Big-time players make big-time plays, that’s what Travis did.

Q. Follow-up with Travis. Denzel said it, you waited your turn. How hard was that to wait until your senior year and did you ever have doubts?
Travis Trice: To be honest with you, there were a lot of things that played into it. If you look early on I had a lot of injuries. I mean, I lost out on two summers and that’s really when you improve so I think that played a major key into it. At the same time I’ve always had great players around me and all I care about is winning, whether that’s playing a lot, scoring a lot, not even playing at all, that’s all I care about.

Q. Question about Branden for you. Matt Costello said right before the game, usually through the huddle when you guys are jumping around, and he jumped in and kind of took over and Tony Bennett said they just couldn’t match his energy. Can you talk a little bit about Branden gave you today and how he changed the game defensively early on there?
DENZEL VALENTINE: Yeah, funny you said that, because we’re usually jumping around in our huddle or whatever, I’m usually the one that takes it over and is encouraging guys. B.J. just took it over for some reason so I was like oh, he ready to play. So when he did that, I knew he was ready to play. B.J., he just came out like a monster and he did what he’s supposed to do. At half-time, I stayed in his ear. I knew if I couldn’t be in the game, I had to stay in his ear. I just kept encouraging B.J. and he pulled through.

Q. Travis, what was going through your mind the first five minutes when you went on your hot streak? And then later, there was a transition opportunity when Branden ran the floor. Costello went first, and Branden came fast. What did you see in Branden on that one? How key was that play and what did you see from Branden as that was developing?
Travis Trice: It’s funny, I actually caught the ball around half court and once I got it, all I hear it B.J. yelling my name Trav, Trav. And he just separates and goes down and finishes, gets the and-one, and I think that was one of the major plays of the game because that changed the momentum, honestly. It really got him going, too. So after that we were just rolling with him.

Q. Travis, did you ever kind of just feel snakebit considering the injuries you went through, at one point even your blisters had a blister in it?
Travis Trice: I haven’t had any surgeries but I’ve probably had every injury in the book that would make you shake your head. I just think everything happens for a reason. I just thank God for literally just bringing me through it. It’s made me a better person, honestly, just all the things I’ve been through.

Q. Travis, you just talked about your start, the first five and a half minutes scoring 13 out of your team’s 15 points to give you an 11 point lead, how that felt and what you were thinking, starting the game?
Travis Trice: To be honest with you, it started off, my teammates did a great job of getting me open looks. I think B.J. or Zel threw me a breakout. I got a dunk and then I got a layup from one of the two, and then Denzel hit me with a great pass on the 3. I have to give my teammates credit for that because they did a great job of finding me early on.

Q. It’s really a question for all three of you guys. Coach Izzo said that he asked you in a day to change something significant about the team’s personality, and I’m sure he’ll eventually tell us what that is. But when he comes to you and says to you we’re going to do this thing that’s totally different, give us a little bit of insight into how you digest the fact that the coach is asking you to be totally different.
DENZEL VALENTINE: Well, at this point in the season we’re playing teams that we’re not familiar with. So if we got to do something that’s uncharacteristic of us, then we just have to do it and we’ve got to trust in the coaches that they’re being right. Obviously they were right because our defensive concepts, it worked today. Our coaches do a great job of preparing us for this.

Branden Dawson: Yeah, just what Denzel said, we’ve been playing in this tournament we’ve been playing teams that we’re not familiar with, so you have to follow the Coach’s game plan and that’s what we’ve been doing. Our coaching staff, our managers, they do a great job of getting us prepared, but when you have trust in Coach and the things that he tell us to do, then that’s when things fall into place. Like for instance, Coach told me during this game that I can’t go for any steals, I can’t gamble, and I didn’t go for any steals. So, Coach, I listened to you.

Izzo: (Claps hands.)

Travis Trice: I think you’ve just got to give our coaching staff a great hand. Not only coaches, but our assistant coaches. They’re staying up until late hours of the night preparing us for our game. I think it just speaks to how great that really are. They literally told us a totally different game plan from some of the things we’ve been taught for four years honestly and for them to be able to display that to us and for us to pick it up, I just think it shows how great of coaches they are.

Q. Travis, you mentioned your teammates getting you those open looks earlier, but it seemed like you had a very aggressive mindset. Did you see that as a chance to seize control of the game and once you had that lead, does that change the complexion from there on out just because of the type of game that it was?
Travis Trice: Yeah, I think of the way Virginia plays, they’re a team where if it’s a slowdown game, the momentum’s in their hands just because of the way they play. Early on our thing was attack from the getgo, not just myself; everybody. We need to try and attack, get a lead and it gives us kind of a cushion. At the same time, you have to give Virginia a lot of credit, and most of that was because of the way they play.

Q. You guys are probably one of the most dangerous teams within this bracket and you’re a 7 seed. Do you feel that there’s less pressure as a 7 seed? Is there an us against the world type of mentality that you enter this tournament with?
Branden Dawson: Well, just throughout the season, we definitely had an up and down season. We had some losses that in my mind we shouldn’t have. Coming to this tournament we just told each other, hey, we see the Coach’s game plan, we all play together, we bring in passion. We trust one other then that the sky’s the limit for us, I think coming to this tournament being a 7 seed it’s definitely us against the world type of mentality for all of us. We keep playing the way we’re playing, we’ll definitely make a good run.

Q. Travis, defense obviously is something people were talking about all week, a lot of it was with Virginia. Can you talk about, I guess, what the challenge is when your program is built on that and hearing people talking about other programs’ defense and does that raise your game to become a better stopping team on defense?
Travis Trice: To be honest with you, all, we’ve tried to improve defensively and honestly we’re going up against one of the better teams statistically in the country against Virginia. But we don’t try and get caught up in that. If you think about that, there’s a hundred other mind games you could be playing with. Our thing is just concentrating on winning the game, listening to our coaches and doing what we need to do to win.

MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Izzo?

Q. So, Tom, fill us in. What was the major personality change?
Izzo: Well, it really wasn’t a personality, it was just the concepts. Usually we’re a team that our guards, we call it jump to the ball, we’re always giving help, we play kind of like they do, a little pack man defense. But because they run these flare screens and they’re so good at it. This is a hard team to prepare for and a very well-coached team. A couple guys didn’t have as good of games but because they flare those guards, we couldn’t get caught up in that. So we used our bigs in the middle and we just kind of changed what we do and we did it in a day and a half. We did some things against Wisconsin where we changed how we played. Some guys are just concept guys that do the same thing and I respect that because we’re just not quite as talented as we’ve normally been, so we’re always cheating and trying to find a way to get an edge. Give my staff a lot of credit, they sat down and did it. But to have a team do that in one night change or two nights, kind of the things, like Branden and Trav have done the same thing for four years. It was interesting because we put Branden on the perimeter at the 3 because we were running out of bodies there in the first half. He jumped to the ball and he held like we normally do and they flared him and got a bucket and he kind of said, oh, it’s different when I’m playing the three than the four. It was just something we did tactically and my assistants talked about it, we went with it, we implemented it, and boy, the credit goes to coaches can tell you what to do, but to do it when muscle memory tells you to do it a different way, that’s where I think we all talked about, in factor, Earvin talked about it when he talked to them. At this time of year your focus has to be incredible and that was incredible focus if you ask me.

Q. You said yesterday that you’ve learned over the years you’ve got to look at the whole weekend, you can’t just look at the first game. When did you see this in Virginia, when did you guys come up with this, was this earlier in the week, was this after watching them play Friday, how did it work?
Izzo: I didn’t go that far, we’re not that good a team. We couldn’t go in thinking — I watched some film on Virginia early, but I also know what we did last year and that probably helped us a little bit, too, I did forget to say that. We did similar things last year, but last year we didn’t have to cheat as much because Harris and Appling were two of the best guards defensively in the country. We kind of talked about it on Tuesday, if we play them, here are some things we can look at, put it down, had our video guys pull some clips of when we played them, pull some clips of what we were trying to get across. And the minute we got back from the game, we gave them a half hour, we talked about it and we went with it.

Q. Tom, a couple of the guys said that you brought up the Wisconsin game down the stretch to them. What did you tell them and what did you see differently in this game from those guys versus last week?
Izzo: Well, like I said, I’ve always been a guy that if there’s an elephant in the room, I’m going to address it. You know, I made no bones about it. We didn’t finish the job against Wisconsin, and so all I want them to do is learn from it, you know, because it wasn’t a couple of plays; it was a couple of defensive lapses, it was not cutting out. So those are the things we emphasize, and that’s the advantage of playing in championship-level games, because they hurt a little more, you remember them a little bit more and I think our guys, I might have said it once or twice, but they said it more. And don’t forget, we didn’t do this, we didn’t do that. That’s pretty cool when that happens.

Q. Coach, you talked a little about your team not being quite as talented this season. Do you consider them now overachieving or do you feel that they’re sort of maximizing the potential that they’ve — that you’ve seen in them all season?
Izzo: Well, that’s not a cut to us. It is just that we’re missing a few players that we started the year with. In all honesty, we’re not as talented, but that happens to a lot of teams. I did say this is one of the more together teams we’ve had ever, ever. I mean, something funny happened the other night after the game. We watched a little film like we do and we give them a meal and we send them up and we do some stuff and we bring them back down. After the meal they just sat there and laughed and talked. Usually we had guys that would run up and grab their phones and text their girlfriends and call it a week. These guys just enjoy being around each other. I think that’s the makeup of a team. And I give credit to our seniors and our junior. These three guys did that. Branden’s an unbelievable teammate, sometimes too good of a teammate, got to get a little more selfish. And Trav and Zel are just special. I get a lot of credit from our football coach when he says you know, I look across, you’ve taught us how to win championships. The last couple years he’s taught me that our seniors have to be good down the stretch and that’s what he preaches to his team and it’s been good for me and my team.

Q. Along those lines, when Branden had a marvelous game against Virginia last year, but he had Adreian Payne in the game, and there were other things. Can you talk about his performance in this setting today about with your roster as is it?
Izzo: You know, that breakaway, I told him after in front of everybody that I’m really mad at him because that’s what I think he has to give. To me, that was an unbelievable play, I would like to know what that 40 speed was. He looked like Secretariat, he just put in another gear. When he called Trav, he was 10 feet behind I was right in line, and when Trav threw it, I said what was he doing, and it was one step. Branden has got some special skills that he doesn’t even know he has sometimes. But he is getting better and we shouldn’t punish him because it’s taken a little longer. Like Trav, I think he would have been a different player if he didn’t miss two summers. And we had Branden miss two summers, and that’s more difficult than people think. Just like Anderson, he’s not the same player he was. That kid in the middle of January, I think, was one of the best players I saw play. Injuries are more difficult than people think to get over.

Q. Forgive me if you’ve answered this already, 5 point game with just under three minutes left, they’ve been fouling you, you hadn’t taken many field goal attempts. Trice waves off the screener and hits a 3. Talk about that play.
Izzo: Good coaching. I told him to do it. No, I didn’t. You know, that’s what you say, you rely on your seniors. They’re a hard team to get around because we’re trying to ball screen it, they trap that, jump it, so we started telling Trav just take them one-on-one and I wasn’t expecting them to pull up from that distance. It’s one of those oh, no, nice shot type things. But he’s made a lot of those through his whole career, he’s made a lot of those through high school. I’ve just got to run with him because the kid’s an incredible kid and I’m just happy that he made it.

Q. I think that’s 13 Sweet 16s for you now. You just beat a team that was 30-3 and it’s Round of 32. Did that seem almost more like a regional final and what does that do for your team just getting started in a tournament to come through a war like that, if you had that type of experience in a third-round game?
Izzo: I think people asked me yesterday about the chip on your shoulder because we beat them last year but these guys lost about as much as you could lose last year if you have 16 years or 18 years straight of a senior class going to a Final Four. And I know that record was meant to be broken, nobody’s done that throughout their career, so it wasn’t — I mean, it wasn’t the record that was earth shattering to me but it was to them that they were part of the group that didn’t so I think these guys had a lot more to play for than people give them credit. And to watch them and listen to our former guys, like they said today, I think that’s a driving force you should have. I can’t tell you how good I think Virginia is. I do not think they played well today for Virginia. I guess we get a little credit for that, but it’s just one of those days some guys miss some shots, it happens. It’s happened to us. But we’ve been a team all year that has banged around, probably lost more games than we should have just because of the free throw situation or dumb coaching with two, three seconds left to go in the game and people hitting 3s and tying it. But I think we’ve had to earn every single thing we’ve gotten because every game’s been like that. So I think they felt comfortable in a game because that’s the way not their whole tournament has gone or the Big Ten tournament, their whole season has gone that way. I’m just, I’m really proud of this team. I don’t use that word lightly when I speak and I am.

Q. You look at Travis’ development from last year to this year, you said he missed a few summers. Was there anything else that’s led to what he’s been able to do as a senior?
Izzo: You know, I honestly believe the summer he’s talking about, I mean, I think it was his first — you’ve got to realize he’s 6-1 and a buck 50 when he started. He got up to about 172 or 3 and then that summer he got really sick. It was a virus of some kind, they didn’t know. I was worried about his life for a while and it totaled him for the whole summer and he went down I think to 148 pounds. Then the next summer he had a couple injuries, too. He had a concussion. When you miss that much time, you can’t get stronger, either. So this summer, if you looked at the spring, summer and fall, he had the best summer ever and I think I wore him down a little bit by the middle of December because we just played him to death at the point and guarding the best player, and we had some injuries then when we didn’t have any subs in the perimeter and he went through a little bit of a tough time when I made the lineup change. I think it helped him because Tum took some of that pressure off of him and it let him be a scorer and now he can do both. I can’t say enough about the job he’s done but he has done it the old fashioned way, he’s earned it. He’s a gym rat, his dad’s a coach, his mother was an athlete. Great family. When I didn’t start him, I called his dad and he said yeah, I didn’t start some guys on my team, either. Everybody gets it. When he says winning is the most important, winning is the most important.

Duke Moves on After Easy Win over San Diego St.

After an easy romp over an offensively challenged San Diego St. team, the Duke Blue Devils advance to the Sweet 16 to take on the Running Utes of Utah. Duke is currently a five point favorite. Following the 68-49 win over San Diego St., Coach K and some of his players had this to say about the tournament so far:

Krzyzewski: Well, very first thing, just congratulations to San Diego State, Steve and his kids for a great season, 27 wins and a great program, great people. And they were a very worthy opponent today, a team that was really tough for us to score against and so we beat a really good team. Our guys played outstanding defense. Justise, his defensive rebounding especially in the first half was huge, and his play throughout was huge. And then Jah was, you know, his scoring inside to get that percentage of shots and makes against the San Diego State defense that is one of the best in the country was terrific. My guards handled the ball well and we’re going to Houston. So that’s a heck of a thing. I’m proud of my team.

MODERATOR: Questions?

Question: Jahlil, you don’t see a lot of guys as big and dominant physically as you that apparently spent so much time working on your moves and your fakes. Where did that come from? Did somebody influence you at a young age?
JAHLIL OKAFOR: I’ve been playing basketball my entire life so a lot of the things come natural, I’m just really comfortable playing in the post and I’ve always been bigger than everybody else my size, so at an earlier age I was always forced to be in the paint because I was taller than everybody else. That’s just somewhere I’m very comfortable.

MODERATOR: Question is about the moves, his individual moves.

JAHLIL OKAFOR: Well, I have a trainer that I’ve been working with since 8th grade and he’s been great for me, even when I stepped on the Duke campus, I worked on a lot of moves with Coach Capel and watching the film with coaches, they pointed out things that they’ll think will work and it’s been effective for me.

Question: For Jahlil, how much did the aggressiveness and the quickness of your guards have to do with putting their defense on their heels and creating openings for you?
JAHLIL OKAFOR: Say that again? I’m sorry.

Question: How much did the quickness of your guards have to do with putting their defense on their heels and kind of creating some openings for you?
JAHLIL OKAFOR: Our guards, they were phenomenal tonight on both ends of the floor. They found me multiple times to give me easy opportunities to score and they were giving me all the confidence in the world, but I think their quickness did give San Diego State a problem.

Question: Jahlil, what did you learn from Friday night and how did that experience help you tonight?
JAHLIL OKAFOR: Just the game’s never over. We had a huge lead with Robert Morris and they cut it down to 10 and we kind of felt the pressure of that game and we learnt that from this game and we never let up, the entire game we stayed together, we kept competing.

Question: Usually winning an ACC tournament leads to NCAA success. What did you guys do to recharge your batteries in the last week to come in here and play the two games like you played and moving forward?
JUSTISE WINSLOW: Really we just took some time off, let our bodies recovery physically. Just the whole week Coach did a great job of getting us mentally prepared. We didn’t find out our opponent until Wednesday so throughout that week, there was a lot of focus on us and how we can get better as a team, and once we found our opponent, the coaches did a great job of letting us know the scouting and the game plan. We were just very prepared for both these games so that we could practice really helped us get better.

Question: Jahlil, at one point early in the first half or midway through the first half, you finished off a fast break with a dunk and you turned around and you punched your fists and you were clapping. Kind of emotional. What was going through your head then because you were maybe a little more emotional than I’m used to seeing?
JAHLIL OKAFOR: I had a lot of emotion going through me before the game. Me and my brothers, we really just wanted this game. There was no reason for it, I don’t know why I did it, it was just all emotion and I was passionate about the game.

Question: Jahlil, what would it mean to you, you know, to get to the top of the mountain here. Obviously you have a ways to go, but what would that mean to you to win a national title?
JAHLIL OKAFOR: It would mean the world to me. I’ve always wanted to win a national title. Me, Justise, Tyus, Grayson, the freshman who are coming in here, we had one big dream of winning the national title. That’s what led me to come to Duke was the opportunity to win a national title. That’s where all my focus has been the entire season and that’s where it still is. We’re putting everything on the line and that’s our No. 1 goal.

JUSTISE WINSLOW: Like Jah said just as a kid, you grow up wanting to be in that moment and play on that big stage. It’s been a long season, we had our ups and downs. For us to finish off in that fashion would be great but we’ve got a lot of work to be done.

MODERATOR: Thanks, guys. Good job. Questions for Coach?

Question: Mike, you reduced your rotation tonight, dramatically it seems, and at some point in the game you stopped calling set plays and went straight motion offense; is that right, did I see that correctly and why did you do that?
Krzyzewski: That’s pretty good. Keep going, I’ll grade you. What was the first point you made?

Question: The rotation.
Krzyzewski: Rotation. It was so good that I’m really pretty good. I don’t go into the game thinking about a rotation. Part of it has to do with foul trouble, who they have, and our match-ups, and then conditioning. Jah, especially with these long timeouts, Jah this week is in much better shape than he was the last three and a half weeks of the season. I think he’s pretty much over his injury, so he can play longer. If you hit on a group, I would have had Grayson in there a little bit longer but he got in foul trouble, it just kind of hit. In the second half, they’re a very good defensive team and they’re very tall, they have great length. They’re tough to score against. They were prepared to stop some of our sets really well. And so we just said at a timeout, look, let’s run motion, you guys attack, follow your instincts. If you can get it to Jah while you’re running motion, get it to Jah but be players. And we do that at different times during the season but today it really worked out. It was almost like a good push for them because it translated on defense also. It just kind of worked out. But they’re the ones who made — they were making the plays and they made it happen.

Question: I was asking the players about usually the ACC tournament winners spring boards and certainly Notre Dame has, but how do you deal with not winning it and still keeping the goals that you obviously have in mind?
Krzyzewski: I don’t necessarily agree with that. I think we’ve won a national championship and we’ve won a tournament. I remember losing by 20 points in the championship game and winning. I think the main thing is for any team to put what they’ve just done behind them and try to get fresh. That’s what we’ve tried to do. When we lost to Notre Dame, it’s not like you go back and punish them. They’ve been too good. But learn from it, get fresh and then you’re 0-0 again, that’s what we tried to do.

Question: Mike, when Justise has the kind of all-around game that he had today, what does that do for the team especially on the defensive end?
Krzyzewski: It just takes us to a whole other level. Those two kids played at a really high level this afternoon. And Justise, a lot, was on their best player, O’Brien, who I think a lot of people feel is the best player in that conference, in the Mountain West. And certainly that point forward, that guy, he’s a really good player. Justise won that individual battle, not that he was bad but Justise was so good, and it gave our guys more confidence. Those two kids really played great games this afternoon, big-time games.

Question: Coach, you know what it takes to win a national championship. As you look at this team, do you see all the pieces coming together right now that tell you, you have a shot?
Krzyzewski: Yeah, you know, we have a shot because we can still play. You know, there will be 16 teams that will have a shot. A couple things, one, we’re healthy, hopefully we stay healthy. We weren’t healthy the last couple weeks of the regular season, completely. We have great attitudes. The guys aren’t ready for this to be — in other words, they’re not mentally tired, they’re not physically tired. They’re together. We have talent, we’re getting older by experience, and so we just — like we got better here, these two games. Our defense was really good here. We shared the ball well again tonight, 16 and 9, really good. So we got better. If we can — we’ve got to play Friday night. Hopefully we get better then and get a chance to play Sunday. It’s a young group of kids that have really had a great season and they still want to get better. So you’ve got a chance, we’ve got a chance.

Question: When they cut it to 7, they came down and Tyus fed Quinn in the corner for 3, and you called an immediate timeout even though there was a TV timeout coming up the next dead ball. What did you tell them because y’all went on a 13 run after that?
Krzyzewski: I thought like we had lost control of the game, they were in more control, the momentum of the game was theirs, and we had just seized it with that 3. And I wanted to make sure, I just wanted to be the point guard for the timeout and say, look, we need stops, we’re going to go motion, let’s change this right now. I’ve done that more this year with this group at different times, to call some timeouts when it’s not in the book to call them or whatever, but just more by feel. I think they needed a blow, they needed a blow so they would be fresh defensively.

Question: Coach, you obviously have learned a lot about your freshmen throughout this season but did you learn something else about them this weekend in their first tournament action? And talk about that growth of them from beginning to now.
Krzyzewski: Well, sure, thank you. This is their first time. And even for the upperclassmen, most of the questions for the upperclassmen was what you did last year. So there wasn’t a lot of positive vibe about us being in the tournament, it was like can you get over this and then it’s a new thing for you. That’s just the way it is. I thought our guys had fun this week. We didn’t pay attention to anything like that, we just played. And they’re such a good, close group. They’re really a close group. And they responded in both games when it got down to 10 against Robert Morris and it got down to 7 this afternoon, they responded to like their best play, which that’s the thing you can’t teach, you don’t know if they’re going to do it and they did, and so I’m proud of them for doing that. This tournament, I call it tournament pressure, and they handled it really well twice.

Question: Steve Fisher was talking about how you guys offensively were able to do things that teams haven’t been able to do against them all year, like getting to the rim, finding an open 3, then pounding it down low to Okafor. Is this maybe the most versatile offense you’ve had in quite a while? Because it seems like you have got four guys, whether it’s the wing players, the guards or down low that you’re able to score almost at will against anybody at any time?
Krzyzewski: Well, it’s a very complimentary group of guys because you have, I think, the best low post scorer in the country in Jah, we have good shooters and we have guys who can drive. And so that’s why we’ve been one of the best offensive teams in the country because we have those components. But it starts with Jah because you get — you don’t just get penetration with a dribble, you get penetration with a pass and then you get results. And so you move the defense in and out, and Jah overall has done a really good job with the double team. So it’s been a really good off — I mean, one of the very good offensive teams I’ve had. We’ve been a good defensive team most of the year and we just had a couple games where we weren’t good, but overall we’ve been a very good defensive team and we were really good here for these two games.

Question: Coach, the other night with Jah with the dunk, do you think that was a learning lesson for him and how do you think that impacted how well he played today?
Krzyzewski: I think all of them are learning lessons. He shouldn’t have done that, and he knows it, he takes responsibility for it, and just like you should take responsibility for playing great tonight and why did that happen, why did that happen? Were you a little bit more mentally prepared tonight, did you show emotion, did you put more into it, and did you play through tired? I didn’t think, like in that situation it was the end of a four-minute period, I thought he was tired and he did — he made a mistake. Tonight, this afternoon, when he got tired, he played through it and made really good plays. And that’s part of becoming a really good player is to be tired. A team needs to beat it and a player needs to beat it because all these kids get tired.

Question: What adjustments do you have to make heading into Houston against Utah and their 3-point shooting team?
Krzyzewski: You know, I haven’t watched anybody. I wish — I’ll handle Utah questions — nothing against them, I just haven’t watched them. I didn’t know we would be going to Houston until about an hour ago and in between I haven’t watched any of their tape or whatever. I’ll be happy on our press conferences before the game to talk in detail about Utah, but I just know they’re coached by a guy with an amazing background, I think in the history of the game, I don’t know how many times two Polish coaches will go against one another, where both of us are called Coach K, but he’s a good friend. I had him on my Sirius XM show about a month ago and, boy, was he — he was really good, really good. And his background is amazing. I know they play with great character and they come from a great conference but I’ll study them more and I’ll be more apt to give a good answer as to how we’ll defend them and attack them.

Question: Mike, have you been able to — were you aware of how well the conference has played?
Krzyzewski: Yeah, yeah. Unbelievable. How about the triangle region, it’s not bad. But the whole tournament has had incredible games, just incredible games. Our hearts and our thoughts and prayers go out to Mike and his family. For him to coach that game without anyone knowing that his mom had passed away. She was an Olympic — she was, like Mike said, she was way ahead of her time. She just was like a great, great lady. For his team and for the basketball gods to make that happen was so good. I’m so happy and I hope they’re doing all right.