March 16, 2013
THAD MATTA: Well, I thought, like all Big Ten games, that was a high powered college basketball game. I thought our guys did a good job of keeping their composure. It was a game of runs. They got up on us, we got up on them.
Down the stretch I thought Aaron [Craft] and Shannon [Scott] did a good job of controlling the tempo, but once again, I think our defense, especially there in the second half, getting our hands on the balls, challenging shots, they made adjustments, we had to make adjustments on the fly. And I thought our guys did a good job of that. Great win for us.
Q. Aaron, what sort of mentality did you come out of the locker room with as you came to the second half and really were aggressive early?
AARON CRAFT: Just trying to believe in myself. I think we have a lot of plays that we can execute that either get me open shots or I can help create for somebody else, and tonight I found some openings and was able to knock down some shots and that definitely opened up other things for, whether it was Deshaun [Thomas] or guys like LaQuinton [Ross] that can knock down shots, as well?
Q. Aaron, the first half the offense just looked like you couldn't get any avenues to drive into that defense. The team settled for quite a few more threes than you guys average. How did you guys manage to open up Michigan State's defense in the second half to allow you to get inside?
AARON CRAFT: I think we just needed to have that better understanding of what's a good three and what's a three we can pass down to maybe get another pass and really try to find ways to get into the lane.
At times we have really good spacing that really opens up avenues and lanes for myself and others to drive in, and those are good threes, kind of outside looking in type threes, and knock down some pull ups, that always helps, as well.
Q. Aaron, when Michigan State played you in Columbus, you talked about some things you had noticed in the first game you could exploit. Were there things you noticed from that game that you exploited tonight or some of the same old things you did in Columbus?
AARON CRAFT: We definitely knew they were going to try to change the way they guarded the ball screens in general, obviously with the number of layups that we were able to get in the second game.
In the first half you definitely kind of saw them plugging more, getting in the gaps more, and things like that. In the second half, we just tried to do a better job of spacing and getting them to move side to side and getting them out of those gaps. And we were able to get inside of them.
Q. Deshaun, everybody writes about your scoring, but it's your rebounding the last couple of minutes, a couple of critical rebounds, and it sounds strange, you're the team's leading rebounder and nobody ever writes about that. Why do you think that is?
DESHAUN THOMAS: I really don't know. I'm just being so aggressive. Coach always preaches rebounds against this team. We have to rebound. They've got great bigs, athletic, especially [Adreian] Payne, who gets a lot of rebounds. And I just attacked the rim and was just aggressive on the boards, blocking out, and make sure we get the ball.
Q. Deshaun, a lot of what you were getting offensively in the first half was threes, and they weren't going down. In the second half, I don't think you took your first three until there was 10 minutes left. What did you try to do in the second half compared to the first to try to be more effective scoring?
DESHAUN THOMAS: Really it was all this guy right here [Aaron Craft], just space out and let him go to work. I was being patient, and coach said you're going to knock one down, just to be patient. I got one off the dribble, pump fake, because I knew he was supplying at me, [Adreian] Payne. So I got shot fake, pull up off the dribble, and I knocked it down.
Q. Aaron, I know you made a lot of outside shots against Gonzaga last year in the tournament, but were you in the zone today? And also for Deshaun, talk about the shot that used up a lot of rim but went down and clinched the game.
AARON CRAFT: I had felt pretty good today. First shot I had was an air ball so that wasn't the most ideal start to the game. We did a good job of regrouping and staying focused. Going down one at half, that's a good position to be in. We thought we could put the ball in the basket a little more. It always helps getting to the rim. And then with the way they were guarding, we got some open mid range shots, able to knock those down, and it just helps our team as a whole.
DESHAUN THOMAS: Yeah, that shot I hit, that was a great play by coach and great screen by Evan Ravenel. It was one of those just being ready to shoot. Listening to coach on the sideline when we were running up and down, he said you're going to knock one down, just be patient. Finally I did, and it went in.
Q. Deshaun, everybody talks about Aaron's defense, but what does this performance say about what he's capable of doing offensively?
DESHAUN THOMAS: It's great. It helps this team a lot. The way he can penetrate, make the defense collapse to him, he can kick it out to shooters. It's very important. And by him being aggressive in a score like that can really help. And it helps our team to the next game and the next game by his aggressiveness.
Q. Deshaun, if the game with Wisconsin was the low point of the season earlier this year, does this give it a little more juice going into tomorrow, getting them a third time?
DESHAUN THOMAS: I mean, it is. It's a little juice. All we've got to do now is study it on film. We know what we've got to do and get our rest tonight and get ready to play. We've got to be ready from the tip off against them, because last game we weren't kind of ready. But now we've got to be ready and focused because we know Wisconsin is going to hold that ball and try to run the clock to the end. Every possession is a key, and we've got to be focusing on that.
Q. Thad, your teams always look like they're ready to go at this time of the year, which is obviously the most crucial point. What role has Aaron played in this team's ability to hit its stride right now?
THAD MATTA: You know, it's hard to put into words, and just in terms of -- you look at what he has accomplished thus far in his career at Ohio State and just the wins, the big plays that he's made, in coaching you don't get to coach a lot of guys like him just from A to Z and everything he stands for. He kind of makes us go on both ends of the floor, obviously when he's making shots, but a lot of people panicked when he wasn't scoring in the middle of the season, and I'm like, I don't have a problem with it, it'll come. He loves these type of games, there's no question about it. He's big for us.
Q. At the Columbus game and this one, your players have talked about things you picked up on in Michigan State and were able to exploit. When you talked coming into this game, what were those things that you saw and you really hit with them on that we can exploit?
THAD MATTA: Well, I'll tell you, with the quick turnaround we had, it was transition defense, rebounding, and having a flow to our offense. They were switching a lot, we wanted to try to make them make decisions, and that was -- there were other little things through the scouting. But we had to rebound, get them back in transition, not give them anything easy and be precise in what we were trying to do offensively.
Q. The one thing you didn't mention was stopping Derrick Nix, so I imagine
THAD MATTA: Well, because we didn't stop him.
Q. You figured that out at halftime, obviously. He had seven shot attempts and 10 points in the first half. I think he had one shot attempt and all free throws in the second half. What did you do to
THAD MATTA: Well, you know, what's funny is they kicked out, and that was one of the adjustments we had to make because he and [Adreian] Payne -- I mean, Payne had three assists today. They were kicking out and they hit a couple threes on us. I think [Keith] Appling had one and [Gary] Harris had one. We didn't pull the trigger where we needed to on both of them.
But late game they went back to him, and boy, he's just such a load down there and has such a great touch, a great feel.
Q. I guess early January you're coming off a loss to Illinois, I don't think at that point you had any wins that people would maybe describe as quality wins and some questioned whether your team was equipped to do anything of significance this year. Did you wonder that?
THAD MATTA: You know, I didn't. I think when you lose what we lost last year, okay, we've got one senior on this team, and he doesn't start for us. I thought it was going to be a process. I thought that in some of the games we played early in the season we had some great stretches, but we weren't able to put it all together for -- I don't know if anybody plays perfect for 40 minutes, but we were playing 22 minutes -- at Duke we played a solid 32 minutes, but we couldn't get the last eight minutes. Even Kansas we had some great runs through the stretch there.
And I think that was my biggest focus, like if this team can put it together I think we've got a chance to be pretty good.
The hard part of going through 18, now 20 games in the Big Ten is it beats you up. I mean, this is as brutal as I've ever gone through. But very proud of how these guys have finished and understood, and they've gotten so much better in practice and paying attention. They've gotten so much better in watching film, just the questions, that sort of thing. And as a coach that always gives you hope like, okay, I think they're getting it.
Q. (No microphone).
THAD MATTA: I don't know. I think that when we stay connected, both offensively and defensively, when we don't panic, when things don't go well -- I think we can play with anybody in the country. I mean, to win whatever we've won in a row right now in this league and some of the things we've had to do, I think that's probably the thing that I'm most proud of, and we're not done yet, I know that. But as I told them when our backs were against the wall, you've answered the call for a while here.
Q. You've had some battles with Northwestern lately. I imagine you've heard that Bill Carmody was let go.
THAD MATTA: They told me that before the game, yeah.
Q. A few thoughts on him not coming back?
THAD MATTA: Well, I'll tell you, I've said -- two things: Number one, I think Bill Carmody maybe has the best offensive mind of any coach I've ever seen in my life. And the second thing is, knock on wood, I think he could be the most unlucky with the injuries just in the time that I've been nine years in this league. It is amazing to see the things that have happened to his teams, and they happened in such a timely fashion. I mean, I think we were No. 1 in the country a couple years ago, and John Shurna runs into a basket support and has a concussion, can't play against us, we go down to the wire, and he was playing at such a high level.
You look at who could win and keep coaching those guys and stay competitive with what he lost this year, it's mindboggling. I think Bill -- you get to know guys, I think he's one of the greatest human beings, and like I said, I think he can coach as well as anybody.
But unfortunately that's kind of, I guess, how this business goes. But I hate to see it. I hate to see that happen to anybody.
Q. One of the first things you mentioned at IU was the points off turnovers. The margin was just about as great tonight. Was that a decisive thing?
THAD MATTA: Yeah, the great thing is first we didn't turn it over and give them opportunities. Yeah, I think our ability to take care of the basketball was probably the difference. I know we had a couple -- looked like the keystone cops running around down there in transition. We had two turnovers in transition. We've got to clean that up.
But that was something that was huge. Aaron's [Craft] steal on the inbounds going down lane and up was big. We needed to convert when we had numbers, that's for sure. Aaron made a great read on that one. He went back to his football days.
TOM IZZO: Well, disappointed. You know, I think we had some chances, and yet they just played a little smarter than us down the stretch. And I might as well start out with saying it was the correct call on that play. I don't think it was intentional. We got beat up top, and just felt like it was going to be a layup, so he reached out. And I've got absolutely no problem with the call. I thought I could see that from where I was. I guess they reviewed it and reviewed it and reviewed it. That's the first thing.
Some of our players on the floor thought it was the right call, so hats off to them. For once in my life, the officials were correct, first time.
I thought when you look at the stat sheet, we did a -- we just got in each other's way. We did some good things. We have B.J. [Branden Dawson] here and he did some good things, missed some shots, and at least he did some things defensively that we wanted to do and rebounded a little bit. It's a shame that [Derrick] Nix had such a productive game in some ways and yet not in others.
If you look at their team, we did a decent job on [Deshaun] Thomas. I thought we did a great job on him. We were guarding him, gave him a couple shots early, made some adjustments, that was our doing, not APs [Adreian Payne's]. But we did not do a very good job on [Aaron] Craft, and he beat us in a different way. The first time he beat us getting to the hole. He almost never got to the hole and this time he beat us with his jump shot. Those are about the only two guys that had really had any impact. We did a pretty good job on [Lenzelle] Smith, pretty good job on [Deshaun] Thompson, pretty good jot on pretty good job [Shannon] Scott. I guess they did a pretty good on us.
Just disappointing because I think we could have played well enough to win, but we did not play smart enough.
Q. Branden, Ohio State said one of the things they thought they could go after you guys on was forcing you to make switches on defense, if they could get their offense moving that you could make some mistakes. Was that something you were concerned about, making your decisions and making your switches quickly on defense?
BRANDEN DAWSON: I'd say that really wasn't something we were concerned about, because after the Iowa game we were definitely prepared for them. We played them twice, and we just went back to what we always worked on and walked through it on the switching. So I would say that definitely wasn't a concern. It was just miscommunication on certain plays, but we could have been better.
Q. For both of you, what did you see as the biggest difference in the second half in terms of offensive execution and just things being really bogged down?
ADREIAN PAYNE: I think we was getting the ball inside. When we get the ball inside, Gary [Harris] and Keith [Appling] and our guards can knock down shots.
BRANDEN DAWSON: I would say just what AP said, definitely when we get the ball into [Derrick] Nix and a lot of our guys, a lot of great things happen, especially when the ball is in Nix's hands and he made some great plays for us. I'd say when the ball doesn't go on the side, definitely our offense is going well.
Q. Adreian, what was going through your mind on the attempted block when you kind of grabbed the rim there?
ADREIAN PAYNE: When I went for the block, Nix went up under me and I didn't want to fall on my head so I grabbed the rim.
Q. I imagine you heard about Bill Carmody. Thoughts on him not coming back to NU?
TOM IZZO: You know, I understand we're in a profession where it's win or not. I swear to God the guy is a hell of a coach and even a better person, and I'm not going to get into all the logistics of everything because everyone has got to make their own decision, but sometimes fate isn't with you. I've never seen a guy go through more injuries to key people. I hope they know what they're doing. I'm sure they do because he is a hell of a coach, and he's really good for our profession. You know, he's been a head of the Big Ten and I've had a chance to deal with him. I called him this morning. It saddens me, sickens me.
I understand that -- I mean, George Perles sent me a note the first day I got the job, you will be fired, it's just a matter of when, so understand that. I think there's a reality and truth to that. A little different from last year's situation for me. I understand some of it.
But poor guy, about two or three times I thought had teams that were going to get to the NCAA Tournament, and then the injuries just mounted up, and this year's was almost -- it was incredible. So I feel bad. I hope he stays in coaching because he is a hell of a coach.
Q. You've had teams that have won this tournament, you've had teams that have gotten beat and made it to the Final Four. What's the secret from this point now to next week and getting your team to move on to the next step.
TOM IZZO: Well, I think what you do is you harp on little things. Somebody brought up AP's [Adreian Payne] thing. It was a weird deal. He didn't grab the rim for any other reason. He kind of got undercut a little bit by his own guy, it wasn't one of their guys. Two points ends up pretty valuable. [Derrick] Nix's thing at the end, and then we almost survived that a little bit, and then we don't get a rebound.
I mean, I think what you do, there's the difference at one and done time. You have to somehow find a way to make your guys understand that the mistake at the beginning of the game is the same as the mistake at the end of the game, and you don't get to make a lot of mistakes when you're playing good people, unless that team happens to make more than you. But I'd rather wish on what I do than hope that they play worse than we play.
One and done time, some can handle it, some can't. I think the hardest thing is that's when you really need some leadership to make guys realize that, and that's what I'll use this game as because I'm sure I'm going to be able to find four or five incidences in the game.
We played pretty hard. That was an interesting question. We've never had trouble switching, and we did today. Branden [Dawson] politely answered it, and we had a few miscommunications. I think we got caught up in personal battles a little bit, and you can't do that in these games.
I'm going to use this a lot, and hopefully it'll pay some dividends.
Q. The Big Ten is so physical and you guys beat each other up pretty well. Do you think that'll help or hurt Big Ten teams in the tournament?
TOM IZZO: Well, I think those that are smart enough to figure out that when you get in the other tournament you're going to get officials from a lot of different places that never saw you play, and I think one thing we've got to do this week is make sure players understand you've got to learn how to deal with the game in the first five minutes of the game. Some are going to let it go more than others. This year was a tougher year than most in this league. I mean, it was physical. I don't know if you saw [Gary] Harris, but I think he popped another shoulder. You could see on that one play.
I think it helps you. I still think the toughest teams survive, and we weren't the toughest team today. We played hard, got no problem with that. I didn't think we were quite as tough as we normally are. We had some loose balls that where we really needed them we didn't get, even though we out rebounded them. But today one of the weird things is we were not the smartest, and they were. They got what they deserve.
Q. Gary's [Harris] shoulder pops out. What is the status of it and how much did that affect him and your team going forward, him being hobbled a little bit?
TOM IZZO: Well, it was a problem because I needed him in there to defend, and I asked him, and of course he said he's okay.
I mean, could you see it? Did you see it when it happened? Yeah, it was obvious.
But he's done it before and stayed in and made a couple shots. But he had that one wide open in the corner, and I don't know where it's at. I didn't talk to him much about it after. He's played with it all year. It's something he has to deal with. But tough kid. It's a shame because he just didn't get in a rhythm offensively today.
Q. For years your teams have been known as the best inbounding teams in basketball, and that certainly has not been the case. Can you put your finger on it?
TOM IZZO: Well, yeah, I can. I don't think we've worked on it hard enough, and that's my job. And then I sometimes put Lezelle [Smith] in a bad position having him take it out. I thought we had something that we saw on film, and I think we did have it and we just made some crazy plays.
Yeah, I think that falls on me to be honest with you. You know, you start picking apart what you can work on, what you can't work on. You don't want to wear people out. And I think I've neglected that area because we were one of the best, and we weren't a lot this year. So that'll be something I'll take into the tournament, get a couple extra days here and try to do a better job of it.
Q. Those of us that have seen Big Ten play all season have seen a lot of those potential flagrant ones fouled, whoever it is at the end of the game, and then not called, maybe up in the air. What is your thought on that? Do you think it should have been in? Is that just typical at that point of the game?
TOM IZZO: I didn't see the replay. I must say that I am totally 3 million percent against this head stuff, I mean, the elbow. That's not what was called here. I am totally against that. I've seen it change games, I've seen it change plays, I've seen it change momentum. On accidental things early in the year, I mean, they tried to revive it a little bit, you've got guys coaching to it. This thing is out of whack, I think personally. Just my own personal opinion. I'm not allowed to have it much, but this is one thing that if I had a vote for the day, let the officials do their job. If there's a flagrant foul and they see it -- but an accidental thing just because you raised your arms, that wasn't this call. From what I saw from the bench, he went by him and he tried to grab him and he got him up in the air, and I had no problem with the call. I told him when he came over it was going to be that, from my view. But sometimes the view makes it worse, sometimes better. So when they didn't and then it came back, I just have no problem with the call. I have a big problem with those elbowing things. I think that is borderline, for me -- I keep wanting to state me because I don't want to get anybody else in trouble. I'd like to take trouble myself. I think it's ridiculous. Make sure now nobody writes I think that call was ridiculous because that had nothing to do with -- that was not the call here. You asked me a question about the elbow to the head, right? Flagrant?
Q. (No microphone).
TOM IZZO: You know, I don't know how many of those. I just want to make sure I'm emphasizing the elbowing is the one I have a major problem with. I have no problem with the one that was called today.
Q. Playing in such a tough conference and all the teams know each other very well, do you look forward to the tournament, facing teams that you haven't seen in a while?
TOM IZZO: Yes. You know, my God, we built my program together, he knows it better than I do. Some of these guys I've gone against now for 10 years. It's hard when you've got good players and even teams and you know what each other's gum is. It's hard.
I am really looking forward to playing somebody else, and I think all the Big Ten teams are, and deservedly so. We've beaten the hell out of each other, and we really, really, really have, and I think it's going to help all of us in the end, as you asked. I really believe the toughest team is the one that's been through the most, the one that can sit there at a pregame or at a halftime and say we've done this, we've been there, we've played these guys. It's going to benefit.
Yeah, I'm looking forward to playing anybody. I'd play the Lakers tomorrow instead of some of the teams I've played recently.