COACH TOM IZZO:  Well, it’s hard to feel great and yet, again, as I told my guys, Northwestern is a hard team to play against.  I think it’s one of the harder teams to prep against, and we had some days ‑‑ I think instead of the players, I’ve got to take some of the blame for not figuring out better things to do offensively.  It was stifling.  I mean, it wasn’t like we missed a lot of good shots, but we did turn it over a little bit too much, although after the first five minutes, I think we only had nine or ten turnovers the rest of the way.
            We did not attack offensively as well as we could or should have, and then they made some shots at the end.  We had hands up and they made some shots, give them all the credit.  They just kept hanging in there.
            This is one and done time, which means win and advance is the secret, not how well you played.  We shot 57 percent and won by an eyelash.  That’s hard to do.  We out‑rebounded them only by seven, and last time we did a lot better job of that.  But I think the whole thing was our poor offensive attack, and believe me, that wasn’t the players, that was me.

            We’re going to get ready for Wisconsin, looking forward to that.


            Q.  Drew, why do you think the game changed after you got off to such a hot start and looked like you guys were going to coast?
            DREW NEITZEL:  It’s a tough game.  Anytime you’re playing against Northwestern, it’s hard to get in a rhythm.  They’re constantly slowing the game down, slowing your amount of possessions down and they made some big shots. Scott stepped out and hit a couple big threes there at the end of the first half that kind of changed the momentum.  Late in the game they hit some big shots, too. Northwestern really controls the tempo, and like I said, it’s hard to get in a rhythm sometimes.
 
            Q.  Travis, how did you feel when (Jeremy) Nash threw that ball away on the last possession of the Wildcats?
            TRAVIS WALTON:  I felt great.  Today was just a bad day on execution for offense, but we stuck to it as a family and as a team and we got through it.
 
            Q.  Drew, you seemed like you had a good rhythm going in the first half, hit three or four threes, then second half you had a long lull without even taking a shot.  Is that because you saw something in the defenses or what was that?

            DREW NEITZEL:  Yeah, it was tough.  Like I said, Northwestern, that one three one it’s hard to simulate in practice going against it.  Their players are so long and they do a great job of getting their hands in the passing lane, where I think they were taking me away a little bit in the second half.
            Not only shots, just touches, I didn’t ‑‑ but we found other ways to score, and some other guys stepped up and made some big plays, so that’s what we needed.
 
            Q.  That tied the high for the most threes you’ve given up this year along with Bradley.  Is there any concern along with the perimeter defenses or is it just a one‑game thing?

            DREW NEITZEL:  I think it’s a one‑game thing.  Like I said, Scott stepped out and hit a couple big threes in the first half and I hit a couple in the second half.  We knew their big guys could shoot.  I think we were so worried about the back cuts and things going towards the basket that we were kind of on our heels a little bit, and we didn’t get out and contest the shots.  You’ve got to give them credit, too, for knocking them down.

Q.  Maybe both you guys can address the free throws.  You guys both missed some free throws at the end.  Anything in particular out there today?

            TRAVIS WALTON:  Just came to the line, knocked down one and didn’t knock down the second one.  Just didn’t make it.
 
            Q.  Drew and Travis, could you just talk about the Wisconsin game coming up?  You guys have played them twice in the last couple weeks.  What sticks out about those two games?

            DREW NEITZEL:  I just think they’re great.  They were both great games that came down to the wire.  It’s two great teams battling it out.  We both kind of play the same way, solid defense and don’t pressure too much and kind of stick to our principles.
            I think it’s going to be another great game tomorrow, and we’re going to have to watch some film, get some rest and get ready to play.
 
            Q.  Along those lines, as defenders go, how would you rate Michael Flowers and the battles you’ve had with him in those two games?

            DREW NEITZEL:  It’s tough.  He’s a great defender, a good defensive team.  But at the same time, you know, he ‑‑ you know, I’ve had some good games against him this year.  He is a great defender.  He’s challenged me, and none of my shots that I’ve gotten have been easy.  You know, I think it’s going to be another tough day tomorrow, too.
 
            Q.  Drew, is it nice to get this rubber match at a neutral floor here in the Big Ten Tournament?

            DREW NEITZEL:  Yeah.  Like I said, it’s been a great rivalry, especially in the Big Ten.  Over the past few years, two solid programs, so I think it’s going to be a great game tomorrow.
            THE MODERATOR:  We’ll finish up with questions for Coach Izzo.


            Q.  It’s tough to play or win four in four days, but like you said, it’s one and out now, so you’re actually in a two‑day tournament.  Is it easier having played today as opposed to sitting out and not been on the court and played the game?

COACH TOM IZZO:  That’s almost like buying a car.  If you have success buying one kind, one model, you usually go back to it.  The advantage of, I guess, being in this a few years like I have, we’ve not played on the first day and had some success and we’ve played on the first day, and last year we had some success and wore down a little bit.
            But I’d say that the first day back it might be a little bit of an advantage for the team that played, for tomorrow’s game a little bit, although you battle your familiarity with the court and the baskets if that’s a big deal, compared to your fatigue.  That’s the two things you juggle.
            So like I said, I’ve lost the first game and won the first game, I’ve gone so many different ways.  I’m not sure where the advantage ‑‑ I’m a little worried.  Drew (Neitzel) and Travis (Walton) both played 35 minutes, Raymar played quite a few minutes.  But it wasn’t a taxing game.  In other words, it wasn’t a game where it was a lot of fast breaking or pressing most of the game.

            You know, I’m just looking forward to the game.  I think it’s ‑‑ I think a lot of people are looking forward to it.


            Q.  I know your main focus is tomorrow’s game and you want to win as many as possible in this tournament, but do you feel this win today gives you a body of work that merits NCAA?
            COACH TOM IZZO:  You know, it’s such a dangerous question because you don’t want to upset anybody, but I thought our merit of work was earned before we came here, I really did.  But that doesn’t mean we were in then and it doesn’t mean we’re in now.  That’s what’s a little more difficult about this tournament right now.
            But if you look at what we’ve done, I continually say our effect on what we did in the Big Ten, I think it is and was enough, but you never know.  I don’t like trusting the situation because you never know who’s going to win those tournaments.  You don’t know what’s going to happen, so we’ll just kind of try to keep winning.
 
            Q.  Their three‑point shooting, is that just a fact of them making shots or is that a cause for concern?

            COACH TOM IZZO:  No, I’m not concerned.  We did not play great.  I have to give them a lot of credit for it.  But our defense, I mean, we did not play great and they shot 43, and they shot a high percentage second half.  I did not think our big guys did as good a job.  The two they hit on Travis at the end, I think he’s still maybe one of or the best defensive player in this league, and he had a hand up, and I have to give him credit.  He hit two bombs, otherwise it’s a 10, 12 point game.  And five, six years ago when Dick was there, that’s like a 20‑point win.
            I was impressed with Bill’s (Carmody) team.  They could have quit when they were 16 down and they didn’t.  I think that shows a lot about them.  I’ve enjoyed going against (Tim) Doyle and watching him get better each and every year.  We actually did a pretty good job on him.  The Coble kid is going to be a heck of a player.
            We didn’t defend it great.  Our bigs really did a poor job, I thought, on (Vince) Scott in particular because we knew what he could do.

            But no, no, I’m not going to let anybody talk about our defense when we’ve had 30 games of some of the most unbelievable defense in my career at Michigan State, so that’s not alarming for tomorrow.  What’s alarming is we just kind of played the game after we got that 16‑point lead instead of really having that killer instinct.

            But I think that sometimes happens.  We’re still young, we’re still growing, and that’s going to happen for a while until we learn how to get through that.

            But they deserve credit, guys, they really do.  That zone, not many teams have really cracked it much.


            Q.  The four and four thing, do you have some ideas about what’s important to get a team from, say, the first day to at least playing on Sunday, what has to happen, that sort of thing?
            COACH TOM IZZO:  Well, I have to admit, I got to do a lot of things, winning the first thing, losing when you’re the No. 1 seed, I’ve done it all.  One thing I haven’t done is four and four, so you’re talking about an area that I can’t really give my expertise on.
            But I think when you’ve got a team that can guard people like I think we can for the most part, you just ‑‑ you know, you keep hunkering down.
            It was kind of interesting because this is the first time I took our shoot‑around the day of a game.  Everybody talks about shooting at this place.  Our players wanted to come here and shoot at 8:00 in the morning, so we got up at 7:30, and, shazam, we shoot 57 percent.  It shows players are smarter than coaches because I wouldn’t have done that.  You can rely on that one game, but you’re not going to rely on that for four games.            I think the defense is something we can rely on for four games and I think that gives us a chance.  When you have the teams that you’re looking at to play to get there, starting with Wisconsin tomorrow, I can promise you I’m thinking about nothing else except them.


            Q.  Does it help that you guys are playing a later game and that you’re not right back here early in the morning?
            COACH TOM IZZO:  Well, last year, I’ll tell you, that was a killer, man, the Illinois to Iowa thing was a killer, and I’m glad they made adjustments.  I hope it’s fair for everybody because 1 o’clock in the morning we got back to the hotel and we got back ‑‑ should have just slept in the arena, it would have been easier.
            Yeah, I think now it’s a fair shake that we get as much rest as you can possibly get.  The nice thing is I don’t think we need a lot of prep time.  We’ve just played them ‑‑ this will be the third time in, what, 18 days or something.  So no excuses there.  It’s more about us getting some rest and feeling a little better about ourselves.
            I think the guys were kind of disappointed in how they played, and I’m trying to be cool about it, but I’d have to say I was disappointed that we didn’t execute better and maybe guard a little bit better.

            So we weren’t as sharp today.  I mean, but in a tournament you always have your glitches.  We beat Northwestern by one I think the year we won it and should have got beat.  Kevin O’Neill was there, he had us beat, Morris Peterson made an incredible shot, or otherwise we lose to them.  That’s the problem with this league, when you get a team like Northwestern who’s a 10th seed but their style and everything is so competitive, it’s a tough game.


            Q.  I was just wondering, the way they aggressively pressured the perimeter, did that mess up the plan at all or were there just plays to be made that weren’t made at times?
            COACH TOM IZZO:  There were plays.  Sutton struggled at times.  Every time he got the ball in the middle it was like a hot potato.But I mean this sincerely, I didn’t do a very good job ‑‑ this is one that, as I said, I can get on a player or he can get on me.  I can tell the media when the players goof up and I can tell you when the coach did it.  I did not think we were as well prepared as we needed to be for that zone, and we had time to do it.  It’s just that it didn’t look as bad in practice because we didn’t have so much length in there.  We had a bunch of midgets, little guys running around in there as our walk‑ons.  A 5’8″ guy couldn’t simulate what the 6’7″ guy could.
            But we didn’t make some plays.  I thought we fumbled the ball and did some things, and then we had MoJo (Maurice Joseph) in foul trouble and we thought he was a zone buster that could help us.  So there were reasons, but I think more of it is their good play and maybe our lack of getting into proper sets to go against that thing.


            Q.  How scary was it for you when they started hitting the threes down the stretch and drew within three with just ten seconds?
            COACH TOM IZZO:  Well, it was.  It was scary, disappointing, and yet that’s the way basketball goes.  Like I said, I’ve been here with the team that won the national championship and barely escaped.  So I’ve been beaten by Wright State.  I’ve got a lot of things I can look back on and say I’ve been through it.  That’s what I told the team, this is probably the calmest locker room we’ve had because they knew.  As long as they knew we didn’t play as well as we could have, that’s all that matters to me.
            And yet, I’ll continue to say this, not to give Bill (Carmody) credit, but that team deserves some credit.  They made some plays, they made some shots.  And that defense, to echo what you said about the wings and the pressure on the perimeter, I’ll tell you what, Doyle does a heck of a job up there.  He just plays it real well and those wings were very long and wide, and we struggled.

 

Props to the Big Ten!