Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo All Smiles as #1 Spartans Kick Off Season With Exhibition Win!

Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo All Smiles as #1 Spartans Kick Off Season With Exhibition Win!
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Breslin Center

East Lansing, MI

The #1 Michigan State Spartans kicked off the 2019-202o season tonight with an anticipated 85-50 blowout win over Albion College. It was a festive fun night for the Spartan Nation as Player of the Year Cassius Winston has two brothers on the Albion Team.

The Spartans were led in the scoring department by Xavier Tillman who had 19 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Cassius Winston was the only other double-digit scorer, he had 16 and nine assists.

Above is the complete video of Tom Izzo's post game press conference. You can also read the complete transcript below:

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo

Opening statement…

Well, there are a lot of things to feel good about and a lot of things you realize we need a lot more work. I thought Rocket (Watts) played awfully well for a freshman that came in and had to do what he had to do, but you know missed some good shots, I guess. But, that first group, four of the five played really well. Aaron (Henry) struggled and he struggled into the second half. Thank god Gabe (Brown) picked us up a lot, did some good things and I thought two of my three stars were really good. Xavier (Tilman) was good. Cassius (Winston) - I told him at half time, 'Are you boycotting here? You've only taken two shots.' Second-half he did a little better job, but really played within himself to get 16 points, nine assists, zero rebounds. As I told him down there, I'm going to have to come out for the first time in my career and say four steals, he's probably turning into a first-team defensive player now, so the four steals. All kidding aside, I think the added strength in his legs and I just felt like he was moving very efficiently. So, there were a lot of good things there. Disappointed in the first half. I thought Marcus (Bingham) struggled in the first half, bounced back in the second half. I thought the other guy that we felt that struggled a little bit was Foster (Loyer) in the first half, played better in the second half. Both Bingham, Marble, and Malik (Hall) played better in the second half. So, all in all, the rebounding was pretty good. I was really disappointed to take 35 threes in that game, but it seemed like the ball went inside, they really collapsed. We were unselfish to kick it out, that was good, but way too many threes. Although I'll never see the day when those three guys hit 1-of-14 or whatever it was, so I guess that's encouraging too. Last thing of discouragement, 17 turnovers. The last two things of encouragement, 25 assists on 32 baskets. Our goal was to try to get up 65 shots, we got up 70; 12 steals I thought was pretty good considering how many guys we played, which that won't be the norm, and different lineups. Some of those turnovers are going to happen because guys don't know where guys are going.

On Thomas Kithier's performance tonight…

I am really proud of Thomas; did I even bring his name up? Thomas I thought rebounded the ball about as well as you can. He has great hands and getting 11 rebounds; I want to say he had eight or nine at halftime and didn't get as many shots as I was hoping - He hit the big three-pointer. That was I think all we could ask out of Thomas Kithier. He did all that; 11 rebounds in 21 minutes. I said all four of those guys except Aaron played really well the first half. Thomas might have been as bright as a bright spot, because we all know the biggest question right now is the four and can we get Kyle Ahrens back.

On getting to see Steven score a point…

I can't believe the kid shot an air ball on the first time. I mean I have to admit it was cool, it was cool; I don't know what to say. I made sure I didn't take anyone else's minutes away, I told Frosty (Foster Loyer) is it okay if I do this? He was great. I told him before the game, I watched him in warmups on midnight madness and he really shoots the ball well. I mean he didn't get that from me, he must have got that from Garland, but he really shoots the ball well. In the warmups he shot an air ball about three feet short and I told him basketball is like golf, if it doesn't get there, it doesn't have any chance to go in. This one he listened to his coach and he shot it three feet long, but it was fun. I appreciate the fans, the students, but I really appreciate my teammates. You know, that was probably his chance for the year. I think he will redshirt or green shirt or something shirt; he got into the books and I felt good about that for him.

On calling a timeout at the 11-minute mark…

That's when I was really disappointed in Aaron. He had three turnovers in the first couple of minutes, two of them were baskets. We just talked about that we were being too careless with the ball. We had five turnovers pretty early in the half and like I said though this and the Gonzaga game, when you are trying to play 11 or 12 guys just to get them some minutes. To be honest with you, we were trying to see who fits in where, especially at that four spot. We don't know what's going to happen with Kyle so we are looking at some other guys at the two too; we are digging down here a little bit. But I thought everybody that went in… Connor (George) worked his tail off and made some unbelievable plays defensively not letting the ball go into the post. Brock Washington did a good job at the end. Jack (Hoiberg) made a couple of nice plays so it was one of those nights where everyone got to do something, but the biggest thing I was looking for is: Can Foster as a backup be good enough? Can Gabe be good enough in that? Can Julius and Malik and Marcus? Those five guys are going to have to man those two positions and I think you can see, Marcus, I don't know if it looks like it to any of you, but it doesn't look like he's 20 pounds heavier when I look at him, but he is and yet he still has 20 pounds to go. Some of that is he did play better in the second half and started blocking some shots, but I thought the first half got pushed around a little bit, so we told him that at half time.

On differences from Gonzaga game…

I think Cassius was better in this game, even when he didn't score in the first half. I thought Xavier played a lot better and Gabe played a lot better. Again, in that Gonzaga game we played 11 guys in that game and they played seven. When you do that, you're going to have turnovers. We had 19 in that game and 17 in this one. We shot it a little better in that game but we defended a lot worse. Probably a better team. I thought Jody's team, really the first half, did a hell of a job. They're going to win a lot of games in their league. The one guard is a good player and their post man is a very good player, too. Ebeling… I hope he's not related. If he is it just proves that bloodlines sometimes stop because that guy is a little better than our Ebeling. I think he's going to be a good player. I think they're got a good post guy and good guard and that will lead to a good team. I thought they played hard. It was kind of cool. I really wish, being a Division Two guy myself, we could play more Division Two and Three teams because it is the thrill of a lifetime. I know exactly what they were going through. Give the Albion fans a lot of credit. A lot of people came in and watched the game. I had a lot of good friends that I didn't even know were Albion fans that were Albion fans, including Joe Sare that sat right behind our bench with his Albion shirt on… so I got the police before the game and I tried to get him out of there. So, he's got more power than I have and that worked out great.

On Joey Hauser eligibility…

They say that we're going to hear something maybe Friday. At least as the process goes forward. There's two parts to the process. It's got to get through one to get to the other. We think we may hear something by Friday, but that's what happened a couple of weeks ago. We are running out of time, so I do think that they're trying to get everything done. Joey is a heck of a player so we'll see what happens to be honest with you.

On Rocket setting up plays…

I think Rocket attacking and being able to do all the things he can do… He really has rocket for legs. He gets on that break and he's a lot quicker than you think. I was impressed with him defensively today. He did a pretty good job defensively. I was surprised he rebounded the ball pretty good. It was a shame he didn't shoot the ball at all like he can shoot it. He's been shooting it really well in practice lately. That was a little bit disappointing… but neither did two of my other guys. The energy that he brought. The energy that Gabe brought. I mean, that one dunk. You guys won't believe me, but that took him a year and a half to teach him how to do that. It was hard, but we got it done. We taught him that and he did it. That was great to see. The athleticism on his part and great attacking. I thought he attacked pretty well. Got some offensive rebounds. We got 22 offensive rebounds. It wasn't against the biggest team, but it means we're going. I asked our guys before the game I thought we were poor in the effort related things against Gonzaga. Missed a shot… which we did. Do this and do that, but give me the effort related stats and I thought we did that no matter who we played.

On thoughts on new NCAA ruling players can profit off likeness…

I'm not sure on anything, but I said almost a month ago that the NCAA needed to get out in front of it. I did think they've done a better job of that. I guess it was the first step for the NCAA. I've always been supportive of players getting more that they can get. I'm trying to figure out how still everybody looks at this and thinks they have it solved. I know nothing that's going on with it yet. I think that at the end of today's announcement, they set some guidelines and principles that will help shape it. I don't really know what those are going to end up and how they're going to be implemented. It's still hard to exactly look at it and be able to say what's going on. Player's getting what they can get… that's good. But it still has to work within the framework of how we help maintain the student-athlete experience and how it maintains the other sports. There's so many things out there that I think are unintended consequences, as I said earlier. I don't really know. I'm not giving you a politicians answer. I said the same thing a month ago. I really believe that we took a step in the right direction. As I asked at the Big Ten… Does anyone know what that really meant? I don't really know what it really means either. Now we're addressing it, which needed to be done. It is becoming addressed and hopefully the initiative will help provide the best experience for these kids. I just hope we all keep in mind that somehow someway we can't keep acting like there isn't a value to education, because there is a value. Both the monetary value and a lifetime value. Whatever they come up with… hopefully it keeps it somewhat of an even plainfield. We're going to do whatever we have to do.

On the dynamic of Rocket Watts…

The one thing Rocket (Watts) brings to the court, probably more like a Keith Appling for us, a great athlete that can guard. For a freshman he's kind of in the Appling, Gary Harris mold and he's a tough S.O.B. He's got some toughness to him, he wants to do it, so it makes us so we can play other people because we can move some guys around. I don't think you'll see that a ton, but I do think you'll see it some and again a lot of it depends in the first week or two on how much Kyle (Ahrens) can play, but Rocket has been a real, pleasant present surprise. Not surprised that he wasn't good enough, but I think he's better at some things than I thought he was defensively, been an unbelievable teammate. You watch him out there, he's just cheering for everybody. When you recruit a kid sometimes you don't know exactly what you get, and this has been a great for me and for my staff and for my team because to be able to compete at this level as a freshman, usually physical things. I always brought up Chris Webber you know he was physically ready to go and start right away. For us, Miles Bridges was physically ready and that's a big thing. Rockets put on a little weight, but he's tough enough so what he isn't physically big enough on, which he's still 185-pounds, he's mentally tough enough and I think we're going to see some as he gets that leg better and better. It's not bothering him, but he's just coming back from that and just the last couple of days he's started dunking again. He's going to be an exciting player to watch and exciting player to coach and I think a player that can play both ends of the court, which he gets that shot back and that's going to be dynamite.

On Malik Hall's performance…

Malik, I thought he did some good things, I thought he competed. I think he too is physically gifted enough. I thought he over dribbled a little bit. He could have thrown it ahead a little bit, I think he would agree with that, but for your first game in a big arena, we just tried to get Malik, Julius and of course Marcus. Those three guys, they're going to have to play minutes and I thought Malik at times showed that he could be the most ready right now. Mostly because of the physical gifts.

On the ability of Aaron Henry…

I think a lot to be honest with you. I think he's demonstrated that the last two days in practice. He's shot the lights out, he's a much, much better shooter, but he still needs to be pushed and he stills needs to understand. That play he made that was JR-ish and for those of you, because I forget that twenty years goes by and some of you were probably barely born, but not many people make that move and he did it ferociously and I think he has so much more to his game. He's putting it on the floor, but he's being a little loose with the ball and we've got three turnovers early, that one he threw out of bounds would have been a wide-open shot, but we are asking him to do more. Offensively, do more with the ball, do more defensively and probably the area that I think he could improve the most is, I think that's what his biggest gift is, is rebound the ball on both ends. I think he could be an unbelievable offensive rebounder. We've got to look at some guys and maybe look at some film with him and get him going a little harder, but the second half I thought you saw a lot more aggressive and that's what we're going to need out of him. Those three guys, you need three, two is nice but you need three and I think Cassius (Winston)just kind of played within himself. I hope he knows by giving up that three to his brother that his brother won the dual. When he was on his brother and his brother was on him, the score was 3-0 so he's going to have to live with that now the rest of his life.

On the season really starting after tonight…

Exactly how I felt, and this has been such a different way of looking at this with college basketball now. This year we got four hours in the summer and I feel like we've been going since and then this year it started Sept. 24. I think we're on our 26th or 27th practice and that seems like a long time and now we've got a week. I wish we had a little more time, make sure we can get all healed up, but I'm excited about it. How do you beat this for our conference, for our University, for our program and for our team to be involved in a one, two, three, four? I think in '01 there were three ones or were their four? Three ones and a two, probably because Arizona and Duke, maybe Maryland. They were high, but very seldom do you get in the same venue and have teams as rated high as these four teams. I don't know if we're ready for that right now and I said that, but what a great opportunity to see, to see for myself, to see for my team, but the exposure and the night and the way it's going to be and to have the late night which is a little harder on some so people can watch it all over the country is I think great for Michigan State. As I said great for the Big Ten, great for the program and should be a lot of fun for the players. Hopefully we'll get better. We've got a week and we've got to get a lot of improvement in this next week, but I saw a lot better things tonight in strange ways and yet I think some of the first night was our fault too. We'll try to get better and have some fun.

The regular season tips off next Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City against the #2 Kentucky Wildcats in the Champions Classic.

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