EAST LANSING - March 29, 2005
Q. Can you explain what the normal rebounding drill is like, if there is such a thing as a normal rebounding drill in a practice?
Alan Anderson: Our rebounding drills pretty much have no rules. You know, you got to get the ball. The object is to get the ball by whatever means necessary. Five guys line up inside the paint, somebody shoots the ball up, and we just attack the ball. We get credited. We try to grab the most offensive rebounds and score the most because the loser has to run. It's called the War Drill because we just attack each other. We get pretty aggressive.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about the excitement of getting to the Final Four, whether you guys have even been able to take a breath since Sunday?
Alan Anderson: It's amazing. At practice today, I look up into the stands and see all the media. I'm getting a ton of messages and phone calls every night.
I don't think we're really going to have the full effect until we take off tomorrow night and arrive in St. Louis. The environment should be special. It's incredible on campus right now, so I can only imagine what it's going to be like in St. Louis.
Q. How do you keep your cool when you have a game going down to the wire? What does Coach Izzo say and how do you guys keep your cool?
Alan Anderson: When the game is down to the wire, we been through so many different situations that I think we've seen every type of finish possible. He just pretty much tells us, you know what to do in different situations, like what play to run if they score, if they don't score, so we know what to do and we just go from there. In terms of foul shooting, it's just a matter of calming yourself down, calming things down and having confidence in each other.
Q. Is there a problem that you might have too much of a complicated play called or whatever, get caught up in the excitement?
Alan Anderson: I don't think there's any problem. There are guys on this team that have already played multiple positions, so if someone is in a jam and lined up in the wrong position; we can still run the play from there. We're used to being in different positions, so that helps us out.
Q. You mentioned all the things that you've been through over the years. How were you able to keep your confidence after having so many bad experiences?
Alan Anderson: The coaches continued to push us and didn't give up. Former players kept the faith and continued to push us. The guys on the team just stuck together and never considered breaking up. We never thought we were buried. We always saw the light at the end of the tunnel. We always just focused on the light.
Q. When you went to the foul line against Kentucky, did you ever have any flashbacks to what happened against Iowa?
Alan Anderson: Oh no, no. When you do something like that, you just put too much pressure on yourself because you're putting yourself in a situation where you're saying to yourself, "I've got to hit these. I've got to do this. I've got to do that." You just have to do your same routine, what you do daily in practice. It's just a matter of knocking them down.
Q. Could you talk about this team's development? It seems as though you have gone through transformations throughout the season, and now it finally seems like everything is working for you.
Alan Anderson: Once you go through so many down times, you take success and run with it. First, we had success against Old Dominion, then Vermont. It just kept building; so next, we got a win off of Duke. We just moved on from there and took care of Kentucky. We just stayed confident, but not cocky. The coaches remained confident. We just felt comfortable.
Q. Can you tell me something about Paul Davis that I don't know from reading his statistics, anything specific?
Alan Anderson: He's a great passer. I know he committed a couple turnovers the last game, but he's a great passer out of the post. Paul also has good athleticism for a guy his size.
Q. Looking at the match ups, it seems you're probably going to end up with Jawad Williams, who is a little bit taller than you. How do you handle that kind of assignment? How do you approach taking on someone bigger?
Alan Anderson: I know they think it's a match up problem because with his size, they have a mismatch on me. But I'm not like a skinny guy. I've got a little bit of strength. I can't overpower him, but I can use the one thing I have, my quickness. I just have to use that to the fullest. I have to beat him to the block, beat him to his position. On the offensive side, I have to bring him off side where it's tougher for him to guard me.
Q. Going back to the games going down to the wire, what goes on in maybe the last timeout, what goes on with the coaches and the players? Can you take me through that a little bit?
Alan Anderson: Guys just help get each other up. Coach is in the huddle, talking to the guys and telling them the different situations that might happen, so do this, do that. He might say if the other team scores, we're going to run this play. If they don't (score), we're going to hold it and let someone bring the ball up. We just try to get guys in the right position and just try to be sharp executing it.
Q. Is there kind of a pep talk that goes along with that?
Alan Anderson: Yeah, it's always that. "Come on, guys, this is our time." We've been through it before. We've got a lot of veteran, older guys, mature guys. We just talk through it with each other.
Q. Is that maturity that helps you block out the pressure because you have the crowd going crazy?
Alan Anderson: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. That's where our schedule pays off. Two years ago, we played against Texas in San Antonio and against Florida in Tampa before that. That's where the schedule pays dividends. And last year, we played an unbelievable schedule.
Q. In that same vein, when you're in that last timeout, would you prefer going in the game on defense to make the big stop in that situation or being on offense to make the big basket?
Alan Anderson: It depends. If we need a guy on the line, I'd love to be the guy on the line. If we need a big stop, I feel like I can guard. Over the last four years, I've guarded every type of player, so I'm ready to guard anybody.
THE MODERATOR: Alan, thanks for your time. We're now joined by Paul Davis, who has recorded three-straight double doubles in NCAA Tournament play. Questions for Paul Davis.
Q. For those of us who aren't familiar with the specifics, can you fill me in on the famous drive with Coach Izzo, that conversation, when it occurred and how it was important?
Paul Davis: I think the biggest thing with coach is that he's already been through so many of the things that I'm experiencing. I just couldn't get my game going. We talked about getting on the same page. He told me that he's experienced many of the same growing pains that I've gone through. He's been to the top and had people knock him down, but he's still standing.
Q. When did this occur?
Paul Davis: The very first time was after the game against Duke last year (2003-04). Obviously, we didn't play very well and personally, I didn't think it was my best game. I talked to my dad because I didn't know what to do. He said to go in and talk to coach. I went in the next morning for a couple of hours and later that night, we watched some film. That situation might have even turned my whole career around.
Q. Paul, how did you guys keep your confidence over all the tough stretches you went through?
Paul Davis: I think the biggest thing was that we weren't thinking about what people outside of our program were saying. We weren't thinking about some of the criticism. We stuck together. The people in the program -- I'm talking about the players and coaches -- know what this team can do. We see it every single day, and most people just see it when we play the games.
So I think the biggest thing is we've seen what we can do before, so we know where we can go. We've just got to keep trying to have it be consistent. I think right now, it's really paying off. We knew we could make it to the Final Four; we just had to go out and do it.
Q. Can you talk a little about the match up with Sean May? I know you have known each other since the McDonald's All America days. What makes him a difficult match up? How much do you think he's improved over the years? What is it going to take to come out on top?
Paul Davis: Obviously, Sean May has always been a great post player. I've heard some things over the last couple years as far as him losing some of the weight and just working on his conditioning. He's got a big body and he uses his size well. On some of the tape that I've watched, he's been creating space which allows for easy shots. He's always been a great inside scorer, but now he's added that 16 foot jump shot to his game.
He's definitely one of the best, if not the best post player in the country right now. You know it's weird because the last four games we've really played teams with great big men, so it's not going to be any different. We still have to take it him before he takes it at us.
Q. Were you surprised that he went to North Carolina, being from Bloomington, Indiana?
Paul Davis: Sometimes, you never know how those things are going to work out. Obviously, if he played at Indiana, I'd be seeing him a lot more during the season. It's unbelievable what they have at North Carolina with those three guys, and now four and five guys. Sean really does fit in perfectly there with their other big men.
Q. In Austin, you mentioned that you grew up in a Michigan State household, but you were a UNC fan. Could you expand on that? Also can you tell me any times you crossed paths with Sean May?
Paul Davis: My mom went to Michigan State. I was always watching Michigan State football and basketball. But watching other programs, I definitely loved watching North Carolina when they had Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison. I had all the North Carolina clothes and everything like that. As I got older and really started looking at what school I wanted to go to, I had to start getting rid of some of that stuff and start wearing more green and white.
I still watch them on TV today because I think, A., they've got a great program, and B., I do know a lot of the guys on that team. I haven't played against Sean before. I did get to know him at the McDonald's All-American Game, but I was hurt then. I did get to know him and he's a great guy. I look forward to seeing him down there and then playing against him.
Q. Are you kind of amazed at all the overtime games and particularly how teams, including your own, handled the pressure in the last minute or two of those games, be it regulation or overtime?
Paul Davis: Yeah, it's weird how this time of year there are more close games than not. Every team's willing to do whatever it takes to get closer to the win.
At this time of year, the tougher team -- the team that truly wants it more -- is going to win. In our game against Kentucky, I think both teams wanted it, but we just made a couple more baskets.
I've said it before that this is the best time of year to be a fan, a player and a coach. Thus far, this has been one of the better NCAA Tournaments I've seen.
Q. Early in the first overtime the other day, you're down four. You're just coming off that remarkable three point shot. You guys stayed afloat with a possession where you got three or four offensive rebounds and knocked down the three. When you made that shot, did that cross your mind that was in any way emblematic of your program and the work ethic associated with it?
Paul Davis: Yeah, I believe so because when they tied it up at the end of regulation, they got a couple offensive rebounds. We get a rebound there and we put it away. After the way we finished regulation, coach and every guy on the bench really got after us about not rebounding the misses. We knew we needed to rebound better in the overtimes. Going down four quick points was a surprise to us, but we had to do whatever it took to get the lead back.
Shannon Brown probably hit the biggest shot of the game right there, and I think that's what won us the game. The feeling was, "All right, we're back in it. Now, let's win this thing."
Q. How much did the tough times you went through help in the Kentucky game and in the Duke game, the close games, having been through those tough experiences before?
Paul Davis: We've been in a lot of those games. We've come up short in a lot of them too. In the Duke game and go back to even Old Dominion game, when it was close, everybody was saying, "We're not losing this game; we're doing whatever it takes." We got past the first weekend, and the second weekend was the biggest weekend of our lives. When we were tied at halftime against Duke, our feeling was "We're not losing this game, we're taking it at them."
Then I think Kentucky was the culmination of everything we've been through because it's a double-overtime game against one of the top programs in the country, with a trip to the Final Four on the line. I don't think you can top playing in that kind of game to, A., boost your confidence, and B., get that monkey off your back.
Q. You say the win over Kentucky boosted the confidence, so where is the confidence level now, say, compared to what it was going into the tournament?
Paul Davis: We knew what we could do coming into the tournament; we just had to prove it to ourselves. We came into the NCAA Tournament off that loss to Iowa in our first game in the Big Ten Tournament. We knew we had a run in us. We knew we could make it to the Final Four, but we just had to prove it to ourselves.
Now, we feel like we belong here. This is where Michigan State University belongs. Now, we have to take full advantage of this opportunity.
Q. You've obviously been heavily scrutinized by fans and people in general. How much of that scrutiny stemmed from the fact that you committed so early through your high school career, and fans had a chance to look at you and know you were going to be a Spartan?
Paul Davis: I can honestly say to that I committed early for myself. I didn't commit early for some fans to see me play. This is where I wanted to go. I felt like there was no reason to draw the process out maybe like some kids do. I thought this was the perfect coach and the perfect place for me to play. So if people want to see that as a negative thing, I feel that's wrong to say but it comes with the territory. People are going to scrutinize everything you do no matter what, so it just comes with the territory. Honestly, most of that stuff just goes unnoticed. It doesn't have a lot of weight to it. It's one of those things that I hear it, but that's about it.
Q. Speaking of those close games, coaches get a lot of credit for pulling out those games, but how much is it up to the players to kind of step up in the moment and seize it?
Paul Davis: The players play the game. Coach just gives us a blueprint, but we go out and build the building. But I think he instills in us what he's been through before and we go out and use it on the court. We just go do what he knows in his head to be right. We just have to trust him because now no one on the team has been here before except him. We're going to be all ears all week long.
Q. Do you feel like you're playing the best basketball of your career right now? Could you talk about what you did in the off season as far as improving your strength, how that changed your body and your game this year?
Paul Davis: Yeah, I think I'm having the most fun of my career right now. I do feel I'm playing better. I think it's because I'm being more vocal, even if it's just in practice, and I'm carrying that over to the game.
This past off season, I just stayed up here. I stayed in the weight room and worked on my game in the gym. I simply concentrated on what I needed to do for the upcoming season, whether that was thinking about being more vocal or whether that meant lifting weights or shooting more jump shots.
It was a great summer. And I'm looking forward to this one again to really improve my body even more.