The Orange took advantage of Michigan State’s shooting struggles en route to the win. The Spartans only shot 26 percent from the floor for the entire game, which is the team’s worst shooting performance since 2012. In addition, Michigan State missed its final 14 field goal attempts and failed to score a basket in the final 5:43 in the game.
After the shocking loss, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo met with the media to discuss the game.
Here’s some highlights from what Izzo said in the press conference.
Izzo’s opening statement:
“I’d first like to thank our fans. It was an incredible showing on their support. Little Caesars [Arena] is a great place to be. And I want to thank my team for — we said we didn’t want to make effort-related things and mistakes. And when you out-rebound a team by 21 that’s average height is 6’9”, and you got just about every loose ball we could get. And we got beat because we couldn’t make a shot. And I thought we had some good shots. It was really disappointing. We didn’t shoot very well from the free-throw line and some of those early were one-and-ones, which means it’s worse than the stat shows.
“But you gotta give Syracuse a lot of credit. They played hard also, and I thought it was just a war of a game and they made a few more shots than we did, although neither team shot well from either the 2 or the 3. But they made shots at the free-throw line and we didn’t. And that’s the difference in the game.
“So sad, when you’re in the locker room with some of those guys that don’t get another chance. But there’s nothing that I can say that they didn’t do. They played every bit as hard.
“[Jim Boeheim] did a hell of a job coaching his team. And I know he was upset with some things, and so was I. But both teams played their hearts out, and they just made one more basket than we did.”
Izzo on Michigan State out-rebounding Syracuse:
“I thought our guards rebounded well, our forwards rebounded well. Xavier Tillman was a man in there. But Josh Langford got a bunch, Jaren [Jackson Jr.] got a bunch in his time in there. And Miles [Bridges] got a few. The problem is we had a lot of rebounds to get. But so did they. You don’t want to have regrets in games like this and the effort we gave, I have no regrets. I wish we would have shot it a little better.”
On Jackson not playing more:
“He was in foul trouble the first half. And it’s different in the tournament. And the second half we just, Ben [Carter] seemed to have a feel in there, which we knew he did. But it really was in the defensive end. Cassius [Winston] did a hell of a job. I mean, there’s nobody badgered him harder for two years than me. But defensively he grew so much this year. And he did an unbelievable job on [Franklin] Howard, I thought. Howard is a hell of a player.
“But we did it because we got some help from our bigs. And Xavier was really good at it. And then we were moving Nick [Ward] and, in all honesty, we put Ben in there because he had such a feel. I mean, he got some kickouts, we had some wide-open looks. I mean, really good looks. And it just didn’t happen.”
On if Syracuse did anything he wasn’t expecting:
“No, really didn’t. I thought we’d have an easier time getting it in the middle, but at the same time we showed patience. We turned it over a little bit at the end, but 14 turnovers against them is not ridiculous. I didn’t think that they did anything different than we thought. I just felt like maybe we didn’t appreciate — we took some shots inside.”
On Lourawls Nairn Jr. not playing:
“I felt sad that I didn’t get the — I didn’t get Schilling in. And Ben been played a little more. Hasn’t been playing much. But I didn’t get Tum any minutes. It was just the game. I talked to him about it before. It was just the situation. I think Miles said it best in the locker room. So did Dane Fife. That kid has meant the world to our program, our community, our team, and me. And I don’t know if — I don’t know if there’s another Tum out there. I just hope I can keep him around for a while. I’ll figure that out in the future. He’s meant the world to our entire community.
“He’s been rock solid through a lot of things this year. And I love him for that. As I do — it’s hard not to feel bad. I know why Miles came back. But he has no regrets why he came back, because in his mind he got to do the things he wanted to do and he came back, except maybe get to a Final Four.
“And you don’t get all your dreams sometimes. But Cassius has gotten a lot better because of Tum. Miles is better because of Tum. Josh is better because of Tum. Nick Ward has really made some strides in the last three weeks, four weeks, a lot because of Tum. Tum’s not God, but he’s right there.”
On how this team stands out from other team’s in previous seasons:
“As everybody knows, it’s been a different year. I don’t think me, personally, I could have gone through the year without a group like I had. In fact, I know there would be no way. And I’ve had a couple disappointments with some pretty good teams. And that’s the way basketball goes. And I think Tum said it best to our team, you know, that: Hold your head up high; don’t let one game — we’re 30-5 — define who we are. Let the times when we went through some tough times define who we are, the way we stuck together and hung together and battled together.
“And there’s no reason to hang your head, as he said. Nobody’s got cancer. There’s a lot worse things in the world. Just never seems like that when you coach or when you play, especially when you’re a senior.
“The rest of us all get different chances, but they don’t. And I love the kid, but I could look everybody in the eye and say I love every one of these kids and that’s coach-speak. I don’t give coach-speak very often. I give heart-speak. And from the bottom of my heart that’s the way I feel.”
On the loss:
“Listen, it never ends happy for all but one team. I’ve been in the finals. I got beat and felt bad. I’ve been in the first round of the Final Four and got beat and felt bad, and in the Elite Eight and got beat and felt bad. And the Sweet 16. And a couple of years ago I was in the first round and felt bad. That’s never going to change. But that’s not going to define who we are. What’s going to define who we are is what these kids went through this year and how they handled it. And that’s what’s going to define us.
“And to me that’s the only thing that matters in the end because I saw the facts of what they gave me, and I had great appreciation for the facts of what they went through and how they handled it. And every Michigan State person can be a little upset with me; don’t be upset with them, because they did their job in a very difficult time and did it with class and humility. And you will never, whether you’re a reporter following them or a fan cheering for them, you will never have better kids to appreciate than this group.”