Alford: I thought this was a terrific game of two teams really trying to impose their will on one another. We've got great respect for Michigan State, Tom does a terrific job with them, and they've been in the top of this league for a long time. Just to get two wins against them, in a given year, is a feat in and of itself. We feel very fortunate, I thought both teams really battled. It's one of those games that are really hard for somebody to lose with the way the players went at it, so hard. We were able to get enough stops, maybe a little bit more stops than what they were. I was really proud of our young men. I thought second half we made the plays we had to make down the stretch, I think 18 of our last 21 free throws, did a lot of positive things tonight.
Q: Adam, talk a little bit about how for two games, neither one has been real pretty, what has been threw thing that's gotten you guys over the hump?
Haluska: I think our first halves have been kind of flat, but we make a lot of good adjustments at halftime. We really come out and battle, I think this is just a great team. We've got a bunch of senior-lead guys out there, and they're not giving up. We're trying to get a win here and we're trying to get some hardware. We're definitely having fun out there and we just keep battling, I think that's key.
Q: I know you guys are young and in outstanding shape, but it was rough for me coming back from last night just to see it. How much of this game was an endurance contest, more than a test of basketball skills?
Henderson: Michigan State, they're a great transition team, so Coach really stressed that during yesterday after the game that we really have to get out and get on the wings. Guys like Shannon Brown, Ager, they really like to run the wings. Neitzel really pushes the ball up in transition, so it's a lot to do with endurance and things like that. I think in the end we just came together. Our guys came out, ran with the wings, we were able to make a couple plays.
Haluska: I think we put ourselves in a good position, not having to play on Thursday. Michigan State, they had to play that role, and that's something we had to do last year and it's tough. I thought did a great job, we put ourselves in that position, it is one of those things where you're coming back, playing back to back games, yeah, we did it in the Guardians, we did it in our own tournament, we'd rather not have to play 4 in 4, so we'll be ready to go tomorrow.
Q: Why was it so hard for each team to score? Was the defense really that good on each side?
Haluska: I think it is one of those things where both teams really pride themselves on defense. Michigan State has been a league leader in defense for a number of years. It's something that we've really tried to emphasize on our team. The coaching staff has done a great job of just committing us into it. The players have bought into the system. It is one of those things where I think it was a defensive game. It is tough to get shots when both teams are playing as hard as they are.
Henderson: I think the best example would be the example our coach always uses. It was a heavyweight fight. We each were throwing punches at each other, and both of the teams were just trying not to let each other score. It just came down to who did the little things, who got offensive rebounds, who made key stops, things like that. I think in the end, it just came up that we ended up making a couple more plays.
Q: This will be your third trip to the Big Ten tournament finals, you've got 12 wins, more than anyone else. Do you put extra emphasis on it, how would you explain your run of success in this tournament?
Alford: I hope that it's our players that keep getting better. I think we've had a trend of getting better late in the year. That's always a very good trend. We're playing as good of basketball at the end of the year as we are at the beginning of the year. We've always had unbelievable Novembers. Our non-conference record has been phenomenal, and obviously we've had some distractions in the months of January and February and we didn't have that this year. The seniors have just done a phenomenal job. Those seniors are something special. Jeff Horner's imposed his will on this tournament, and he's been tremendous. I thought the job he did on Shannon Brown today was outstanding, what he did yesterday was no less than incredible, so he's having a big-time (tournament). The guys are just doing what they do. Erek Hansen gets in foul trouble, he comes in the last 3 minutes of the second half, and those last 3 minutes of the game, nobody got to the basket. Erek blocked two shots and he just did a lot of good things. That's why he was voted defensive player of the year. Doug Thomas, 6th man of the year. He comes in in the first half when we need some things done, and does a great job. Second half, Erek gets in foul troubled, and there's Doug. We're struggling offensively and Mike gets a huge steal. The guy that doesn't get talked about a lot is Henderson, and yet he came up with probably more big plays for us tonight than anybody did. That's who we've been. Susan talked about not being pretty, we haven't been real pretty all year. We're only shooting about 42% from the field. But when you guard like we've been able to guard, sometimes it's not very pretty. Hold a team to 28% shooting, regardless of circumstance, that's some pretty good defense.
Q: You mentioned the seniors earlier, going into tomorrow, this is their last chance to win any kind of a Big Ten Title.
Alford: Obviously, that's one of the reasons why we're playing the way we're playing. The seniors have done a tremendous job of leadership, with performance. I said it down on the radio, really for the better part of two months now. It kind of gets lost sometimes nationally when people talk about the Big Ten. From Mid-January until present, we've been in first or a game out of first in this league for that amount of time, and it's the number one league in the country. Our body of work has been very very good. We came up a game short and you've got to give Ohio State a lot of credit, they went in and won at Michigan State, and that's not easy. You've got to give them credit for that. Now here we are, we're going to be battling either Ohio State or Indiana for another championship. We've been right there on the final day for both championships and that tells me our body of work and what we've done has been pretty special this year.
Q: Can you assess Brunner's play, no rebounds last night, 5 tonight, I know he's coming off the sprained ankle.
Alford: He's just trying to get back in there. The second halves in both games have been much better than his first halves, and he's just trying to get his timing back. When you sprain an ankle like that, that's the hardest thing, I think, is to get timing back. Bru's a fighter. I thought he fought in the second half. Those are the things you've got to be able to do. You can't force things, he let the game come to him a little bit better in the second half, and we're going to need a big performance out of him tomorrow regardless of who we're playing.
Q: Michigan State shot well early in the game, do you think fatigue caught up to them? A lot of their shots were falling short.
Alford: I'm sure that has a lot to do with it. Playing 3 games in 3 days, that's not easy. They don't have a real deep bench right now. We wanted to continue to wear on them, we wanted to continue to put pressure on them. We didn't make a lot of changes or adjustments during the game defensively, I thought we were pretty solid other than the first four minutes of the game where we gave up 10. I know they didn't get more than 6 in any other 4 minute game. There was probably a stretch of about 10 minutes where they didn't score. I think we held them scoreless for 10 straight minutes. We did some really good things. We just stated with our defense. We didn't panic defensively. I thought they were really good defensively. I think Tom's team and it's a tribute to Tom again, I think his team has really gotten better defensively as this year has gone on. I think they're much better defensively now than when we played them a month ago, that's a tribute to he and his staff.
Q: You mentioned your body of work. Given that the NCAA won't take tomorrow's championship game much into affect with seeding, what do you think you guys deserve at this point?
Alford: That's hard. We've had 9 wins against the top 25. Only UCONN can boast that. Having 9 wins and only 4 losses against top 25 is a pretty special season in itself. We've done that, now we're in the championship game of the 2nd championship in the best league in the country. I would hope that just because of timing, I hope that that's still an open-ended question going in. We win a championship tomorrow and we get this thing to 25-8 and finish 2nd in league play, 1 game out, and win the tournament. I would think we could possibly move up a seed. I think there could be a lot of bearing tomorrow, unless they want to go ahead and give us a better seed prior to the game. That's something we'd take as well. I think we're going to have a very good seed. I think we've done some very good things and I'll be shocked if we don't have a very good seed going into the NCAA Tournament.
Q: You've struggled with free throws coming down the stretch, what allowed you guys to shoot 85% on the clutch free throws at the end?
Alford: I don't know if we've struggled. I think we've had our games, but when you've played 32 games, I think you're going to have some games where you struggle. I don't think we've had a lot of games this year where we've struggled down the stretch. That's been a staple of ours. One of our stats, if you look at our stats through our games, we've made more free throws than our opponents have shot. I think late in the year, that kind of caught us, but here in the Big Ten Tournament, they shoot 16 and we make 21. We've got tough kids, they get to the line, Mike Henderson got to the line, did what he's supposed to do. Haluska's an 86% foul shooter, he did what he's supposed to do, Jeff made his, Erek did a nice job. Guys that got there did a nice job of making them.