Krzyzewski, Cook & Winslow after win over Michigan State
- Updated: April 5, 2015
Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski and players Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook spoke after the team’s win over Michigan State that puts them in the NCAA Tournament Monday night.
THE MODERATOR: We’ve been joined by Duke University. Coach, we’ll ask you to make an opening statement.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, we beat a heck of a team, a championship team, championship program in Tom’s program. Our guys knew how difficult a game it was going to be. After the first four minutes, we found out it was going to be more difficult than we even thought. Our kids for the next 36 minutes, they played lights-out basketball. The defense was terrific. We drove the ball with such strength. I actually think our offense gave our defense a push in how hard we were taking it to the basket. Our bench, all eight guys, played really well tonight. Yeah, the last 36 minutes, we played great basketball. That’s the best we’ve played in a tournament, and we’ve played really well in the tournament.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Justise, did you feel the matchup played into your hands with Michigan State, the way you had the ability to beat them inside?
JUSTISE WINSLOW: Well, it was never just one matchup. It’s five guys playing for each team. So Dawson, he’s a very strong, physical player. So I just tried to do my best to make him earn everything on the opposite end, to try to body up and stay solid. On the opposite end on my part, try to attack, stay aggressive, make plays for my teammates.
Q. Quinn, how much better is this team defensively now than you were early season, even mid-season?
QUINN COOK: A lot better. Week by week, I felt that guys were making tremendous strides on the defensive level. It was fun to string some stops together. Coach always stresses great defense lead to great offense. It’s a habit that we’ve developed, which guys are liking. It’s been paying off for us.
Q. Quinn, it seemed like everybody was getting to the rim. Coach talked about how strong you guys drove the ball. Was that the goal from the outset?
QUINN COOK: I mean, yeah, just make reads. We have a lot of weapons beyond the arc, so guys were staying home. We saw seams we could take advantage of. Coach gives us the freedom to make the right read at the right time. Guys played confidently out there.
Q. You have beaten your opponents by an average of 17.6 points per game. Do you feel because of Kentucky’s undefeated run, how well you played in the tournament has gotten overlooked?
JUSTISE WINSLOW: We’re just very happy with the way we played. Kentucky is a great team, but so is Wisconsin. That should be a great game tonight. Overall we’ve been trying to hang our hats on the defensive end and stay strong and play tough. That’s been the key to our run in the tournament.
Q. Quinn, what did you do differently defensively or was it just a matter of committing to it differently?
QUINN COOK: I don’t think we started the game out with the intensity that we needed. A couple times, I know myself, I try to cheat a ball screen, Trice and Valentine make you pay. We got down early, coach got on us. The last 36 minutes, I mean, we played one of our better games, just defensively, which led to great offense. With Trice, Valentine, Forbes, those guys can shoot with the best of them. It was definitely hard out there. We just had some stops together and we were communicating well tonight which led to great offense.
Q. Justise, I’m sure you anticipated they would try to make a run early in the second half. You took control. What made it happen that way, that you dominated in the paint?
JUSTISE WINSLOW: We knew how we started the last half against Gonzaga. We came out with a lot of energy. We just wanted to execute and get some buckets. The offensive end took care of itself. But we always say it’s the defensive end. We play with a lot of energy and compete on that end of the floor, the game comes so much easier for us.
Q. Justise, you and Jahlil, you’re freshmen, but you don’t act like it, play like it. A stage like this, didn’t look like there were any nerves. Why is that?
JUSTISE WINSLOW: Because coach never treat us like freshmen since we been here. He gave us all this confidence. He believed and trusted in us. When you have that belief from your coaching staff, all your teammates, yourself, out there having fun, playing the game you love. Since we’ve been on campus, coach never treated us like freshmen, I think that’s why we’ve been playing so well lately.
Q. Grayson Allen gave you a couple great plays. What is it like to see you guys have a freshman that maybe doesn’t get quite as much pub?
QUINN COOK: Grayson, he used today as a chip. I know personally I have to guard him every day in practice. He’s fearless. To see him being out there playing fearlessly, playing together, it just says a lot about his character because, you know, he gets overlooked by our great three freshmen. But he brings it every day. He has a great attitude. He’s all in about the team, all for winning. He showed some things out there tonight, just not on the offensive end, but defensively, which we needed tonight.
Q. You lost back-to-back games in mid January, a long time ago. Kind of a tough month. Looking back at the gauntlet of the ACC schedule, how did that get y’all ready for where you are now?
QUINN COOK: It’s definitely one of the best conferences in the country, just every game you have to bring it. Doesn’t matter what your record is and what your opponent is, everybody’s bringing it. I can remember losing to NC State and Miami, going into Louisville when they were a top-five team. Coach told us we were going to win this game. When you have that confidence coming from your coach, you feel like you can beat anybody. That game really changed our season around. Guys, our freshmen, our sophomores, Amile, everybody stepped up in a big way.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys. We’ll continue with questions for Coach Krzyzewski.
Q. You may only have eight, but it seemed like every single player tonight contributed in some way.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: They did, and you need it. We have confidence in all of them. Our team looks different when we have different combinations. I think Marshall has played so well over this last month and a half. When he’s in for Jah, we have a little bit more of an open court. We can drive the ball more. We’re looking to drive the ball more. Actually, Marshall’s better on ball screen defense than Jah. So sometimes our defense on ball screens picks up, then our ability to drive is there. A lot of times Grayson is in during that time. He’s our best driver. Amile has just been solid. So they’ve all been good. They’ve all been good. Our team takes on a little bit different character, personality, when we make the subs.
Q. You said the last 36 minutes were maybe the best basketball of your tournament. This team even this late in the year takes these steps forward. Does that surprise you at all? Is there more untapped potential you can get to in the next two days?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I wish they gave us a week to get ready for the game, I think we would improve. Look, we’ve gotten better. We keep getting better. It’s because our guys are paying attention, they want to learn. A big thing is that they’ve become smarter together. In other words, they talk about the game more while the game is going on, in preparation, than they did earlier in the year. They understood, but they weren’t using it together as much. Now they are. I mean, when we go through our game plan, defense, guys are talking, giving instruction. When one guy’s out, they’re saying, Remember, you got to do this. They’ve been great. They’ve been focused on basketball. They’ve been really good kids to coach. They’ve gotten better. I mean, they were sensational in the last 36 minutes. In this stage, in this game, for them to be like that after getting down 14-6, I’m really proud of them, really proud of them.
Q. You guys didn’t shoot a lot of three-pointers, especially in the first half. Was that the strategy going in or just a reaction to the Michigan State defense?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, a little bit more of a reaction to what was there for us. I think they came into the game taking away our threes. They did a good job of it. But it opened up some driving lanes. Once we started driving, you know, we put them in some foul trouble because we were trying to drive every time. We got a few steals where they fouled us in transition, which got us into the bonus earlier. But it changed. We didn’t come into the game thinking we would drive that much. But we came into the game thinking we could drive. It just worked out that way.
Q. You said they kind of have come on together, talking and everything. Was it a factor of them growing up because they’re so young?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, because they played 38 games. Four of them have just played 38 games, so they’re still learning. Our upperclass has been so good with them because they don’t treat each other like freshmen and upperclassmen. They’ve just been so close. They’re all smart players. We don’t have positions on our team. They don’t look at one guy being ahead of you or anything like that. We only have eight guys, so it wouldn’t be a big depth chart anyway. They’re very supportive of one another. Somebody mentioned about Grayson, the reaction to Grayson. That’s how they are. I mean, they love Grayson. So Grayson does that. He does something better than any of them. He drives the ball harder than any of them. So when he did that, boom, they’re all happy and they feel energized with it. They’re like the ultimate good team (laughter). I wish I was more responsible for that. I think they are really responsible for that.
Q. Was there a point in the year where you saw Jahlil start to kind of understand the high ball screen defense a little bit more?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, he was understanding it in February, and then he got hurt. For three and a half weeks he was playing with a sprained ankle. His conditioning, also his practice habits. By the time the ACC tournament started, he’s getting a little bit better, but we still weren’t as good. The week that the NCAA tournament started, he had great practices. He’s gotten in better shape. He’s done it better. He can defend the ball screen. I mean, he doesn’t have deficient ball screen defense genes; he can do it.
Q. When you won here in 2010, your roster, you didn’t have any players that left early for the NBA draft on that team. In that time college basketball has changed a lot. You’re very freshmen-reliant at this point. Can you talk about the evolution of the game in these five years now and, Kentucky, making four of the past Final Fours, has had any influence on how you’ve had to operate from the program’s standpoint?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: We really haven’t looked at anybody and said, we have to do it like someone. It’s just who you end up having the opportunity to recruit. We’re going to go after the best players that fit the profile for Duke, our basketball program and our school. There seem to be more guys like that. Really, Grayson is going to be a pro someday, all these guys really fit our profile. It just worked out that way. So I’d rather have a veteran team who is really good. The talent, you have to go after the best players. I mean, we have an opportunity to get some of them, so that’s what we should do.
Q. What does it mean to you to be back in a championship game, also in a city that already has so many special memories for you?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: The city’s great. Even if we didn’t win tonight, the city would still be great and the venue would be great. Being in a national championship game, it’s crazy how lucky you are. This team has really earned it. A couple times we’ve been in it, and we were lucky. A couple times we’ve lost, one time in particular we lost a really tough game. This team, though, has deserved to be in it, so it makes it feel even better. They’ve been so good in this tournament, so good. Except for a few moments against Utah, to start out the game, they have not been nervous. The lights and the stage have not been too big for them. They felt like they could sing their song and do their dance, and they’ve done it, they’ve done it really well.
Q. At what point did you start to think this group had the chance to be this good defensively? At what point did they actually start to be this good defensively?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I thought we would be really good defensively at the start of the year. We started with 10 guys. I thought we could press more. But it didn’t work out. It wasn’t working out, even before we had the transfer and the dismissal. Then we changed during January, adding some zone. We played some zone tonight. We started doing a few more things. But now these kids have picked it up. But they’ve really picked up on man-to-man. They’ve played great man-to-man defense in this tournament.
Q. When Jahlil made the two free throws with like 3:35 left, you jumped about as high when he made the first one as any of us have ever seen.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, you don’t watch me all the time (smiling).
Q. Why that reaction? You guys are up 18. I know he has struggled with free throws?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: He’s worked so hard. I thought they were going to do Hack-a-Okafor at that time. If he could, I just wanted to give him as much love and support as I could during that time. I’m not saying he got it because of that. But then he hit them. He’s been working so hard at it. It’s big. Those are two big free throws. Who knows, on Monday night, he might be in a position where he goes 10 for 12. We believe he can do that. That’s how we’ll play him, like he can do that.
Q. When you coached the national team, it’s a circus of distractions. You had some stuff happen this year you haven’t had to deal with before. Addition through subtraction, being able to coach the team since then one-on-one, you’re talking about the different types of defense you were able to implement, being able to get to this point, the national championship game, you’ve had a tough year and some different stuff.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: You know, we haven’t had a tough year because we had one kid transfer and we had a dismissal. You know, our kids have been great. I haven’t even had a tough year. It’s been a great year. But we’ve had to adjust to the numbers that we have. I think you just need to adapt. But these kids have been really good to coach the whole year long.
Q. I’ve talked to a couple of coaches this week who have coined this season your best coaching job ever. I know you’re going to put that on the players. As someone who has reached the pinnacle of the college level, coach of the national team, how does a season like this prolong your coaching longevity?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, my wife and daughters want me to keep coaching for a long time. The main reason is because they’ve seen how much I’ve enjoyed this year, how much I love this group. Not that I was going to give it up if they weren’t that way. But we get kids like this, then you love to do this every day. Really in reference to your question, too, put both of them together. Every night when I’m watching tape or I’m doing stuff, getting prepared, I never worry about attitude. I never worry that my guys aren’t going to come. So you can be a little bit more creative. You can study the opponent a little bit more. You can look at positive things that you can do for your players as they’re developing. I believe in constantly adapting to the development of my players, not having my players adapt to the system that I put in. There’s tremendous room for growth when you do it that way. That’s what this team has done. It’s incredibly exciting. It’s not a little exciting; it’s incredibly exciting. Now they’ve got a chance to play for a national championship. Damn, how exciting is that? I mean, it’s great. It’s just great. So happy for them.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Mike.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Thank you.