Crean concerned with Kentucky’s defense

If you’ve seen highlights of Kentucky basketball games on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” this year, chances are you saw a number of breakaway dunks.

With athletes like sophomore Terrence Jones and freshman Anthony Davis, the Wildcats play above the rim more often than most teams.

But it’s what leads to those highlight-reel breakaway dunks that has Indiana coach Tom Crean concerned in anticipation of Saturday afternoon’s game in Assembly Hall against the nation’s No. 1 team.

“I think the thing that separates them right now is their defense,” Crean said. “I’ve always thought [Kentucky coach] John [Calipari] doesn’t get nearly enough credit as a coach for his defense. He’s always got a game plan. He does a great job with getting talent to play really, really hard. This is the best defensive team, in my opinion, that he has had.”

The Wildcats (8-0) have given up more than 70 points only once this season – last Saturday against No. 5 North Carolina.

Crean said Kentucky benefits from its remarkable athleticism defensively, which allows it to make up for mistakes other teams can’t. The defense starts with Davis, a 6-10 freshman who is averaging 4.5 blocked shots per game.

“If there’s a mistake made defensively, he can make up for it like nobody else I’ve seen,” Crean said. “I can’t think of anybody that can make up for mistakes that his teammates might make like he can.”

Indiana freshman Cody Zeller hasn’t been part of the IU-Kentucky rivalry yet, but he’s very familiar with his likely matchup in Davis. Zeller played against him on multiple occasions in the summer of 2010.

“He’s definitely a great player,” Zeller said. “I think each game I’m trying to improve. This is just another step in that.”

To keep it from turning into a Kentucky dunk fest, Crean said the Hoosiers may consider slowing the game down and grinding it out. The most important thing, he said, is taking care of the ball.

“To think that it’s going to be conventional basketball and we’re just going to go up and shoot over the top of this team – that’s not realistic,” Crean said. “This is not a game where you can ever think you’re going to take ‘hero’ shots and it’s going to work out for you. You’ve got to make the next pass.”

DEALING WITH THE HYPE

The Indiana campus has been abuzz with talk about the game all week, and the atmosphere at Assembly Hall is expected to be electric.

But will the Hoosiers (8-0) be so excited that they play out of control early?

“It’s not like we can have some magic words to calm them down,” Crean said. “I would want guys excited to play them.”

Added guard Jordan Hulls: “I feel like everybody on campus is buzzing a little bit, but I think we’re mature enough to keep our composure.”

Students began camping outside Assembly Hall on Tuesday before later being given vouchers to enter the game first when the doors open Saturday. No other fans are allowed to line up outside the arena until 7 a.m. Saturday.

Crean supported the way the University handled the situation.

“You want to really appreciate their passion, but you want them to be safe. … We don’t want to do anything to affect the GPA overall at Indiana.”

A WEEK TO PREPARE

From afar, it seems like the Hoosiers would benefit from a full week to prepare for an opponent like Kentucky.

Crean, however, is not a fan.

“I don’t like it,” he said. “As the week goes on, you just get that much more edgy as a coach. You don’t want to overdo it. You don’t want to spend so much time that they’re not excited about the game. … I love short turnarounds. I think the players probably like short turnarounds. But this is the way it is.”

ON EQUAL FOOTING?

There’s no denying the fact that Kentucky has gotten the best of the Hoosiers during the Crean era.

Indiana lost 72-54 in 2008, 90-73 against John Wall and Co. in ’09, and 81-62 last season. The Hoosiers were close at halftime in each of the last two meetings, but couldn’t keep up with the more talented Wildcats down the stretch.

Now that Crean has his best team in his four seasons in Bloomington, this game has a different feel to it.

“Even though the talent difference has been great, there’s always a game plan,” Crean said. “If you don’t believe you can win, at some point in time your players are not going to believe they can, either. We’ve never felt like that.”

  • Becca

    I don’t think Kentucky or their fans will over look IU. They know this is a big game, especially with all of the talk of this being an upset. They are only a 3.5 favorite after all. They never play too well in the first half either, so the second half is where they need to be slowed down.

  • http://twitter.com/Troubadour77 Dan Leavitt

    Yeah, you should see their gyms in KY. I live 2 miles from Louisville and their gyms are a JOKE. The are literally the same size as our middle school gyms on this side of the river. Posers.

  • http://twitter.com/Troubadour77 Dan Leavitt

    I cant sleep. I want to rip the hearts out of the Cats tomorrow, spit on them and kick them into Cheataparis lap and send their redneck fans back to Lexington while hiding their little blue car flags in shame. GO IU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • HoosierSmitty

    I just woke up from a dream where IU beat Kentucky. I never dream about stuff like that. I’m either way too obsessed with this game or it’s an omen!

    Go Hoosiers!

  • Anonymous

    I work in louisville….so tired of hearing about pUKe !  A HOOSIER win today will sure make it nice going in to work on monday morning….GO HOOSIERS!!!!!!!!!!!

  • heinsohn

    are you aware that IU has covered the spread in every game.We are a 61/2 pt dog today.This  is may well be the last time we are so overlooked.Both of these teams  have been winning easily.Today that will not be the case.We have two chances to win this game,we stay even the whole game and gut it out at the end,OR we fall behind but come back when they tire in the second half.I like our chances.We have 4 tough players who can make big plays at the end,Hulls,Zeller,Oladipo,Sheehey.Who knows,with less being expected even Watford can play well down the stretch.Look at the last game.Take the pts,the gamblers have made a mistake giving 61//2.

  • Anonymous

    Disagree.  Agree. 

    I wouldn’t say we “don’t know anything” about this team.  I, at least, can get a sense of a team’s makeup and character without watching them play the number one team in the country.  I am very pleased by what I’ve seen so far.  Now, comparing them to ’92-’93 might be a little much.

    But I do agree that Zeller has the edge in my mind when it comes to range and ball handling over Davis.  I mean, its not like we haven’t watched them play head to head before.  They met in the AAU circuit.  Davis has the advantage inside, but Zeller gets back at him on the other end. That being despite Davis being a very capable defender.  Zeller just has a real polished offensive game that you do not normally see from bigs his age.  If Zeller can make Davis really work, we might be able to neutralize him a bit inside helping on our cutters, ie Sheehey, Oladipo.

    The real problem as I believe Stonaroni was referring to was the overall athleticism disadvantage we have.  I’m not as worried about how Zeller matches up as I am how Zeller and Watford matchup against Jones and Davis.  We have not seen a duo like that, obviously.  Whoever gets stuck on the taller Davis, or the heavier Jones, we are behind the eight ball defensively.  Pritchard doesn’t have the quickness and Elston the technique to provide a reasonable bigger alternative either.  I get the feeling its going to be a long day in the paint for the Hoosiers.  Hopefully we keep it within reason there and find ways to back at them elsewhere.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    Good job and keep it up as the rest of us down here is Southern Ind should.   I’ve done the same exact thing at other establishments.  To them it’s a money thing but they should be more aware of the patronizing issue just as much. 

    I almost got thrown out of a Tuckers (in New Albany, IN) a few years ago when IU played pUKe and the Duke game was on as well.   The placed was filled with IU fans but the owner was a Duke fan and had the Duke game on all of the bigger screens.  I made my comments to the server but she said I had to take it up with the owner.  So I did, we went round for about 15mins and she wasn’t bending.  So she asked that I just leave.   Of course I finished the game but continue to get louder until it was over. 

  • Bleeding Crimson

    We also play a great second half.  What I want CTC to do is give his half time speech at the first time out and correct the issues then instead of fixing them at the half.  CTC has done an excellent job coaching them during the halftime and we play our D to the top level.   We need that during the first half as well. 
    Plus take into account that pUKe only plays 6 1/2 men…if CTC continues to rotate in the first half and pUKe legs get tired in the second half or last 10 min mark we can pull this off.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    Can’t you call in sick with the Blues?  Too great of a game not to catch live and I don’t think I could stand it.  I operate and own a retail nursery and I told my wife if she can’t cover I will be closing early…good thing she’s coming in.   I do have to take all four kid-O’s as part of the arrangement.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    Totally agree.   I can remember at the beginning of the season we all were thinking 15min 18 max wins.  But know that we have seen what has evolved we should be dancing but the B1G will still be a  hugh challenge that we have to get through.  We come a long way but sitting better than most thought.
    Beating pUKe and then being rank was something that most of us thought wouldn’t happen until next year.
    WOW what a difference a year makes.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    Andrew, I think what stonaroni was getting at is that this team finally has HEART and purpose that can be judge after 8 games, esp when you just look at the last three seasons.  Prior to that coach no name didn’t solidify IU as a team with purpose.  It seems to be each their own.
    Just my opinion.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    As well as Sheehey.

  • It’s WINdiana!

    Do I win anything for correctly predicting Watford’s game-winning 3?

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    Yeah I thought about that after the game. I said “The son of a bitch predicted it!!!” Crazy man, just crazy.

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