Coach Tom Crean met with the media following Indiana’s 84-71 win over Illinois on Thursday at Assembly Hall. Watch the press conference in high-definition quality video in the embedded media player below:
Quotes after the jump.
“Now first and foremost, I am proud of our crowd. Again, never surprised but for them to come in with the energy that they had and to have the students out there from this morning, students starting being out there at 7 o’clock this morning and to have the energy in this building the way that it was, that is a huge, huge plus. I love it when the fans are really feeling us but at the same time we’re giving them something to be excited about and our guys played extremely hard. They were very competitive; we got better as the game went along, especially on the defensive end. We knew we were playing against a really good team, in my mind an NCAA tournament team. A team that was going to be desperate to come in here and get a win and our guys responded to that.
“Again, I think our week of practice was very strong, it was resourceful. They were resilient, they were getting better, the practices were short because of the way they were preparing. Our guys came out and played with a ton of energy. So big win and one where a lot of guys did different things. Again, our defense got a lot better as the game went along and I think that’s the whole key. When you can improve defensively against a team that’s feeling pretty comfortable the way they’re shooting the ball and you can get better like that and, at the same time we got better offensively. We missed some shots in the first that were good looks. In the second half we kind of did a better job of taking what the defense gave us and we more better shots obviously because of that. To me, our guys deserved it; they deserved it and it was a hard fought game and they deserved it because they continued to play the entire way and they never got their head down when Illinois was hanging right there when they got a little bit of a lead. We made some adjustments at halftime. Really, what we did was get back to what the gameplan was supposed to be especially on Meyers Leonard and our guys responded.”
On Cody Zeller’s response to the physicality of the Big Ten:
“I think he relishes it, I really do. I think it gets him going and he’s a tough young man. He’s mentally tough, he’s physically tough. He’s getting stronger all the time and I think the more you come at him, the better it is. I think we saw that the other night, whatever your gameplan is, if you want to be physical, he’s going to respond. That’s a great attribute for a young man. You’d have to ask him, but I’m sure a lot of that comes from the way he was raised and playing with his older brothers the way that he did.”
On the difference between the team now and the team at 12-0:
“I think there’s a lot of individual improvement going on with this team. I think you can look at different players and you can find certain aspects. I think the improvement is they’re getting mentally tougher. We went through a little drought where we kind of forgot that edge that you got to have, especially after we beat Ohio State. I think anytime where you have success like that and you haven’t had as much a group, it’s real easy to fall off a little bit and I think we did. But, I think we got that back. I think these guys, their work ethics are fantastic. I think guys are adding things to their game. I think we’re getting better in the post, especially post defense. There’s no question that our awareness is improving and I think that’s a huge part of defense. We may give up some baskets, but it’s not from being out of position, it’s not from not being aware of what’s going on around us. I think our rebounding is much better. We’ll continue to move the ball; I think our ball movement is much better.”