Complete transcript after the jump.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Crean, we’ll have you start with an opening statement and do questions for the student?athletes first.
COACH CREAN: I’ve been thinking about that. I’m not sure what to say. I’m proud of my players, I know that. I’m sure John is as well. That was a hard?fought battle.
I’m looking at the stat sheet trying to figure it out, and I guess the thing that?? the biggest difference is just the fouling. And when they got to the bonus. I know we had to foul at the end a little bit, but I would just say, for two teams that shoot the free throws as well as we both do, national leaders like we both are, get a lot of attempts, certainly it’s going to come down to that.
They got some timely offensive boards, but no one really got momentum. We never?? at the start of the second half gave them some confidence, and we were playing uphill from there, but it was never out of reach.
So, as I said to my team, there’s always sadness, tremendous sadness that hits you later on, but there’s a lot more sadness when you realize that your team or your players, that they had something left and they didn’t give it all.
The Indiana men?? and I mean quote me?? the Indiana men, mighty men, as I’ve learned from my brother?in?laws and the way they describe their players?? the Indiana mighty men, they gave it all. They left it all on that court.
I’m proud of what they did. We don’t take the moral victory in any sense because we lost, but when you do everything you can do and you give every ounce of fight that you have, you can move forward, and that’s where we’re at.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions for the student?athletes.
Q. Victor, I know it’s tough so close to the end of the game, but can you just talk about where this program has come in your two years and how excited you are for the future.
VICTOR OLADIPO: I know when I first got here it was rough for this program. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs. Our seniors are the big reason why we’re so successful right now.
And the players, the additional players that have come on since then?? myself, these juniors that have been through the struggle?? and now that we brought it all together, it’s a bright future for this program.
We’re just going to continue to keep growing as men and as players and keep listening to Coach Crean because, when we listen to him, we are successful.
Q. Christian, you obviously came to play again today. Everybody did. Talk about what went into that performance, both individually, what helped you guys to attack the way you did and give back everything Kentucky gave to you.
CHRISTIAN WATFORD: My teammates did a great job of finding me. It was a movement game out there tonight. We had some great ball reversals, and it kind of got me going.
Like I said, my teammates did a great job of finding me. Got some movement off the basketball, got some back?cuts and some slips.
Q. Coach has mentioned the fouling, the free throws. What made it so tough to defend without fouling? Those guys obviously got in the paint a lot. It made it really hard to do, I guess.
CODY ZELLER: They’re great drivers, and they’re attacking pretty hard throughout the game. Late in the game, we had to foul just to try to get?? try to close the margin a little bit.
They got in the bonus pretty early, and that really helped them out pretty well. And once they got there, they were knocking them down.
Q. Cody, this is for you. This is the first time in a while that your season has ended prematurely, great success in high school. How different is this for you to experience sitting right here instead of being in a situation where you’re on top of the world?
CODY ZELLER: It’s always tough, especially for the seniors. We’re a tight?knit group. So it’s tough to lose like this.
We came into the game planning on winning. That’s why this one really hurts.
Q. Christian, Kentucky made 35 out of 37 free throws. How aware of that are you guys during the game, and how monotonous was it when one after another kept going in?
CHRISTIAN WATFORD: As you’re playing basketball, you know they’re just making them. I didn’t really know what their percentage was during the game. They get to the line, and, like Cody said, they drove the ball strongly when they got there to the line, and they’d knock them down.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you very much. We’ll take questions for Coach Crean now.
Q. Coach, is there any way you could have imagined scoring 90 points and shooting 52 percent from the floor and not winning this game?
COACH CREAN: When they make 22 for free throws and attempt 20 more than we do, I guess is the only way I could imagine that. I couldn’t imagine a game like this having a free?throw discrepancy of 20.
It is what it is. We did a lot of good things. They shot 20 more free throws. That’s the game.
Q. Tom, did you?? as you watched this Kentucky team, and having played them twice, can you just comment on the fact that they don’t?? it’s hard to beat them?? it’s hard enough to beat them, but they don’t seem to beat themselves. They don’t seem to give you a whole lot of opportunities.
COACH CREAN: What’s your point?
Q. How difficult is it when they just don’t give you a whole lot of opportunities?
COACH CREAN: We scored 90 points. We scored 90 points. They’re a really good team. They’ve got a lot of guys. They’ve got a guy coming off the bench that’s going to be a first?round draft pick in Darius Miller. They’re tremendous.
So I don’t know if I can break down the game based on this game. We did a lot of good things, but they’re a very talented team. As I said many times, I think it’s obvious, they’re extremely well coached. He is a great coach. It’s one thing to have talent; it’s a whole other thing to get them to be as good as they are defensively.
This game came down to, when we had the ball moving, and offensively, when we could create some movement and get them off team defense, then we had some opportunities. But that’s a lot easier said than done. Their defense, as good as they are offensively and as talented as they are, the strength of their team is their defense.
And we did some good things tonight, but at the same time, that defense is really, really good.
Q. Coach, I know that you don’t really rank them, but with the way this team has developed, does this go down as one of your favorite teams that you’ve coached?
COACH CREAN: I find a great level of satisfaction every time. The first team we had at Indiana got Kyle Taber or Brett Finkelmeier, all those guys, a lot of fond memories. When teams give you everything you have, there’s always going to be special memories.
There’s no question this team and the people that have helped bring this program back to where it is right now, and I don’t want to put an exclamation point or a period on it, because we have a long way to go, but there’s been a lot of really good things that have happened, and this team has got tremendous character. There’s no question about that.
We got a lot of tremendous young men that have been raised right by their families, they’ve been coached right, and it’s just an absolute honor to coach them.
So in answer to your question, yes.
Q. Coach, you mentioned them having a first?round draft pick coming off the bench. Against those two big 3s, it seemed like from that point on you’re in a hole and battling back.
COACH CREAN: We made a couple of personnel mistakes. Tim Buckley kept saying it’s not about playing the plays, we’ve got to play the players. There were a couple of times they got to their strengths.
Jones got to his strengths. Certainly Miller got to his strengths, and we broke down a little bit. We were able to come back and get some of that, but they got momentum, and we were always playing uphill from that point on.
And we were hanging right there, and we had some guys running on fumes. This thing I said to John, make sure you got enough energy to win this thing because that game took a lot out of everybody, no question about it.
When you’ve got talent like that, as talented as they are, they’ve got?? they’re really hard. They’re hard?nosed young men, and I mean that with great, great respect. We said earlier in the week, they can get to the rim, they can shoot the pull?up, they can shoot 3s, but, boy, they don’t have?? everybody has got explosiveness in that first step.
If you’re not right where you need to be, it’s really hard to guard a team like that.
Q. Tom, how well did your plan work to try to get Davis in foul trouble? And was that first half a missed opportunity at all that he played so little yet they were leading?
COACH CREAN: Well, it was a three?point game, so I guess I’d have to think about that. Seriously, he’s a good player. They’ve got a lot of good players, Jerry. You see them every day. They’ve got a lot of good players.
It’s not like you can game plan to take one guy away or two guys away. We had foul trouble too. If you paid attention to it, we had guys that were sitting on the bench as well. It’s part of the game.
Q. Did you come into the game looking to run and wear them down? If so, how did all the foul calls kind of take away from that strategy?
COACH CREAN: Yes, we came in to attack, there’s no question about it. We came in to hopefully get into their bench, and we did a little bit. And then he didn’t have to play as much. We definitely wanted to attack.
What the score would be, how many points we’d score, we knew we had to score 70 or more because there’s not very many stats that you can look at in their breakdown and say, okay, we can get an edge here.
Again, it was amazing to me, looking at all the national stats and how close we were in so many categories nationally, especially offensively. But they’re a great rebounding team, certainly they’re a great defensive team, and we had to be on the attack and had to try to be in transition. So we did a lot of good things with that.
Q. As frustrating as the loss is, the idea that these guys have bought in over the last couple of years, the guys that have been here for a number of years when the wins weren’t as easy to come by in the last two or three years, is there satisfaction even in the frustration as you watched that develop?
COACH CREAN: You know what would be satisfying to me? And I said this in our prayer. Every one of these young men have grown up in so many ways, in their leadership and their accountability, in the way?? they’re always accountable. We’ve got 1,000 on the APR, we’ve got over a 3.0 team GPA. I don’t mean that kind of accountability. I mean accountability to really playing up to their level, given everything they have.
It sounds easier than it is to do, but they have. My hope, if God will grant me one thing with this team, is that every one of these young men is the spiritual leader of their families as they move forward, as they become parents, husbands, and leaders in other fields, leaders professionally, and playing on to the next level.
As I’ve grown up, that ultimately is where you know that it’s been right, when you can look at them and you know that their kids and their wives look at them, and they know that’s the spiritual leadership, spiritual compass of their home. That’s important to me.
Q. Coach, you talked about these guys growing up, talked about yourself developing there too. At the end of your first season, really emotional you talked about that, and right here it’s obvious that all these guys are emotional. I think I dare say that you’re emotional too. Can you talk about the comparison between the end of that first season, that 25?loss season and right here, Sweet 16, losing to Kentucky, but still having that same amount of emotion?
COACH CREAN: I don’t know if I could compare it, I mean, in the sense that’s hard to do. I would say that team, that first team gave everything that they had too, and we all had no idea what we were in for, and nobody did.
Our fans, people that cover us, nobody had any idea what we were in for. It wasn’t anything any of us signed up for, believe me. But everybody gave everything they had.
And along the way, those freshmen that are leaving here as seniors, they grew to give more and more every day and every year.
So I think, if you can look back at your team and you can feel really good about everything that they gave and the way they’ve handled their business on and off the court, the way they’ve lived their life, the impact they’ve had on others, I think these young men have impacted Indiana, the Hoosier Nation, with their work ethic, their love for Indiana, their desire to get better.
Maybe a long time ago I wouldn’t have looked at that as being important, I think that’s real important. I think they’re doing it, and I think the ones that leave here have done it.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.