Tom Crean met with the media following Indiana’s 73-60 win over Iowa on Saturday night at Assembly Hall.
Watch and listen to his postgame comments in the embedded media player below:
Quotes after the jump.
“A hard fought victory, there’s no doubt about it. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s not. Everybody’s playing for the same thing — they’re playing to get better, they’re playing to win, they’re playing to improve. All year long, but certainly in preparing for the game, there’s no question in my mind, if you’re going to have the best league in the country like we have, and it’s been that way the entire year, then certain teams should get a little bit of exclusion from the bubble, and I think Iowa’s one of them. I don’t have any doubt about that. Nobody wants to see them in the NCAA Tournament; I mean they’re really good.
“For us to defend them the way we did tonight and hold them to 14 points in the first half says a lot about our defense, a lot about our resolve — it’s been a long week. Anytime you have a Tuesday-type Saturday situation and then losing the way we did and coming back and having to grind and having to play against another really good team, it’s never easy. Getting to this point is not easy, and getting to this year is not easy. These guys continue to improve, they have great resolve, and again it’s not going to be a beautiful, picture-perfect game, it’s too good of a league.
“The other teams are too good, but to defend the way we did, to get 52 deflections is tremendous. To be one of only six teams that has ever gotten to 25 regular season wins in Indiana history is big, really big. I thought the way we did it was a tremendous testament to the way these guys worked. To open up March with a win like that against a very good team is excellent.
“Cody [Zeller] had a phenomenal night, a great week leading up to tonight. He continues to get better and better, continues to get a lot of attention on the court, and earns everything that he gets. He earned every one of those free throws. He continues to play at a very high level. We had to work through fouls, we had to work through lack of confidence maybe once in a while from our offense not being where it needed to be in the first half. A sign of a mature team is that it never, ever wavered on the defensive end, and that’s the story of the game for us.”
On what the key to improvement has been for the defense this year:
“They understand that you can’t win without it. They understand that you truly can’t win the way … I mean we went through the offseason of being able to show where we got three more stops in certain games, we left it up in our practice gym the entire time, what it would have meant seeding-wise for us. We would have either been a first of the second seeds or, who knows, maybe slid in even higher, but we didn’t. A year ago we were 8-7 going into the 16th game of the year. We didn’t have it that way. These guys really understand.
“The biggest thing is that we can’t win without it, but it leads to more opportunities offensively. When you’re creating turnovers, when you’re getting defensive rebounds, when you’re getting those stops put together, you’re getting easier baskets and at the same time you’re cutting into the fatigue of the other team and into their confidence level. We’ve been there. That’s why I love the maturity of this group right now. Even when the shots aren’t falling, they’re still playing at a very high level. They understand what wins, and defensive rebounds win.
“We had the poorest offensive rebounding attempts of the entire season the other night, combined with the poorest block out situations of the entire season the other night. We had some guys that didn’t play close to where they were capable of playing. We had 40 deflections and yet we still had a chance to win that game inside the last minute. Your offense isn’t always going to be there, but when you defend at a high level, when you rebound at a high level, that’s going to put you over the top and that’s what did it today. We shot the ball at times when we needed to shoot, we didn’t get discouraged, and we didn’t get down. We continued to offensive rebound the ball, I’ll be anxious to see the numbers on that, and we were playing a really good team that wasn’t going to go away.”
On the team’s focus on defense even during tough offensive stretches:
“I think it’s going to serve us well, to be honest with you. We were really working to concentrate. There could have been a lot of different times where we slipped up, and we made some mistakes in the last five minutes, we’ve just got to continue to understand time and score situations, but that’s part of it. It just says a lot about this group of guys that they really do understand what wins games. I know that sounds basic, but it’s not. They have to get to the foul line, that’s who we are and they’ve made it that way. We’ve got to get the stops; we’ve got to get the ball reversed. We’ve got to get the ball inside. We weren’t nervous at all about attacking the zone. We’ve had some games where we were scoring two and a half points per possessions against zones. Our points per possession against zones are higher than our points overall. We see zone and it’s not an issue. Now the shots have to go, and I know they weren’t that high tonight, but these guys don’t get concerned about any of that, presses, it doesn’t make any difference, they’ll attack it.”