Tom Crean met with the media following Indiana’s 79-39 exhibition win over Hillsdale College on Monday night at Assembly Hall.
Watch and listen to his postgame comments in the embedded media player below:
Quotes are available after the jump.
Opening statement: “Our whole focus was to start to form an identity and we didn’t form it all the way. We’re still turning the ball over too much and that’s going to take a while because we’re still making too many unforced errors with our footwork and our driving and things like that.
“But we’re going to play fast so we’re going to work through that, but I thought the identity was formed when these guys learned early on inside of the game, almost couldn’t have worked out any better, you don’t want to be down 13-2 and have your rim look like it has a bubble on it. This team has got to learn like any great team, if they’re going to be great they have to understand it happens with defense and rebounding, and it happens with multiple stops. That’s what has to happen for us.
“The fact that we held them to 20 percent shooting in the last 33 minutes of the game, I thought was really, really impressive. To start, we had five deflections down 13-2 and we ended up with 69 in the game. We got some very good contributions from different people.
“In one of these games like this I want to play a lot of guys, but I don’t go in with a set rotation. I never have and probably never will. You want to look a lot of different combinations and the way it works out inside of the game and I thought those combinations were good. I thought we really didn’t have to sub because a guy stuck out the wrong way. We had to sub for fouls a little bit and sub for fatigue, but we didn’t have to sub because somebody stuck out because they couldn’t keep up with the level or keep up with the pace. I think that’s really important moving forward.
“Any time you can overcome a deficit, anytime you can continue to get better throughout the game and any time that they can start to learn what really matters, which is defense and rebounding, multiple stops, creating points off turnovers, I think is really good.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement in taking care of the ball. We are going to become a much better shooting team. We spent a lot of time at it. We don’t have just the absolute knock down guys that you and the fans have become accustomed to over the last couple of years, but they weren’t always that way either. Christian Watford started out at 32 percent as a sophomore and ended up in the high 40s. Victor Oladipo obviously started out at 24 and 21 percent in his first two years and got to 44 percent. What we’ll do is keep sticking with the same thing we’ve been doing, which is spend a lot of time making sure we’re reversing the ball and getting the ball inside out. We were phenomenal tonight when the ball hit the paint, whether on the post-up, whether on the drive.
“That had a ton to do with our identity starting to come alive after being down, because early on it wasn’t getting in the paint and then we were 14-of-19 when the ball touched the paint at halftime. That’s key and our guys continued to play like there was a lot of game left. I like that because this team (Hillsdale), they had everybody’s attention. They had it after Valparaiso. They certainly had it after the film yesterday. There was a few seconds left in overtime and they’re at the free throw line with a chance to go up three and they missed both of them to stay up one and then Toledo makes a shot at the buzzer to beat them in overtime. Toledo is picked to win their division in the MAC, so we knew we were playing against a team that was battle tested. I think John Tharp is an excellent coach. It’s one of the reasons we scheduled them. I think he’s got a good team and I’m glad we got to play two teams that are from as good of conferences as they are in Southern Indiana and Hillsdale. Now we continue to try and work and improve as we get ready for Chicago State.”
On mentality of attacking the basket: “We’re going to have to get better. There are two things that are up for grabs when the season starts right now, there’s usually one. One is that everybody is 0-0. Everybody’s got the same level of energy and they can do things. Well now, the game is up for grabs because the game is being called so differently. Who makes the adjustments? Who understands it best? Who can apply it and then retain it as they go through it? Those are the teams that are going to be successful. There are going to be some wild, wild games the first month of the season, and we want to do everything we can do to be creative, to be innovative, to be fast, but be disciplined. That’s where your hands have got to be free. You’ve got to move your feet and you’ve got to create angles defensively. You can’t reach. You can’t put that hand in the back.
“I’m glad it was called the way it was tonight because we can’t play frustrated. Yesterday in practice we were too frustrated. We can’t bring any body language like that because it just knocks you off your game. They learned that the last two days of practice, it can have a mirror effect too, with the turnovers and fouls and the turnovers that come because of it. That, to me, is a big part of it. We have to drive the ball. We’re not great at playing downhill right now with the exception of Yogi [Ferrell] and Stan [Robinson], but we’ll get better with playing downhill. That’s where so many fouls are going to be created and we’ll get the ball in the post.”
On how the team reacted to Hilldale’s early run: “That’s the beauty of an early season, young team. They wanted it to come together in a few minutes, but we were determined. We got quiet, but we were determined. Sometimes you can get quiet and sad and that didn’t happen. We were determined and probably in that time frame we took one shot that I would say `We need that back. We’re trying to shoot too quick.’ You’re not going to get it all back in one shot or in one stop. It’s always about the possessions. Are they plus-four or are they minus-four, plus-four, minus-four? Every time you get a stop and you got down and get a bucket it’s a plus-four possession. Every time you have an empty possession and they get a point or two points, it’s a minus-four. Sometimes they’re plus-six, minus six. That’s what the game just continues to be.
“What they learned inside of that is that it wasn’t that they needed to turn it up defensively. They needed to communicate and be more active defensively. They were in the right spots. We knew what we wanted to do, we had a game plan, but we just weren’t as active as we needed to be. So the mind was right, but the activity wasn’t great and I think they figured that out and we got rolling.”
Filed to: Tom Crean