MONTREAL — Tom Crean, James Blackmon Jr. (21 points, five rebounds, two steals), Nick Zeisloft (15 points, six rebounds) and Tim Priller (8 points) met with the media following Indiana’s 96-69 win over McGill University on Tuesday night at Live Competition Hall.
Watch and listen to their postgame comments in the media players below:
“The biggest thing we wanted to take out of tonight was what was our energy level, our intensity level, our enthusiasm level and our competitive level going to be compared to last night and I thought they really did a good job of that. It really comes down to if you like the way you feel when you’re playing that hard and you’re playing that aggressive; you want to do it again and again. You never pick up from where you left off, it’s always new and it’s always got to be better. I thought the intent was really, really good to get going. That team came out with a very physical mindset from the first play of the game, they were very aggressive on our first cut and I thought we responded pretty well to that. That team moved the ball at an incredible pace, I mean incredible pace. The one thing we’re taking from up here is it’s not just a 24-second clock, when that shot goes up it feels like it’s an Indy 500 race, a sprint car race, a 40-yard sprint, when you’re just in an absolute take off, and that’s what it’s like. We can get better from that; we can get better from all of those things.”
“Tonight was also about putting people in different positions, putting people in different responsibilities inside of the game, changing defenses from time to time, looking at where the communication was in real time and where our echoes were in getting across to teammates. There will be some learning experience from that. Some of it was good; some of it was not as good.
“From the second quarter on it became a little more of playing scientist, looking for some experiments. But I think at the same time, we did some good things. I think it goes back to the basics of the game – when you’re moving the ball, when you’re making the next pass, when you’re playing inside-out, when it’s going from side-to-side, when you’re ready to shoot, when you’re looking for your teammates – it’s really, really impressive.
“I thought this was a good statistic for the guys to see – the two leading deflectors at halftime were also the two leading scorers. The best facilitator of the game in the first half was Troy Williams; he was also the leading scorer and the leading deflector. The more they can learn that those things really, really do matter and they really do carry over – it doesn’t matter where you’re playing, when you’re playing or who you’re playing – it just matters that you do those things. That’s the kind of stuff we’re hoping we can get accomplished now that helps them be better over a long period of time.”
On the ball movement thus far:
“Well I’m pleased with the fact that when it doesn’t, we recognize it doesn’t and then it moves again. It’s so much more than one player’s responsibility. It’s so much more than saying, `It’s got to start with Yogi Ferrell moving the ball’ – it’s got to start with everybody, it really does.
“We have numerous guys that can make plays, we have numerous guys that can make shots, we don’t have numerous guys that when we stop and play out in the low post and all our action comes from in there. We’re not as good at the elbows yet. The games are moving so fast that you literally have to get to slow down and call offense – you still want them to play and make real-time decisions and conceptual things, and things of that nature – but you also want to get some offensive work into it. I wouldn’t trade the 24-second clock for the knowledge that we’re getting. The more they continue to move the ball at a simple rate – the simpler they are with making that next pass, making what’s there.
“Again, you have a guard at us at the corner this year and we’re still not understanding just how important that corner is and how important it is to be spaced there. We opened up the half. We run a set play, we put Yogi Ferrell in the corner, we put James Blackmon Jr. in the corner and they’re going to guard them and we run a high-low out of one of our basic sets and we get a wide-open basket. We run it again and we get a wide open back cut with Troy Williams and that’s the execution level you have to have. You have to guard our entire front court now – the corners, the wings, the whole deal. The more we understand that, the more the ball is moving to those places and the better it will be.
“We’re learning, there’s no question about it. Ball movement is going to be a strength of this team because there’s a respect level there. You don’t have guys trying to prove they can do things that they can’t do. We’re trying to get better at things we’re not as good at, but we’re not trying to prove we can do things and to me, that’s one of the keys.”
On playing up-tempo while also keeping turnovers under control:
“I don’t know, we’re not going to have the 24-second clock when we go home. I’ll watch the film on that. The one thing the teams do here is they’re really attacking the ball, they’re attacking the rebounds and they really try to run up and take the ball from you. That’s some stuff we really have to learn. We have to be more aggressive with the ball, we have to get our head up on the dribble, we have to throw the ball out ahead. Too many of those turnovers tonight were unforced because we just didn’t keep the game simple. Last night we didn’t have that many and we kept the game simple. That’s all part of it and we’ll get to that point. We’ll understand how to play simple basketball.”
On a young team developing self-awareness during the course of a game:
“That’s a very good question. I think we have some very good basketball sets. We have guys that aren’t trying to do things that aren’t there – sometimes we do, every team does to a degree. Last year we tried to make plays too much that weren’t there and we had guys who couldn’t make those plays. When our two freshmen guards really continue to understand that basic basketball, simple basketball, is the best basketball they can play because of their skill level. It’s really the more your skill level goes up, the simpler you should make your game and not the other way around. It’s not `the more skilled I get, the more difficult I’m going to make it.’ Your skill level is up so you can do the simple things well – pass, catch, move, cut, shoot, inside out – all those types of things. So we’ll get to that and there’s a lot of room for improvement there.
“There’s a few ball sticks, but there’s not that many and we’re gradually understanding that. Ahead of schedule, we are behind in certain things because we did spend a lot of time on our spacing. You have to have the spacing understood before you can have the next pass understood. If you play tight, it doesn’t matter how well you pass because you’re always trying to get a two-on-one and if you don’t have very good spacing, one can guard two. When you’re spaced, you’re constantly creating long closeouts, short closeouts, insides out, rotations, twos on ones all over the court and mismatches – that’s what you want.”
On what the coaching staff has seen from Robert Johnson to this point:
“We wanted him to press a little bit, we wanted him to be more out of his comfort zone of just being a really good, tough-minded player and being some one who brings more awareness to his teammates. More verbal to his teammates, more commands to his teammates – those are the types of things for him to take the next step. You’re always trying to put guys in uncomfortable situations for themselves so that they can become good in those. That’s one of the great-added bonuses of this trip. Was he pressing? No, I would say we were really trying to get him to extend himself tonight.”
On the effort of the team despite playing in 90-plus degree heat:
“Really it hasn’t been as hot in any of the gyms that we thought it was going to be. Reading some of you guys, I thought `Is anybody going to be dressed here?” Light clothing – what does that mean? I thought figured it’d be a bunch of pastel colors coming in. I think they’re handling that well, I really do. I think they enjoy this pace, I think they’re well conditioned and Je’Ney Jackson’s done a fantastic job with them. I think we’re not worn down by any stretch because we have not scrimmaged a lot and it shows we haven’t been physical back home this summer. It shows that we haven’t really been getting into each other’s bodies on block outs and all those types of things. It shows that we haven’t done a lot of loose ball drills yet. But I also want to see where we’re at naturally on our quick-twitch, on our short base quickness, on our 50-50 ball mindset, toughness levels and then we start making our plans for practice from there.”
On the improvements in Devin Davis’ game:
“I think he has worked hard at it but there is a lot of room for him to work even harder and develop. I thought tonight was his best game, offensively, although last night was his best game `intent-wise’. What he wants to erase is having 16 rebounds in 19 minutes the first night and then three rebounds in 22 minutes the next night. Those are the inconsistencies that he wants to erase.
“He opened up the game last night with a pass to James – he was a big, big part of our opening last night and the things that we did there. He got to the other side of the rim tonight. He scored in the low post and took his time. He is rebounding the ball better and we are putting him in pick-and-rolls. Those are the things that he should be able to do for us. The versatility isn’t just for the guys that play in the back court, the guys in the front court have to be versatile as well and Devin is a big part of that.”
On anything he is looking for in the last game:
“I haven’t thought about that yet. It is going to be such a quick turnaround so we will look for efficiency. It is hard to say that we are really going to slow it down because we aren’t. We had more shot clock violations tonight. There were even a couple times when we were looking to over-pass. We know we are so much better when we move the ball that all of a sudden we lost sight of the rim a little bit. We have put a couple things in each day and we have a couple things inside of the gameplan each day.
“McGill’s movement of the ball was fantastic. They are going to be a good team, no question about it. They move the ball, they have shooters, they play inside-outside. They are very, very hard to deal with because you can put an inside guy on one guy and then all of a sudden he is on the perimeter three straight times. So they will be good and I thought that was good for us to have to deal with that tonight.
“What we are trying to get our guys to understand is that the game is always giving you something and you have to recognize what the other team thinks it is giving them in the quickest way possible.”
On James Blackmon Jr. being able to score in different ways and also involve others:
“Last night he was as good of a ball mover as we had. Some of the highlights last night were when Yogi gave it up early on the break. Last year, Yogi had it in his hands a lot on the break. That is part of the reason that the court got so congested because they didn’t have to guard the corners on the break. Will (Sheehey) was such a threat to catch-and-shoot or cut to the basket so it was hard to guard him. But you guys know as well as I do, when you have guys that are making very few 3-pointers, they aren’t going to guard them. The other team gets the same stat sheets that we all get.
“I thought there were two instances last night when James got the ball off the break, came off a high pick-and-roll and then threw it to Yogi in the corner – great play. I thought another time we ran a play out of our `chin’ series for James to come off a down screen. He didn’t have the shot so Devin came in to set the ball screen and Yogi got all the way in the corner and it was like the parting of the Red Sea how open Yogi was on that back cut. The key was that James didn’t even hesitate and just threw the pass because he was looking for it.
“So I think an answer to your question is that (James) is looking for things more. But we don’t want it to take away from his offense. A couple times he came down on the break tonight and had turnovers because he was looking to make the pass when the play might have been the pull-up jumper. He is a tremendous pull-up jump shooter. He has such a gift of scoring and shooting and feel for the game that his passing will get better. His decision-making will get better but his ball-handling and explosion game has to continue to get better. You are seeing flashes of it, but you aren’t seeing it where it needs to be with the ball yet. But that will come and it will be pretty impressive when it does.”
On the new players coming off the bench to contribute:
“You saw what happened. We were running some of our sets when we had some of the bench guys in there and they are in `Never Never Land’ on that right now and we don’t have much in. It is a very small playcard right now. But they will learn from that and this is tremendous experience for them.”
On how the games to this point have compared to what he expected:
“I didn’t have expectations coming in, other than that it was going to be extremely competitive. I didn’t know the programs but I knew of the programs. When you have the players coming to the United States and playing the way they are, you know it is pretty good over here. You see them over the summer as much as you see these kids. The level of play moving up – I don’t know many of the youth coaches but I am sure they are very good.
“I think it has been fantastic for us to see the different paces that teams play at, how quick you have to be when making decisions, how strong you have to be with the ball – it is like all of the players up here play rugby at some point because they come up and get you when you have the ball. To me, that is a great learning tool for us. I have enjoyed looking at the different offenses and the concepts of it.
“I didn’t have expectations one way or the other, other than that it was going to be good and it has been very good.”
On what he has been able to experience outside of basketball on the trip:
“On Saturday, we didn’t really do any basketball. They have been to Six Flags and they went to Old Montreal and all of the restaurants. But Five Guys is going to hate to see this group leave. I’m not sure our guys have hit every restaurant, culturally, that they could have. Today they went to the Oratory and I think that was very impressive for them. We have a church right next to the hotel and I know some of the guys have been over there.
“We had a relatively long meeting yesterday, but other than that, we haven’t really had overly long film sessions – we didn’t watch any film today. We have tried to make sure that they are getting rest. The best thing has been – we were on the bus last night coming back from Carleton and before we gave their phones back – we take them once we get in here and then give them back after the game at the hotel – it was great listening to them talk and laugh. There was a boom box back there and that is the kind of stuff that is good. They won’t remember every phone call, text or tweet that they miss but they will remember those conversations that they have had in the back of the bus. Because everyone that comes back says those are the things that they remember.
James Blackmon Jr.
On how the team moved on from the win over Carleton:
“I think we came back pretty well. Our chemistry is getting better every game. We are starting to understand our personnel, how they play and where they want the ball. Everything is getting better.”
On the play of Nick Zeisloft:
“He’s definitely a big contributor to our team. We definitely need him. He is leading us and being a big vocal guys that brings us together in the huddle. We definitely need that.”
On the improvement of Devin Davis from last year to this year:
“He is improving really well. We are going to need him this year to rebound for us. He has taken his opportunity and stepped up to the challenge. He has improved a lot from last year.”
On the communication on the court this year:
“I think we are a more vocal team this year. This trip has really helped us – Yogi and I are really talking to each other about where we want the ball and getting together is going to be our strength.”
On his success shooting the ball the last two games:
“Tonight was the same thing as last night…my teammates got me involved, found me when I was open and made the plays themselves when they were open. It just comes down to us playing basketball, moving the basketball and succeeding at a high level when we do so.”
On how the team still learns from the games despite playing games on four straight days:
“Fatigue really isn’t a factor for us. We can’t let that hit us at all. We have gotten better each and every game so far – minus the third quarter tonight – and we are going to continue to carry that into tomorrow and learn from every game, quarter, minute and possession on the entire trip.”
Besides playing the games, what has been the best part of the trip:
“These trips only come once every four years and I am fortunate to have two of them (went on one at Illinois State). They are awesome. There is no better thing out there for us, as teammates and friends, than getting to know each other. It has been a great trip.”
On his improved play with each game on the trip:
“I think I have improved a lot. I definitely need to get better – everyone needs to get better – but I need to get better at some things. My teammates are really helping me out. There is no negativity on the team and they are really just pushing me to do better and help them out as well.”
On what areas he need to improve upon:
“I definitely have to earn my minutes, it is not just a given thing. I think I need to rebound, that is probably the biggest thing for me that I need to work on.”
On playing a number of minutes with the older players:
“Everyone is a good player on this team and I’m a team player, so playing with everyone really helps me.”
On the benefits of the trip for the guys that committed later:
“(Jeremiah April) and I came to campus before Rob, James and Max. So we really bonded a lot and were together a lot over the summer so that helped. Then this trip really helps everyone bond together. We went to Six Flags, we went to the beach and those kinds of things really help everyone get to know each other.”