Indiana coach Tom Crean met with the media following the Hoosiers’ 74-68 win over SMU on Thursday night at Assembly Hall.
Watch the full press conference below:
Quotes are available after the jump.
COACH CREAN: We knew we were going to have to play extremely well to beat them. Coach Brown’s teams are always a model of efficiency, not to mention toughness and tenacity and the whole thing. They’re very, very good at executing and being efficient. We knew we were going to have to play well on that. They’re a team that their records over the last couple of years show if they’re under 70 and can hold the opponent under 70, they win. We knew we had to get over that, we did. We knew we needed to be plus 10 on the free-throw line. We were plus 15, so that was big.
Getting four players in double figures. You have to have balance to beat a team like that because the ball has to move, and they’re just too good defensively if you become a team that’s just got one or two guys that are your main scorers. We saw that from all the film that we’ve studied of them. So that was big to have four there. Then we wanted to be up. We wanted to be in control of the game at the end. The biggest thing outside of the defensive transition, and defensive rebounding is going to be us taking care of the ball.
So to have four turnovers in the first half, to have only three in the second half, to have Yogi play 36 minutes without a turnover. To have James play 30, how many? 34 minutes without a turnover. Rob made some plays, and just things weren’t there sometimes for him with the passing, but he played an outstanding game as well. To play against a team that prides themselves on defense, and help, and length like they do and to only have that amount of turnovers is a major step for us.
We knew that inside play and being able to keep them off the glass was going to be huge. I think it’s a small victory they only had nine offensive rebounds. But it’s not a victory for us that we gave up points on the inside, and we know we’ve got to get better there. We’ve got to continue to scheme, and plan and whatever we can do. We had some guys fighting. Yogi is fighting a 6’8″ guy most of the game, and that’s why we need to mix defenses up.
But, all in all, very good win, very impressive win for our team against a very impressive team because they are capable of many things, and they’re nine deep. Without question they’re going to win for a long time. So this win was very, very good for us short term and long-term, and now we want to build on it.
There were two, I thought, turning points in the game for us. In timely shooting and things like that were one thing and timely rebounds. But I thought in the first half when we weren’t attacking the paint the way that we needed to. We actually had probably 19 jumpers we took in that first half where the ball didn’t get in the paint. Where it didn’t come through the paint. It doesn’t have to be squared in the paint, but we’ve got to get the ball through it, and we didn’t do that.
I thought Stan Robinson came in the first half and changed the dynamic of the game with his attacking. He didn’t play a lot of minutes, but he changed the dynamic are if us and got us a little more aggressive.
Then in the second half when we’re down four, this is the key to the game, 7 of the next 8 possessions we got stops. So I’m not even sure what our shooting was. I think that’s when we had some of those makes. But bottom line, 7 of 8 possessions, down 4 against a really good team, and we got stops in those. So lot of stuff for us to build on, and I’ll open it up.
Q. What’s a game like this when you have to make plays at the end and you have to put it away. What is the simple maturation of team?
COACH CREAN: I think there is no question that it will come back and help you. You hope that they understand that they can do that all the time. Even the other night against Texas Southern when we were up I didn’t sub because we wanted to work on running some clock without them really knowing we were running clock, our own team. Because you don’t want a team to start playing not to lose. You want them to continue to tackle it for laughs. At the same time, get the ball swung and make the clock your ally.
But tonight that was important. Our press offense, moving the ball, looking for actions and when they’re not there we really were strong on what we wanted to do when it got to 15 seconds and when it got to ten seconds in the game. We practiced that was one of our main points this afternoon in our walk through.
That’s all part of the maturity that they’ve got to go through. I don’t think there is any question it will help. It’s going to be one of those next time you have it, it’s been there, done that for a young team because there are a lot of young players on the court putting the game away.
Q. The first 20 minutes, you were outscored. Do you think your team was jittery to start?
COACH CREAN: No, I don’t think the ball was touching the paint. We were getting really good shots. So jittery, I don’t know. Maybe. They were open shots and good shots. They just weren’t going in. But for us, we have to be on the attack on both ends of the court, and the ball has got to get through the paint, through the post some, but it’s got to get through the paint. They make it very, very hard to score in the paint because of the way they block shots and the way they all rally to the ball.
Baseline drives are going to be almost unheard of in this game against them because of the way they rally to the ball. They’re as good a help team as there is that I’ve seen. They’re tremendous at help defense for primarily a man to man team. Some teams like Louisville are outstanding in their help because of the way they zone. But this team is really, really good at that.
To me we got open looks. We just needed to be more aggressive and play through the paint, and that gets everybody going. That gets the energy up.
Q. I know you don’t want guys obviously taking bad shots, but in the first half 0-4 in the second half. Is this a team you don’t want to be afraid?
COACH CREAN: They weren’t bad shots. It’s almost like as a coach you want to say they took a bad shot. Those are shots that just didn’t go. There are a little technique things. James, Max, Yogi. We’re constantly trying to not only coach the technique, and it really comes down to reminders. It’s not like trying to change anybody’s shot, but they’re just reminders and those happen during the game.
Sometimes when you shoot it quick or you don’t hold your follow through or you don’t get your last dribble down on your pull-up and the ball is behind you, little things like that can mess with you.
But, no. That’s how we have to play. The more the ball is moving and the more the ball is coming through the corners, then you saw us getting bad cuts in the second half because we wanted to get the game lifted. We didn’t want to be in a game with them. They want you to come out and play them. We’ll get to the point where we’re pressing and three-quarter pressing and things of that nature to bring fatigue to the game. But that’s like giving Nick more his way. You come up and chase him around and let him use his speed and toughness and quickness and strength, that’s not good. They’re a big, long, athletic team and it makes a lot of things happen.
One of the keys for us was how we’re going to defend Ben Moore. He’s a very good player. He did a very good job around the bucket. We wanted to limit his touches in the perimeter, the high post area. We have a lot of respect for their offensive execution, so we wanted to mix defenses. But to me, we’ve got to shoot the ball with great defense because we’ve got confident players when they take a shot.
Q. You guys had 12 threes last game. Do you think the threes was a factor?
COACH CREAN: I think that’s the way it is. I’ve said this before. Our team two years ago averaged 7 threes, and last year we averaged 5. We make two more threes a game, and we’ve been harping on this, if we made two more threes a game with last year’s team, we win six more games just like that. And a team like Michigan made seven threes a game.
I don’t know how many we’re going to make. We’ve never had — we’ve led the country. I’ve said this before, we’ve led the country in the BCS in the last three years in league play and overall play in three-point percentage. But we’re nowhere near the attempt leaders, and that’s okay. As long as we’re getting good threes, I don’t care how many threes we take, as long as they’re in rhythm. As long as they’re not forced and challenged, and as long as that was the best shot we could get.
But like Nick, Nick took a couple of quick ones. Nick feels it. Those things go down, the roof comes offer. Right? It’s just there’s time and score to it, but at the same time, this is a rhythm team. The more that ball is moving, there are a lot of guys that can get in there.
Q. Talk about the team’s attitude and relying on each other?
COACH CREAN: I don’t think there is any question that that’s a huge part. You can’t plan for everything that they’ve been through and they’re going through. It’s not like we’ve been through it. We’re still in the midst of it. We’re still in the midst of maturing and growing up. We don’t have a teammate with us that they miss dearly and misses them. The thing with adversity, you’re going to go one of two ways with it. Okay? It’s either going to break you or it’s going to bond you. It’s too early for us to have an answer to either one of those. That would be foolish to say that.
But for us to continue to move forward and for them to continue to bond, it’s not just about being friends and buddies. It’s about them being able to tell the truth to one another. It’s 24/7 with one another, right? But at the same time, it’s in the court. I saw some tonight. Guys, hold your follow-through or one more pass. Not negativity, but reminders to each other. When you get a team that bonds like that, that’s going to be important.
We can grow. We’re still young in so many areas, and we haven’t even begun to put pressure defense in and things of that nature yet. So those things will go. We’ve got a lot of places to get better at. We’ve got a lot of games to play. But with what they’ve been through over a period of time, I’m proud of their work. I’m proud of how serious they are. I’m proud of their trying to grow up. They’re growing up. So we’ve just got to continue, like I say to them, every day. They’ve got to take it day by day. It sounds kind of corny, but it’s true. And that’s really what they have to do is get the most out of the way. Assess where they’re at the at the end of the day and know what they have to do better tomorrow. It sounds corny. It’s just as corny to them. But we’re trying to learn and move on from there.
Q. Are some of the match?ups better going small?
COACH CREAN: I think it will be game by game. But it is what it is. I thought we did a really good job tonight of trying to get some match-ups that we wanted. Hanner did a good job. I should have mentioned this. Yogi had 18 deflections. He had 15 in the first half. The last time we had a guy with 15 in the first half was Victor Oladipo. That is the only guy that I’ve coached.
Hanner doesn’t get a lot of boards but he’s down there fighting. He ends up with 13 deflections. That is the stuff when you look at Hanner, as he continues to progress, you can’t just look at his numbers. Well, he didn’t have any rebounds. Well, he’s down there fighting. So all of a sudden, James comes out of there with seven boards, Robert comes out with six. Yogi comes out with five. Now you have 18 rebounds out of three guys. For us to be successful, we’ve got to get guard rebounds.
Well, Hanner’s down there trying to hold the fort and battle and do that, and sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce. But he’s continuing to affect the game. In answer to your question, everybody that goes out there should be able to impact the game and affect the game. I don’t know if it has a lot to do with small. It’s spacey, okay. But Troy figured it out. Troy starts going down on the baseline, and Troy was so excited to be in the game and trying to make plays. All of a sudden, when he slowed down a little bit, things started to come to him and he makes big defensive plays. It’s just putting our guys out and making sure that everybody knows when that ball moves, everybody’s going to be rewarded whether we’re small or whether we’re medium sized. I don’t think we’ll get big, I guess we’ll be medium sized, but it is what it is.
Q. What signs did you know right away that James would have the green light to shoot?
COACH CREAN: I think he’s really smart. He’s really, really a smart player, and that is the thing about Robert, too. They’re serious minded, but they’re very smart players. James really wants to be better at everything. He’s not going to walk around thinking I’m just a shooter. And we had a good talk the other day about having more of an aggressive mentality to start the game, a scorer’s mindset. Now that doesn’t just mean I’m coming in to score. A shooter’s mindset means I’m coming in to shoot. A scorer’s mindset means we’re coming in to find the plays, and I thought he did a good job with that.
To play that game with no turnovers and have seven boards, that is pretty impressive. He holds his follow through, he would have had even more points. Literally, he would have had more. He’s trying to be a well-rounded, complete player. I think when you have guys like that, it’s easy to give them a lot of freedom, and that’s important. I think everybody on this team knows or will learn that you don’t take advantage of it either. You keep making the simple play. As long as that simple play results in good shots, even if they don’t go in, no problem.
Q. Follow up with Hanner, how big was that charge?
COACH CREAN: Oh, my goodness. That might have been the loudest the building was all night, and deservedly so. He started the game with a charge. Two of the first three possessions were a charge, right? Something like that. He’s our leading charge taker in practice. To me, again, I know everybody asks about Hanner, and all I can tell you is he’s getting better, all right, at doing all the little things, and he never took charges a year ago.
You can see him. He still leaves his feet too much right now, and he’s trying to block shots when he should just play a position for defense and verticality. But for him to stay in there, I that was a big time momentum changer for us. I’m not even sure what the score was. But when the team is excited like that, we did a good job with that. Hanner’s learning how to do all the little things that lead to winning. If he continues on that path, he’ll improve. That was a monumental play in this game. No doubt.
Q. Two guys that did come back, Stan and Troy?
COACH CREAN: Stan played. Oh, you mean that did play.
Q. You talked about it a little bit. How do you think those guys adapted back in?
COACH CREAN: I think Stan didn’t play a lot of minutes, but he went in and impacted the game because he changed the dynamic of the game, and that is a huge thing. Momentum is always up for grabs in a game. It doesn’t come down to a starter. It doesn’t matter who it is. It doesn’t matter who it is, it can come a lot of different ways. Who has momentum the longest and last usually wins a close game. But he came in when we were a little more perimeter oriented and helped us get a little more attack oriented. When he got fouled early, that was big. He had as many free throw attempts in league play last year as Noah did, and Noah had some free throw attempts. So Stan can get fouled.
But Troy came in. He was going to have a lot of energy, there is no doubt about that. He kept talking about you have nothing to prove. Just come out here and play. Fit in with what we’re doing, just adjust to it. Don’t come out and try to get it all back at once. Once he settled in, he did a pretty good job. But he’s got an edge to him when he plays.
Felt bad for him. He’s worked so hard on his handling and his foot work to carry. But he’ll continue to work on that. One of the turning points was when we moved him to have to be defended by their five. Because they had to match down with us, rather than us matching up with them. I thought they did. Maybe they just wanted to sub him. But when you can move a guy around, those two guys had a lot of versatility for us. They just need to blend in to what we’re doing and they’ll be fine.
And Emmitt, it just wasn’t the night to go in. We went a little bit smaller, but he’s worked hard and confidence with playing him. He’s obviously been through a lot. He’s handling it, and he’s growing up, and he works hard every day, and there is a place for him on that court too.