Tom Crean met with the media following Indiana’s 88-49 season opening win over Eastern Illinois on Friday at Assembly Hall.
Watch the full press conference below:
Quotes are available after the jump.
COACH CREAN: Well, we wanted to get our defense to a point where it was creating our offense for us and have our defensive energy lead the way with the offensive responsibilities that we would have getting the ball down the court making the next play, and not over thinking it, right. And our defense really created a lot of that.
And then I was really proud of what they did and the way that they handled the officiating in the sense of understanding how the game was going to be called, and we made some adjustments. There’s a lot more adjustments we can make, certainly with our hands and positioning and doing-our-work-early type of things.
But our guys really understood how the game was going to be — going to go, and we started playing more and more downhill. We were on the attack. We kept bringing pressure and trying to bring fatigue to the game. We’re very concerned about them because they had long-range shooters, especially from the corners and they had two hard match-up problems with Anderson and Johnston, and then I thought our guys were really locked in throughout the night, no matter what our coverage was, and trying to make life tough for them.
We had a lot of guys play well. The things that stand out to me are the fact that we had some really good runs, like I said, which were keyed by our defense that we had 21 offensive rebounds and our guards had 19 of our 51 boards, which means we are blocking out and offensive rebounding from all the positions, and we were very, very aggressive throughout the night.
And I saw very little let-up, and we played a lot of different lineups, especially in the second half, and I was proud of our effort and really proud of their energy, proud of the way they have responded this week to getting better.
And now our whole key is: Can we continue to improve; and understand to a man, and then as a team, what we have got to get better at every day, and that starts again tomorrow. But there’s certainly a lot of room inside of our spacing, inside of being ready to shoot, inside of our cuts off the post, those type of things, just like there’s a lot of room for improvement on the defensive end.
But to get this kind of start tonight in front of a great crowd and to play with the energy we did, we’re excited about that.
Q. Max talked about the exuberance, maybe over-exuberance. At some level, would you rather have that than the other way around, a player that is maybe a little bit too —
COACH CREAN: Oh, absolutely. Thomas has got tremendous energy and he plays with emotion. The whole key that you want any player, whether they are young, old, whoever it is, is not to play emotion basketball (ph), right, and there’s a big difference. But playing with emotion leads to a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and he’s got a tremendous spirit. He’s a great teammate. But he’s learning. He’s 18 years of age and a couple of months into that and played his first college game, his first official college game.
I was proud of him. I thought he handled it really well. And then we just decided that we are kind of really watching his minutes, anyways. I kept him out there because he handled it well, and he really did, and he went back out and he played and settled in and he’s going to have to be in a lot of really tough, hostile adverse situations this year.
So the more that he can learn from the game, the better he’s going to be. But we’d certainly rather have a guy that every once in awhile, you want him to settle in versus trying to get him to raise it up. That’s a lot harder, and you’re exactly right.
Q. Can you just talk about the different dimensions, just what that gives everybody else?
COACH CREAN: Well, we are all learning, especially with the forwards to play together. And I think we have got a group of guys that, again, you want this. You want a group of guys that you feel very comfortable starting in the game; that you feel very comfortable finishing with in the game; and that impact the game throughout it. And to see what could happen more and more this year, like tonight: Tonight became a match-up situation for us because of the matchups that we wanted when we changed the lineup. We didn’t decide to change the lineup until they put their lineup in, and that’s maybe what’s going to happen throughout the year.
Because when you have numerous guys that are multi-dimensional that can play together, you’re going to be better, and Max and Thomas together or Max and Thomas separate, are key, key parts of our team. So we’ve got to be able to do both.
All our forwards are going to get a lot better because they are young and Max is young to us. We certainly want and expect a huge role out of him this year and I think he’s going to be capable of it, but he’s got to learn and grow into it but this is a good start for both of them and for Juwan and OG.
Q. Back together, what do you think about lineups —
COACH CREAN: Well, we just wanted a certain matchup because of 15, because of Anderson. So that’s what that was.
I’ll have to watch the film but I thought it was good. It was average in the plus/minus, I left that in the other room — I don’t remember it in the top of my head. But we have to get Collin going, right. He’s missed a lot of time in the sense of he’s missed valuable practice time and he’s trying to find his rhythm.
He was in here this morning with us shooting at least, had to be 350, 400 shots in the span of an hour, plus walk-through, plus the game tonight. And right now, we just want to help him find his rhythm. He is a valuable, valuable guy and he can play with anybody on our team. And right now, it’s just a matter of him getting more comfortable.
Q. Talk about sustaining when the bench comes in.
COACH CREAN: Oh, absolutely, and especially in the sense, we were 72 percent of our possessions went through the paint and that was something that we knew we needed to get better at from our first two games, whether it’s the post-up action — because the first game the other night — or the game on Monday night, we had 12 (ph) inside of 12 post-ups and if you’re clicking, you should get a point — well, we have to have more post-ups, and this is the kind of team that can do that.
But at the same time we really want to play through the paint, because that creates the drive-and-kick game; it creates the drop-off game; it gets the ball really, really moving; and along with that, we want to build a real accuracy.
So there were a lot of things to get better at tonight, even after we got up, and I think they understand that. But really, continuing to stay true to how the game was being called, and getting used to that, is really going to be important.
And we’ve got to continue to work on how we are going to get fouled, when we’re going to get fouled, who is going to get fouled and everybody even becoming a more efficient free-throw shooter.
Q. Talk about Robert coming off the bench.
COACH CREAN: Well, I look at him as a starter, I really do. Like I said before, we want to be two-deep, and when a guy is two-deep and can play numerous positions like he can, it creates even that much more value. But he’s one of our best defenders, as is Yogi.
So we’ve got to look at match-ups. We’ve got to look at it ahead of time. What did he play, 20 minutes? Very efficient shooting the ball. He’s getting better and better. He’s as valuable as anybody else that we put out there.
So could that make us better, depending — who knows what’s going to happen with who is going to start. I really don’t know. I’m not looking at it that way this year. But are those guys going to play? Absolutely. And the more that they can play efficiently and raise the level of everybody else, that’s really important, because Robert is capable of that. Robert is capable of a lot and we want to keep helping him get to that point.
Q. Just talk about OG —
COACH CREAN: No, not really. He’s a product of — he works very hard.
What he’s doing out there is a lot more of his natural ability. But the time when he threw that shot up there — I said, I can’t even get mad about the shot. You never saw the basket because your head dropped at the three-point line, right. I mean, that’s not a shot we work on. We work on a lot of creative layups; that’s not one of them.
But watching him where I was, his head went down, his eyes went down when he caught the ball at the three-point line, so he never really knew where he was at. Well we need him. You saw at the end, he played the point in the last two possessions. I just want these guys to get a real vision of the game and make it simple.
OG is going to learn that. He’s very efficient at doing a lot of different things because he’s naturally there. He works extremely hard. He’s learning a lot about defense. He’s learning a lot about the speed of the game. But he’s natural when he goes to that basket. He’s natural when he goes up to rebound the ball, and he’s 7-6 when he stretches those arms out. So those are all positives and his fundamentals and his skills will continue to get there.
Q. What you said earlier about still getting used to the bigs, what is that process — when the guards didn’t have the post-up opportunity last year, with guys like Max and Thomas, and how do you get better?
COACH CREAN: Well, we need more time to really — we need five-on-o (ph) time with the offense. We haven’t spent a lot of time at that. We spent time at our break on our spacing but haven’t spent — I mean, people scouting us right now drawing up plays, I feel bad for them, because some of the plays we are running are not what they are supposed to look like, and it’s not — and I get it.
So like when the game is the way it is, we don’t want to complicate the game. Just move the ball, drive it, get it swung, hit the open man, and get it from side to side, right. So if we are getting our concepts down, that’s the most important thing.
And I think getting — because everybody can shoot the ball, and because everybody can make a three, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we understand the spacing behind the line.
But we had some guard play tonight where they didn’t understand or stay true and committed to the spacing. That’s one of the things I said to them after the game: We have got to spend time on that, but right now, if we are getting better defensively and we are creating more opportunities from our defense for our offense, I’ll take that more than anything else because I think the spacing and the ability to play with one another and the ability to understand each other’s strengths and put people in the best position when you’re playing, will come.
Q. How nice is it to have a guy like Thomas?
COACH CREAN: How nice is it? How nice do you think it is? You waited all that time to ask that? That is an obvious question. It is great to have him. It is great. He’s a wonderful young man, wants to get better, very hungry, has missed a lot of very valuable time, still wears a boot, okay, when he’s not on the court.
He’ll get better and better. And what he’s missed time on is not necessarily — well, he’s missed offense and break downs and things like that but he’s missed those times to really have to get out there and, like, now I’ve got to guard Yogi or now we’re in the ball screen and now I’ve got to guard James or Rob; or now I’ve got to guard Troy when the ball has been swung and I’m in a close-out situation.
All those things will come over a period of time in practice and will come over a period of time in games and he’ll get a lot better. But he’s got a high upside. He’s got an extremely high level motor and he wants to be really, really good. So it’s a lot of fun to have.
Filed to: Tom Crean