DES MOINES, Iowa – OG Anunoby, Robert Johnson, Yogi Ferrell and Tom Crean addressed the media at the podium following Indiana’s 99-74 win over Chattanooga in the 2016 NCAA tournament first round at Wells Fargo Arena.
Watch the full press conference below:
Quotes are available after the jump.
THE MODERATOR: We will have an opening statement from Coach Crean.
TOM CREAN: Well, we are extremely excited to be moving on and I thought our guys have done a tremendous job focusing all week on the task at hand which was a very good Chattanooga team. They are exactly what we thought they would be. They’re aggressive. They can shoot it. They can play inside out. They have great pressure and our guys played with tremendous urgency.
We weren’t always as effective in the first half as we needed to be with our ball screen coverages and a couple of our passes, but we settled in and I don’t have the stat sheet memorized yet, taking a look at it for the first time now. I thought our guys did a fantastic job in the second half especially on the three-point line. We did a great job on the three-point line all game, and that’s big for us.
We handled the pressure and these gentlemen right here to my left did a fantastic job along with their teammates in the locker room. It was a great team victory because it was played offensively and defensively and in situation basketball and that’s exactly what you’ve got to have and we’re, you know, anxiously looking forward to seeing who we’re going to play on Saturday. Is there a time for that game?
THE MODERATOR: No. At this time questions for student-athletes.
Q. Robert, for you to come back and play after missing a few games, how did it feel to get back out there and be effective tonight?
ROBERT JOHNSON: It felt great, being with my teammates, after missing a couple games, felt good being back out there and being able to help these guys win.
Q. Rob, can you put a level on how much pain you were in in that first game back out there, times when you were jogging around, seemed like you might have had a limp. Can you put a level on how it felt today?
ROBERT JOHNSON: I felt pretty good all day. The pain didn’t feel any different as it usually does, especially these last couple of practices. So I’m encouraged with how I felt.
Q. OG, can you talk about the energy with which you were able to break Chattanooga’s defensive plan, their press as well as their half court defense and how you kind of embodied that with your pretty dramatic style of play today?
OG ANUNOBY: I just tried to come out and play hard and trusted my teammates to — we all just tried to make the right plays.
Q. OG, it’s your first NCAA Tournament game. How did it feel to be on such a big stage to have so many highlight plays and whatnot?
OG ANUNOBY: It was a cool experience. My teammates always talk about it, and it was nice to finally go out there.
Q. Yogi, can you just give me some idea of how you felt this offensive performance, especially the high shooting percentage prepared you guys for the next step which of course everybody anticipates will likely be Kentucky and how excited would you be if that’s the match-up you got?
YOGI FERRELL: Well, there’s still a game to be played. It’s March. So I feel like anything can happen and if we were to get them it would be a great match-up, two high-level, offensive-powered teams, so we will just see what happens.
Q. Yogi, what does it do for you guys when you see OG have a 360 dunk in the first half or any of those plays that you see, what does it do for the team?
YOGI FERRELL: It definitely brings the level of intensity up. When we see OG do a dunk like that we just want to see it again. We see him many practice, so we’re not surprised to see it, but that’s just us going out there and having fun, playing together as a unit and when we can do that we can do very well.
Q. Yogi, this season seemed headed in the wrong direction back in December and now you have a shot at making the Sweet 16. What is it that Coach did in that time specifically back in December to turn this around?
YOGI FERRELL: Coach kept getting on us and he saw the potential that we had as a team, you know, early on we weren’t playing very well in Maui and at Duke, but he saw the potential and he stayed with us and we were fortunate for him to do that for us.
By him getting on us, it made the older guys like me, Nick, Max, guys who have played on the team get on our teammates because we saw the potential in ourselves, too.
Q. For all of you, just the loss to Michigan, obviously you didn’t want to suffer a set-back in the Big Ten Tournament, but does that provide extra motivation for a game like today’s?
YOGI FERRELL: Well, I wouldn’t say motivation, you know. I would say the film that we watched when we played Michigan was not the way we’ve played the entire year. The way we played against Michigan wasn’t the way we played to win the Big Ten Championship, so we watched that film and saw how slow we were and not aggressive on defense and we just want to come out here and fix it and I felt like we did that.
Q. Yogi, wondering if you saw your sisters behind the bench in the shirts and we were interviewing them and if it was a distraction at all and what their support has meant to you?
YOGI FERRELL: I only heard about the shirts. My sisters were wearing saying I’m an annoying brother, I’ll have to talk to them about that. They supported me my entire career of basketball and they come to basically every away game and I’m grateful for such a great family that supports me like that and to see them over on the sideline just makes me happy.
Q. For all of you guys, do you watch any of the other 5-12 games that are going on today and see Yale beat Baylor and Little Rock win? Did that pop into your minds? You following that at all today?
OG ANUNOBY: We saw it, but we didn’t let it — yeah, we watched the games, but —
TOM CREAN: You watched the Little Rock – Purdue game?
OG ANUNOBY: No, we watched the Yale game, but we just tried to come out and play our game. We didn’t worry about that.
YOGI FERRELL: It’s March. The best teams play in the NCAA Tournament. That’s why they’re selected for a reason and anybody can beat anybody on any given night.
ROBERT JOHNSON: Same thing.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. We’ll take questions for Coach.
Q. Coach, it really seems like OG is on a stretch where he is playing defensively, kind of like what Victor was doing in 2013. Have you ever seen this transformation in one season and improvement on one end of the ball like OG has had defensively this year?
TOM CREAN: First off, you’re comparing him to a guy that ended up being a second pick in the draft in his junior year of basketball. I wouldn’t go that far. They’ve got some characteristics with their length and tenacity, but OG is a freshman and he’s grown up a lot because he learned in December really how to sustain intensity and he’s a great person and he’s very smart.
So that helps so much of it, but he learned how to sustain intensity. He pays attention in film. He gets better in practice. He’s been on a good move really the entire Big Ten and now into March, but you lost me on that Victor comparison. We’re not quite ready for that. I mean, I know it’s March and there are wild things out there, but that one is a little strong. OG has a lot of potential and if he continues because of that size, length, his ability to move his feet he’s going to be an outstanding player in his own right. What’s also helped is his offense has gotten significantly better and I think so much of that comes because of his defense.
Q. Tom, I don’t know if you have a statistical goal for press break, but 23 assists on 37 field goals is pretty tangible evidence of how effective the offense was. Can you address not only breaking the press at the early part of the press, but also the back end of the press, which was obviously very effective today?
TOM CREAN: We don’t have a statistical goal because we don’t want to break it, we want to attack it. And I think that’s it is connotation that you want to get across to your team. We were prepared for the press. We were prepared — we have a lot of respect for them, and that’s why we spent all of our time getting ready for them because that’s what it all comes down to. We were very concerned about the press that turned back into the zone because of the length of the zone.
We wanted to do a great job of attacking. We’ve got a couple different ways. We made adjustments in the game, but it’s very, very important for us to not have — we never want to have more offensive players up than they have defensive players, right? Because that balances into the defense seems like it doesn’t, but numerically it works into the defenses favor, and we want to get behind it and into the downhill game. Some of it’s going to be off the pass, off the drive, some off the ball screen. The more we can get two people deep behind the press the better for us, and that’s where the a lot of the assists come from and we want to attack inside out or inside down.
So it’s really not about — it’s be the about numerical goals. I didn’t realize we shot that until I sat up here. And I thought we had about 20 turnovers at half and I was shocked to see that we only had six right because we were playing — we just weren’t quite where we needed to be in the first half, ball screen coverage wise and passing wise.
But we were better in the second half and we got a lot better and it’s because we stayed on the attack.
Q. Looking back at the four games that you didn’t have Rob and now he’s back, what is the difference with your team when you have him and you don’t?
TOM CREAN: Well, I haven’t thought much like that because our team kept getting better when he was out. But he obviously he’s a starting guard, high-level guard in the Big Ten and in the country, and he had a fantastic year. And we missed him a lot.
But I think it just showed the urgency that everybody else played with. I mean, they had to learn how to play without one of the premiere guards in the country at the beginning of the Big Ten season with James Blackman, so when you’ve got guys that can play quality minutes, quality time and play numerous positions like Juwan and OG can that’s very helpful. But we missed him and we were able to win when he wasn’t there, but we certainly enjoyed having him back there today and he’s not 100% back, but he was back enough to be a real contributor today. It was great to have him.
Q. Coach, if Kentucky wins tonight, given that rivalry, the history, the last four year, the fact that your teams have not played, how does that change your preparation and how do you go about getting the guys ready for what’s going to be an intense game?
TOM CREAN: I’m sorry because they haven’t played that game yet, so I would be remiss if I started talking about the potential opponent, I’m sorry. But our preparation won’t change on whoever the opponent is. We’ll lock into it tonight and we’ll lock into it tomorrow and we’ll get ready to play on Saturday.
Q. Whenever, whether it’s on Saturday or three years from now, could you just speak to that rivalry and what it will be like whenever that time comes?
TOM CREAN: I think it’s a great rivalry and one of the — there has been a lot of great history with Indiana and Kentucky over the years and we’ve been privileged to be a part of it.
There’s some — there’s been a lot of tremendous games. Obviously it’s a rivalry because of the history of it, because of the proximity of the two states, but because the two basketball teams have been good when it’s been at its best. So I would say that’s the biggest thing.
Q. Is there any chance that you’re willing to speak about what you and Yogi were talking about as he was walking off?
TOM CREAN: Probably not, thank you though.
Q. The crispness of your offense today, the way you guys moved the ball, shot 65%, hit all the threes?
TOM CREAN: We really moved the ball well. It was exciting. We played well. We played sharp, got better as the game went on and we created a lot from our defense which we were in a trade basket mode for a little bit in the first half and we got better at that in the second.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Coach. See you tomorrow.