DES MOINES, Iowa – Tom Crean, Nick Zeisloft, Thomas Bryant, Yogi Ferrell and Collin Hartman took the podium on Friday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena to preview Saturday’s second round NCAA tournament matchup Kentucky.
Watch both press conferences below:
Quotes are available after the jump.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by the student-athletes from Indiana. Questions for our student-athletes?
Q. Yogi, how much have you watched Ulis? What do you think of his game and is this a match-up that guys like you get excited about each other going against each other?
YOGI FERRELL: He’s been a great point guard all season, leading his team. They have athletic bigs, finds his shooters and he’s a great part of that team and he’s a big reason why they’ve been so successful this season.
Q. Yogi, is there any added significance to this game because it’s Kentucky, such a rival?
YOGI FERRELL: Well, we have a lot of respect for Kentucky, just, you know, the level of their play and how they’ve always played very well. So, you know, we’re not get into the rivalries so much. This is just us versus them now.
Q. Yogi, are you the type of guy that gets up for an individual match-up when you know the guy that plays your position across from you is considered one of the best in the country? Does that motivate you to equate yourself well against him?
YOGI FERRELL: I wouldn’t say so, not at all. This is a team effort, 5 on 5, it’s not 1 on 1, 5 on 1, this is 5 versus 5. I don’t get too hyped up in the match-up, go out, play the same we would have played all year, stick to our strengths, not try to do anything fancy, just try to go out there and get the win.
Q. Nick, thoughts about this season, all the different bumps you guys have had along the way. What’s it say in terms of you guys having survived it so successfully to this point and how much rides on this game in terms of how the season turns out in your mind’s eye moving forward to the Sweet 16?
NICK ZEISLOFT: The way we’ve been talking the whole year everything we have been through has strengthened us to this point. The success and the struggles, we’ve been through a lot of different situations that have showed us how to succeed through all types of situations that we can face and that we will face.
Q. What will be some of the keys to slowing down the freshman, Jamal Murray in tomorrow night’s match-up?
THOMAS BRYANT: I would say some of the things that we have to do is maybe just stay disciplined. We have a game plan for each and every one of them out there, and we just gotta go out there and follow it.
TROY WILLIAMS: As long as we stick to our transition defense and the principles and everything and back on defense things should work out in our favor.
COLLIN HARTMAN: We have to come out and be aggressive and stick to out game plan. We have a coaching staff that puts different things together for every game and we just have to execute our game plan and limit shots.
NICK ZEISLOFT: I think those three hit it pretty much on the dot. They’re fast and athletic and we have to get back in transition and take out their half court sets, and we’ll get with the coaches on that. We already have some and we will continue to.
Q. Yogi, I’m sure you saw last night they set the NCAA Tournament record with 15 blocks. What’s the key to drawing those bigs out so you guys can have the space you want to get the shots you want?
YOGI FERRELL: The key is always stay in movement. We always like to preach on moving the ball, and I feel like against a team such as Kentucky since they play such great defense you’ve gotta move the ball, wear ’em down a little bit, try and get those bigs out, penetrate the ball into the lane, kick it out and just find a way. You especially can’t go in there and drive in on those bigs.
Q. Yogi, the bow and arrow deal last night was pretty amusing. You just piggybacking on Jamal Murray, or what was the deal with that?
YOGI FERRELL: Actually, Wesley Matthews started that when he played for, he obviously came from Coach Crean, but I saw him do that first.
Q. Yogi, how much will tempo be an issue in this game and what kind of tempo do you guys want to play? One of the last times you played them it became a high-tempo game. Where do you see this game going?
YOGI FERRELL: I see this being a very fast tempo game, two high-powered offenses, especially both of us, we like to get up and down. I expect it to be a multiple possession game on both ends.
Q. For any of you guys, how have you seen Yogi’s game evolve, develop, how have you seen him become more of a leader over the course of this year or his career here?
NICK ZEISLOFT: In all facets of the game he’s improved being a leader out there, communicating, sharing his wisdom and experience and what he sees and his awareness out there have really made us all better throughout the whole year.
COLLIN HARTMAN: I think the biggest thing that stuck out to me was how vocal he was every day in and sharing it and trickling it down to the younger guys, even myself because he sees the game in a different way and it’s nice to have him be that vocal leader every single day.
TROY WILLIAMS: I mean, me and Collin have been with Yogi the longest, but seeing him grow on the court and off court is amazing. It helps us out even better, and he has a lot of wisdom of the game and a lot of wisdom in the college NCAA, and it’s all helped us.
THOMAS BRYANT: He’s been a true leader for me, being a freshman coming in. His work ethic on and off court is amazing. I try and take that some of that from him. I just keep working every day to try and get better with him.
Q. For Troy and Collin and anybody else that wants to weigh in given the profile of these programs and the proximity, is this a game that should be played every year?
TROY WILLIAMS: I mean, it’s what we came to Indiana for is what people go to Kentucky for, these big games. Like it used to be, I would say as — should it be? I have no say on that, but if it were to be, it’s what we came here for, those big games.
COLLIN HARTMAN: I think it’s a great rivalry that runs really deep, always has and always will, whenever we meet like we are tomorrow. But I don’t have any opinion on whether we should or shouldn’t. We have big games all year long, so we have our hands full the way it is.
Q. When things have gone wrong for you guys, let’s say the Michigan game in the quarter finals in the Big Ten Tournament, what are the things that have gone wrong and how do you correct them in a game like this against a team that plays such good defense?
YOGI FERRELL: The biggest thing I say where turnovers to start the game, being loose with the ball, careless with it, so going into this game we definitely have to be more careful with it starting out, going against such a great defense. We saw that in the Michigan game and our defensive coverages weren’t there, so I think those were the two key thins for us.
NICK ZEISLOFT: Like Yogi said, taking care of the ball and defensive stops are a big key to our success, and whenever we’re not getting stops out there we have to make adjustments quick on the fly and whether that’s just a reminder in a huddle, on the court, or in a timeout, you know, we can figure that out and we have to make quick adjustments throughout the game.
Q. I guess this can be for Yogi, Nick and Troy. With the history of the programs aside, some would say that is almost unfair that such a strong match-up is happening so early in the tournament. Is this the sort of thing that you guys look barred to no matter what time it occurs in terms of these two teams facing each other?
YOGI FERRELL: I would say so. You know, when tournament starts I feel like anybody can beat anybody. That’s why the teams that were selected for this tournament are in the tournament.
So I feel like we’re just going to play this game how we always wanted to, not try and look at it as — we’re not going to treat them as any different than Chattanooga, just by the way we prepare and how we do things and how we go about our business.
NICK ZEISLOFT: Yeah, I mean, some people might say it’s pretty early for us to play, but we don’t look at it like that. Everyone has to win six games if you want to win this tournament anyway so everyone at this level is great and they’re here for a reason and you’ve got to win six games to win the whole thing.
COLLIN HARTMAN: Like Nick said, you have to beat everybody anyways. Yeah, great team to play, very talented, very athletic and very skilled. We’ve gotta come out ready to go. Like Yogi said, we’re going to prepare the same way we have all season, and we’re going to come out prepared and we have been locked in all season and we’re not going to change that now.
Q. My question is, none of you obviously played in this rivalry, but Coach Crean has been a part of it before and some of the guys that have graduated like Victor have been in this game. What have they told you about it and about the history?
YOGI FERRELL: Coach Crean has just said it’s going to be a very up and down game, so get our shoe laces ready, gotta get back on defense. Kentucky has always had players that can score at a high level, high rate. So, you know, the main thing is you’ve just gotta get your wind right, get ready for this game because it’s going to be a very fun game.
NICK ZEISLOFT: Transition defense is going to be big. They like to play up and down. We do, too. We’ve always liked to get up and down and we have to be physically and mentally locked in for anything they’re going to throw at us and we will be.
COLLIN HARTMAN: Growing up in Indiana you’ve obviously watched the games, every single time they’ve played. But they’re always highly talented and highly athletic and get out and run and block shots and score at a high rate. We just have to prepare the way we always have and come out with our own mind-set.
TROY WILLIAMS: They done said it all.
THOMAS BRYANT: I don’t know that much about it, but I’m going behind my teammates what they know. So I’m just going to be prepared for anything.
Q. If this season ends tomorrow for you guys, how will you look back at this season in terms of its success with the Big Ten season regular season Championship and overcoming so many adversities and losing James Blackmon, Jr.? And the flip side of it, if you advance to the Sweet 16 is that an endorsement more of where you have come from?
THOMAS BRYANT: We see our season as a success but we don’t see it ending tomorrow. We’re just going to keep working. Just try and get better each and every day.
TROY WILLIAMS: If the season were to end tomorrow, looking back on it everything that we overcame, everybody that we proved wrong and all the success that we done. But if we were to advance after tomorrow it just more success and more memories to make and more things that overcome.
COLLIN HARTMAN: I think that the Big Ten Championship that we won was just a stepping stone in our journey. We’re glad to have it and I think we all appreciate it and that we worked hard for it all season, but we also have an ultimate goal so tomorrow is another opportunity to get closer to that next step.
NICK ZEISLOFT: I’m right there with Collin, he said it all for me.
YOGI FERRELL: Same thing with Nick.
Q. Ulis and Jamal Murray get the most of the headlines on that team. Who is the third guy on Kentucky that can give you problems if you’re not paying attention to him?
YOGI FERRELL: I would say definitely Willis, him being stretch 4 or stretch 5 that can knock down 3 at an unbelievable rate. Scout can knock down 17, 15-footer and you have Alex Poythress down there in the alley that can score over any shoulder. You’ve got multiple guys on that team that can hurt you in any way. So the biggest thing is stick to our defensive coverages.
NICK ZEISLOFT: At this time of the year, anyone can play well and make shots. Whether it’s those two guys making shots or someone that doesn’t play a lot making shots, we have to focus in on every single one because one shot here or there can be the difference in the game.
COLLIN HARTMAN: I think the big guys down low are a big key. Keeping them off the boards and making them foul and be the let them block shots and create transition opportunities for them, so we have to be smart with the ball and be aggressive on box outs.
TROY WILLIAMS: Another will be Isaiah Briscoe. He’s crafty with the ball. He can get to the rim, get fouls, and like Collin said, their bigs and Willis is also a really good one.
THOMAS BRYANT: Anyone and everyone on that Kentucky team is a threat on the court. So you’ve just got to be aware of anyone that comes on the floor and take it from there.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Best of luck tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Coach Crean. If you can help us out with an opening statement?
TOM CREAN: We’re really excited about the way we played last night and we know we have to have that level of execution and intensity and connectedness plus some to be competitive tomorrow because Kentucky brings so much length and certainly Chattanooga brought a lot of length and we attacked that pretty well with their zone but the length, the strength, the depth, all those things that Kentucky has are going to be a great challenge.
And we’ve got to start — it’s really — it’s not a lot different game plan than so many other ones, we’ve got to get back on against because of their ability to run the beak and they do a great job of getting to the rim especially with their guards.
So we’ve got to get back and we’ve got to get there right away in the lane and then you’ve got to do a good job of staying in be front of the dribble, our help has got to be fantastic and they are one of the best teams in the country as usually of rebounding the ball. So we’ve got to do a great job of blocking out. Offensively for us, there is no question if we come down and try to attack that set defense or try to challenge them at the basket or if we don’t get great spacing and ball movement, we’ll play right into their hands and with what they’re doing with blocked shots on the year and especially last night we played some good shot-blocking teams this year, especially a team back home like Purdue.
But Kentucky is at another level with that and the length, again, because of not only with the starters but when they go to the bench. I think John has done a fantastic job with that team of make being them better, they guard with a real purpose. I know we’ve gotten better defensively and from what I’ve seen in that team from the year there is no question they’ve gotten better defensively. They move the ball really well. They’re shooting at a good pace. They’re shooting 43% in the last 5 games and it was almost 50 with last night’s game, and they’re getting great play at the rim, getting great shooting. And we’re going to have to be ready for one possession at a time, is never more true than tomorrow because if you give them up — if you give them open looks or give them rebounds they’re going to capitalize.
And because they have so many opportunities to do the things on the defensive end against you you have to make sure you’re not giving up anything easy to them when you are on defense.
Q. How are Ulis and Yogi similar and where do you see that they’re different and where did Tyler rank in terms of point guards that you guys will have faced this season?
TOM CREAN: I’m not sure on the ranking part. I just know he’s really good. We weren’t ever involved in his recruitment, so I’ve seen him at different times, watched him, really spent a lot of time watching him last night and this morning. But there is no question with the year that he’s had he’s going to be one of the better players that we faced.
But, again, he’s really good because he’s got a lot of other good guys to play with and that’s one thing that that’s made Yogi better and better. Tyler does a really good job of getting people good shots, but he’s actually getting more percentage from his points at the free throw line than he is the three-point line.
So that’s one of the things that’s different with him as a guard. He drives to get fouled and we’re going to have to do a great job, our verticality is going to have to be really good. We’re going to have to do a great job of staying in front of the dibble. But he has the great ability to put his body on you and make that contact and then it becomes a judgment call and we’ve got to do a really good job of being preventive there. But there is no question he is an outstanding player. He’s getting better and better he had a great reputation as a leader in high school and he’s carried that to a high level at the collegiate level at Kentucky and other than that comparison.
I don’t really have a lot of comparisons that I would compare them to. I love coaching Yogi. I wouldn’t trade him for anything and he’s gone up against a lot of great guards and let his team against a lot of great teams especially this year.
Q. Indiana at its best. What makes you guys so tough to beat and when things have gone wrong like in the Michigan game in the quarter finals of the Big Ten Tournament, what’s going wrong that prevents you from winning?
TOM CREAN: Against Michigan we didn’t play nearly as fast as we needed to. We didn’t play nearly as aggressive. There again, it didn’t start on the defensive end for us. We weren’t bad defensively but we certainly weren’t as good as we need to be. I think when we are at our best is when our defense is feeling our offense. It’s getting multiple stops.
There was even a point in the first half last night. It became a trade basket mode. That’s one of the things that I was so ticked off within in the first half is we had a chance to put the hammer down and that’s what we don’t always do.
We have to learn when we get a team down we’ve gotta keep the foot on the gas and really, really go at it. That doesn’t mean the other team isn’t going to make a run, but they can’t make a run because we traded basket or gave them easy baskets off our turnovers. So when we are not moving well without the ball, that’s when we’re not as good offensively. When we are not as good in our ball screen coverage or we’re not as good as staying connected with all five guys — but most teams would say that. But when we get stops and get out and run that’s when we’re at our best.
Q. Given the anticipation of this game, the high-level of two programs, do you think that this game tomorrow will have any momentum toward renewing this rivalry and where do you think that stands?
TOM CREAN: I think that games can always come back. Right now where we sit it’s very hard for us, with what we have with the Crossroads Classic and the ACC challenge pulls into that. We’ve got to have a certain amount of home games. We’re going to do a neutral sight with Louisville and I don’t think anybody has ever closed the door on the series and certainly it’s not open right now with anything that makes a lot of sense, but hopefully some day it will.
Again, I’ve never looked at it like it was closed and — but there is nothing in the works right now. I think both sides know how each other feels and it’s — if it comes down to a business decision then that’s what it is. As a fan of college basketball, somebody that has a lot of respect for their program, I hope that at some point in time we can get something going like that and if it happens it happens.
But, again, I don’t think there is any door closed that couldn’t be opened again, put it that way. Make sense?
Q. Tom, can you describe your relationship with John and was that affected at all by the end of the series? How has that changed over the years?
TOM CREAN: I think — was our relationship affected because the series ended? No, we had our moments with that but, no, I think if you have a respect level for somebody you have to overlook some things. I have a ton of respect for them. I mean, he has been good to me for a long time. I learned a lot over the years from him as a coach. We were in the league together, conference USA when he came back to Memphis. I learned a lot! Not only coaching against his teams but watching them play others.
So, no, I mean, I think we have a friendship that transcends basketball. He is a very encouraging person to me, I think I understand him, and I hope I’m encouraging to him. You really — you’re not trying to make enemies in this game, some you’re going to have closer friendships than others. But I tried to look at competency and respect and what you learn from people and he’s got all that and I think he’s — I think he’s a fantastic leader. What he does year after year and how he makes his teams better especially with the guys that he gets that have the accolades and the attention and the rankings and all those things that they have, to get them to play together the way that he does, year after year and this year is no exception, because I mean, obviously they’ve had some tough games and look they’re playing their best basketball right now.
How do you not respect that? Too me that’s just — I mean, I wish we weren’t playing them tomorrow, I wish it was later down the road but it is what it is and he predicted it four weeks ago, that we would be in the bracket together and he only missed by one last week because he had West Virginia and he was only wrong with Kansas, right?
So to me — at the end of day he runs — he is a great coach who makes his players better, and that’s a tough opponent and we’ve got to match-up with it.
Q. Your players were in here and said you warned them to get ready for an up and down game, get the shoe laces tight, could you envision something in 2012 when nearly 200 points were scored?
TOM CREAN: First of all, I didn’t say shoe laces tight. They better be. If we even have shoe laces, some of them may be Velcro. Did I envision that? We were pretty fast that year and so were they. I didn’t envision us missing 7 layups in that game and two dunks. You’re talk about the game in the Sweet 16?
I still look at that one and I see the misses more than I see the 92 points that we scored because we missed baskets that if they go in it’s a different story. I think as a coach you probably remember those things more but I don’t know if it will be like that tomorrow but that team could score and this team loves to get up and down, too. But, again, we’re not very good if we’re just trading baskets, that’s not where we are at our best.
Q. I don’t know if you heard Coach Cal talk about you but he’s endorsing you for Coach of the Year. What does that mean and how difficult has the season been for you to coach?
TOM CREAN: It hasn’t been difficult for me to coach at all. It really hasn’t because of where my faith in God is and it’s been like that and I’ve learned so much about what matters, what doesn’t, how to stay in control of what you can control, doing everything every day to make the players better. If I didn’t have a great group of guys to work can and a great staff to work with and a great family to go home to, things might be harder, they’re not.
I love what I do and I love who I do it with. I heard that. I didn’t see it on the air, but I heard that last night. He said that to me privately before. He is — I don’t think he throws around stuff like that unless he means it and I respect that. Because he’s one of the best coaches this game has got, you know, and I fortunately — in the Big Ten when you go against guys like tomorrow Izzo and Frank you’re going to get great coaches on a nightly basis and other teams as well. But to me, I love the guys I’m working with and if you love what you’re doing and love who you are and do it and for me there’s not.
Q. Coach, what makes Jamal Murray as dangerous as he is and what are some of the things your team is going to have to do to slow him down?
TOM CREAN: He’s really improved as a shooter, there is no question about that, his shot selection has improved. He comes off screens very well and he does a great job of coming off the foul line. They do a great job of getting him hope and giving him choices of which way to go to. They’ve all got to see help, not just Jamal Murray. We’ve got to do a great job of showing early help in everything.
But without stepping up off their big men and allowing the lob drunks and drop off dunks and things like that that go into the easy post high ups. One of the reasons Kentucky is so good is obviously they’ve really good players the reason they have really good players is they make each other better, and I think Jamal Murray makes his teammates better. Just like Ulis makes his teammates better.
I think that’s — it’s one thing, this is why Kentucky is so good, it’s want just a collection of really good players it’s a collection of guys that make the game easier for their teammates. We’ve got to do everything possible to not let it be that way, and that means we’ve got to be in help early, we’ve got to read the ball really well. We’ve got to make catches tough. We’ve got to get back in transition and above all else we’ve got to do a great job of blocking out.
Q. Obviously Max Bielfeldt filled a void you guys had at the time. What’s he meant to the team this year? Maybe talk about the role he’s filled for you guys?
TOM CREAN: He’s filling a role that continues to get better and better ask he’s playing his best basketball throughout his senior year and he’s playing as good as he’s played right now and I think it’s because he’s worked really hard. He needed a lot of work with his foot work and I think, you know, once we got him in on the visit and started to show him those things, I think he understood that.
Then understanding it and doing something about it are two different things. But he’s worked extremely hard. He’s become more athletic. He’s in great shape, and he’s very smart, obviously, you know, academically and on the court. It’s really — his experience — it couldn’t having any better for adding somebody that really — he not only understand the Big Ten and not only understands basketball, but he understands how to win, and now more than ever he’s got a huge role in that winning.
He obviously was well coached before at Michigan. He was well coached in high school, but we convinced him there were some things we really thought we could help him get better at and I think the fact of the matter that he’s — he’s overdoubled his threes this year than what he had in his entire career, some of the games that he’s had — he’s been an integral part as anybody of being a leader on this team and you can look at it that he’s had an impact in a lot of different ways on both ends of the court.
He’s one of the our leading deflection guys. He rebounds the ball, and at the same time we’re on him to be better and just even — just about 30 minutes ago, on him to be better, and he responds to that. I think that’s what’s been great about having him.
Q. Coach, the Christian Watford shot, how important was a moment like that in rebuilding this program and does it still resonate today? You had pictures all over Cook Hall and people remembered it and it played a lot on ESPN?
TOM CREAN: There’s pictures all over the homes of the people that love Indiana and probably in the homes of those who just lover college basketball. It was such a dramatic shot at a time when our program needed a real shot in the arm, right? And that’s exactly what that shot provided. It was a great game.
Again, to me, I thought we would win the game by more, especially when we got up 10 late in the game but to win with that dramatic fashion it couldn’t have done more for reestablishing us, because obviously Indiana basketball didn’t go anywhere as a name. But we needed to get the program back up at a very strong, national level. And that win did that because that Kentucky team was great, and the shot was — so many people saw it live, obviously, because of the television and because of the crowd that we had.
But there were so many memories that were created from that, that that can’t hurt at all with your recruiting. It can’t hurt at all with your fan base, and the best thing about that shot is we went back the next week and beat Notre Dame, right?
So it wasn’t like that shot was a primary — it wasn’t the only moment in our season, right? We kept getting better. Had a great run that year with the 26 wins or whatever we had and going to the Sweet 16.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach best of luck.
TOM CREAN: Thank you.
Filed to: 2016 NCAA tournament