DES MOINES – Tom Crean, Yogi Ferrell, OG Anunoby and Thomas Bryant met with the media following Indiana’s 73-67 win over Kentucky in the second round of the 2016 NCAA tournament at Wells Fargo Arena.
Watch the full press conference below:
Quotes are available after the jump.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined at the podium by Indiana. Congratulations, Coach. Opening statement.
TOM CREAN: We’re obviously elated to win a game of this magnitude, not just because it’s the NCAA Tournament and the round of 32 but because it’s against such a great program. We got a lot of respect for Kentucky, obviously got a lot of respect for John and admiration for how he coaches and what he does. That team was every bit as good as what we thought they were from watching them on film. Saw just a little bit of it the other night, but really the film didn’t lie.
Our guys did a great job in a short period of time of getting ready for what we knew would be a tremendous physical and mental battle and they really stayed locked into the concentration. I think the fact that we rebounded so well and kept them from getting second chance points. We didn’t have a lot of costly turnovers, for the most part, and this group of guys right here along with guys like Troy and Nick Zeisloft has gotten so much better, and I hope somebody asks me about his defense in a bit. I don’t want to talk for too long, but it is an absolute honor for me to coach these guys, to work with this staff, and I love it.
The bottom line for me is what drives me right now is that I want to just keep coachin’ ’em, and I want to keep game planning and preparing and going to meeting with them and going to practice with them and getting on the bus with ’em and I just want to be around them because they inspire me so much with their resiliency and the way they want to be coached and the way they care and love each other and it’s fantastic.
I also want to say that coming into Des Moines, this has been everybody that we thought it would be, too. This is a tremendous community, outstanding arena. It’s been first class since the moment we not landed at the airport. The people of Iowa have been wonderful. We haven’t gone too many places, at least I haven’t gone too many places, but everybody we’ve seen has been very hospitable and everybody here at Wells Fargo has been fantastic. So really, really appreciate the way we’ve been treated in Iowa.
Q. Yogi, you guys got it tied at 50 late in the second half, you guys hit a couple of quick threes. Did you feel a momentum shift? Take us through the rest of the game from there.
YOGI FERRELL: We knew it was going to be tough having to defend Kentucky, so we just tried to stick to our keys on defense, take away what they wanted, and I felt like when we got those multiple stops in a row, that’s when our break happens and good things happen with that.
I feel like we shared the ball really well in the second half, and, you know, Nick hit a three and we were just driving to the rim playing inside out. We’re unstoppable.
Q. Yogi, you said yesterday that compared to the team you were on as a freshman this team, the team as a freshman they played for each other. They played as a team and you said this team was nearly there. If you did get there you could make a good run. Then, Coach Crean, you can chime in. But do you think this team has gotten there yet, playing for each other?
YOGI FERRELL: I think today was another step in that direction for playing for each other. I think at the start of this game we were playing not like we always play, just a little bit timid, taking jump shots, turning the ball over, not solid on defense. But I liked the way that we adjusted in this game, adjusted to the officials, the openings that we had.
When you can make an adjustment in a game so quickly as we can, you know, that just helps us and adapt to the game.
Q. OG and Yogi, the defensive game plan on how to cover Murray especially, but Murray and Ulis and putting size on them and how much do you think that affected them?
YOGI FERRELL: I think we did such a great job of limiting especially Murray’s catches especially when he likes to come down off those pin-downs to get his jump shots and another thing we helped each other on defense.
We were in the opens, I remember one time OG got a steal. He was in the gap helping me out, and I think that’s the biggest thing when you are guarding someone and you’ve got four people behind you talking to you in the gaps that’s going to be there, that’s going to help you play better defense.
I think another thing that helped our defense is our preparation. Coach Martin did a great job scouting these guys and he told us their tendencies and what they like to do.
OG ANUNOBY: What he said.
TOM CREAN: You’ve got an answer, go ahead.
OG ANUNOBY: We prepared as a team really well and we knew we had to help each other out, yeah.
TOM CREAN: Keep going, you need the practice right here.
OG ANUNOBY: We had a good game plan to limit touches, top block, Nick Zeisloft did a really good job with that and Troy switching on Murray and everyone helping out.
Q. Tom, at 50-50, Coach Crean called a play for you. Do you remember — I heard some of the conversation, but not all of it. Do you remember the conversation in the huddle just before that play in that huddle?
THOMAS BRYANT: I don’t —
TOM CREAN: We’re not closing up our huddles good enough for you to hear. We’ve got some work to do there!
THOMAS BRYANT: I don’t remember the — the conversation that I remember is trying to lock into the play that Coach Crean wanted to run and it was a play for me to get a basket near the rim and that’s what happened.
TOM CREAN: Sometimes it’s important that Thomas shuts all the other voices out and just hears one and then we get back to business, and he did a great job of responding at the timeout and carrying out the play. I don’t remember what I said.
Q. Yogi, Coach Cal was in here and he said he was really impressed with the growth in Thomas since he recruited him! How would you describe it? How has he matured?
YOGI FERRELL: Well, I would say Thomas has matured, especially from Maui just for his presence on defense. He’s down in the lower stance, and, you know, he’s wanting to get stops for our team. When he is playing such great defense, sky is the limit for him on offense because he can score around that bucket so easily.
But Thomas has grown, both of these guys to my left and right they’re not freshmen anymore. They’re veterans. They got 30-plus games under their belt. They bring such a presentation to the game and they play with a lot of freedom and I feel like these games — the tough games we’ve had before are giving them confidence in these games now.
Q. Thomas, you had 15 of your 19 points in the last 7 and a half minutes or 7:45. What kind of prompted that? Were they doing anything different? Yogi, how much of a difference does that make when you see him go off?
THOMAS BRYANT: The point of emphasis I had was staying on the attack. Coach told me that he wanted me to attack more, you know, get a quick whip or get a quick bucket down there on the block when I can. He believes in me, and I just went with the coach’s plan, you know. Luckily it turned out that way.
Q. Thomas, just what’s going through your mind in all those free throws in the final minute?
THOMAS BRYANT: Um, what was mostly going through my mind was staying calm, you know, calming down, breathing, and then not letting my adrenaline pump so much to where it was too much for me, just calm down. My teammates were there talking to me. We go through this in practice all the time, so I was just lucky to make ’em.
Q. Yogi, a lot of people have called your coach Coach of the Year this year. This is obviously a big win for this tournament and also for Indiana basketball, generally. Make your case, why is he the Coach of the Year?
YOGI FERRELL: I feel like Coach Crean has stayed on us throughout this entire year. He saw our potential and when we had a rough start he stuck with us and he kept getting on us every single day just because he saw the greatness in us. I feel like Coach Crean throughout the game he’s such a great play caller.
I remember two plays he ran, one for me to get a wide-open layup and Thomas to get a wide-open layup. I think he sees the game differently even than I do, especially when all the bullets are flying. Just like he said, he only needs one person in Thomas’ ear. I feel like Thomas only listens to Coach Crean. He needs to listen to his whole team, but that’s the kind of presence that —
TOM CREAN: I’m not taking credit for the turnovers at the at the top and the drive on three people now. Who are you listening to on that? (Chuckles.)
THOMAS BRYANT: He’s 5-7. He popped out of nowhere!
YOGI FERRELL: But Coach Crean should definitely be Coach of the year, his ability for him to stay on us. I think his main thing that gives us as much confidence is that he believes in every single one of us from, you know, 1 through 16.
Q. Yogi, two-part question: On your stat line, is the most important stat one turnover? And, two, did you feel like your athletic forwards had a big advantage under the basket?
YOGI FERRELL: Well, yeah, we knew their ability to shot block, so when I got into the lane I remember I got one of my shots blocked, didn’t see him coming. But we knew their ability to shot block, so I like to go into the lane and kick it out really. But I didn’t try and force anything. I basically stuck to my strengths, found my shooters, found guys like Thomas cutting to the rim when I drive when they’re trying to come block my shot.
The main thing with that is always having my head up because, you know, we like to space the floor a lot and I know we’ve got shooters all around court. I just gotta find them and good things can happen.
Q. Yogi, you got off to a little bit of a slow start and Ulis got off to a good start, but it seemed as if you found another gear, maybe you got angry, maybe you got — something. Can you take us through your emotions at that time and what happened?
YOGI FERRELL: Well, you know, I always like to let the game come to me, so I wasn’t trying to force anything. But, you know, I saw the lane was kinda opening up a little bit. So I felt like I had the ability to drive to the rim and I got a few layups in the first half, few in the second, and, you know, when I go in and I just gotta stay aggressive, that’s it. I can’t go out and play timid, can’t force anything. I feel like when I play aggressive good things happen for our team.
Q. Yogi, first, you talked about the rough start you guys got off to for the season. How satisfying is it then to be where you are now? And second, your sisters broke out more t-shirts today, and wondering if you knew about any of these and are they — do you know how — that they’re kidding around? Did they tell you they were going to do this?
YOGI FERRELL: Yeah, to see us in this position now to get such a great win is very promising for us. I feel like we’ve come a long way. I feel like we all believed in each other. This is a player-driven program, and we get on each other, we hold each other accountable. We take criticism, and we give criticism. I think that’s our biggest advantage is, you know, we’re very connected and when we are connected we can go a long way.
About the t-shirts I thought they were going to wear the same once. They didn’t? I guess I will have to see what they say now. I’m interested to see what they say!
Q. Yogi and Thomas, do you have a sense of satisfaction? You guys had critics along the way, underseeded as a 5 seed, do you feel like this win and where you are now beyond the Big Ten Championship is a validation after getting a 5 seed and others got better seeds?
YOGI FERRELL: We knew our ability, you know. We weren’t really too upset that we got a 5 seed. We won the Big Ten Championship. We felt like we deserved that for our play all year, and we were just fortunate enough to be selected into the tournament. We weren’t trying to look into the seeding that much. As you’ve seen this entire tournament, anybody can beat anybody on any given night.
THOMAS BRYANT: Really, we didn’t see the seeding as — we knew that we were a great team coming into the tournament, being a 5 seed or not. We weren’t too mad about it being the outright Big Ten champs and winning it by two games, but we took it as a step forward. Even with that 5 seed we’re going to keep working and listen to Coach and go out there and try and win each and every game. It doesn’t matter what seed you are because there are so many upsets in this tournament. You just gotta be ready to play.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen. Questions for Coach Crean.
Q. Does this rank as the most satisfying victory of your tenure at IU?
TOM CREAN: I don’t know about that. I haven’t had time to think that way. It’s obviously up there, especially the way we won today. With losing Robert and then losing Juwan. The fortunate thing is Juwan wasn’t hurt as badly as he’s been a few other times, but he couldn’t go back into the game. But there was not a way for Rob to go back in.
But I think the satisfying thing for me is as concerned and even sad when I knew Rob wasn’t going back in for him because I know who he’s done to come back in this. It never — I never overreacted to it. I have a lot of belief in these guys. As a coach, when you are around people that you believe in them and the biggest reason you have confidence in them is because of the confidence they have in each other and the fact that they can continue to get better. I thought we got better inside of the game.
So satisfying wins for me are when we make improvements, when we learn, all right, when we are really concentrating and when you get into an environment like this and with everything on the line that’s on it and the time of year, it’s obviously a great feeling when you walk out of there with a win knowing that they put everything into it, under adverse situations and the adversity being the injuries that we dealt with in the game.
Q. Tom, talk about your defensive game plan and the execution of it, please.
TOM CREAN: Well, I think the biggest thing is we couldn’t get caught up in, you know, a Tyler Ulis/Yogi Ferrell match-up, all right? There are so many guys on their team and we have guys, too, right? The best thing for us is the versatility of our team and the way they can guard multiple players, multiple positions.
So it really wasn’t as much about the match-up. It was personnel based, what they wanted. We wanted to be big on Ulis as much as we could. We wanted to keep him out of the lane. He’s excellent with his pull-up. He’s making a more percentage of points from the foul line then the three-point line. He hit that bomb early. He’s an outstanding player. But Murray can beat you in so many different ways, Briscoe does such a great job of getting to the basket. A weekend ago, Alex Poythress went 5 for 7 at the three in Nashville. There are so many different ways they can hurt you.
So we wanted to go a good job of shrinking the floor on the ball screens, of not letting Murray get exactly where he wanted to go coming off the pin downs on the bottom, and we didn’t do a good job of denying their elbow catches which is a huge part of their offense, but we adjusted throughout the game. And that’s been the story of the last two months for us, is the way these guys have adjusted inside of the game.
The bottom line was we needed to get back in transition and keep ’em off the glass. What was the second chance points in the second half for them, was it 2?
Q. Not many.
TOM CREAN: I think I heard that, but I could be wrong on that, so I don’t want to be wrong. But it was crucial we keep them from getting second chance points and keep them from limited at the foul line. They earned their foul and that was good.
Q. Tom, you talk about adjusting in game. There was a stretch where you pulled Yogi in the second half to get him a breather, you had Troy running the point. You had Ryan in. I know you gotta get him a rest at some point, but that line up goes on a 9-2 run. What did you see out of the way that that was able to do against expectations?
TOM CREAN: Troy settled in. Troy settled in which better and that’s what we needed him to do. Troy saw it. Yogi saw it. I saw it and Troy responded in the sense that they were playing him for the drive and score rather than the drive and pass and Troy is always better when he understands that the head has to be up, especially outside of the elbows. When he’s down the middle of floor it’s different, but when he’s outside the elbows — and he made a great kick pass.
But Yogi needed a blow. This was coming down to the wire. The timeouts are longer and things like that, but we wanted to steal a little time right there and I could have given him another minute. I’m glad I didn’t, but I could have given him another minute. That group, they were very sound. They had to guard every one of them, and we were making the simple pass.
Sometimes we don’t always do that and we didn’t start the game doing that. We started the game being reactive to their pressure and the way they wanted to push us out by dribbling the ball, not attacking downhill, not getting it reversed and playing to the corners as much as we planned to.
Again, when Thomas went out that made us have to adjust right away what we wanted to do with our screening action to get it inside. But we settled into the game, and by that time when we got Yogi that blow, everybody was locked into what we were doing and what it was going to take to win the game. We didn’t always do it right, but we finally figured out this is how we’re going to have to play if we’re going to be successful.
Q. Tom, do you have an update yet or projection of what — whether Rob and Juwan will be able to play next week?
TOM CREAN: I think they will and they couldn’t have gone back in today, but Rob I think planted wrong. I felt awful for those guys. I really did because Rob has worked so hard to come back. I know I said that, but I think he will. We will be careful. I’m glad it’s —
Friday is the game, right? So I’m glad of that, and Juwan couldn’t have come back in today, but I would — if it stays true to the way it’s been he will be able to practice in the next couple of days. We will be careful with it, but he will be able to practice.
Q. You said that you had confidence in these guys back in December?
TOM CREAN: Absolutely.
Q. Did you expect this, though?
TOM CREAN: Oh, I don’t — I love coaching them and I know that sounds corny, but I just love coaching them. It’s not just because of December it’s the way they responded in the spring and the summer. We went through a few issues here and there and they responding to all of that. We were getting better in December, even though we didn’t play that way all the time.
But, yeah, I don’t have any — I knew we could be a good team. I think if I didn’t believe we could be a good team I don’t think they would have ever bought into me the way that we were pushing them to be a great team.
So I think we’re going to get better. I know it’s late in the year, but I think we can continue to get better. One thing we’ve dot to do is read the game better early on. They came out and they had a great game plan to bring pressure to the game. They did a fantastic job of that and all we had to do was get the ball reverse screen a little better, get it moved a little quicker.
We’re better off to start the game. Those are the kind of things we’ve got to continue to learn. Long story short, they’ve responded all year to getting better. They’ve responded to success. They’ve responded adversity. They’ve really become — the more they’re doubted, the better they are. There was no choice for this team in November and December to bond together in a very high way, a very big way, you know, based on the criticism that was out there, on us.
They learned a lot about themselves. They learned a lot about controlling what you can control. They learned a lot about pushing each other even more. They learned about turning it up, turning the intensity level up, concentration and focus, and that’s we’ve got to continue to do.
Q. Just thoughts about making the Sweet 16. There has always beep a certain cache about making that as a benchmark of success. How do you see it and what does it mean to the program, the city and the state?
TOM CREAN: Means a ton, no question about it. I haven’t thought a lot about that yet, but I’m excited that these guys get to do that. Max has been to one before. Yogi has been to one as a freshman.
But I’m excited for them because it is great. I told them yesterday, if you think — if you’re getting tired of being in the locker room and having to do extra things right now, then let’s not win because it’s going to be even more next week. There’s more demands as you go down the line and I think that’s great for them to experience that.
But the bottom line that I’m looking forward to is helping us stay focused on what we’ve got to do, whether it’s North Carolina or Providence, how we have to play that game. Love being around ’em. Love game planning with ’em, and that’s exciting for me, you know. We’ve all got our why’s as to what really drives us. This year being with this group, they bring a lot of inspiration to me, there is no question.
Q. You mentioned Troy settling in, he opened the game attacking aggressively on four or five straight possessions was that a thing going in, you guys have any idea that he would be attacking?
TOM CREAN: We wanted to be, but sometimes I think he went too fast, and I don’t mean with the drive we need to make them open up. John is a great coach, he’s not in the Hall of Fame by accident. He’s got length and a physical group of guards. That’s a physical group of guards, and Ulis is a strong, quick. He’s not tall, but they play hard. Murray is physical. Briscoe is tremendously physical, and we needed to move the defense.
We didn’t want to get in a downhill game and that’s very important, but Troy settled in and I gotta bring this up because I’m not sure anybody is going to ask. Nick Zeisloft has made so many strides as a defensive player that I can’t describe it to you. He’s out there guarding Jamal Murray. He’s guarding — when Rob — he’s done it all year, but when Rob went down, and Rob is one of our premiere defenders, when Rob went down in the Purdue game and what Nick had to do to help us get us this Championship and what he’s done in this tournament is outstanding, and that’s the kind of improvement that we want in the program.
So to answer to Fred’s question, what does it mean? It means a lot. For everybody going to the Sweet 16, for me it means that their level of work and improvement is being rewarded and we get a few more days to get ready to go do it again.
Q. When you — first of all, you had 18-7 advantage in bench points and when you look at the athleticism of OG and Thomas and Troy, do you feel like you just had too much versatility and athleticism for them? When you look forward, when you project forward to a possible match-up with North Carolina, what is the upside for this team?
TOM CREAN: I can’t help with the looking forward yet, and, in all honesty, I don’t know either one of those teams that great. After tonight we will — I really don’t. I know they haven’t played. But, no, I don’t think anybody ever has too much of anything that Kentucky doesn’t have, right? They’ve got the scoring. They’ve got the length. They’ve got the ball handling.
But we’ve got to be versatile, that’s why the match-ups for us are not as important as staying in front of the ball, and I think one of the keys to the game for us is that Willis has been playing so well. We’ve played very good shooters, every team has somebody that you face in the Big Ten that can really get loose and hurt you if you let ’em and we did not want to let that happen with Willis, especially the way he’s been playing. That’s one of the major reasons they’ve made so much improvement is the way he shoots the ball right now. 70% of his points are coming from the three-point line going into the game.
So to me those are the things. We’re as comfortable switching on to Derek Willis with a guard as we are to switching on to Ulis with 6-8 player, and that’s because of the way these guys work defensively and the way they’ve improved, and they’ve got the gifts from God and their athleticism and strength and things like that, but they do a fantastic job of getting better.
Q. Tom, I don’t think you’ve been asked this, hopefully not. You won the Big Ten four years ago and the next two years were kind of a struggle. Talk about where you, this team have come over the last three years. I know you’ve taken a lot of abuse, a lot of it’s uncalled for, talk about that?
TOM CREAN: It means a lot. I think making the NCAA Tournament with the youngest team in the tournament a year ago, I wouldn’t call that a struggle. We overcame a lot of it to get into the tournament. I don’t think we buy into that. We really don’t. Do they feel the criticism for me? I know they do.
Do I feel the criticism for them? They know I do. But that’s not what makes us better. That’s not the drive. The drive is the togetherness that’s being built with them and watching them come together over the period of time that they have and behind-the-scenes stuff with the lifting and the practices and all that.
I’m not good at putting it in context, you know? I’m just glad that sometime later tonight get a nap and we will be able to start diving into film. I truly am. I know it sounds simple, but that’s what motivates you. That’s what motivates me. There will be plenty of time down the road for us to put the season in context. Right now we have no intention of just showing up in Philadelphia, you know, being there for a few hours, you know, lose and go home.
We fully expect to keep going. That’s what this team has done all year. Who we’re going to play, we will figure all that out. There is a real drive for each other. There is a real care for each other and there is a real desire to get better, and when you’ve got that, I’ll take our chances with that and let’s go see what happens. Thank you, everybody.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations.