Complete transcript after the jump.
Complete transcript after the jump.
Tom Crean and John Calipari have talked this week about how the first game between Indiana and Kentucky on Dec. 10 seems like it was a season ago.
While the replay of Christian Watford’s game-winning shot still pops up on ESPN commercials, the evolution of both teams since that game suggests Friday’s meeting will feature a pair of vastly improved clubs.
“The game was so long ago that they are a different team, as are we,” Crean said on Tuesday afternoon. “We do have to be able to do different things conceptually and schematically on both sides, both offensively and defensively.”
The number of improvements for the Wildcats (34-2), according to Crean, starts with defense, but extends across several facets of the game.
“They’ve added things. [Anthony] Davis with the shooting, there’s so many different things,” he said. “They move the ball really well, you can tell they go to their strengths. I think they know what their strengths are so they really work at going to their strengths.
“The other thing they’re doing right now is they’re really finding matchups that they want. Whether it’s isolating someone at the post, putting someone at the elbow, coming off the dribble handoff. Doing a lot more for [Darius] Miller, his catch-and-shoot inside the arc is as good as I’ve seen it and he’s getting it off quick.”
Calipari, who said his team was beaten in nearly every way in the first meeting, sees similar strides in the Hoosiers (27-8).
“They execute better, they have a better plan for what their strengths are, how they’re playing to cause mismatches in trying to get [Cody] Zeller the ball,” he said. “Their guys that are drivers are driving and doing a great job. And then defensively, they’re way better than they were. They’re more physical.”
PORTLAND, Ore. — The game was over. The Hoosiers were done.
Late in the first half, VCU’s defense was starting to wreak havoc. The Rams broke a 33-33 tie with nine straight points, including four straight on layups coming from turnovers. The Hoosiers couldn’t even get shots off.
This team hadn’t been here before. It hadn’t ever faced a team like VCU, it hadn’t ever recovered from a deficit in a do-or-die game.
Just as the Hoosiers were about to be run out of the Rose Garden by the 12-seeded Rams, Christian Watford decided he had worked too hard to let this magical season end without a fight.
On the Hoosiers’ next offensive possession, Watford held the ball behind the 3-point line. He pivoted, waiting for his defender to come out or sag off. When he backed up just a step, Watford let it go and drilled a big 3.
That’s when Watford did something he rarely does — he got mad, he got emotional, and he got demonstrative. It was exactly what the Hoosiers needed, and what they need more than anything if they have a chance to beat Kentucky on Friday.
As he prepared for the next defensive possession, Watford slapped his hands together, turned to Will Sheehey on his left, and said ‘Let’s play, baby.’
Sheehey nodded, and then the Hoosiers did just that — they played, baby.
Watford nailed another 3, and then two free throws. All of a sudden, Indiana was only down a point at halftime.
They were dead, and Watford gave them life.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Verdell Jones and his teammates made an observation from the bench when Will Sheehey corralled the ball on the left baseline with just under 14 seconds remaining.
“We were just talking about it earlier. When he caught it, he smiled a second,” Jones said. “As soon as he caught it, he smiled.”
What followed after the smile was the shot that lifted Indiana into the Sweet 16 for the first time since its magical run to the Final Four in 2002.
Sheehey, left alone on the baseline after a failed attempt by Victor Oladipo to drive to the basket, picked up the loose ball and without hesitation buried an 11-footer.
“I knew it was in when it came off,” the IU sophomore said with a grin. “That’s how it should be. I was open, 12 seconds left, it’s just the perfect storm I guess.”
The smile, however, was not something Sheehey said he remembered following the Hoosiers’ 63-61 win over Virginia Commonwealth in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I don’t know what they’re talking about,” he laughed. “Maybe I do that when I know it’s going in.”
Sheehey’s close friend and teammate Victor Oladipo, who spent countless offseason hours with him in Cook Hall during the offseason, wasn’t surprised at the result after the ball left his hands.
“He hits that midrange shot more than anyone I know,” Oladipo said. “As soon as he caught it, I knew it was going in. I could see it going in.”
Not the optimum way to win
Much was made about VCU’s “HAVOC” defense in the buildup to Saturday’s game and the pressure put the Hoosiers on the ropes more than once.
The Rams opened a nine-point lead on two occasions and forced the Hoosiers into a season-high 22 turnovers, but couldn’t put the game away.
Complete IU and VCU press conference transcripts after the jump.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Cody Zeller was asked on Wednesday if he was nervous to play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time.
His reply? Excited to be here, but not nervous at all.
Maybe it’s having two older brothers who have been here before or just the remarkable poise he possesses for a 19-year old, but IU’s star freshman showed no nerves.
He delivered his most well-rounded game statistically of the season with 14 points, six rebounds, six steals and four assists in the Hoosiers’ 79-66 second round win over New Mexico State.
The six steals by Zeller tied an IU NCAA Tournament record set by Quinn Buckner in the 1976 national championship game.
“I felt like I was quicker than their big guys,” Zeller said. “They were probably a little bit stronger, but I was trying to use my quickness when they were passing inside and tried to get some deflections.”
Deflections have been talked about frequently this season by Tom Crean as a measuring stick for how active the Hoosiers are defensively and Crean was more impressed by Zeller’s 14 deflections than the six steals.
“We’re always looking for those double-double, triple-double numbers with the deflections, because it’s just such a key to your defensive transition,” Crean said.
Hoosiers neutralize Aggies on the glass and at the foul line
Two major statistical storylines entering Thursday’s game were New Mexico State’s ability to pound the offensive glass and get to the foul line.
The Aggies came in leading the country in free throw rate (52.8 percent) and were fourth in offensive rebounding percentage (40.8). They failed to approach either mark with a free throw rate of 20.8 percent and an offensive rebounding percentage of just 33.3.