Indiana takes week following Notre Dame loss to focus on itself

  • 12/20/2013 10:18 am in

Less than one week ago, Indiana coach Tom Crean walked off the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse questioning his entire team’s identity following a 79-72 loss to Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic.

After all, not only did his team give up an effective field goal percentage of 51.9 percent, its second worst output of the season for a team that typically holds opponents to a number in the low 40’s, it also got dominated inside the paint as the Hoosiers could not get much interior offense — or defense — rolling.

With more than five days of rest and practice, though, as his team has taken final exams all week, it has allowed Crean to take a look at what his team needs to do to get better. And coming off last Saturday’s loss heading into tonight’s game against Nicholls State (3-5) at 7 p.m., his players are eager to bounce back, as well.

“As far as our week, we’ve been very, very locked in to getting better, without question,” Crean said on Thursday night during his pregame press conference. “I think everybody recognizes on our team that there is a lot of room for improvement. The biggest thing is just establishing more and more what our style of play is and where we want to take it to.”

For Crean, he knows exactly what that style of play needs to be. When his team has had success this season thus far through its first 11 games, the pace has been quick. When his team wins, it gets to the free throw line often, controls the rebounding battle, gets the ball inside and plays effective defense. The Hoosiers rank No. 14 in the nation in defensive efficiency and No. 5 in opponent effective field goal percentage.

But when the Hoosiers struggle, it is when they are forced into a halfcourt offense and cannot get the ball into the paint or the type of ball movement they desire. It happened, most notably, against Notre Dame last Saturday and against Syracuse on Dec. 3.

Crean knows it, too. He has looked at the numbers, and he knows what his team has to do in order to play to a recipe to win.

“Our style of play needs to be a lot of different people contributing,” he said. “Our style of play needs to be forcing the tempo on both ends. Our style of play needs to be moving the ball constantly, getting the ball through the paint, whether it’s a drive or a post-up, no matter what the defense is.

“Every time that we play through the paint, we get great things. And it’s amazing how much more that perimeter opens up when we do that. And that’s exactly how we have to play.”

But Crean also takes responsibility for his team’s shortcomings thus far, too. With three losses, Indiana is without a marquee win in its non-conference season. With six freshmen and another four sophomores getting playing time, his team is still very inexperienced and perhaps does not have the in-game awareness that an experienced team has. And with Big Ten season looming in only a matter of weeks against teams much more experienced than IU, that awareness could prove to be a huge flaw.

Again, he believes that will come, but it will only be through continuing to build on the team’s identity and doing what it does best.

“I think it’s understanding momentum and 5-,6-,7-, 8-point differentials and what we have to get right now,” Crean said. “And a lot of that comes through moving the ball, reverse it, play it through the paint and play it through the post.

“We’ve got to keep playing every game the same way. Every game is different, but you’ve got to go with the same mindset of attack.”

Nicholls State attack intrigues Crean

Though the numbers might not be pretty — the Colonels are ranked No. 319 nationally in offensive efficiency according to — Nicholls State’s offensive attack has Crean intrigued.

Nicholls State runs a five-man set that Crean said he has never seen before, one that involves lots of cutting, middle drives and backcuts. There will be shot fakes, and Crean estimates the Colonels will also tend to take mid-range shots and open 3-pointers.

“They want you to screw up and they’re going to run it until you do, in a lot of ways, until they get the shot that they want,” Crean said. “It’s somewhat deliberate but creative in the sense that some of the cuts are unique.

“So we’ve got to be really sharp in how aggressive we are, who we’re guarding, the way we want to guard them.”

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  • Miamihoosier

    Coach, what impresses you most about Johnson, the opponent’s best player? High Level…..locked in……in the sense of……without question….year round winner..

  • BT

    Did the $40 million gift to Assembly Hall include anything about securing better non-conference opponents to play? I am taking this weekend off. See you in Champaign.

  • cdog

    CTC said the same thing after the Cuse loss. I think this team is struggling with identity and leadership. It is difficult to bring in so many young guys, who prior to IU were the main star of all their teams since probably they were 5 years old. The adjustment to playing team ball and defense is huge. Most HS players are only into the offensive stats. I am pretty sure that none of our freshmen were touting their number of deflections in HS. This team will struggle with every Big10 road game starting with Illinois. Improvement. Improvement. Improvement. If only you could reproduce Victor clones. This will set the table for CTC to prove how good of an in-game coach he is at this level. My Marquette friends always told me he was good for 20 wins and an early exit in the NCAA tourney. Time will tell.

  • GaHoosier

    With Marquette he did take them to the Final Four and beat UK in the tourney.

    At Indiana he has gone to back to back sweet sixteens and won an OUT-RIGHT-BIG-TEN-TITLE.

    I agree time will tell, but I believe time has already shown that he is capable of greatness!

  • E Foy McNaughton

    For many, many years critics said that Dean Smith, Jim Boeheim, and Coach Cal could recruit, but could not win it all…. Well, they all did. Give CTC time, he’s getting quality kids who he’s developing into quality college players. It will happen.

  • Guest

    “But when the Hoosiers struggle, it is when they play opponents who are are all competitive at the D1 level.”


  • myrddin

    “But when the Hoosiers struggle, it is when they play opponents who are at all competitive at the D1 level.”


  • IUDan

    That is a Marquette problem, not a Tom Crean problem …

  • SCHoosier

    Lot of empty seats for many of the cupcake games this year..maybe the tickets were paid for and not used..I don’t know.

  • BT

    I was thinking this watching Duke last night: Coack K is the most renowned coach in college ball and he lost to a 15 seed (!!) and gets bounced in the first round constantly…in between titles of course. But great coaches in great programs with great rosters lose games. I don’t go to Duke blogs but I wonder if the sky falls over there whenever they lose to a team that plays zone.

  • Snookafly

    They don’t start worrying until his fake back injury starts acting up.

  • Victorbear

    Yea pal duke went to final four in mikes 6,8,9 year…. Crean is in his 6th year….

  • BT

    I think we can agree the nuances of building an NCAA hoops program are a bit different now than when Coach K was in his 6th year, guy.