Here is Tom Crean's press conference transcript following the 73-72 Indiana victory over LIU Brooklyn Tuesday night at Assembly Hall.
COACH CREAN: Tonight was a great learning experience in many ways. What you want to get your team to understand, and I said this even to Don Fischer in the pregame, this team does not have the luxury of going through close games and hard fought battles yet. Some of the players do, like Will, obviously, but we don't have a team of guys that have gone through that. Now we really didn't want to have it have to be tonight, but it was. The bottom line is if we weren't if we didn't have the capacity to get better, if we didn't have the capacity to improve inside of the game, and if we didn't have the capacity to understand how the game what the game was giving us, we'd have lost the game by 14, 15 points. There is no question. No question about it. But we did. We played against a very good team. We played, and it was two different games. What was there for us was not what we needed today. That's why early on in the game we shot so many jump shots rather than really diving in to what the game was giving us. I think it's one of the biggest reasons we shot the ball so much better as the game went on even later into the second half. But it's invaluable to have a game where guys can get this kind of experience in their college life this early, and they deserve a ton of credit because I think we really had to win tonight. I think they played fantastic, and I saw that Zack was the one that referenced that that hyperbole was on the menu when I compared Jason Brickman to Aaron Craft. I think Aaron Craft is one of the best college basketball players that's ever played. Not because of how he shoots, not because of how he passes, not just because of they win, but it's how they win. He dominates the game on both ends of the court, and I think the exact same thing that this young man has the capabilities of doing. That's what we get paid to do. We get paid to decipher that and to figure that out, and he almost got us. He almost got us. So we're really trying to learn here what it's going to take for us to have real success. Going through nights like tonight will help that. Understanding that on Friday night everything changed for everybody with these new rules and with the way the game is going to be called and the way the game is going to be officiated. The teams and players or the players and teams, I should say in that order, that make the quickest adjustments to how the game is going to be played that given night are going to be the ones who are going to be the beneficiaries. And fortunately for us, with as many mistakes as we made, we had enough things to get us over the top and this team found a way to win. So I'm proud of them.
(What could they have done better?)
COACH CREAN: I think he just said it, we settled. You saw the three point numbers. I'm sure they're out there. We didn't take what the game was giving us. We played basically a compact whether they teach it as the pack line or what it was, they kept the lane. They had a lot of respect for our driving game. They had a lot of respect for our postgame. They didn't have a lot of respect for our outside shooting game. I don't blame them. We were giving them the opportunity and confidence as the game went on. There is no question about it. So what we needed to do was stick with plays, including him early on where there were things that we wanted to do to get the ball reversed two or three times. Get it inside so we could get our paint game established, so we could get it, and that frees up more movement offensive rebounding wise. Get more penetration, get more reversals, those were the things that were big. But the thing I like about this team is nobody this surprised me it didn't surprise me in the sense that we would find a way. What surprised me is how really nobody got down. We had some guys that learned the hard way the level of preparation you have to have for every game. I mean, every game is different. The concepts aren't different, but every game is different. This is a little bit of we're behind. But we're trying to get still so many things, and I blame me on this part. The things we're doing defensively, we have not been doing week upon week like we would have in a regular situation with an older team. We're still really trying to get the fundamentals and the basics down of our defense. Then when you start switching coverages a little bit against really good teams, it's a little bit of a game. So we could have made the game plan simpler in the first half, but we didn't. We have to learn how to do that. We're going to play games that are back to back nights the next week. We've got to make those adjustments quickly.
(Coach, how important was that resiliency?)
COACH CREAN: Down the road it will be huge. Down the road to have that happen in the second game it will absolutely be paramount to their future to get that. You know what, even if we had lost the game, there were experiences in there that were invaluable for them, but the bottom line is they found a way to win the game. And the other team was doing everything they could do to win it too. But we're a long ways away from understanding the scouting reports. We're a long ways away from understanding the strength of the personnel. We're a long ways away from trusting game plans in the sense of our whole job is this leading assist player in the nation coming off a 14 assist game. He wants to pick you apart with his passing. We over-helped, and I think that goes in answer to your question again, but guys had to play through it. It wasn't like we had a group of senior guys to go down to at the end of the bench and say go in and take care of this. We had Evan (Gordon), we had Will (Sheehey) and we had a bunch of freshmen and sophomores.
(What allowed you to get a rhythm in the second half?)
COACH CREAN: Sometimes for people on the outside, whether even in the crowd or even for you and for coaches especially, it's so much easier to sit there and see it. Say, hey, this will really work. Little harder when they haven't. But, again, I thought the way the ball did move, in answer to that question, the way the ball did move and the way he allowed the game to come to him as the game was going on and as everybody did. I mean, there were a couple moments, obviously. But knowing that you want to attack the rim, knowing that you want to get the ball inside so you can get to the foul line, but at the same time getting the ball space first and having the confidence to knock down shots, I thought that was really big.
(Coach, you had to go 5 minutes or so without Yogi, what are your options in that situation?)
COACH CREAN: Oh, that's a big one. We started that. I mean, we're always working on the ball handling and things like that. I mean, Noah taking the ball off the break isn't something we just came up with. That's something he can do. Don't be shocked if I put him out there in that situation at some point. But Jeremy is really understanding. He's getting better every day. This was not a great game judging by the fact that he had ten free throws the other night. He had zero free throws tonight and wasn't nearly as aggressive as he wants to be. He had the fouls in those situations, but he came in and played well when we needed him to play well. That is a sign of growth to me. So he can do that. Evan can do that. Stanford still doesn't understand that the other team is trying to take the ball from you, and that it doesn't say Indiana on the ball. I mean, it's wide open. They can grab it. But he's got to continue to learn that. He will. But I was proud of the way Jeremy played in that situation. And Evan, Evan didn't score a point tonight, but we don't win the game without Evan Gordon. I mean, that's obvious. He did so many different things and he kept playing. When the shot is not going in, I'm telling you now, that's a hard deal. Our guys kept their confidence going even when it wasn't going in, and eventually it did.
(Coach, Noah gets his second straight double double. How much more do you think he can develop?)
COACH CREAN: He's not even scratching the surface. He has no idea how hard he can play. He knows how hard he can play, but he doesn't know how long he can play that hard. I thought tonight was great growth. I thought he was much better tonight than he even was on Friday with understanding what the game was. In the first half, we missed a ton of lay ups. It's almost like we were waiting for the foul rather than going up into the basket and forcing our will. Not in the sense of charging or anything but using the board and things like that. Those things, this is where these guys were still learning the shots they were making last year. You're not getting those shots against anybody here at any level in Division I. You've got to use the glass. You've got to extend on your jump hook. You've got to get the ball up. You've got to escape the blockouts so you can offensive rebound, and that was learning a lot about that. Noah for a long time has been the biggest player on the court. Now he's got to be as athletic and versatile as any player on the court, and he's learning a lot about that.
(Coach, is ball movement the key to assist-to-turnover ratio?)
COACH CREAN: No, body movement is, body movement. You've got to move bodies. We're a cutting team. This is as good a cutter as there is in college basketball, and he and Vic were probably tied for it last year, and now it's him. When our bodies are moving, because we have willing passers. We're still it's a fine line right now. I mean, we want to pass, and it will be a fine line. If some of those guys handling the ball were March sophomores or juniors, it wouldn't be a fine line because then they'd have to know better. But sometimes when you're playing as many young guys as we're playing right now, it's part of it. It's part of it. They're going to make some mistakes. But when the bodies are moving, and the cutting is there, and the screening and the slipping, and all those types of things, that's what they did a great job of. That young man, Jason Brickman, he's just trying to carve you up with making passes. When we didn't trust what we were supposed to do, we paid. When we did what we were supposed to do, and that's a great lesson for our guys. It doesn't matter who is in another jersey. If they're committed to a style of play, they know how to play that style. And every time we came off and helped, because we thought we were going to get beat on penetration, he kicked it for an open three or kicked it out to the side or found the slip guy. Keith Ross used to be able to do the same thing. Have the same kind of movement, same kind of reversals. The ability to take what the game has given us, play off the defense, and we're not there yet. But that's when the system gets better.
(Coach, Do you feel like you did better in the second half?)
COACH CREAN: Yeah, all I've looked at is the rebounding and deflections. I did see that we shot 27% and won. It was way better, way better. I think it's indicative. It's indicative. We don't want people to stop shooting we want people to understand what the best shot is. As the game went on, we got a lot better at that. I saw this quote from Brett Brown with the 76ers. He was talking about playing the Spurs the other night, just how good they are, and really how simple they are in the sense that they just make the next pass. He said the key to playing the game the right way is make the next pass. To me, that's why we were so good last year. That's why our free throw attempts were so high. That's why our field goal percentage was so high. That's why our three point percentage was so high. We created open looks and open lay ups for each other. We'll get better as a team shooting the ball. That will take some time. We have to get better right now like we did tonight in the second half and continuing to understand how important the spacing and reversals are. But I'll give you an example. We practiced on Sunday. We probably spent a two hour and ten minute practice. We probably spent an hour and 10 to 15 minutes of just spacing in the half court. If you looked at us tonight, it looked like we've never done before. I've got to keep that in perspective. We've got to keep doing that. We have time and time again until we understand it.