Indiana coach Tom Crean participated in the weekly Big Ten Teleconference with writers today. Here is what the IU coach had to say.
"We are getting ready for Michigan State right now, who is playing extremely well and really playing well on both sides of the ball at both ends and with consistency considering they have been without one of best players in the country in Adreian Payne for the last couple games. We are trying to continue to get better here at what we have to improve upon and get ourselves prepared in a hurry to get up to Michigan State."
On whether the team practiced on Sunday:
"I actually changed it up and we did not have a full practice (on Sunday). We will do that in a little bit here today."
On what he is looking for from today's practice:
"I'm just looking for us to improve, I don't think it's anything different. I don't think it's anything that's going to change. I think you just keep getting better. You have to pace your team constantly, with the long season, that it really is and then you continue to adjust that pace. It doesn't change much and it's very much in the sense of what you are trying to get done fundamentally. It's not like anything is going to miraculously change; nor does it need to. We just need to continue to improve and understand how we play best, what brings the best out of our team and what hurts our team. Film can show that sometimes. But also continuing to be absorbed in the fundamentals, the parts of the game and that understanding.
"Most of the mistakes we made the other day (against Northwestern) were self-inflicted, like going under screens, mistakes with shots we took, mistakes not reversing the ball one more time. A big one was not taking one more dribble close to the basket, and letting the contact influence the play rather than taking one more dribble and getting all the way to the basket and putting a little more pressure on the rim, so to speak, and the defense. That one more dribble a lot of times creates one more angle. So that's one of those fundamental things that can be fixed and adjusted so we will continue to work on it."
On what Michigan State is doing well without Payne in the lineup to still be able to have success:
"Gary Harris is playing at an extremely high level and I think that has a lot to do with it. I think they have different players that are showing different things on different nights. Denzel Valentine might not have a great game one night but then he turns around and has a tremendous game.
"They are showing the product of the fact that they have a pretty good understanding of how they play. The new guys that come in, much like some of the other better teams in this league, they are adjusting to the veterans. And the veterans help them along rather than the other way around. That is a sign of a great team with where they are at.
"And then you have one of the most dependable, reliable guards in America in Keith Appling, who continues to do so many good things. The ‘X-Factor' for them, and we knew it in our game (earlier this year) and we could see it coming and he is shooting an incredible amount from behind the 3-point line is Kenny Kaminsky … 3-of-4 of his shots are going in from the 3-point line so we have a heck of a challenge there when he is on the court."
On comparing a good game and a game where the team struggles to show the young team:
"Not exactly. You can make comparisons and parallel. There were still times in the Wisconsin game where we didn't defend the proper way. And it was a different game in the sense of the way the lane opened up. The lane was going to open up for us (against Northwestern) if we would have attacked a little more out of the corners, which would have created more opportunities to pull people out of the lane and then get the next drive.
"We made 14 layups in the first half of the Wisconsin game and we missed about that many in the Northwestern game. Some of that was because we made it harder on ourselves by not going up through the contact, not taking one more dribble. So a lot of it, really, is fundamental. And a lot of it is playing through contact and not waiting for the whistle to blow or hoping you are going to get a call or trying to manufacture a shot. That is what we tried to do too much the other day, we tried to manufacture plays rather than let them happen.
"You don't want to play patient, but you don't want to play in a hurry. Sometimes, one more reversal, one more dribble or one more pass – those things make a huge difference. So you try to get those things across. And then what happened the other day when it wasn't as easy is we started to settle. And that's the sign of a team that's not at a mature place yet, with understanding what it takes to win and that every night is different.
"But that is all part of this process that we have with this team and we have to continue to grow through it."
On Devin Davis' playing time lately:
"It's not for health reasons. I think it's a matter of creating enough opportunities in practice to put him in over somebody else. We are playing quite a few guys right now. What you do as a coach is you coach the potential of players throughout the week of practice and then you coach the performance in the game. He is getting better but he's in a situation where some other people are doing a pretty good job.
"Jeff Howard did an excellent job the other day. Austin Etherington has been playing more and playing frequently. That's what it is. But his opportunities could come tomorrow night in a second. Think about it – Austin Etherington didn't get in the game against Michigan State. He never hung his head, had a great week of practice after being on the scout team going into the Michigan State game, and has been one of our better players the last three games. And he's been one of our most dependable and reliable players throughout the game with doing all of the little things. Jeff Howard goes in the game the other day and does a tremendous job of guarding their hot player at that point. I wish we would have had two Jeff Howard's because maybe we would have done a better job on (Tre) Demps at the end of the game. But we didn't so it's really just being ready when your opportunity comes and hopefully Devin and Collin Hartman and people like that will be prepared when that time comes."
On the first game against Michigan State:
"We didn't follow the game plan, to put it very simply. The other thing was that we weren't strong enough with the ball. We were a little sloppy with it at times. The biggest thing for us was the 13 points that Michigan State got off ‘live ball' turnovers in that game. But there are certain things you need to do against Michigan State and when we have done them the last couple years, we have done a pretty good job. Obviously we had a different team the last couple years with different players, but there are still certain things in every game that become ‘gameplan specific' for that game. There are certain personnel tendencies that guys have that you have to take advantage of.
"The other thing was we really let Gary Harris get far too comfortable and loose in the game and he did a phenomenal job. And now he is playing even better than he was then. There is no question that we could have played a lot better (in the first game) and we didn't. So hopefully we will learn from some of that right now."