Indiana coach Tom Crean talked to the media Thursday about things his team needs to focus on as it heads into the regular season opener Friday night at home against Mississippi Valley State. Tip time is 7 p.m. ET.
Crean said the focus for the Hoosiers needs to be on understanding an urgency on defense as well defensive rebounding in particular.
“One of the main reasons we've won 73 games over the last three years is because our rebound margin has been so good,’’ Crean said. “Last year I think it was sixth in the nation. And we've lost some really good rebounders over time, but that doesn't mean that we can't become a really good team. We made some improvements the other night inside of the game when we got physical and when we got aggressive and when we made contact first, and I think that's really, really important for this team that everybody has to do everything when it comes to the defensive end.
“We've always been a switching team. We've been a high deflection team, and I think the better job we do right now with being aggressive on the glass, the more aggressive we're going to be in half court defense, which is going to turn into more created turnovers and things like that that we need to get our running game going.
Crean said Indiana’s success begins with defensive transition.
“We've got to continue to understand the urgency of that,’’ Crean said. “A guy like Yogi understands that. Nick Zeisloft understands that. The young guys, that takes time, and we don't want to wait until we've played this lightning speed team because we've played a couple of really fast guards and some high major guards with Parker and with Jones in the first game, and as we said to our team, Jones will be maybe one of the three fastest guys that come in here the entire year. Well, there's going to be some very fast teams that come in, and we've got to make sure we do a really good job of understanding that.
“We've got to get our close-outs better, and our footwork is improving, and we've seen a lot of improvement since the summer, but it's got to improve at an even higher level, and then it's got to culminate with a defensive board. The things that you do the most, you have to be the best at. Running the court in transition both ways, and rebounding the ball on both ends of the court.
With a team that has been starting four guards and one forward in the two exhibition games, Indiana is going to need a big contribution from a rebounding perspective from the guard position.
“Our guard rebounds have really got to go up,’’ Crean said. “The challenge is out to Yogi that he's got to improve not only his rebound numbers, which I'm not as concerned about rebound numbers as I am about rebound percentage and the defensive objecting and offensive rebounding percentages. Now, the guards, Yogi is never really going to be measured in the offensive rebound percentage, but the defensive rebounding percentage and where he wants to go as a player, nationally, and where we need this team to go, he's got to get his defensive rebounding percentage numbers up in that.
“We have start in the 10 to 12 percent range and then go up into the 13 to 15 percent range as the year goes on, and there's no better time than to get started with that right now, because when you get active and when you get five guys inside under the foul line and they're flying in and they're creating contact, there's going to be a lot of rebounds and there's going to be a ton of long rebounds. We're going to shoot threes. We've faced a lot of three-point shooting, and we're not going to win all the 50/50 contests just by out-jumping people. We're not big enough. But we have to win some of those by doing our work early, and I think you saw some improvements even in Yogi going from side to side on the court the other night. When he makes his mind up that he can be good at it, he's usually pretty good at it. So defensively we've got to continue to get better.
Crean said offensively IU’s spacing needs to be better.
“We're spending a lot of time on spacing and where we want to attack from,’’ Crean said. “Don't leave until the ball hits here. Don't leave the corner early because we haven't hit the screen yet. Young guys always get in a rush, and the floor has a tendency to shrink rather than to enlarge, and for us to be at our best very, we've got to enlarge it. We've got to use the entire part of the half court. We can't shrink in, and we can't bring our steps in. We've got to stay truly committed to the spacing. There's two phrases we use a lot: Be committed to the spacing and finish your cut.
“In none of those areas does it mean jog or creep up, and the other thing we've got to really get better at is our sprinting into screens. Our screening is improving, but our quickness into the screens has got to get better because I think that will increase our ability to get the ball into the paint, which will give us more open shots, and I think the ball movement has been pretty good. As we get better at making decisions and getting used to playing with one another, the turnovers are going to need to come down, but at the same time, our turnovers created have got to go up. We've got to create more turnovers. We're not necessarily a full-pressure team yet. At some points in the season we'll have the ability to pressure the game more full or three-quarter court is the plan, but right now we've got -- because we have a shorter bench, we've got to make sure that we're committing to doing what it takes to win the game.
Crean also gave updates on players who have been slowed by injury.
“Jeremiah (April) has been back in limited parts of practice with contact, which is good,’’ Crean said. “Max (Hoetzel), not sure yet if he'll still be on a minute limit, but we didn't practice Tuesday, but he practiced well yesterday. You're seeing the effects of really a strong rehabilitation program, great medical staff, and a committed young man in the way that Collin Hartman is back out there, and he deserves the credit because he's worked so hard to put himself back in that position. We'll just continue to improve.’’
Here is what Crean had to say about Friday’s opponent, Mississippi Valley State.
“ We're fully aware of Tyler Corley, who led them in points in the first game with 21 points,’’ Crean said. “Had a chance to see him a lot playing at Lawrence Central. Extremely well coached by J.R. Shelt, and obviously when recruiting Jeremy (Hollowell) we got to see him play a ton. They're going to be fast, they're going to be quick. They're not an overly big team, but they're very fast and aggressive. They caused, I believe, 23 turnovers, or 27 turnovers the other day.
“So we know we're going to see a lot of pressure from them, and then how they decide to play offensively, we'll have to wait and see. I would imagine they'll come in and play fast, but they may not. They may try to shrink the game.Video: Staff Analysis of IU-UIndy
Takeaways from IU’s win
IU beats UIndy, 76-63 in final exhibition game