Crean breaks down where IU needs to improve

Tom Crean was asked following the Grand Canyon about where IU needs to improve before opening Big Ten play on New Year's Eve at Nebraska. Here is what he had to say.

Indiana has now played 10 games in the non-conference season and will have a full week off before playing Butler on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

IU is 8-2 and Tom Crean talked Saturday following the 94-66 victory over Grand Canyon about some of the things the Hoosiers need to improve on before opening Big Ten play on New Year’s Eve at Nebraska.

The first question he was asked on the topic was if IU was doing a better job with guarding dribble penetration. That was clearly an issue in IU’s first loss of the season Nov. 24 against Eastern Washington.

“We picked the ball up too high against Eastern Washington,’’ Crean said. “We opened up. We didn't turn the dribbler. The other night (against Louisville) we chased the ball too much. But I think the biggest thing is, in answer to your question, is stay in front of the ball better. Don't overreact to the ball when we're in help. Stay with the shooters. Stay with the people that can cut and don't get into rotation, which is going to cause a lot of bad rebounding scenarios.

“So there's no question we've got to do a better job of keeping our chest in front. No one personnel. And in the first half we didn't do a good job at all on the way we wanted to guard (Dewayne Russell).’’

Russell just became eligible for Grand Canyon in time for the Indiana game. He scored 16 points in 37 minutes against the Hoosiers.

“We didn't realize until this morning until J.D. saw an article from Arizona that he was eligible for the game,’’ Crean said. “We knew potentially he was going to be playing soon. So we went to work quick this morning, gathered enough film for the guys to see. And the second half we really did what we wanted to do. We zoned more and we took away some of the things that he wanted.’’

Crean said another thing that needs to improve is defensive rebounding.

“No question we've got to improve the rebounding, defensively,’’ Crean said. “Our transition defense -- like I told our team, if we got back the same level Stan got back after the little skirmish, we got back like that every game or got back like that, our every transition defense would be the best in the country. They've got to figure out how to do that. It can't take getting challenged inside of the game to go that hard in transition defense. So we have got to get better of all those things.’’

Crean said on offense IU needs to screen better and continue to move better.

“Our spacing is not even -- it's better but it's not even close to where it's got to be,’’ Crean said. “Our recognition to have ball screens and our being truly where we need to be in the spacing is not even close to where it will be. And at the same time we've got to improve our offensive rebound. So there's a long list.’’

Crean offers early thoughts on Butler

Analysis: Williams with a strong effort

Five things: IU 94, Grand Canyon 66