Indiana coach Tom Crean and three of his players were at the podium Thursday night after IU beaat Northwestern 71-56 in the Big Ten Tournament to earn a trip to the tourney quarterfinals Friday against No. 2 seed Maryland.
Here is what Crean and the players had to say.
COACH CREAN: We're extremely proud of the way our players played from start to finish, and in a 40 minute game, you're going to have some runs, and it's how you get back to the next run. When you hit a lull we hit a little bit of a lull, but we reversed it and played right through it. Some of the things we really need to get corrected were second chance points and doing a much better job on the defensive glass, and in turn doing an even better job on the offensive glass. We did that. We moved the ball extremely well, but the pressure of our defense, the energy, the tenacity, all those things were really, really strong, and extremely proud of the coaches and the way that they prepared them and the way these guys and their teammates, the way that they played.
Q. Yogi, how much emphasis was put on improving the defensive disposition of this team, and speak to the job you and Robert did on Tre Demps?
YOGI FERRELL: Yeah, we wanted to come out here and just get a defensive mindset. We felt like Buckley prepared us well for playing Northwestern, and we knew basically their sets. We knew their tendencies. So it was just all on us to get out there and get stops. We felt like we had the mental will to go out there and get stops and play for one another, and everything else falls into place.
Q. In preparing for this game, was there a big emphasis on attacking the offensive boards, especially because they play zone?
JAMES BLACKMON, JR.: We wanted to attack the defensive boards, and that led to offensive boards, as well. And like Yogi said, our main thing was defense, and I think tonight was all about our mindset.
Q. Yogi, especially in the first half, you guys were really flying around, the bench was up a lot. Seemed like there was more in this game. Was it the NCAA bid? Was it the atmosphere around the program the last couple weeks? What led to that extra spark?
YOGI FERRELL: The thing that led to that extra spark is everybody coming together, saying we're not going to lose this game. We've got that mental mindset to go out there and play for one another. We don't want to lose. I felt like tonight we went out there and created our own energy, and when we create our own energy, we get rolling off of one another and everybody plays as a team, and we all look good.
Q. For anybody, I think IU fans are probably asking the question: Why isn't it like this all the time? How would you answer that?
EMMITT HOLT: Well, I would say that well, basically we just come together. When we get on runs like we did tonight, we just come together like Yogi said, create our own energy, and when we don't do that, we don't perform like we're supposed to. So we've got to hold each other accountable, and when we do that, we perform like we did today.
Q. Looking ahead to tomorrow night, how do you feel about playing against Melo Trimble? Seemed like you guys had a back and forth your first two games.
YOGI FERRELL: Yeah, we played Maryland the third time, both times have been close. We know they're a great team. They've got great guards with Dez Wells and Melo Trimble, great bigs inside, so it's all about diving into that film, taking away some of the tendencies. It's just going to be a fun game.
Q. Dealing with a seven footer like Olah and looking at the numbers and how many offensive rebounds you guys got, what was your mentality or your plan for getting on the offensive glass with Olah there?
EMMITT HOLT: Well, with us, it's all about the fight because, as everybody knows, we don't have the tallest guys on the team. We've got to run right into it and take on the challenge, and that's what we do.
Q. Was it just the mindset or the intensity that was different tonight about the last time you saw these guys?
JAMES BLACKMON, JR.: Yeah, it was about the mindset. We felt like we owed them one. We learned a lot from the film, the staff, and we basically knew everything we had to do to win, and we're just going to try to carry it into tomorrow.
The players were then excused and Crean answered the remaining questions.
Q. Tom, is that the best sustained defensive effort you've seen from your guys this year or at least in a while?
CREAN: I'm not sure. We've had some really good defensive efforts throughout the season. Pittsburgh at home, SMU at home. I thought we did some really good things against Maryland. I'd have to go back and really think about it. But for this time of year and in a situation like this, this week to come in here and play that way with the youth of this team that we have and for them to be recharged and energized and doing what we needed to do defensively and really understanding what we wanted to take away, and the bottom line is, it all starts with Tre Demps. That's the bottom line. I think he was averaging 14 the first time we played them, he had 23. So really getting after a player like that is crucial, putting pressure on the ball.
But the biggest thing for us is we had to do a much better job when we look back over the last three games if we're going to find a common denominator. We're giving up too many second chance points. We were not making our free throws as much, but more importantly, we weren't getting nearly as many attempts and were giving too many attempts to the other team. And then we were getting beat a little bit on points off turnovers, and then when you add a Demps situation when we're giving up too many points to the best player, those are all things that have to be part of the mindset.
And I thought our players did an excellent job of, again, locking into that, playing over the time of year and the significance of this part of the season and really locking into what they had to do to get better this week, and hopefully it continues on for us.
Q. When Collins took JerShon with about a minute left, you called him over. What did you say to him?
CREAN: I told him he had a great career. Really proud of the career he's had. He's dealt with a lot of different things with injuries. I don't know the young man, but I thought he handled himself extremely well during his career here. And the same thing with Dave Sobolewski. It's a class program. Bill did a great job recruiting those young people in there. Chris has done a fantastic job of building down there. Chris is one of the forget youth or I shouldn't say youth, forget age. Chris is one of the best coaches around. He's tremendous. He's been not only raised into it and worked into it, but it's one thing to have the father that you have and have the former boss that you have, but you have to be able to come in and do it, and that's exactly what he's done. And he's outstanding, and we knew it would be a great battle with them. I just wanted to tell him I was a big fan of how he played, handled himself.
Q. How is Hanner, and will he play tomorrow?
CREAN: It's too early to tell. He aggravated an earlier injury. He's being x rayed, I believe, here. I love our medical team, so whatever needs to happen to help him, it'll happen, and we'll hope for the best.
Q. Do you think you're in the NCAA Tournament now?
CREAN: Well, I don't know. You know, I really don't know, and no one knows. That's the beauty of it all. I would think when you look at criteria, I would think when you look at what we've done with the RPI wins, what we've done with the non conference scheduling and winning some of the games that we did, who you choose to play, I would hope so. I think when you win 20 games and you end up winning now the tenth conference game in this league, I know it was 9 and 9 during the league and beat some of the teams that we've beaten, I would hope so. We're getting better.
Collin is not all the way back yet, but I love what happens when this team starts to get that jolt again, what they're capable of on the defensive end, what they're capable of on the glass, and it makes our shooting so much better. When we're not guarding as well as we need to, when we're not rebounding as well as we need to, it puts a lot of pressure on our offense. That's what they're learning and what they've learned at different times throughout the year, and I think it showed today. When their defensive rebounding is at the forefront of everything, that drives our offense to a high level because we're playing a very good offensive and defensive team today. They wouldn't have had the finish to the season they had if they weren't. I love our capabilities, I love our potential, and I certainly hope that we are, but we have not spent any time talking about that, and we didn't spend any time talking about it in the locker room in the short time we were together, and we haven't spent any time talking about it tonight. It's all been focused on what they need to do to get better, how we can continue to get better, and then getting ready for each and every game.
Q. Nearly half the shots taken tonight were three pointers. In general do you think that's a position where your team can succeed?
CREAN: I'm not sure. I think what worked tonight worked tonight. I think the ball moved. I think the bottom line for us is that the ball go through the paint and what did we make here, 11 threes? When the ball goes through the paint, whether it's in a post up situation, whether it's in a kick out situation, that's the most important thing for us.
Q. I asked the players this question. I think Indiana fans watch tonight and wonder why this team can't play that type of defense all the time, and how would you answer that?
CREAN: Youth. If anybody could get everything, with the exception of a few teams, absolutely cornered, then it would be a really clear cut answer. It's not. I know this, they work hard, extremely, extremely hard every day, and sometimes they press in the sense of trying to make it happen and trying to make a play. And some of our turnovers have been almost over passing at times, but we're just going to focus on the way that we played today and get ourselves ready for the next game.
Q. Looking forward to tomorrow, what's the challenge of stopping a team that has two guards as good as Dez Wells and Melo Trimble?
CREAN: We've got to stop the team. It's not about individual match ups. Obviously those are two very good players, but once you start focusing so much on them, then Jake Layman, Evan Smotrycz, the freshman guards like Wiley and Nickens and Pack, those guys make you pay. We've got to do a really good job all the way across the board. They're extremely well coached. They play well on both ends of the court, extremely well. They can score inside, and they can score outside. They've got great penetration, they do a great job of getting to the foul line. We've had a couple of good battles with them, one we won, one they won, and we're looking forward to it.