Following Friday’s 75-69 loss to Maryland, Indiana coach Tom Crean and two of his players, Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams met with the media in the official press conference area of the United Center.
Here is a transcript of what the Indiana coach and his players had to say.
First Crean’s opening statement, followed by questions for the players and then questions for coach Crean.
COACH CREAN: Well, we just went toe to toe with the eighth ranked team in the country and came down to the very end with them in the last eight minutes of the game. There were three field goals scored until our kid Max Hoetzel hit a three with two seconds to go between both teams.
First and foremost, we understand that we've got to play defense at a high level and energy and a hustle game at a high level, and I think we've come to Chicago and done that. Unfortunately we're walking out of here without the win today, but we're getting better. Our defense has gotten better. We got a lot of really good basketball from a lot of people. We needed to get better inside of the game in the second half, we did. The second chance points in the first half were 13 3, and we held them we got nine in the second half, they got none, all right, that's an improvement. We got to the foul line more in the second half.
I'm walking out of here knowing that our defense is getting better, our energy is high. No doubt we missed Hanner today, especially around the rim, and Nick Zeisloft according to the Ken Pomeroy rankings is the Number 1 ranked offense efficiency player in the country. It's very uncommon for him not to have a good game or back to back good games. Offensively he didn't, but he's going to keep getting better. We've got some guys did some really good things, but unfortunately so did they, and we went against an extremely good team.
Dez Wells is not only one of the elite players in our league, he's one of the elite players in the country, and for a lot of reasons. He can score, he can pass, he can drive it, he can defend, he can get out in transition, he's tough, and he makes every one of his teammates better, and that's a hard position to cover when they have as many shooters and somebody like Melo Trimble and people like that. But I'm proud of our players. I'm proud of the way we've approached the week. I'm proud of the way we responded to a couple of tough games at the end, and with a team like this, the youth that they have, the fact that they're getting better this time of year is a very encouraging thing for us.
Q. This is for both of you guys. Considering the statements that coach made, can you talk about how you're going to take this opportunity for the NCAA Tournament if you do end up getting in there?
YOGI FERRELL: Yeah, if we're fortunate to get into the NCAA Tournament, we're going to try and ride with these two games that we played with here. I like the way we played, I like the way we fought for both games, moving the ball, playing great defense, rebounding for our team, and hopefully we've done enough to make the tournament. If not, then so be it. But if we do, we feel like that we can play the same way going into these next games.
Troy WILLIAMS: Yeah, just like Yogi said, hopefully we do make it. We're going to stick to the game plan, keep playing the stuff that we did the past two games. Like we said, it's a new season.
Q. Troy, a couple of us noticed after the game you had a very emotional conversation with Coach Crean. Would you be willing to share what was going on there?
TROY WILLIAMS: Coach Crean was just like another father figure to me. I'm away from my family, so I see him as a mentor, a father, not only as a coach or a friend, I see him as more, and we just had a father to son conversation.
Q. At this time of year, some coaches feel the need to plead their case to the selection committee. Do you feel like the résumé you guys have speaks for itself?
COACH CREAN: Oh, absolutely, I think it does, and when you look at the body of work and factor the things in, and I really hope our league gets factored in. Obviously there's a lot of really good teams in this league, and what I'm encouraged about right now, we're getting better, and the good news with Hanner it wasn't good news today, but the good news with the Hanner situation is that it is not nearly what it appeared to be. It's still day to day, but it's our feeling that's not going to last very long at all. He was even able to go out onto the court today and do some things. He couldn't have played today, and I doubt he could have played tomorrow if we would have won.
But moving into next week I love their attitude. They're getting better. They've been resilient all year long. We've asked a lot of them all year long, and they've had to cover a lot of ground and make up for some deficiencies when it comes to inside play and things of that nature, and I love the improvement. When we look at the improvement a kid like Troy has made on the boards this year and the leadership that Yogi has brought, and the amount of minutes that Robert and James have played. And Nick Zeisloft, like I said, you look at those Ken Pom numbers, he's the No. 1 ranked offensive efficiency player and didn't have a very good two games.
But I love our team and the bottom line is we hope to be playing basketball next week. We hope we get the opportunity to play in that tournament. But I love the improvement, and I hope it showed over the season, and I certainly hope it showed over the last two games.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the conversation a couple of us noticed that it was very emotional and you took him aside. What was that about basically?
COACH CREAN: Well, he's growing so much, and he's been through a lot, and he's been he's just improving so much, and to me, I know we have a special talent there, but more importantly, we have a very special young man who just needs to continue to grow in all aspects of the game and understand what he's capable of, and he's gaining so much ground. But when you have somebody like that that's as smart as he is and that's as talented as he is, you want to keep making sure you're pushing all the right buttons for him to keep improving.
But that's the bottom line is that he just keeps improving on both ends of the court, and it really is just really about that, that when he really locks into getting better, and he locks into being where he needs to be and really it's about taking the next step defensively for him because look what he's done with the rebounding, look what he's done with his efficiency, look at his shot making today. That's basically what it is. I'm proud of his improvement, but as his coach and his leader, I want to keep pushing him to an even higher plane, just like I would with everybody else, and that's basically what it was.
Q. I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about all the freshman guards that are in the league this year, not just the depth but really the elite tier of talent that there is, and do you remember a year where there were so many talented freshman guards?
COACH CREAN: No, no. The answer to the last part of your question, I can't where there's that many guys that are capable of doing it. And I look at Robert Johnson, he isn't getting nearly the credit some of the other ones get, and I wouldn't trade him he just keeps getting better. Bryant McIntosh is somebody that was in the state of Indiana. We had James and Robert and I've always followed Bryant and he's all All Freshman player and going to be a fantastic guard in this league. And that doesn't even count DeAngelo and James and certainly Melo Trimble. I think it's a sign of how strong the league is. I think it's a sign of there's no question that adding Maryland and Rutgers into the league has opened up a completely different avenue. We were already recruiting out east and recruiting different parts of the country, but what it's done is it's brought that much of a broader scope for people to go anywhere in the country to bring players into their program, and I think the thing that we didn't have it this way. We had Yogi, which really helped with this, but Melo Trimble gets to do a lot of good things because Dez Wells is so good, because Jay Layman is so good. DeAngelo gets to do a lot of really good things because they've got some inside players, Shannon Scott there, Thompson there, and Bryant McIntosh does a great job of playing alongside who I think is an All League guard in Tre Demps and I know I'm probably missing some other guys.
But the Big Ten with the exception of a couple of us Michigan is not very old, we're not very old but the Big Ten is usually a league that has a lot of older players and the experience never really drops, so that helps those guys come in and be factors and gives them a lot of confidence and a lot of freedom because they've got people to get the ball to and people to help them understand what they need to do defensively.
Q. The first half was explosive. It was very I don't know how else to put it. And then both teams kind of slowed down. What were the adjustments you made to make that happen?
COACH CREAN: I think it slowed down on purpose. I think it was a matter of making sure we need to get to the foul line, okay. And the other thing is we don't have very good match ups for Dez Wells, and so it was really we're going to make sure we're moving the ball, getting people in movement. If you noticed, they really weren't guarding Troy very high at all in the first half, and they really backed up and he hit those pull ups when we went into the ball screen. So we wanted to make sure we kept the game in movement so then that we could get into things, the 15 second area, the 13 second area, but still very good running in the break running our early offense.
But I thought our pace was excellent. I thought their conditioning was excellent, our conditioning was excellent, and so it was a matter of whatever the speed of the game called for was fine. But I think at the end of the game, like I said at the beginning, in those last eight minutes, I know there's some free throws obviously, but in the last eight minutes to have three combined field goals I believe, I was told that number before I came in but three field goals in the last eight minutes before a shot with two seconds says a lot about the high level of play defensively, and that's why I'm proud of our guys. We were going toe to toe with them. They made a couple more plays than we did. Certainly the free throw situation that hurt us, and nobody feels worse than Troy on that. That hurt us. But we tried to recover from it. But it was just a hard fought game, and both teams probably intensified their half court defensive efforts a little bit.
Q. How would you describe the urgency that your team played with in these two games here?
COACH CREAN: I would say it was fantastic, and I'd say it was because they were reenergized. I think we really went home we were home, I should say, but really looked at what we were not taking care of. It wasn't about let's follow the bubble watch and let's read about how bad we're playing. Let's focus in on what we can fix, and the bottom line was the rebounding, and we had to get better at defensive rebounding the ball because we were giving up too many points on second chance points. We were getting some offensive boards, but we weren't getting the points from it, and we had to clean up some points off turnovers, and we certainly had to do a better job of getting to the foul line.
We hit a little bit of a cold slump, and when you've got a lot of shooting and you don't have that true, we're just going to throw it down in there and command that double team type of guy, you've got to make sure you're hitting your shots. We had a couple games where we weren't. Look at the Northwestern game; we're flying around, doing an excellent job in the first half. We hit a 10 minute, 9 minute, 11 minute lull, whatever it was, where we just weren't making shots we were making in the first half. So you've got to play through that. That's our team. Our team has got a lot of three point shooting, a lot of movement, and we hit a little bit of a lull on that. But we knew we could get better defensively, we knew we could get better at blocking out and rebounding the ball. We knew we could reenergize if we got some rest, and I think that's exactly what we did, and I think put it this way: If we'd have won the game, I would have felt great about us having a chance to go into tomorrow no matter who it was, Michigan State or Ohio State because of their confidence level, because of their urgency level, and because of their conditioning level.
Q. What's the plan for Sunday, and have you ever been in this situation where you've got to watch Selection Sunday and not really be completely sure?
COACH CREAN: No, I don't have a plan yet. I'm not sure. I'm really not. I haven't even close to thought that far ahead. I don't know. I've got to start thinking about that tonight. Other part of your question, I don't think so. I don't think as an assistant or a head coach. But you know what, it is what it is. We're getting better. I love coaching these guys. They have grown up on and off the floor. They deal with a lot, and yet the resiliency of coming in and getting better is constant. They have a closeness that's been able to develop over the year. It's growing. It's growing. It's not all the way there yet, but where they will they have started to learn how to hold each other accountable, and they will get on one another to be better, and I saw some of that the last couple days, again, too. I love coaching them, and I'm looking forward to continuing it next week.