Read the entire transcript of what Indiana head coach Tom Crean had to say to reporters last night following his team's 75-74 loss on the road to the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
I was spending time with my team before I did the radio show. I am so proud of their effort. I know every day what we’re missing. I know every day how far away some of the guys we’re not missing are in the case of James (Blackmon) and Juwan (Morgan). I know what we miss in practice when guys can’t go as much because they are still recovering from surgeries or from injuries. But for them to battle the way they are battling and to be as close as we were against Wisconsin and Purdue. And we weren't as good on Sunday (against Michigan), there's no doubt about that, and the lack of offense affected us some on Sunday.
Bu our guys came to fight tonight, there's no doubt about it. Minnesota made one more play, they just made one more play. It was a hard fought game. It was a complete battle all the way across the board. I take nothing away from them, but I certainly take nothing away from my group. And for them to play with everything we have dealt with, and to play with that spirit and toughness, and to make the plays they are making, and for me to know and for you guys to have an idea, but for me to know what they are missing when to comes to the health and the confidence that comes with full health, I'm very proud of them.
Q – There have obviously been moments where you guys have been close recently. How hard is it to actually get them to believe that?
TOM CREAN: Well, that’s the key…that’s the key…and I’m betting on myself to be honest with you, and my staff, because we believe in them. As long as they don’t let things inside of their ears or inside of their eyes to dispel that, and they continue to look back at us and trust that film and trust each other the way that they have. Our work ethic is so good, and our spirit of tenacity, and improvement, and togetherness is so good. That’s why your heart aches for them. I’m fifty, my heart aches to lose a game, but it really aches for them with everything that they put into it.
But I have complete belief that we will continue to get better. We’ve just had a few too many situations in these games where it comes down to one or two possessions and we don’t get it. But I’ve got a tough group that is getting more tough-minded all the time, and I totally believe in them.
Q – How frustrating is it when De’Ron (Davis) looks like he can score at will and he can’t stay in the game?
TOM CREAN: Yeah, that was tough. We’ll study the film. For him to get 10 points in nine minutes and never really get into the flow except for a couple minutes. We took him out after he made a couple plays because we knew there was still a lot of time left and he would be a factor.
But he’s getting better and better. I’m really glad that I started him, but obviously it hurt us. It hurt that we didn’t have Josh (Newkirk) as much.
Q – Were you trying to get the same play that James (Blackmon) ran at Penn State on that last play?
TOM CREAN: No…no…no…somewhat of a screening angle. But no, we had something on the other side. It was just a matter of which guy was open on it. And he got it off. I don’t think we were as comfortable to go against that length and get it across half-court in the air with the line-up that we had in. so it was more of let’s…you’ve got time for two dribbles and maybe three on that and get it long on a catch-up the floor. So it was a little different but same family of plays.
Q – On the shot by (Akeem) Springs, the game winner…
TOM CREAN: I didn’t get a good look at it yet…I didn’t get a good look at it yet. I think they credited him for a steal…is that correct…because they don’t have him credited with an offensive rebound on the state sheet.
Q – I thought he got an offensive rebound.
TOM CREAN: I thought it was too but they didn’t credit him for one. Has anybody got a sheet? They didn’t credit him for one did they? He made a play. That kid has had a…it’s crazy…he’s a really good player and it was his second basket of the game. They did a great job. He’s (Richard Pitino) done an excellent job. We were winning those games a year ago with an experienced group, those close games like that. He (Pitino) was not winning those games a year ago. His group is getting more experience and they’re healthy. They are the beneficiaries of playing together and going through those things.
So much of that is what this comes down to, whether it’s the Wisconsin’s of the world, the Purdue’s…we were that team a year ago, and right now we’re not. We had a chance to be that team at the beginning of the year if you stay injury free and we didn’t. But I know this, we’ve got guys that are out there that I wouldn’t trade…I miss OG (Anunoby) obviously, but I wouldn’t trade those guys being out there fighting with them the way they are growing up.
Q – Is this the kind of response you wanted to see from James (Blackmon)?
TOM CREAN: Well…no…you know what, it is so much about his health…it really is. Could he play better? Well obviously, but I think Tim Buckley said it best, and I think this is where common sense really kicks into this…you don’t go from averaging 18 (points per game), or whatever he was averaging, to averaging five in a week and have anything be normal about where you’re at. He came back, and it is very rare that you’re going to come back and be ready to play at that level. He’s a little bit healthier today than he was Sunday, but it’s a process with getting back, or he wouldn’t have missed the time that he missed.
So the response attitudinally, the way that he worked on his shooting…absolutely…absolutely. The match-ups that he wanted tonight, the initiative that he took and things of that nature…absolutely. I’m completely proud of him and hopefully he’ll just…it’s going to take some time…I mean you…J-Mo (Juwan Morgan) looked a little better tonight, but it’s not there yet. But those guys are playing against really good players and it shows up at times. But when you’re fighting with effort and hustle that’s the equalizer, and we did that, we did that.
Q – You changed the line-up a little bit. What were you trying to get out of that?
TOM CREAN: I don’t know if it was changing it for any other reason…we wanted to do something a little bit different on the break, but it just didn’t work out that way at the beginning. I may mix it again. It wasn’t like anybody lost a spot, I’m just…I wanted to spark a couple things. I wasn’t try to send a message.
We had a game plan. I was very matter of fact, as the staff was, the last couple of days, there’s not a lot of…let’s not get into a lot of psycho-babble, let’s get better. We didn’t watch very much film. We got on the court and got better. We utilized our time. We worked on our shooting. We were in here late last night working on our shooting, and it’s about confidence. Bob Knight said it all those many years ago, the mental is too physical as 3 is to 1 or 4 is to 1 or whatever it is. So that’s what we want to get. But seeing that ball go thru the net, those are really important things.
Q – Is it a confidence thing more than anything else with Robert (Johnson)?
TOM CREAN: Oh with Robert…oh…I’m not going to let him lose his confidence. I don’t know how to answer that other than I’m not going to let him. And I’ve got a staff of guys that won’t let him, and he’s got a team full of guys that won’t let him. We want to keep simplifying the game for him. Going into tonight he was shooting almost 60 percent on catch and shoot three’s…he missed some of those…I mean they were open.
When you take guys…when guys aren’t as healthy or you take a player like OG out, and it’s not an excuse because OG’s gone because he’s been gone for weeks now, but everybody’s game plan ratchets up for your players. And then when James is out it really ratchets up. We do the same thing. So we won’t let him lose his confidence. He got good things tonight. He was doing a good job guarding, they just didn’t go. We’re not going to let him get down. He means too much and I love him and he’s too valuable.
Q – In recent weeks have you been showing film of Kansas and North Carolina…
TOM CREAN: Oh yeah, but we’ve been doing that through the year. I think it would be…I think that would be naïve of me to be waiting till now. That wouldn’t be good coaching. So we’ve been doing that through time. What we did even now… now remember, this team is different than that team…that team was as healthy as it could be early in those games. James was coming off being injured, but the bottom-line for us is…I’ll tell you what we showed film on, when we weren’t as good in pick-and-roll ‘D’ on Sunday, where our pick-up point wasn’t as good, and then we showed about 15 clips between Michigan, Purdue and Wisconsin that you could put a clinic tape too and let them know that you can be that good. We’ve just got to do it more often. And that’s where we’re at, we’ve got to be more consistent and that’s our bottom-line…how do we keep getting more consistent. But I’m sure we’ll sneak those clips back in there again, but we’ve done that plenty of times already.