Bloomington – IU Coach Tom Crean might feel badly for Maurice Creek as he begins the process of recovering from Monday night's knee injury, but he's not feeling sorry for himself as his team prepares to face Michigan Thursday afternoon.
You couldn't fault him if he did. After all, the second-year Hoosier coach inherited a program that had basically imploded before his arrival, and now he's coping with the loss of his leading scorer for the remainder of the season. That might not seem right and it might not seem fair, but it's the reality of the situation, and Crean isn't slowing down to bemoan his lot.
"I can't carry that around because there will be a lot of people that will take a cue from me, and if they take a negative cue from me, that allows them to have a letdown," Crean said Wednesday afternoon.
"I'm certainly not going to have a letdown, and I don't expect anyone around me to have a letdown. I try to stay as full throttle as possible."
That's what he's done as he's spent his time during the last two days checking in on Creek while also preparing his team for a Michigan team that he considers a Big Ten title contender. He knows he doesn't have a player on the roster that is simply going to pick up the 17.6 points per game that Creek was averaging before the injury, and he hasn't instructed any specific player to be more aggressive offensively now that Creek is gone.
Instead, he's focused on the improvement of every player on his roster, and hoping that will make his young team a tough match-up for Big Ten foes beginning tomorrow afternoon.
"It has to be a team-wide, everyone get better," Crean said. "Everybody bring a few extra things because they have to."
What Crean is zeroing in on isn't certain players taking more shots, but everyone working to get better shots for themselves and teammates. To accomplish that, Crean and his staff are focused on things like players setting better screens and players continuing to reverse the ball better. With that will come better shots for everyone on the floor.
Jeremiah Rivers is among those who thinks Indiana will be able to cope with Creek's loss. While there's no disputing the value of a player like Creek who can shoot from behind the arc, slash to the basket and create havoc on defense, this year's Indiana roster has plenty of other players who have the ability to score.
"I think we'll be fine," Rivers said. "Coming into the season, I don't think anyone expected Maurice to be such a great scoring threat. I think everybody has the ability in them to really be aggressive and score. We have a lot of good talent on our team. I think everyone will kind of fall into their roles tomorrow.
"It's a team game. That's how we've always played, and we'll just find a way."
Crean's team will have to find a way because, quite honestly, it doesn't have a choice. Creek is expected to return to Bloomington on Thursday, but he's not expected to be on the bench for tomorrow's game against Michigan. While his eventual return to the bench and to practice figures to provide an emotional lift of sorts for both the team and for Creek, the star freshman won't be back on the court until the 2010-11 season.
"There's no getting around the fact that he's a very valuable member of this team whose contributions have been well documented and we'd come to rely on," Crean said. "But they're not there."
Crean, Hoosiers Set To Carry On Without Creek
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