Crean: Hoosiers kept edge

If there was a concern about Indiana coming off of the Hoosiers’ earth-shaking win over Kentucky it was that it might set them up for a letdown. The Hoosiers had a week between games, final exams, lots of national media exposure and entire campus looking to pat them on the back.

But Indiana coach Tom Crean said the Hoosiers were able to return to business as usual quickly. They took Sunday off and then Wednesday off and had to shuffle players in and out as they left for exams and studying, but Crean said each practice showed that the Hoosiers had no intentions of letting up.

“The three practices we have had have been very intense, very upbeat, very energetic,” Crean said. “Going back to Monday, Verdell (Jones) and Christian (Watford) were the two guys that came in here and you could just see the edge was alive and well. They got our practices going at a really good clip. … Our guys realize that we had a great opportunity last weekend. They took advantage of it, and their work ethic this week leads me to believe that they’re ready to take the next opportunity at hand and continue to make progress.”

Senior forward Tom Pritchard said the Hoosiers were able to put the Kentucky game behind them quickly. They took Saturday night and Sunday to bask in it, but were ready to go by Monday.

“We took it in,” Pritchard said. “We took it in that night and we’re all moving on. The coaches and players all set that in Monday’s practice that we were gonna move on and still focus on what we need to do later in the season.”

Crean though, said that it’s important not to put the Kentucky game behind them entirely. They have to use it as a building block, he said, and use it without letting it become the high point of their season.

“It can be a springboard to future opportunities,” Crean said. “If we tried to downplay that game or downplay that it happened, it wouldn’t make any sense. At the same time, it would be ridiculous as a coach to downplay that there were mistakes made in the game. The old adage in coaching that you don’t accept in victory what you don’t accept in defeat, even when you beat the No. 1 team in the country, I don’t think you get away from that, and we didn’t. You want to build on it. You want it to springboard. You want confidence to grow, but at the same time, you want them to understand the bottom line is there’s a lot of room to get better, and that’s exactly how we’ve treated it.”

Crean said he’s made it very clear to the Hoosiers that even though Notre Dame was clearly hurt by the graduation of Ben Hansbrough and the injury to Tim Abromaitis, the Fighting Irish are adjusting. Junior forward Jack Cooley, a 6-foot-9, 248-pounder, had 22 points and nine rebounds in the Irish’s most recent win against Dartmouth, and Notre Dame is getting great guard play from sophomore guard Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, who are averaging 13.9 and 12.4 points per game respectively.

The Irish have five players who have hit at least 10 3-pointers so far this year.

“They’re a very good team,” Crean said. “They’re really learning to play without Tim and you can see that…. They’ve still got guys that have played a lot of games. There’s not guys that you say, ‘Well, we’re gonna guard this guy this way because he can’t shoot as well. There’s none of that. You’ve gotta be really locked into knowing that their spacing is their great weapon, because they can pass it, they can drive it and they utilize the corners.'”

Other notes from Thursday’s press availability.

— Junior forward Derek Elston has practiced all week this week, Crean said, after injuring his back during practice last week. Elston dressed and warmed up for Saturday’s game against Kentucky and Crean said after the game that he was available and cleared by doctors, but Crean didn’t go to the bench much to begin with and simply opted not to play him.

“He’s been pretty good,” Crean said. “We had him out there a little bit (Wednesday) to make sure we can get his rhythm back. We’re still helping him treat his back. Some of that is just a matter of making sure rehab is good. It’s not going to set him back. It did for a couple of days.”

— Crean said that injured guard Maurice Creek’s pre-game shooting drills shouldn’t lead anyone to believe that he could be available before the end of this season, but that it is good for his confidence that he can still hit shots and that he’s been shooting at Assembly Hall on game days before his teammates take warm-ups.

“He’s the pre-game act where he goes out there and starts drilling 3’s,” Crean said. “He’s not ready to do shooting drills with us, but I saw him yesterday shooting in Cook with both shoes on, so he’s not in the boot right now in practice which is good. But it’s not anytime soon before he’d be in drills or anything like that. It’s good for him. Think about how hard that is. He’s such a great teammate and he’s locked in, but think about how hard that is. Two years ago, he was putting 31 on (Kentucky). … It’s fun to watch him mature and grow up and take care of what he can take care of.”

— Crean said he was hoping the Hoosiers would get the ball to freshman forward Cody Zeller more in Saturday’s game and that they need to make improvements in getting the ball in the post. However, Crean said Kentucky made it more difficult than any other team they’ve played so far to make an entry pass.

“We’ve gotta do a better job of getting it in,” Crean said. “But that was one of the hardest teams that we’ve ever seen, that I’ve ever seen as a coach, to get the ball entered in. That’s not an excuse, that’s just a fact. We do have to do a better job of getting the ball in and we have to do a better job of getting him the ball at different times in the clock.”

At the same time, Crean said Zeller has to improve at putting himself in position to demand the ball.

“Holding his seal,” Crean said. “Be more vocal. Continue to create angles. His teammates need to go into it a little bit earlier, but the window against the best teams in pick and roll, the window against the best teams in post feeding, the window against the best teams in getting your shot off, it’s very, very small. When it’s there, you’ve gotta take advantage of it. The angle of the pass, the timing of the pass, the quickness of the release of the shot, the better the team you play, the more the margin for error goes up and the more your details and technique have gotta be great. And there were times the other day that it wasn’t.”

AUDIO: Victor Olaidpo and Tom Pritchard

AUDIO: Tom Crean Part 1

AUDIO: Tom Crean Part 2

4 comments

  1. As a team not accustomed to a lot of success, the risk is that the players will let the hoopla about the win over KY distract them from the preparation and focus necessary to win win the next game. Either that, or they got so sick of losing the last three years that their focus and determination to go to the big dance this year is embedded deep within each of them. Let’s hope its the latter and not the former.

    They won’t have the home town crowd on their side against ND. And they will no longer “surprise” any teams. I think a win against ND will be an even bigger statement about their potential than that great win against KY was.

    Go Hoosiers.

  2. I think these guys are so sick of losing that they won’t stop competing as hard as they can. Everyone realizes that we haven’t won any B1G games yet this season. However, when we lose our first game, whenever that may be, it will only help the team get better. I don’t see any end-of-season collapse happening this year.

  3. I think you are exactly right. I see these guys as taking every loss personally. They are not a team you would want to play following a loss.

Comments are closed.