Tom Crean doesn’t dispute that Indiana’s No. 1 ranking was good for the program. Like most coaches, he tries to ignore the polls, but admitted that being preseason No. 1 and holding the top spot for the first month of the season helped the program on a number of levels.
Still, the IU coach said losing the ranking doesn’t change much.
“Rankings are nice,” Crean said on his radio show Monday evening. “There’s no question that the No. 1 ranking was fantastic as we started the season and we go into the first couple of games. If it were a season-ending decision, it would be a whole different story, but it’s not. You just keep going and getting better. It’s nice to be ranked, but it has nothing to do with how we practice. Nor did it before.”
Crean he wasn’t happy with how the offense operated. The Hoosiers’ shooting percentage of 42.9 percent was the lowest they shot all season and they tied a season-low for made 3-pointers. That had a lot to do, he said, with shot selection. Butler forced the Hoosiers to spend more time in the halfcourt than they did in just about any game this season, and they weren’t nearly as efficient in that setting as Crean would have liked.
“The one thing that we did too much on offense, which bothered me, was we settled for too many pull-up jump shots,” Crean said. “Their defense is really predicated on giving you that shot. They want to take you off the 3-point line, they want to protect the rim. That only works if you let them. When you come down and you take too many mid-range jump shots, it plays into their hands. It’s not what we’re built on. We’re a pretty good pull-up shooting team, but that’s not what we want to spend the game on, and we didn’t make enough of those shots. Especially when you’re in a different arena like that. We just didn’t.”
Crean again harped on miscommunications on defense that allowed a few big shots, including two critical 3-pointers in overtime, and he also expressed his displeasure with what the Hoosiers did in the paint.
Indiana lost the rebounding battle 40-38, coming out on the wrong end of that for the first time all season. They also scored 10 fewer points than Butler in the paint, losing that battle for the first time all season, and lost the second-chance points battle 27-17. Butler got 19 offensive rebounds, grabbing caroms on what for Indiana is a disturbing 48.7 percent of the missed shots on their end.
“It was key rebounds,” Crean said. “It was loose rebounds. There were too many layups and too many things that turn into easy baskets for them. We didn’t make up enough for that with too many mid-range pull-up jump shots, rather than really forcing our will at the rim and getting the ball reversed.”
And all of those will be areas the Hoosiers have already begun working on this week in practice. Crean said he saw a lot of resolve in the Hoosiers the last two days, and believes they can make the most out of lessons learned.
“You never want to lose,” Crean said. “I learned a long time ago you can learn just as much from winning as you do from losing if you really do pay attention and you do hold them accountable for when they don’t do the things that are winning and you make sure you don’t let the death-by-inches thing creep up. But there’s no question that any time you lose a game, there’s gonna be a different sense of urgency. We competed in practice hard and give great energy. But every once in a while, things have to peak your sense of urgency.”
Crean said that IU senior forward Derek Elston practiced Monday after warming up with the Hoosiers in Saturday’s game against Butler, but he’s still limited in practice after surgery to repair a torn meniscus in late October.
“He’s close,” Crean said. “He warmed-up the other day and he warmed up hard. I knew we weren’t going to be really able to play him, but it was really good to have him be out there for that. He practiced a little bit today. He’s very limited as to his practice time. The projection when it all started was gonna be somewhere around Christmas time, meaning the 28th or the 31st. There is a possibility that he could play this week. I wouldn’t call it a probability yet. But I would say at some point in time now between the 28th and 31st and then we have that week before we play Penn State, hopefully he’s gonna be back where he’s a factor for us. That might take a while for him to get that movement and the mobility and the game conditioning.”