Indiana press conference transcript

COACH CREAN:  First and foremost, this game was everything that we anticipated and even more.  And we knew VCU was really good on film, but they were even better in person.  Their aggressiveness, their athleticism, the toughness that they played with, we knew we were going to have to match that and then some, and our guys did.
I’m sure it was a great basketball game for people to watch from the stands.  It was really a great game for me, as well, because I got to see this game, the last six or seven minutes through our players’ eyes.  And they were so locked in and had such great resolve to never panic and to just truly believe that they were going to win.
And the magic words, We’re always about the defense.  And they just kept talking about defense and defense and defense.  And I think it showed up in the way that we finished the game, with the stops we had, the percentages of stops that we had in the last six or seven minutes.
These guys did a fantastic job.  Everybody that played was playing with great intensity, on both sides, great intensity, great energy, great toughness.  And we knew we were playing against a team that really cared about one another, and I think they’ll see that they were playing against a team, in our group, that really cares about one another.
And when you’ve got that kind of togetherness, a lot of amazing things can happen.  That’s what our year has been like and that’s what this game was like.

Q.  You were very quiet offensively in the second half until at the end and you made a series of plays.  What changed?
CODY ZELLER:  Yeah, I was struggling in the second half there for a while, but really just tried to get some rebounds, tried to make a difference in other ways.  I think that kind of got me going.  So I was ready when my number was called later in the game.

Q.  On that final shot was there any part of you thinking I need to pull this thing out and play for the final shot or was the idea to go in and get the first open look and just let it go?
WILL SHEEHEY:  Well, they made a great play guarding the rim.  And at that time I thought the momentum was on our side.  We had made a little comeback there.  And I’m comfortable shooting at that range.  It was pretty open, so I decided to take it.

Q.  Can you talk about now getting to the Sweet 16 with Indiana, does this feel like another step in helping them get this program back into the elite?
CHRISTIAN WATFORD:  Yes, it’s been a constant grind for us ever since the end of last year.  We’ve been working hard and we did a great job with adversity, and it feels great to be in this position.

Q.  You guys have played a lot of different styles this year and in this game it seemed you played different styles within the same game.  How did the experience of playing all those different styles help you down the stretch?
WILL SHEEHEY:  We have a great coaching staff that gets us prepared for every game.  Really, inside the game it’s the player’s role to pretty much just see what’s going on and try to figure it out.  So I think our players did a great job.  Our guards, Remy came in there and really made some plays for us and really set the pace of the game.  It was really guys coming in and just making big plays and that’s what changed the game.

Q.  You guys were down nine with about half the rest of the half left to play.  What changed?  What brought you guys back and how were you able to overcome that adversity and get back into the game?
WILL SHEEHEY:  Well, I think it’s our experience.  We’ve been there before, almost the same situation in numerous games early in the season.  And Christian told Jordan, even though he was struggling for a little bit, just to keep playing.
And I think that really just was our motto for the whole time was just to come out and keep playing.  Even though we got down in a little stretch, we were going to make a run and we did that tonight.

Q.  Can you take us through the final minute there in the half with your two 3’s and the free throws to cut the 9‑point deficit down to 1?
CHRISTIAN WATFORD:  I knew we needed a bucket and I stepped up and concentrated and made the shot.  The very next three, we got in transition and Victor did a great job of finding me and I just knocked it down.  I got two free throws after that, so at that point I was going.

Q.  In the last 12 minutes you only allowed two field goals.  Defense has been your motto all season long, what was it that let you bare down and make those stops?
CHRISTIAN WATFORD:  It was our mindset.  We knew what we had to do in order to win the game.  We went out and executed that and it went from there.

Q.  You had a look on your face that kind of said it all after you hit that shot.  Can you take me through the emotions of what’s going through your mind after you made that?
WILL SHEEHEY:  I knew there was 12 seconds left afterwards or whatnot, so we decided to get a stop on D.  I think that was the confidence that our whole team has been going through this whole season.  It might be me one night and obviously Christian has hit big shots this year.
Really, I just felt that our team was really just making a push and that was pretty much icing on the cake.

Q.  Can you talk about for this program, getting back to the Sweet 16, haven’t been in the tournament for three years.  Do you feel like this is kind of a big step to bring Indiana back into the national picture?
WILL SHEEHEY:  A hundred percent.  I know everyone watches March Madness and whatnot.  We might do it a lot for the fans, but really it’s for our guys in this program.  We have seniors on the squad, Verdell, who can’t play with us, but we play for those guys and they’ve been through it all.

Q.  Did you ever think you could turn the ball over 22 times for 23 points and win a basketball game?  What does that say about your group that you were able to win this game?
COACH CREAN:  Well, you make a decision against pressure.  You’re either going to break it or you’re going to attack it.  When you’re going to attack it, you’re going to have mistakes.  More of our mistakes happened in the front court.  We wanted to play a downhill game.  And that’s one reason never called a timeout when Victor had the ball.  We were going to call a timeout if they scored, and I told all the referees that.
So we wanted to play a downhill game.  Every time we got away from that or we played sideways or we didn’t meet the game, that was where our turnovers came.  I was very comfortable with them attacking the press and making decisions, knowing there would be a few times you’ve just got to live with it inside of the game.
But it was one of the reasons, our attack was one of the reasons we shot 67 percent in the first half.  But it’s not the optimum way to win a game, obviously.
But I think the job ‑‑ we kept talking the last two days about, first and foremost, they can’t press if they can’t score.  So we have to have as good a defense as we’ve had all year.  If you look at the way we closed the game and the 25 percent shooting from the field and from the three, those were the things that really, really stand out for the reasons that we won the game, I believe.

Q.  Final minute, you spoke about seeing the game through your players’ eyes, was there a certain level of trust?  Was this a certain kind of different experience going through this final minute given the situation and what you guys have gone through or was there a level of comfort there knowing what you guys had done earlier in the season?
COACH CREAN:  I think it’s the experiences.  I think pressure really comes down to ‑‑ if you focus on it and you focus on the result and you get away from the step‑by‑step ‑‑ and we were still in a step‑by‑step process there.  It was six with five and a half minutes to go, and there was no panic.  And then you can reference a game like NC State, where it was seven with seven and a half minutes to go.  Those things register with those guys.
Our talk is just that.  And it’s them.  It’s what they believe they’re going to do.  And the way that they talked to one another in the huddles.  And the resolve that they had.  And they’re so locked in.  We put a play in that I’ve been holding on to, I hadn’t even gone through it in walkthrough with it, but it was in isolation at the elbow.  And Christian kept saying, we’ve got to run this, because we tried to run it earlier in the game, and we couldn’t get to it.  It was an isolation for Cody.  And it was one of the best things we did at the end of the game because we got to the basket and we got fouled.
When you’re putting things in like that for them, and if they’re nervous at all, somebody is not going to be in the right place.  They were always in the right place.  So their locked‑in mindset gave us great confidence, but most importantly it gave each of them the confidence.  Because once we break that huddle, obviously they’re on their own.

Q.  The same question I asked, the different styles that you played within this game, basically how did you guys deal with that?
COACH CREAN:  Well, again, they’re quicker and more athletic on film, and I hadn’t seen it them play in person, so film does not do justice to how good they are.  They really, really are good.  They’re extremely well coached.  He’s a great coach.  There’s no doubt about that.  Obviously got a very good coaching staff.
But they play hard.  And they play it the right way and they’re aggressive and tough.  So we just had to keep adjusting, and I think they probably did, too.  We switched defense a lot, went to different things.  We played some personnel, we played different things when they substituted.  We never felt like we could fatigue them, to get it in our favor, but we had to do some things that might make them adjust a little bit.  So that was really our mindset throughout the game.
And our guys continued to do a pretty good job of taking what the defense was giving them.  A couple of times we didn’t, but for the most part we did.

Q.  Can you talk about getting to the Sweet 16.  Does it feel like a significant moment in your four years going back on to the national scene and now you’re back in with the 16?
COACH CREAN:  Oh, absolutely.  There’s no question about it.  And as I said to them, again, you know, the way God has brought us all together and touched everybody’s life, everybody is better for what they’ve had to deal with.  The seniors.  It doesn’t feel like that at the time when you’re going through all this.  But we’re all going to be better off for it.
To have them have this happen for them because of the way they’ve earned it, the way they’ve continued to get better.  And I know coaches can ‑‑ it can sound really corny when you talk about believing in one another, but I sit and look at these guys, and I’m looking across at them in that huddle and it’s a great feeling.  It’s hard to describe.  But it’s a great feeling to be around young men like this that they do really want to see each other be successful.  They know they’re a team.  So they’ve earned their way in.
Did we have days where we wondered if we would get to this point?  I would look back at this and say that there were a lot of disappointments, but nobody in our program that’s with us to this point ever got discouraged.  And there’s a huge difference between disappointment and discouragement.  And sometimes they can look alike.  But disappointments are inevitable, and discouragement, we just never got there.
And our guys really when they talk about the offseason, they know what they put into it.  All college basketball teams work really hard, but these guys have had to come from a long way, a long way, and I’m proud of them.

Q.  When you guys were down nine, did you know defense was what was going to get you back in the game?
COACH CREAN:  You don’t know, but you hope.  We can guard and the guys were so locked into how we were defending.  And we did it even at the end of the game.  We went into a 55, which is all switching.
Would we have done that with Cody in the game a month ago?  Probably not.  But you say, you know what, you’re a great basketball player, go out there and be a great athlete.  And he was.
When you’ve got comfort with one another, and they’re looking at Cody, and we haven’t done a lot of switching with Cody, and Cody is in the game and they’re saying 55, there’s a lot of belief.  You’re trusting your teammate to help take care of it.
Because what happens sometimes in defense, especially end‑of‑game situations, is you don’t want to make a mistake, you get hugged up on your man, you don’t call out a screen, you want to do your job.  When you’re switching and you’re playing zone it’s a team job.  Our guys understood that.  And I thought our team defense was tremendous for most of the second half and especially at the end.

Q.  You said that you started seeing the game through your players’ eyes.  Can you elaborate on what that means and how that started?
COACH CREAN:  I don’t know if it’s seeing the game.  I think you see the results.  We’re coaches and everybody around them, we’ve got a plan and we do that and we work at it, but if they’re not locked in, the buy‑in is nobody gets to this level and this tournament without a great buy‑in.
But being locked in, that’s what it’s all about when you look at them and they’re out there doing what they’ve been taught.  More importantly than that, they’re doing it with a resolve and a toughness and a will that’s just incredible.  And to me as a coach when you see that, the greatest thing for me in the past used to be to go on the road as a coach, and be in that locker room, that visitors locker room and you see your team before and you just felt great about the way they were ready to go.  I think it’s transforming.
When you’re in a timeout, when you’re in a huddle, when they’re looking back at you and they’re talking to one another and they’re talking about that game, and it’s a tough, hard‑nosed game, there’s no feeling like that.

Q.  Considering the defense your team played down the stretch, what’s going through your mind on that final possession and on that final shot?
COACH CREAN:  Well, trust the defense.  Trust the defense.  It’s a two‑point game.  And we made the decision we were switching everything and we were going to live with it.  And if we got beat on a play, well, we were going to hope we still had enough time to come down and score.  We spent a lot of time on late game situations.
The smartest thing I did the entire night was not call timeout on the miss and let Victor run with it.  Because again, we had a downhill move.  He was coming with the ball.  And he had done some great things tonight and you guys got to see how special of an athlete he is at getting to the rim.  And it didn’t go, but Will was right there and he knocked it down.
Great confidence in our players.  And as a coach that’s a transformation, when you feel like you don’t have to make that call.  And again, some of it was respect for the VCU defense, and not have to inbound and get it up court against them.  He’s got a lot of defenses in his bag that he can go to.  It worked out very well.  We got a great shot.

Q.  Beyond the result what are you most proud of with this team?
COACH CREAN:  Oh, I don’t know.  We’re not done.  So I’ll have the reflection of that when it’s all said and done.  But I would say this, they just continue to improve, mentally and physically.  And when you start to quantify inside your own program mental and physical toughness, they’re really moving forward.
So I guess in answer to your question, I would say that how they continue to understand that getting better is the only way to really keep moving on and they’re doing that.

Q.  You guys had 22 turnovers, do you attribute that to just sloppy play on your part or stellar defense on the part of the Rams?
COACH CREAN:  I contribute it to a great basketball game.  We were on the attack.  I’m not going to call it sloppy play.  We had some mistakes, but they had a lot to do with that, they’re an excellent team.

Q.  In some ways when you look at what VCU was able to do last year, what they did in the opening round, they sort of in some ways seemed almost like a team of destiny.  Did you feel that at all and what were you able to do to stop that in its tracks?
COACH CREAN:  What I witnessed was a really, really aggressive, athletic, tough basketball team that was well coached.  Those kind of thoughts, they don’t really go through your head when you’re trying to help your team attack the pressure.

Q.  Can you talk about Christian Watford at the end of the first half?
COACH CREAN:  Tremendous.  That was ‑‑ we needed momentum.  And Christian did a great job.  We’d had the intentional foul call.  We weren’t playing very well.  We weren’t attacking the press.  We made a couple of mistakes.  I was upset and Christian just ‑‑ he brought momentum back to Indiana.  And again, it was ‑‑ we’re playing time and score with him a little bit after he got the second foul.
I’m not against putting a guy in with two fouls, but really, you’re trying to figure out how the game is being called.  We certainly didn’t want to start the second half with him with three and Jordan with three.
But the bottom line is he made big shots.  He has worked so hard to be a great player.  He has worked so hard on his shooting and his ball handling and his defense.  And he guarded the point guard most of the second half.  This guy is going to be a fantastic player long after he’s gone from us.  He has got versatility right now.  He epitomizes what we’re trying to do with building our program.  Versatile, multidimensional two‑way players, and he’s really becoming that.

Q.  John Calipari said a couple of weeks ago he thanked ESPN for showing the Watford buzzer beater over and over again and angering his players.  What is that like?
COACH CREAN:  It goes in every time.  Every time.  It never changes.  And you know what?  He tweeted, I tweeted something back.  The value that that brings our University, brings our fan base to have that out there, it’s fantastic.  It goes in every time.  And there’s still a hand up in front of him.  There’s still a great pass from Verdell, there’s still a great screen from Cody Zeller.  Every time it goes in.

Q.  Not sure if you’ve been asked this, but some of the guys mentioned in the locker room that you brought up the NC State game during one of the timeouts?
COACH CREAN:  The score was 6, we were down 6.  It was like 5:07, something like that.  And it was just ‑‑ we’ve been there.  It was 7 and a half and we were down seven and now it was six or five, I’m not exactly sure what it was at that point, but we’ve been in that situation.  And again, sometimes ‑‑ that’s really what teaching is and leadership is a lot of times, it’s just reminders.  They need to be reminded that they’re good.
We did put in a new play and Cody scored on it.  They’re locked in mentally, there’s no doubt about that, but sometimes you need to have reminders that come together in a short‑term situation like that that you have been in these situations before.
And we started talking at the beginning of the year, one game in a row, every time we get it, and now we’ve got it 27 times.  You play those games for a reason.  They come back to help you.

9 comments

  1. Does anyone know why IU would be playing on friday instead of thursday like Syracuse and Wisconsin?

  2. That is weird we’d be playing Friday since we played early the first two rounds.

    This has to be the worst bracket I’ve ever had.

    The weird thing is, before the season starts, I always make a prediction for the Final Four, Elite 8 and Sweet 16.

    For that, I had 11 right. For my bracket, I only got 7 right.

  3. Well Laffy, I guess UNC is soft after all… 2 of their top 4 players are either down or hampered by injuries. Guess we won’t get to see how good they are. My Finals match-up of Missouri and UNC isn’t looking to sharp.

    Maybe if I choose UK to win now a coup,e of their stars will gt nicked up in practice this week…???

    Ok, “it’s official”, I now pick UK to win the entire shabang. Please rightfully change my bracket Dustin.

  4. Good call Chet! We should be “Guns-a-blazin” in this game. Nothing to lose. All the pressure is on those over-paid premadonas. They can’t lose to us twice in a year. Can they…?

  5. IU has opened as an 8.5 point underdog against Kentucky.

    btw….when I said I did better with my Sweet 16 projection before the season started than I did with my actual bracket by 4 games…..I actually picked IU to make the Sweet 16 before the season started.

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