Crean: “It needs to slow down a little bit”

There is playing fast, and then there is playing out of control. Indiana coach Tom Crean is seeing far too much of the latter from his team lately.

Heading into today’s 2 p.m. game against No. 5 Michigan State at Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers have turned the ball over a combined 63 times in the last three games. Their 16.4 turnovers per game are by far the most in the Big Ten and their 23 turnovers against Illinois cost them dearly in an 83-80 overtime loss.

All of that has Crean wanting Indiana to slow down at least a little. With a lot of youth, length and athleticism and without a lot of experience or outside shooting, the Hoosiers are best served by spending a lot of time in transition. He doesn’t necessarily want that to change, but he does want them to make sure they know what they’re doing before they do it.

“Some of our decisions are very indecisive,” Crean said. “Some (of our turnovers) are trying to make plays that aren’t there. Some are going too fast. We’ve just got to continue to get an understanding and it doesn’t happen in one or two games. It happens over a period of time. What you want is to make sure you’re responding every time.” 

Part of changing that is a focus on fundamentals. Understanding what windows players can fit a pass into and which ones they can’t, understanding when a teammate is ready for a pass and understanding how to get a defender to move out of the way to allow for a pass.

“Everybody’s gotta be connected,” Crean said. “The post-up has gotta be strong. It can’t be a one-arm post-up, it can’t be one arm in and one arm out. You can’t make a pass without faking a pass. I think every time we try to go a little too fast whether I’ve got one hand up and I’m going to throw it into that guy with one hand or I don’t try to fake a pass, those are the fundamentals of the game. You can’t cheat the fundamentals of the game. A lot of times for players, they just want to skip. They want to skip from A to D knowing that B and C are as important as anything you do to get to that point.”

That leads to playing too fast. The Hoosiers want to run, getting down in transition quickly off of turnovers and missed shots, but they too often find themselves making “home-run passes,” trying to fit passes that could immediately lead to scores into tight windows and having those picked off or missing on alley-oops.

“It needs to slow down a little bit,” Crean said. “Let’s trust our secondary sometimes a little bit more than we trust our initial pass on the break. Or let’s get the ball reversed two or three times. Those things take some time. I can’t tell you when it’s going to click. It does, but it just takes time to get to that.”

It would help the Hoosiers a lot if at least some of it would get through by Saturday, because they play a Michigan State team that was favored to win the Big Ten and has been perfect so far with the blatant exception of a bad performance in a 79-65 loss to North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Spartans are 12-1 with five wins since. They have a victory over Kentucky and came back to beat Penn State in their Big Ten opener 79-63 after falling behind 47-40 at halftime.

“They’ve got one of the best teams in the country,” Crean said. “I think they’re playing better than they were even at the beginning when they were No. 1. … What I see is great transition offense. They’re tremendous at rebounding the ball. This is a team that you’ve gotta be incredibly good at the beginning and the end of the possession. It’s not just the beginning and the end of the game, but the beginning and the end of every possession with the way that they run and the way that they rebound. … They’re very similar to where we were a year ago.”

The Spartans are loaded with NBA-level talent. Former IU recruit and Hamilton Southeastern star Gary Harris isn’t as efficient as he was a year ago, but he’s averaging 17.4 points per game. Senior point guard Keith Appling is putting up the best numbers of his career with 15.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Swingman Branden Dawson is second in the Big Ten in rebounding with 9.3 per game to go with 11.1 points and a .592 field goal percentage.

And beyond all that, senior forward Adreian Payne might be the best NBA prospect in the country with 17.0 points per game and 8.1 rebounds. The 6-foot-10, 245-pounder has been dominant inside and out and already has 16 3-pointers this season.

“There’s so many players on the court that can play,” Crean said. “They’re rarely putting anybody out there who can’t make shots. So I think that helps, because you can’t build your defense around stopping (Payne), because then they’re going to carve you up with threes. You can’t go out and pressure, because then they’re going to go around you. (Denzel Valentine) is a really hard matchup, as is Dawson. Now you’re talking about a guy like Payne, who’s one of the most unique matchups in the country because he can post. He can play at the foul line, he can drive it now, and he can shoot threes, not to mention rebound and defend.”

AUDIO: Tom Crean

AUDIO: Will Sheehey, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Stanford Robinson


  1. It took getting into the B1G season to figure out the turnover issue? Granted, the worst of these problems have come in the last few games but it’s nothing new. These guys have looked out of synch for a while, and without a true SG they want to drive and pass without thought. Hopefully Crean is right and slowing them down will help their focus.

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