Crean on not going to zone on the Mathieu play, the second half starting lineup and officiating

Tom Crean mentioned after Saturday’s 66-60 loss to Minnesota that Indiana wanted to get into a 2-3 zone on the Golden Gophers’ last full possession when DeAndre Mathieu drove past IU senior Evan Gordon for a game-clinching layup. Asked what kept the Hoosiers from going to zone, the Indiana coach said that he wasn’t 100 percent certain.

“I’m gonna have to think about and go back and watch the film,” Crean said. “I think I covered that we were on the man, we reached a little bit and he beat us right. I’ll analyze it, and maybe you can ask me again.”

When asked again on Monday, Crean did have a more detailed explanation, and also further explained why he chose not to foul when down 62-60 with 34.3 seconds left and seven seconds separating the game and the shot clock.

He said the Hoosiers actually did create a contingency plan to foul, but only if Minnesota center Elliott Elliason was still on the floor as he was before the timeout. Elliason entered Saturday’s game as a 62 percent free throw shooter, having made just 31 of 50 attempts on the season. That plan went by the wayside, however, when Minnesota coach substituted in guard Malik Smith, an 84 percent free throw shooter. With Mathieu, Smith, guards Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins and forward Joey King in the game, the Golden Gophers didn’t have a player on the floor who was shooting worse than 76 percent from the free throw line on the season coming into the game. 

“There really was nobody in the game at that point (to foul),” Crean said, “and with a seven-second differential, you’re going to trust your defense.”

The Hoosiers came out of the timeout in a straight man-to-man look. Gordon picked up Mathieu with the ball at the top of the key. IU freshman guard Stanford Robinson was face-guarding Smith at the elbow to the left of the ball, sophomore point guard Ferrell had Andre Hollins on the right side. Sheehey had Austin Hollins on one low block and Vonleh had King at the other. If Minnesota had run a high ball screen,  the Hoosiers would have changed looks, Crean said, but the Golden Gophers never attempted a screen on Gordon and simply made it a one-on-one game.

“If the ball screen would’ve come, then it was a natural that we were going to flow right into zone,” Crean said. “Then you’ve just gotta stand there and win your battle.”

Crean didn’t mention Gordon’s name in his explanation so as not to heap all of the blame on his senior guard’s head, but it was clear he didn’t win his battle. Mathieu was dribbling back and forth far beyond the 3-point line and Gordon drifted out to meet him. That gave Mathieu more space to operate and he found a lane to drive to the right, which is his much stronger hand. Gordon got turned while back-pedaling and was facing the sideline when he reached and Mathieu dodged him with an excellent crossover dribble, getting his shot up before Vonleh could help off his man and get a hand on the shot.

“The last thing you want to do with a young man with that speed and quickness is get extended,” Crean said. “We were doing a really good job of trying to keep it off-balance. We let him get to his right-hand. The bottom line is I’m not sure the zone would have changed it with the spacing they had on the court. The bottom line is sometimes you’ve gotta win your own battle, the one-on-one battles that sometimes ensue in games like that. You’ve gotta stay true to your technique, you’ve gotta stay true to the detail of it.”

Crean still concerned about consistency

As might be be expected from the coach of a team that is 4-6 in Big Ten play and has lost two straight road games after holding a double-digit first half lead in both, Crean has concerns about his teams consistency, and said he especially has concerns in what he’s getting at the beginning of second halves. Crean had to call a timeout 2:36 in to the second half of Saturday’s game when Minnesota began play with a 7-2 run that soon after the timeout became an 8-2 run. The spurt erased Indiana’s 36-30 halftime advantage and tied the game at 38.

“We haven’t had the consistency of that with all five that start the second half,” Crean said at his radio show Monday evening. “That’s gotta change or we’re gonna change the starting five in the second half.”

The starting five of the second half were the same as the starting five of the first half Saturday — Ferrell, Robinson, Sheehey, Vonleh and freshman swingman Troy Williams. Crean typically brings the game’s starters back on to the floor together after the break.

Crean asks for more consistent officiating

Crean was asked on his radio show about palming calls against sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell and whether he believed those calls were fair because it isn’t called very often. His answer denoted some greater frustrations with officiating.

“I don’t have an issue when it’s called on us, I have an issue when it’s not called on others,” Crean said. “I think that that’s something that, the more film we watch, there’s no question that’s gotta be a little more consistently enforced.”

Crean said he has the same problem with foul calls in the post and on the perimeter, especially when it comes to contact that was expressly deemed a foul in the rule changes passed before this season.

“If it’s a carry, call it,” Crean said. “If it’s a push in the back, call it. Don’t let it play itself out, just call it. That’s where we’re really supposed to be with the rules. It’s not supposed to be an interpretation. It’s not supposed to be up to the individual’s discretion. I’ve had a couple of people in higher-up positions mention to me, ‘That’s how they play, and their style of play is this way.’ No, there’s not anything in the rule book about style of play.”


  1. What a coincidence that this is the first time this season I remember seeing a story with Crean expressly commenting on the officials. Maybe I was on to something after all.

  2. Maybe the refs have also recognized the fact that the Hoosiers are in a bridge year and they’re simply saving up better officiating for next season. If we win these very challenging games on the road with a ‘bridge’ team, it would be greatly suspicious that the refs were giving an incomplete team some “I feel bad you’re caught on a bridge” sympathy calls.

    Once you give a team a crutch of an excuse, it can almost create a backlash that desensitizes a desire to be the objective and impartial official.

    And after two fabulous years of back-to-back Sweet 16’s, the refs likely feel we’ve been living the high life with our high draft picks and tons of national attention. Act the winner and they’ll treat you as one. Act as if this is a “throw away” season to bridge to something else? You’ll likely get plenty of officiating you’d like to throw away as well.

    It’s much like running around telling the world somebody “wrecked” you. Soon they’ll be treating you like a junkyard broken down rusty car. Play the victim and they’ll gladly beat the drum or blow the whistle to make you feel secure in such role.

    I refuse to give this team excuses. They’re a talented bunch. If they want to put it together, there are no officials or “wreckers” that can stand in their way from finishing up to their capabilities, playing with stronger discipline/focus, and having some fun in a March Madness tournament.

    In my humble opinion, the worst thing you could do to a team right now is make them think the refs are the enemy or control their destiny. It’s not wait until next year for Will Sheehey’s bridge. Never deny yourself the moment today because it looks more there tomorrow.

  3. And you ought to man up, Geoff.

    You did a lot of bragging on the East Coast ballers…Vonleh is a hell of a talent. I don’t remember anyone ever cutting Eric Gordon or Yogi any slack during there freshman seasons. E.J. was expected to put an entire Hoosier team on his back and still go deep in an NCAA tournament during a firestorm of controversy and witch hunting of Samspon and his teammates…

    This team has very little adversity. They have a highly improved point guard. They have a supremely talented post player. They have a senior in Will Sheehey that has all the ability in the world. We’re told they can’t shoot the ball…Last time I checked, putting the ball trough the cylinder is a rather important aspect of the game. And now we’re going to start hinting that officiating is throwing up the roadblocks at the critical juncture of must-win road games?

    Hogwash. Live up to the billing rather than grab for the crutches. In opening 10-15 minutes of the Minnesota game, I saw a Hoosier team that could probably give any college team in the country a run for their money. They need their noses to the grindstone instead of donning pearls around their necks. It’s time to man up and win three straight. It’s time live with the same expectations we put upon any Indiana star that has worn the jersey. There are different expectations as a Hoosier. If you don’t like it, you play for Purdue.

  4. Bruce Weber got his ass fired from Illinois…We used to call him “Whiny Webber.” What did “Whiny” do? Did he bury his head in the sand and look for excuses?

    His KSU team took down Kansas last night while we mope around about officials giving Pitino’s boy a win.

    And we wonder why we topped out at Sweet 16’s? We act about as mature as a 16-year-old. We wear the jersey as if its entitlement rather than something those gritty Hoosier of the past taught us to earn. It’s very sad when we’re making excuses instead of pulling up our suspenders and teaching the world Hoosiers are not pretenders. It’s pure Dan Dakich Establishment.

  5. And let’s all face it, Goeff has complained about officiating a ‘multitude’ of times…and he carries a ‘multitude’ of testicles in doing so.

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