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November 10, 2014

Tom Crean


COACH CREAN:  First and foremost, this game was really good for us.  We knew that they would be a very aggressive, physical team based on their team from last year.  I mean, they won 24 games, and what is, I think, the best league in the country that they play in, at least from what I've always grown up as a coach.  When you look at their league, they can play with a lot of teams just like Bellarmine and Kentucky Wesleyan and Southern Indiana and all those teams, and Stan has done a very good job.  He's established an excellent program so people want to come in there.  They want to play for him, they want to continue their careers.
I think the addition of Parker just gives them a whole other level of play.  I know he didn't have a big night tonight.  But watching him on film in the SEC, I knew there was no doubt that he does things.  So they were very physical, and we knew they would be.  Our whole thing was that they would come out right away and play a speed game‑‑ they averaged 85, 86, 87 points a game last year‑‑ that they would come out and get after us and try to impose their will and their strength and toughness, and they did.
And we started to understand that we got to be physical with our block outs.  We've got to get engaged.  We're playing, obviously, a lot of guards that have not had to have a huge responsibility on the defensive rebounding side, but guard rebounds are going to be paramount for our team, just like they're paramount for any successful team.
We had a lot of long rebounds tonight.  When you look at the fact we took 22 threes and they took 36, we didn't get enough of those.  But we've got to continuing to go in and use our quickness.  And as we get stronger, because obviously it's not like the teams we're seeing are not going to be physical, whether it's not in the league or in the league.  So that's all part of the improvement process for us.
But this was a very good game for us to have to respond, for us to have to come back.  For us to continue that run that we were making during the first half.  Then to mix things up and to play different ways defensively and we have a lot to learn.  We have a lot to learn about overhelping on non‑shooters and on people that are just in there to create that help.
We did a lot of things on the fly, and I thought our guys, I tried to respond, and we had some‑‑ obviously, we don't have a very deep bench, so I thought guys came in and played the minutes that were very extended.  They did a good job in that, and again, that's good for us too because there are going to be nights that these young guys are going to be in the game for a lot of minutes when we're trying to get big wins.
I kept Collin and Max, we kept Collin and Max on a minute limit, and I was able to stay inside of that.  This gives us some really valuable tools to continue to learn from as we get ready for the regular season.

Q.  I guess what do you think needs to be improved on rebounding, and when Troy Williams gets back how will that affect the rebounding?
COACH CREAN:  Well, I think it's got to improve because everybody just has to be‑‑ there were a lot of long rebounds.  And they were very physical and able to win the jumping contest some because we didn't get into their bodies as well, because obviously we're not as big.  So, but I thought our aggressiveness picked up.  So even there were times when we didn't‑‑ we've got to get better on the weak sideboards, so I would say that for sure.
Again, we have foul shooters, guys like Nick.  Nick gets to the foul line four times tonight and they're all technical free throws.  So we need him to be more engaged on the weak side.  I thought Collin did better.  Hanner's in there doing a good job there, Robert's getting better as a rebounder, and Yogi was aggressive.  So really it's just a matter of everybody improving.
It's not about one person being out or one person coming back.  It's really about everybody improving, and in the case of Nick, if he does a better job on the weak side glass if you're in the bonus as early as we were in the second half, now he's going to the foul line, and that's two points.  So we'll continue.  We've got to spend even more time than what we have in really isolating the weak side block out, and isolating those jump ball contests, really what they turn into with long rebounds, high arching shots that were taken.  So hopefully as we add players we'll get better, but hopefully through our drill work and our progression we'll get better.

Q.  Can you talk about how well Hanner was able to play even after he got his second foul early and sticking with him?
COACH CREAN:  I thought he did a good job because I almost put him back in in the first half but decided to let the other guys go based on the run that we were on.  So we felt like we would need him because they had a very unique player in Lawson.
You know, he's still learning.  There were times he wasn't in the right spot defensively.  Times we could have done more offensively, but he's working hard every day.  He's putting together good days, he's building a consistency in him, and we're just going to truly take it day by day with him.

Q.  How surprised are you or are you surprised that Collin's playing so well quickly?
COACH CREAN:  I'm just happy that he's back most importantly.  Am I surprised that he's playing well?  We recruited him‑‑ I always remind him of this, we didn't recruit of his shooting ability because I thought it was pretty good.  We didn't recruit him because he's a good young man, though he is.  But we recruited him because he moved without the basketball and he could really play and find people.
When we first started recruiting him in the AAU, he was basically a point forward for his teams, and they were winning championships back when he was younger with those teams with him basically facilitating the offense.  So I always liked that about him.  He's shooting it with more confidence.  But I just liked the fact that he's out there and getting real reps, real game speed, real game action.  And frankly, if I had to look at this a couple months ago and say we would have had him for the exhibition games even though the doctors were optimistic, I wouldn't have shared the same optimism.  But, fortunately, I was wrong, and he's worked really hard, and he wouldn't be out there if he wasn't helping.
We still have a minute limit on him.  We still watch what we do in practice with him.  But he knows how to play the game.  I think he's smart, and I think what I'm seeing happen over the last couple games, because obviously he didn't get Montreal either, and it's easy to forget that for us, but he's getting more confidence.

Q.  Talk about Robert Johnson's contribution tonight?
COACH CREAN:  Well, I think when you look at guys you want your team and your players to get better from game one to game two, obviously, because now they have it under their belt.  We did a lot more with him tonight at the point and moved Yogi around, especially to start the game.  He's attacking.  He's learning the speed.  He plays at a very low center of gravity.  He can attack.  The biggest thing is he's getting his head up and he's playing with better vision all the time.  He shot the ball very well.  His footwork was really good.  He's getting better defensively.  But the thing tonight is he really understood he's got to be aggressive on the boards.
What I liked about him today, was we were looking at a couple things we felt we could get offensively that we've seen in film in the short prep, because we didn't spend a lot of time on these guys.  I thought he picked that up this afternoon really well.  Because our walkthroughs right now, there is a real practice element to it, even though we're not playing a lot of guys.  We have a lot to learn.  We can't really just come out and throw it around a little bit and talk a little bit and get ready to play the game.  We've got to build our skills, and he did a good job and he carried that to the game.
I loved that his confidence was strong tonight, because, again, his vision, his tenacity, his ability to drive it, and hen his foot work really, really just got down and guarded in a pretty good way.  So proud of his efforts and his improvements.

Q.  What does he have to do to remain effective and stay on the court?
COACH CREAN:  That's a great question.  I just talked to him about this before we came in here.  He's not a specialist here.  That's not the role we have for him.  He's a player.  He's got to wear a lot of hats for us, and I think he's fully capable of impacting the game, and he's got to learn that.  That becomes an experience and that becomes an expectation level.  He's a very, very smart player.  It's like the fouls.  He caught the ball in the post a couple of times, and he turned it over because he didn't spread out and play.  He didn't do a lot of posting up probably in his college life.
But the bottom line is he's got to spread out, play, be comfortable with that, and it's the same thing in the rebounding.  He doesn't have to be a great leaper, but he's got to be a technician, so to speak.  He's got to have physicality.  He's got to step inside and body, and he's got to get into people.  So I think it's just a matter of that.  At the same time, when his shot isn't going, he can't get distracted.
I thought tonight he didn't get distracted in the second half.  We were asking him to do a lot, and he'll get a lot better, that is the biggest reason that we took him.  It wasn't just because he was a one or two trick guy.  He's going to get better and be able to do a lot of different things for us hopefully.

Q.  First media timeout you find yourself down.  How can that experience of getting back early help you?
COACH CREAN:  It's invaluable because they were playing very, very aggressively.  We hadn't answered that aggressive call yet.  Until they get in those situations, and until they get in those situations they don't really know what that means.  So that was very good for them.  I mean, nobody panicked.  And it was just a matter of really bearing down and doing a better job.
We were challenging shots pretty well.  We weren't finishing with the defensive board or getting into their bodies or we weren't getting back.  They came with great speed.  I don't think our guys thought this is for real.  This team averaged 86 points a game last year.  They're for real.  They're a really good team.  It's one of the reasons that we brought them and we wanted to play them.  I love his team.  I think he does an excellent job.  They're going to be very good.  I think that's going to be fun for their football team that's been so fantastic.
Their strength coach was down with the basketball team, and I know what they've done in football, lot of respect for their baseball coach, baseball program is outstanding.  Lot of respect.  Met their softball pitcher this summer when my son was pitching up there, all she does is set records.  That's a fantastic athletic environment.
I wasn't surprised.  I think our team was a little surprised, but they got over that shell-shocked appearance pretty quick because it's only going to get harder.  They learned they could come back from that.  Fortunately we have some time to get better, and I think we will.

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