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December 1, 2014

Tom Crean

COACH CREAN:  Personally I have a strong affinity for Pittsburgh in the sense that I had a chance to compete against them and work there for a year.  My daughter Megan was born there.
The one year that the two of us were there, before we went to Michigan State, Joanie's father coached football there, Ed Godfrey, and Joanie is actually a graduate of Pittsburgh.  I have many friends that have come through Pittsburgh as Joanie has and love the program, love the school.  But really love how they play and have for a long time.
And whether it was when I was there I was with Coach Willard.  And then I left, but competing against Ben Holland, back in the Sweet 16, back in 2003 and then when he left to go to UCLA Jamie took over and really kept the same blueprint.  That blueprint is one, they are tremendous at execution.  They have a dominant rebounding mentality on both ends of the court.
They get up in to you.  They're very aggressive defensively.  It's going to be different to say the very least for our young guards on this team with the way that they'll be pressured especially in the half court with the defensive abilities that they have.
They do a great job of getting inside‑out scoring.  And I think that's been a big part of their team for a long time.  They played big games.  They play, they're going to be hard‑nosed, tough, physical, aggressive, and they're not going to beat themselves.
And I think that's what Jamie Dixon's blueprint has been there, no matter what players he's had.  And this team really seems to have a really good balance of inside‑out outside‑in, however you want to view it.
They have very good guard play in James Robinson and Josh Newkirk and Chris Jones.  Artis brings a lot to the table on the wing.  What they do, Cameron Johnson comes in, makes 3s.  Michael Young is a hard matchup for anybody, but especially for us.  He's averaging over four and a half, I think, offensive boards.
You can see it in previewing them this summer and this fall as we're getting ready for this game or our season, I should say, but looking at their different games you could see Michael Young was on the cusp of just being a great player and his statistics and the way he's played definitely show that.
Anytime you're dealing with somebody like Randall that's had 21 rebounds in a game, that's going to get your attention in a big way.  And they're deep.  They're nine deep, at least.  Ryan Luther has come in for a kid that really wasn't playing much for a few games, goes to Hawaii comes back a guy that we expect to see quickly in the game tomorrow night.
So very, very good team, and one that's going to be an incredible challenge for this group and certainly playing against SMU helps prepare you for it.  The close games that we've had would hopefully prepare you for this, but certainly we've got to get better in all phases of the game.  And I don't think that's any secret.
And that's the way it is after six games.  But defensively first and foremost we've got to get better at our attentiveness and attention to detail when it comes to scouting reports and strengths and weaknesses of players, knowing how that team wants to beat you and it's not that we're not playing hard.  We are.
It's not that there's not‑‑ we've had some real highlight tape defensive segments that have really turned out to be really good for our fastbreak.  But we've also had some low lights in the sense that we don't understand how hard you have to play every possession.  And it's not enough to just play hard and think you're doing your job, you've got to play the same way time and time again.
And that always takes young people time to understand but we've got to get that figured out in a hurry, because we're playing a lot of young people and they've been in a lot of minutes.  Now they've got some games under their belt and that light bulb goes on as time goes on, but we can't have lack of attentiveness, lack of awareness possessions that end up where we make a mistake because we weren't ready for the screen or we didn't know this guy wanted to go right or this guy was really good going over his left shoulder.
That constant reaffirmation during the game of what you're trying to do.  That's where teammates come in communicate with one another.  We need more of that and at the same time when we do get our stops, we're really good in the break.
And also with that, we've got to do a better job of running after makes.  We're not really near where we need to be because the other team will make some baskets.  We have to do a much better job getting the ball up the court and not being back on our heels because there's five guys set in our offensive and spacing is too good for us to stop.
A lot of things to improve upon.  Those are the biggest things and obviously the challenge tomorrow night is going to bring a lot of those to light real quick for us.

Q.  Quest on the similarities between playing Pittsburgh in the past both here and Marquette versus now.
COACH CREAN:  We don't have that team yet.  We don't have that physical team that we had yet at Marquette and we had some incredible battles with them.  And in the Big East, whether it was at the Peterson Event Center in Pittsburgh, whether it was at the Bradley Center.  They were very, very physical games.
There were pros on both sides and but at the same time other guys were really good hard‑nosed college players.  We've got to build that hard‑nose.  And we're well on the way to it but.  Because we have guys that are serious, guys that are working hard.  We have high character.  But they've got to understand that how hard‑nosed you have to be time and time again.  I think his team understands that.
He's got an older team and at the same time the younger guys have really blended in well with them and you can see it and not one of his older teams but a team where those young guys have played a lot of minutes for him when they were younger players.
There's no question that's who they are.  We'll have to match up with that, we'll have to match their intensity and physicality and at the same time play with the same speed.  But we have a different team right now than what we're used to facing as a staff when we go against the Pittsburgh staff.
But at the same time we've got a lot of pieces if they play right here in this and we play with that physicality, we'll be better.  Because we did against SMU.  We had some let‑downs in the second half defensively, but we did play that way against SMU and they're a pretty physical team.
So we can get better.  We will get better.  We are getting better.  We've just gotta do it more over a 40‑minute period of time.

Q.  Question on how Pittsburgh's Young has improved.
COACH CREAN:  I think the big thing is his shooting.  He's on the offensive boards all the time now.  And again you can see freshman Michael Young versus sophomore Michael Young in the sense of just how hard he goes every possession.  It's a progression for players.
And we've added here in the past‑‑ it happened long before I was ever here, I'm sure, where players have to progress up to it.  We're playing a lot of young guys with it.  He got a chance to play and earn that.
You can see it happening right now with Ryan Luther.  He's in the right place most of the time.  And I don't know Jamie's offense like he knows it but got a pretty good idea where they're supposed to be and defensively.  And I think that's what Michael Young's doing but he's a ferocious athlete in the sense he can run.  He's very, very good at defending and at the same time he gets on that glass and you can see his confidence building as a shooter, like I said.

Q.  Question on Indiana's rebounding and how it has improved.
COACH CREAN:  Well, ours is much better than it was a couple of weeks ago.  James Blackmon had nine rebounds last night, is tied for the rebound lead.  Wasn't nearly the rebounder two or three weeks ago that he is now.  The improvement level is there.
Roberts already had a double figure rebounding game.  Yogi is rebounding better.  We're getting guard rebounds.  But again we're talking about a team that was sixth in the country in rebound margin last year.
And so the standards that have been set the last couple of years in here with the rebounding, we're not there yet but we have to rebound it a different way.
And I think at the same time we've got to do a better job on the offensive glass.  But there's no question we've got to be more physical when the shot goes up.
We've gotta do our work early and as Je'Ney uses the football term, we can't turn it down.  Sometimes we see that once in a while in practice, a guy will turn down that contact.  You can't do that.  And they've got to grow into that.  It's way better than it was a couple of weeks ago.
Is it good enough for competing against Pitt?  We'll see.  But there's a lot of room for improvement but they are improving.

Q.  Question on the different style of play Pittsburgh brings to this game compared to the other non‑conference opponents.
COACH CREAN:  Well, I think our non‑conference schedule has got a lot of everything, and I think the one thing the young guys are learning is that everybody's pretty good.  It doesn't matter.
I mean, everybody is skill guys.  Everybody's got a plan.  And everybody wants to win.  And they're not coming into Indiana and they might take their pictures at shoot‑around and things like that, but they're coming in to win the game.  That's what our young guys have got to learn when it comes to 40 minutes.
Like we say to them you can't play like it's a 40‑minute game, it may turn out to 50, 55 some nights, even 60.  45.  You've got to have an ability and a mental endurance, because there's times we look physically tired.
No, we're just not mentally enduring the challenge yet that you have to deal with as a young team to get, to keep pushing yourself.
So in this case, there's no question that it will be big.  Because they're hard‑nosed.  And Jamie's teams are always mentally tough to go along with that physical strength and speed that they play with.
So I think it's great for us at this point in time in the season.  We've had a dose of it with SMU.  We're certainly going to see more of it over the next couple of weeks.  There's no doubt about that.  And in the long run it gets you prepared for the night in night out of the Big Ten.
I don't think there's any question about that.  But we want to win the game.  We want to come out and play well.  We want to come out and play harder, long and hard.  We've got to play harder longer with more of a purpose.
And it's not that‑‑ we're not taking bad shots or things like that.  It's not‑‑ that's not what it is.  It's just more of an understanding, okay, these guys are for real when they're coming around screens.  We can't be‑‑ if we're not prepared to chase the screen, well, now we're chasing the game.  And the last thing you want to be doing on defense is chasing the game.  You want to be trying to dictate the pace of the game.
We're behind on screens the other night.  Our switches weren't where they needed to be.  We just‑‑ they cut harder than we defended.  Especially in the second half.  But at the same time we put the hammer down, it's a 17‑point game at one point and if we really understood how to put somebody away and how if you have to go possession by possession, it's not a close game at all.
So we've got to learn that.  Same thing happened with Lamar.  We've got to learn how to do that.  And so these are all part of that process and this Pitt game is another big part of the process for us.

Q.  Question on how difficult it is to stop guards from dribble penetrating.
COACH CREAN:  It's very hard, because more and more teams are playing the downhill game all the time.  So really a little bit of it is point of pickup.  But it's when the driver, does the driver see help?
Like the other night, UNCG did a good job of getting into the elbows.  So that just opened up something else.
Once we start exposing something else and getting it into the corners, now all that elbow help wasn't really as effective.  So what you have to do defensively you've got to have (indiscernible) especially with the way we're trying to defend the 3 which looked like we didn't ever defended it the other night.
That was more off screens rather than penetration and not being there on the screens.  But in this league you've got to really defend penetration so you're not giving up 3s, not necessarily just defending penetration and not give up baskets.
It's the best teams, they do both.  We've got to do a better job of being in preventive help.  We've got to stop the ball earlier in transition, if I had to give you one point.
But at the same time, it's that awareness and it's really taken the drill work and the detail work and the technique work and not just doing it when it's fresh or not just doing it when we're on a run but doing it when that other team smells it a little bit and really locking in and being that much better, because we're athletic enough and once we get that, we'll be pretty good.  But we just haven't gotten that awareness and that mentality yet that you have to have.
So our stopping the ball will get better.  Like I said, it starts with the transition, starts with having people in help positions.  And then it's a matter of when that ball is turning the corner that they not only see the man that's defending them but they see the help that's ready to step up and at the same time if they make the kick that they're ready to move on the pass.
The other night we had too much moving on the catch.  So that made the penetration look even better.  Because we would be there and the pass was made and then we'd move.  Rather than on early help or early recovery we're moving on the pass back.  That's where we have to improve.

Q.  Question about Emmitt Holt will play a role against Pittsburgh.
COACH CREAN:  Oh, absolutely, no question about it.  I mean, he's been practicing very well.  And again, he's like the other freshmen.  He knows how hard he has to go all the time.  But there's no doubt that the four games he missed cost him some real game experience.
Okay, we can't do anything about that.  And now he's got something.  So we're going to need him in there.  We're going to need him in the middle of the mix, the fight, so to speak.  So there's no question he'll be out there.  And at the same time we need Hanner to do everything he's capable of.  We need more from the front line.
And we need more awareness from the front line.  And I mean look at what Collin Hartman is doing.  And the Collin Hartman you're watching right now post‑knee surgery, compared to the Collin Hartman that was playing a year ago, the only thing that looks the same is their face.
The body's changed.  The mentality has changed.  The ability to go get loose balls.  I mean, we're talking about a guy that really shouldn't be playing at the athletic level that he's playing because he's coming off this knee surgery and he's still limited, even as of yesterday he's limited to what we do with him in practice at times.
But he's just got this will and this hustle.  That's what it looks like when you go against it every day.  Because Collin obviously didn't get a lot of minutes last year.  If I had to do it over again, I would have‑‑ said it before‑‑ played him over one or two people.  But he hadn't earned it at that point.  Well, he's earned it after being a guy that's had to go through this hard, tough process to get himself back.
What that has to do with Emmitt and everybody else is once you've lost it a little bit, once it's been taken away from you a little bit that should make you that much more hungry to be successful.  Collin is doing that.  Collin is a part of that.  Collin is one of those guys that could do whatever we need him to do right now defensively.  Is playing with another offensive confidence with or without the ball that he can do a lot of things within the offense.

Q.  Question on if Emmitt Holt will play a role against Pittsburgh and on Hartman coming back from his injury this year.
COACH CREAN:  No, I think it's all about the process.  It's part of the process.  He's a smart player, good player, but his body has changed.  He's become physically stronger and he had to work extremely hard.  There's a test of wills when you're going through the rehabilitation process like that, to come back from a injury like that.  When you look at his body, his body has changed completely.  That's what it means to go from a freshman to a sophomore.
For us right now we've got some freshmen we need their sophomore year to come a little bit quicker, like tomorrow.  But it's not realistic, but what happens is that mentality that you play with and that's Colin's playing with a whole different mentality.  And that's what's enabling him to have success as part of the team.  And I think Emmitt will have the same opportunity to go into that as he gets more and more game experience.

Q.  Question on the importance of the ACC/Big Ten challenge to the conference.
COACH CREAN:  Well, for a couple of days, the Big Ten and the ACC are the focal point of college basketball.  So obviously that's a big deal.  It's been something that's been in place for a long time.
You've got two of the premier leagues, arguably‑‑ I'm not sure where it's at in the Ken Pom ratings and things of that nature.  But arguably the two best leagues in the country going at one another and everybody takes notice that follows college basketball.  So I think it's a big deal.  But at the same time you spend so much time trying to focus on your team and what you're getting ready to play against that's where you put the focus on it.
But I'm sure like everybody else we'll be paying attention to the box scores and paying attention to who does what, I think it starts tonight, the game's tonight.  That's importantly.  But more importantly we don't spend a lot of time talking about things we can't control.  All we can control is how we play and how we prepare for this team.

Q.  Question on Pittsburgh's pace of play.
COACH CREAN:  Yes and no.  Yes and no.  You watch Chaminade, you wouldn't think that.  I think a little bit.  They're not going to beat themselves.  Finish your question.

Q.  Question on Pittsburgh's pace of play and wanting to speed up the play.
COACH CREAN:  At times, what he's always had, he's always had the front line, this is the way Ben Holland recruited that team.  They've always had a physical front line.  But what they've had, you could put them up with Syracuse, maybe even more so than Syracuse when you look over the last decade or so, they've had very, very physical guards.
Even if a guy was smaller, like they had a young man at one point, Ronald Ramon and another guy Karl Krauser, they weren't big, strong guys but they played so hard and they were so tough that they caused so many issues for you.
He always recruited those bigger, stronger physical guards who could do a lot of different things, that you're going to have trouble matching up with them just physically.  So you've got to make sure you're bringing something else, speed, shooting, cutting ability, things of that nature.  So to me I think they have‑‑ I think he's a good enough coach he can play whatever pace he wants to play to win the game, but also think he coaches to the pace where he's comfortable with what his team does best that's why they have such a high winning percentage over the years.
But the key is to not‑‑ they're getting a lot of free throws and they've always gotten a lot of free throws.  So no matter what pace of play you're playing you don't want to lose the game at the rebounding edge, with the rebounding game, and you don't want to lose the game at the free‑throw line.  And so those have been the biggest keys when you're playing against a Pittsburgh Jamie Dixon team to me.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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