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November 19, 2015

Tom Crean

Bloomington, Indiana

Indiana - 86, Creighton - 65

COACH CREAN: First thing I want to do is thank the fans and especially all the students that didn't go home when they could have. The energy in there was fantastic, just from start to finish, it really was. Could hear it in the back during warm-ups, and never take that for granted. To see that kind of turn out tonight, especially with the weekend coming up the way it is and next week coming up to have them stay was big. Our team fed off that. Our team was really ready to play.

We knew and they learned quickly that we were playing a very, very tough, physical opponent. Obviously the respect for the Big East is high. They weren't as familiar maybe with Creighton's personnel as they became during the quick time of film and being on the court. But they quickly saw that it was a physical team, very aggressive team. We kept preaching how well-coached they are and how disciplined they are with what they want.

Frankly, they were better at some things that we want to be good at. Their spacing, staying committed to it, their guard rebounding, and I thought our guys responded.

19 rebounds was a real key. Thing for us from our guards, because there are going to be long rebounds. The way we defended the three was positive. The way we got back in the break, we gave them some baskets and turnovers in the post. But those were the key things that we needed to defend the corners, especially on the break.

We needed to not come off shooters. We had tremendous respect for Zierden, and he made the one three from deep because we just didn't get a hand up. I'm sure Greg will look at it, just like I would, and you can see some shots that you know your team would probably make.

But I was really proud of the way we gave really good effort, and then the pace of the game kept going. We played through the post a lot more tonight. Like I said, the activity on the glass was huge for us. And we have guys played through things.

I thought Robert Johnson, even though he had foul trouble all night. I thought every time he was in the game with the exception of the fouls, he did the right play, and that's a sign of maturity. No one planned for him to have foul trouble. No one planned for him not to have a big night, but sometimes it happens it will happen to somebody next week, but the way you respond and make it better for your teammates has a lot to do with the success you'll have moving down the line.

So those are some of the things that were highlights to me. Again, great win for us. Fully expect to see that team continue to get better and better as they integrate their transfers and freshmen into that, and would fully expect them to be a ranked basketball team as the season goes on.

Q. When you were recruiting Thomas Bryant, how quickly did it become apparent to you exactly the level of action?
COACH CREAN: On film, literally on film. Because we always knew about Thomas Bryant, but we didn't see a real inroad based on conventional wisdom with him maybe potentially leaving the East Coast. But once we knew there was an opportunity that he might, and then you really started to dive into it, that was the biggest thing. You could see the dunks. You could see the running. But you knew that he had infectious energy, and the more you watch him you see that he really is infectious to his teammates. In the case of tonight, infectious to the crowd because it's for real.

He doesn't run around stomping his feet every day in practice, but he does play hard. He has to be careful because he's wearing a boot most of the time that he's not on the court, so we don't want him stomping too hard. But he's playing with more confidence all the time. Still a lot to learn and still a lot of reps to get in practice that he didn't get when he was out for the first couple weeks with the foot injury.

But he's been well-coached, he's poised, and what I'm proudest of is that he's playing with emotion, and it's not emotional. He's got great emotion. If it was emotional, he wouldn't be able to make the plays he's making and he wouldn't make the finishes that he's making. So it was apparent early.

Q. To follow up on that, you talked about him not wanting to hurt himself, I guess. But beyond that, do you restrain a guy like that much when it comes to the energy and the emotion?
COACH CREAN: It would have been a technical if I would have run out there and done that. We don't need that. He's fine, he's fine. He's enjoying himself. You're playing that hard. The good news is he can get better. He can play lower. His lower body is going to continue to get stronger, and he's comfortable with his shooting. Maybe a little too comfortable at times, but especially when we're in a high-low game and trying to go inside.

But we're on a good path with him. Eventually he'll be driving the ball. Eventually you'll see him in some ball screens where he's a handler. He's learning more and more about his foot work in the post. But he's got really good timing. He can really pass. That's one of the areas that we're really going to get better at is playing through the post.

That's one thing that separated Cody. He could pass so well, and then he became a driver where he could pass off the drive. That will come for Thomas, but Thomas can find people because he can see, and he's got that poise.

Q. You said before that he played with emotion. How does he divorce those two in his mind?
COACH CREAN: I think it's the execution. I think it would show up in the lack of execution or if he was getting down on himself or something like that. But he's tuned in. He's tuned in. It's a lot easier in life, as everybody knows, to turn somebody down than it is to turn them up. If it gets to that, we'll worry about that later.

But he's got energy. I use the term emotion because he's having a lot of fun when he plays. But he's got a lot of energy, and he has it every day. That's really important. He really, really wants to get better. When you have that kind of skill set to go with that body and knowing that he's going to get a lot stronger as he goes through it, and that kind of awareness, again, we'll see what he looks like in a few weeks and a month when he gets more practice and games under his belt. I think he'll get better and better.

Q. What is the learning curve of the high-low game?
COACH CREAN: Oh, I think so. But they've got to get used to -- James and Rob didn't really play with the post-up last year. Yogi has with Cody and with Noah, and some have. But the other night we went to Yogi in the post quite a bit, especially in the 12, 13-foot range in post up. We tried a little bit tonight.

So for us, we've got to get fouled. For us to get better, we've got to get fouled. Whether it's through the post, through the drive, whether it's the offensive board, whatever it is. So, yes, I think our vision will get better. I think as we keep telling our post-up action, we can do a better job of demanding the ball. We can do a better job of stealing. Our foot work is not bad, but we've got to do a better job of setting up our foot work with one-two steps, and V-cuts and things of that nature that takes a little time to get integrated, but we will. I think we'll become better and better with it.

Understand when you've got the guy buried in the post, and a big part of our game, and it takes time for guys to learn this, when you catch that ball 8, 10, 12 feet off to go into a face-up move. Once Cody developed that here, look out. I mean, he could do so many things. But that's one of the reasons that we put those guys in the positions to work with the perimeter so much so they really learn how to push the dribble out, drop the shoulders, it's really the same thing in the post.

Q. Did this team have a better defensive performance tonight?
COACH CREAN: A high-quality opponent. I think with the way they were shooting the ball averaging 98 points, I don't care who you're playing if you're scoring 98. We watched as much film from last year. We game planned hard for Milliken and Zierden. We certainly know what Watson's capable of.

When you watch his old film from BU, even in the short time he's played for them, he was 12 assists, I believe, four turnovers coming into the game. I mean, he's quick, strong. He's going to be -- before he's done, he'll be one of the elite point guards in the country because he's got that low center of gravity, sees, finds people. When he gets that shot, he was a low 30s percent shooter at BU, when he get that's shot going, he's going to be really hard to deal with.

So that was a big deal for us, because they're a very physical team. Greg's team always, always are going to play physically and sound. And they can bring a lot of people out there. We were concerned too about Thomas's cutting and rebounding and getting out on the break. So they've got a lot of strengths. Fortunately our guys were able to handle that.

Q. Can you talk about your ability and depth? Are you happy with where that is?
COACH CREAN: I think the key is it's like offense. We said this before the game again. We want to hit singles on offense, right? We want to make simple passes. So we tell the guys, the simpler you make the game, the more exciting it looks. Because when the ball is moving quickly and it's flowing, it's not about trying to throw home run plays.

Well, sometimes the same thing happens on defense. They're trying to make a steal that's not there. You'll gamble because you think you can get it, and all of a sudden you're putting a lot of pressure on your team.

We want to be a very, very good point of attack team so we've got to defend the corners and the rim better. So much of that starts up higher now because we are young down low. We've got to get -- it's got to be out front and not everything fettering out. So to me, when we keep it really tight, and we keep it in a box type of element with the ball when we're keeping the ball on one side and we're pressuring the ball without gambling on the ball, and we had three fouls in the first half and we went for seals, or we got called for the foul when we came down on the ball.

So some of that is adjustment to the game. But the other night we had seven turnovers that we got, and we gave it right back to them. So in answer to that, we've got to be able to capitalize on the turnovers and make something happen for it. At the same time, take care of the ball on our end better.

Q. Back on media day you were talking about how teamwork and depth. How do you feel about those efforts?
COACH CREAN: Well, I think it's a learning situation, especially for a guy like O.G. and Juwan tonight. That game was moving. Right? And you come in, they're off the bench and they're flying. They never slowed down either. So it's that kind of game experience that helps you.

You've got to have an incredible level of awareness. I thought our guys really tried to manage the minutes, but at the same time we wanted to manage the score. So to me, guys being able to play through fatigue. A cup times Thomas wanted out and we had him play through a couple more possessions because he's got to learn he has more in the tank than sometimes he maybe realizes.

But depth is going to be huge. Depth is only what your consistency level is. All right. If it's not consistent, you just have bodies. When you have consistency, now you have depth, and we've got a long way to go to get to that.

Q. How big a role will depth play in Hawaii?
COACH CREAN: Oh, paramount, no question about it. Because there will be all kinds of unknown things. You've just got to control what you can control. Be ready to go in, get into the flow of the game, talk on defense, run the court on offense, clean up. What we'll have is time over the weekend to clean up some of the stuff we've got to get better at while we're preparing, and it will be huge.

You try to get them to understand to go in and have a positive impact in the game. That's why we look at plus-minus so much. Are you affecting the score in a positive way? It's not about going in and making great plays or a bunch of plays. It's about going in and playing right. That is a huge part of building that consistency level, especially for a young guy.

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