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December 22, 2015

Tom Crean

Bloomington, Indiana

Kennesaw State - 72, Indiana - 99

COACH CREAN: We started off the game really well. We closed the game really well. What we've got to get better at is the in-between. Second half, what this team has really got to learn much better, because it reflects poorly at times, and our teams that we've had success with were really good at understanding game planning, game planning defenses.

Sometimes when we want to, we are not a conventional team in the sense that we're just not going to win every match-up on talent every time, right? So we've got to be able to do a couple different things, and we have a lot of respect for their flex offense. We did not handle it well in the first half, and in the second half we just said, okay, we're just going to guard and we're not going to switch. We'll get up on top of the ball screens, do what we have to do there.

But we have got to get a lot better at game plan defense as we move into it, because teams are built to beat you at what they work on every day. And they wanted a lot of lay-ups, they wanted elbow shots and we were not as good at that of taking that away. We were better in the second half especially late. Their two best players made big plays, so lot of room for us to improve.

Before anybody asks the question what is the list to get ready for the Big Ten, it's too long, and I've already made you wait long enough. It's long, we've got a long way to go. But that's the beauty of the season. The thing that we're at in the season. The thing is there are very few things we can't get better at.

So we've got a lot of good pieces and now we've just got to get it to where we understand what each game entails, and it doesn't -- each game is different. We've had, like I said, a lot of success when we really understood how to game plan for a team and take things out, and that's what this team has got to grow if we're going to get better, especially on the defensive end. It really carries over to the offensive end as well, because there is a lot of improvement we can make there as well.

Before we go any further, you guys remember Brian Jones who was a -- I think he was an inspiration to anybody, obviously, that met him, but probably to anybody that read about him and heard about him. I'm so glad we got an opportunity to not only meet him and meet his family, but bring some light to what he was going through. It gets to a point where he would have had a birthday here this time of year, and it's closing in closer and closer to the year anniversary of his passing. His family's here. I'm glad they're here.

We've got a lot of guests tonight that all matter a huge deal. But this group matters a great deal to us, too. Because Brian, in the short period of time we personally knew him, brought a ton of inspiration to us. So glad that they're here.

Q. You talked about not wanting guys to force it, and it feels like certainly through the turnovers and probably poor shot selection, but guys aren't doing that. Is there a level of trust from teammate to teammate offensively on this team?
COACH CREAN: Well, I'm sure there is. Yeah, I don't think we'd have the percentages that we have if we didn't. I don't think we'd have the numbers, whether it's team percentages or individual percentages if there wasn't. I think we can get a lot better on offense. I don't spend a lot of time talking about that publicly, because I just don't. Because the theme is really to talk about our defense, it's not as good as it needs to be. But as our defense improves, our offense will get better as well.

So I think those things will continue to go up. But that's part of it as well. We've got to really understand game plans too. Because the other teams come in with a game plan. They've got a plan on how they're going to stop us, so we've got to be able to adjust to that.

So all the way across the board there has to be a level of improvement. Understand what the team wants to do, what the other team wants to do with us, and how we're going to combat it on both ends and attack it.

Q. What kind of challenge is sustaining focus?
COACH CREAN: I think offensively it wasn't. We had great practices. I got tricked a little bit to be honest with you. We got up, so the scoring wasn't the problem. But we had great practices and tremendous focus and energy. We just, it really stemmed from what we didn't do defensively, to be honest with you, because we were playing against a team and it was a different coverage for this because of the flex. Rather than dealing with the six, seven, eight different ways that they get into it and knowing that they want to get a certain amount of lay-ups and they're really, really shooting the elbow shot well, which you could see a little bit tonight. We wanted to try to take those things away, and we weren't as good at that. That got everybody a little frustrated and that probably affected our offense a bit.

But that's -- the focus, I guess, would be the number one word. But the stick-to-it-tiveness, or three guys are doing it right, four guys are doing it right, one guy makes a mistake. They're good at what they do. They're good at where they know they want to get the ball. If we're going to be a good team, we've got to learn to take those things away. We got better in the second half.

I'd be way more concerned about it if we hadn't gotten better in the second half. But in all honesty, we scrapped the game plan and said we're just going to go guard. But that's not going to beat the teams on our schedule moving forward. You've got to take people out of what they want to do and you've got to go mix their coverages and mix our coverages.

Q. You finally got Troy some freedom?
COACH CREAN: Yeah, we get a lot of freedom. Is that the question?

Q. Yeah.
COACH CREAN: We work a lot on the three. We're an improvement program. If you look across the board year after year, guys numbers from one year to the next or early part of their career to later part of their career, they go way up. And that doesn't happen because you put handcuffs on them. It happens because we're not into taking bad shots and we have to get those corrected as we go.

But we're into playing fast. There is a little bit of give and take with understanding the difference. But he works hard on his shot. He's got to work hard more away from practice time. But we spend a lot of time shooting the ball. We wouldn't have the numbers that we had if we didn't. But, again, it goes back to Troy has got to be consistent in many areas with the talent level that he has.

And our number one responsibility is to continue to hold him to that and keep building towards that because it's there. And I think the shot is an example of that. When you're really locked in and moving well and playing both ends well, it's amazing how open you get and how good you feel with your shot. We just wanted to do it more often.

Q. Can you talk about Thomas' offensive production?
COACH CREAN: He's getting healthier. Pure and simple, he's getting healthier, which is allowing us to do more with him and allowing his confidence to grow. He's in practice longer. I don't come up here and talk much about it because it would be written as excuses.

So we have a lot of situations we're trying to deal with injury-wise. His has been a little bit more well-documented because of the time he's missed. But he's getting to practice more.

Q. I she practicing more?
COACH CREAN: More or less. More or less. We adjust things, but he's going to continue to get better.

Q. Someone like Troy, it has to do with some of what you talked about, but it seems in the last couple weeks in particular he's in a sustained positive focus. He obviously had a big game on Saturday. What do you feel has fuelled that?
COACH CREAN: Well, he's good, and he works hard and he's had very good practices. He's growing up. But we're looking for a consistency level. So, I mean, I have a whole different viewpoint of it. I come in here and I try to be honest and answer the questions. But I have a whole other level of where I think they need to be and where they need to get to. I think there's a lot of room for his improvement. But I'm also proud of the fact that he is getting better.

We moved him to the point guard late in the game and I think we scored four straight times. I don't remember exactly, but it was also segments where he just had to make decisions. One time he made a decision to come down and get a two-hand dunk that brought the crowd to its feet. That's the ability that he has. We've got to get him to be more consistent all across the board for longer periods of time, and I think he'll even get better, and that's what we're going to hold him to.

Q. Do you emphasize working out of practice?
COACH CREAN: Yeah, we work so hard in practice and spend so much time shooting the ball. I want them to work, but it's got to be the right kind of work. He works in practice constantly. I mean, there's not a day where you say, okay, Troy was halfway today. There is none of that. So he's an excellent practice player. He continues to shoot it like that.

Again, when he's getting the controlled reps in practice, and when I mean controlled reps, I mean, time and score reps and our shooting drills and things like that were being coached on, and I think that helps him. As he continues to get stronger, it will be even better. I don't want to say he's just scratching the surface. I would have said that a year ago. But there is still a lot of room on the table for him to improve, and that was a shot of him tonight with his shooting.

But I think he'll continue to get a lot better right now and score even more off the defense and be even more of a trigger for guys like he was tonight. I mean, he did some really good things. We just need it more often.

Q. How important is Juwan?
COACH CREAN: Well, Juwan had actually gotten healed and then he got hurt again in another area last week. So he didn't really practice at all last week, and that was really good for him because he needs that. I said to him today, him getting healthy is going to be like adding another player for us because he's missed so much time.

Really, the last time he had extended minutes was Maui against St. John's. Or, no, against UNLV. So to me as he gets healthier, O.G.'s getting better, you saw some of the capabilities of Juwan. He's still wearing a shoulder harness. It's going to take some time, but he's got some real versatility.

I think January is going to be, hopefully late December and January is going to be a fun time to see that improvement.

Q. You have ten players with 11 minutes or more. Going forward can you comment on the depth of the ballclub and whether it's going to help you?
COACH CREAN: Well, I think it will. That's the plan. But you have to have consistency to get that. So that to me is the common thread. I mean, if it's consistent, then it's good. If it's not, then it shrinks it. But I also think we have enough guys that aren't getting a lot of minutes right now that if we put them in some of the same situations, I think they'll be fine. Harrison Niego a week ago, Ryan Burton can help us.

I think moving forward, even with Josh Newkirk, we've really, really pressed his workout level up and he's doing certainly the things in practice. But as we get him cleared in the month of January, that's going to make our practices that much better. Even though he doesn't get to play in the games, he'll make the practices that much better which will make you be a consistent player or an inconsistent player. So that builds your depth even more.

Sounds kind of crazy a guy that's not going to play in the games can make you better, but he will because he'll bring a challenge. There is not one guy that when he's healthy that will be able to get the best of him. He's really improving. It's going to be a lot of fun when he gets out there to see him full tilt for us. So that will help us.

That's why I'm excited about the future of it because we're going to get better. We're going to get better. We've gotten better. We've won five straight, so we've gotten better, and hopefully everybody's safe and sound over this little break and they come back excited and ready to go, and we move into the Big Ten.

Happy holidays, everybody. Thank you.

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