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January 5, 2016

Tom Crean

Bloomington, Indiana

Indiana - 59, Wisconsin - 58

TOM CREAN: I'm proud of my team's effort. I really am. The crowd was great. There's always a little bit extra any time a championship-level team is in the building, and when you've got that team, it's quadrupled because of what they did. To say that all of us don't feel that a little bit would be an understatement because you don't want to disappoint on a night that's so important to so many people and on a night that brings that memory, but you've got to -- I didn't realize they were all -- I had to catch my breath a couple times early when I walked out there.

But to me our guys really did a great job of persevering throughout the game. Our defense got better, even when we weren't scoring, and in the past, immaturity could have kicked in in a hurry and you get disappointed and discouraged when you're not making baskets, and all of a sudden the runs turn into -- we never let that happen, and I'm really proud of the way that they did that.

I think we gave up two baskets in the first 12 minutes of the second half, and we had a bunch of different lines because of their match-ups and because of our foul situations.

Proud of the guys; once they got the lead, I don't think we trailed the last 14 minutes, somewhere in there.

But we didn't get a lot of free throws, obviously. We didn't shoot a free throw until there was seven minutes left in the game, but fortunately made every one of them, and that's crucial. It's not about how pretty it is, it's about how you persevere and find a way to win, and that's exactly what we did, and we knew we were playing a really good team. We were playing guys that were main stage on a national championship runner-up. We're playing an excellent program. Greg is an excellent coach. He's been as well-schooled on what it takes to succeed as anybody could be walking into the situation that he's in, and they've got good players, really good players, and fortunately our guys continued to improve during the game, too.

We got away -- when we stayed to what we really wanted in the first half, we may not have made the basket, but we got really good looks. When we got careless, which we did, and when we tried to -- we tried to go in spots where they had too much help, that's where we've got to continue to grow up and continue to learn from that, and when we trusted the movement and when we cut and moved without the ball, sometimes we even over-passed as you saw on the baseline a couple of times. But I'd rather have a group of guys that are playing unselfishly than trying to make something happen themselves all the time. But proud of the way they continued to play against a really good team.

Q. Is this as much growth in a team defensively as you've seen?
TOM CREAN: In 17 years? Oh, I don't know about that. Yeah, I don't know about that. I'd have to -- I don't know. Reflection is for the end of the year. I'm just obsessed with us getting better, and that's exactly the way that they have to be. We'll reflect down the road, but right now there's a lot of room for improvement, and I hope we keep improving for a long time.

Q. This is the third straight game we're asking about OG coming off the bench. What steps has he taken and maybe gotten the confidence from the last few games?
TOM CREAN: Well, he's an excellent defender, and that was for sure. His confidence is growing, you can see that with the way he's shooting the ball. As I said other times before, one of the reasons we recruited him is because of the way he could shoot. He's getting more comfortable with it, but he's very smart, he's very athletic, he's very strong for his age, and he's pretty fearless when it comes to defense.

And as he gets better even understanding angles and even understanding the personnel -- right now we don't want to inundate him with too much, these five things about this guy and those four things about that guy. We want him just to really play. But he's got to keep rebounding the ball for us, but our guys have got a lot of belief in him, and he knows that, and he's just going to continue to get better, I think.

Q. Losing James, what's the mentality moving forward now?
TOM CREAN: Well, I think yesterday when we found out last night and he had already told a couple of them before I told the team later last night, they feel for him. I mean, everybody knows how good he is on our team. I mean, he's -- he makes a world of difference. It's not just his numbers, and I think that hit me about five, six minutes into the Rutgers game, that he wasn't -- the defense is different when he's not out there. That's not a negative towards our other guys, but you have to pay a lot of attention to James, and so it's not just about the baskets that he makes, it's the spaces that he creates for other people, and he's had some very good rebounding games. He's getting better at handling the ball. He can play in the pick-and-roll. He's not a great defender yet but he's working at it. His work ethic is outstanding. They all like him because he's in the gym all the time and he's one of them.

I think they're down about that to a degree, but I mean, they're also resilient. But we miss him. We truly miss him. But at the same time you've got to keep preaching that there's unbelievable opportunity for other people, and it's not going to all -- 16 points are not going to come from one person, and they're probably not going to come from two people. They've got to come mixed up, and the best thing we can do is continue to do is make hustle points.

We're not getting a lot of -- we don't have a lot of great individual offensive numbers from some of our main guys in these first three games, and to say that we're 3-0 inside of that, I could say in spite of it, but they're doing some pretty good things. But inside of the fact that we're not getting some great numbers from other people says a lot about the way they're getting better defensively and persevering.

Q. Can you explain the nature of James' injury?
TOM CREAN: No, I'm not going to do that because I think the most important thing is that under the HIPAA law that's just passed that we just continue to let him recover and he'll be back. He got hurt in practice, and it seems to work for other people, and so we'll stick to it ourselves and let him rehabilitate.

Q. Talk about how hard it is to win every game and what kind of a feat it is to go 32-0.
TOM CREAN: Oh, goodness. You probably don't think about it enough, but I don't -- it's hard to even imagine. Even last year with what Kentucky did and maybe some of the others have been close, Wichita State, obviously, I can imagine the pressure those people are under, the mental toughness they had to get from things like that has just got to be so incredible for them in their lives.

But the odds of that ever happening again for anybody are really, really slim when you look at the 40-year window that's passed that no one has done it in.

Q. Talk about OG and Juwan tonight --
TOM CREAN: That was the plan.

Q. What did you see there as far as --
TOM CREAN: Well, they match up body-wise. It's so important. He's a unique player because they're playing him at 3. He's got the body of a 4 or 5, and he can pass. He's really a good passer, and that's where he's improved so much.

And then they've got other guys. Vitto Brown can step out. He shoots a lot of long twos. And Happ is a good player, so there's going to be match-up issues throughout the game, but he's the biggest one, and you've got to have somebody that can match up as close to size as possible, and we thought Collin was a good match-up. We knew we were going to have to have numerous guys guard him tonight, and I'm proud of the effort that they gave on him.

Q. Are you surprised that those two are ready for that kind of task defensively?
TOM CREAN: All I know is they're improving. All I know is they work really hard, they're improving. Juwan is getting healthier, which certainly he was behind when you look at when he got hurt in Maui and how much time he missed, and then he came back and got hurt again. They're smart, learning. They're winners. They've won. Those kids have won, so that's really, really important. We just want to make sure they keep improving. We've got a long way to go, and we've got a lot of games left.

Q. What was the defensive key to start the second half?
TOM CREAN: I think just that. They probably missed some shots. We'll look at the film, they'll look at some shots they could have made, we'll look at some shots we could have made, but the bottom line is we persevered. Our block-outs got better. Our block-outs weren't very good in the first half, and we didn't gamble. The one time we gambled and Troy went for it, I mean, he was flying to get a steal, but then they back -- they kind of made a play. They're good. They really know how to play without the basketball, obviously.

I think when you do that in a game like that -- we challenged their shots, so I think that's important, but we stayed pretty compact. We didn't gamble, and we've got to continue like I don't know where everybody else is at, but understanding how to defend the ball screen right now is hard because you're not always sure what's going to be called and what's not, and it's just -- that's just the way that it is, and I feel for the referees, too.

But we've got to continue to work on that and make sure that we're leaving very little chance for error because offensive players, it's just going to get more and more. They're just going to drive right into the defender and there's going to be a call 90 percent of the time. There's going to be a lot more foul shots shot in games, so we've got to work at that, too, to keep figuring that part out what's going to be best. There's a lot of strategies you've got to come up with now as the officiating continues to kind of get to somewhat of a level. I'm not sure it's all the way there, but this is the third game now we've had calls on the ball screen that we've got to get used to, and we're really trying to do a better job of showing our hands, but yet when the offensive player drives into your body it's a foul on the defense.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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