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January 19, 2016

Tom Crean

Bloomington, Indiana

Illinois - 69, Indiana - 103

COACH CREAN: The thing I'm most proud of with our team is that really every day they come in here and they're locked into what we're doing at that present time, whether it's the way they are in the weight room, whether it's the way they are with the flexibility and conditioning, certainly the way they are in practice, their film sessions. They take every opponent very, very seriously, and that's exactly what we did with Illinois.

Great respect for John in his program and certainly their personnel. We knew that we had to be, of all the games, this team had the most spacing because they had their five man could really shoot the ball. Honestly think he's one of the great three-point shooters in our league. Maverick Morgan can drill it from 15, 17 feet, and there were going to be harder match-ups.

We had to be that much more locked in, because if you overhelp on this team, they can break you down and kick it out to three-point shooters. So I thought our guys were really locked into that. They were locked into knowing that they were going to come with a lot of edge and energy on the glass. Once we figured out that we needed to continue to go to the paint to get our three-point shots and play through the post and through the paint to get ball reversal, we were much better.

Because there were times early in the game that we were not stagnant, but the ball sat in a couple different areas. It's got to go through the slots in the corners and continue to be reversed, so that we can get our spacing better, and that's at the end of the day what allowed us, I think, to get the three-point looks that we got.

So we have a lot of respect for them. They're going to win games. They've got some of the tougher match-ups in this league, and this was a great win for us because, again, the respect level that we have for them.

As far as personal performances, we had a lot of really good ones. But I'll start with the obvious one with Yogi. Yogi, I said this to somebody today, his work ethic. Came in here really, really strong when he came here four years ago, and it has only grown. He is without question usually one of the last guys off and most importantly he's always finding ways to get back on, and that has nothing to do with what we're doing in practice. He is always full-throttle in practice. He always has been. It's the extra work that he puts in, the extra film work that he puts in. It's the way he's carrying his teammates with him. Rarely do you see him watching film on the road by himself. There's a couple guys in there with him.

And I think all those things manifest themselves into having a guy that they really look to to -- they want Yogi to succeed because they know that Yogi is going to find them. He sets the tone defensively. He sets the tone offensively. What I love about him is he's incredibly happy for their success, and his maturity is well on its way. We've got a lot of basketball left. We've got a lot of games left. We've got 12 regular season games I think right now, and there is a lot of basketball left to be played. But if he stays on this path of continuing to improve the way that he is and keeps that work ethic that way, he'll leave here with a really strong legacy.

Q. What has changed since earlier in the season when you guys were struggling in that area?
COACH CREAN: Well, I think it's happened over a period of time. We're not really teaching different things. I think I told Mike Tirico with ESPN, I said this to him today, I went back to the Vegas game yesterday to look at some things that Dave Rice was running at Las Vegas, and I'm watching and I just go, wow. We're so different, right? Because Thomas Bryant is different.

So I think it starts with there is a real commitment to the guys to get better defensively, and the freshmen have really improved. And now where OG and Juwan are on the court the way that they are, not only do they have the physical attributes, but they're getting the mental part of it as well.

It's not like we've done a lot of different things. We've just tried to get better at what we were doing. Early on we weren't aggressive enough. Early on we didn't have enough experience guarding good ball screens and teams that really tried to space us out. We weren't as aggressive as we needed to be with moving on the pass, we'd move on the catch a little bit so we'd be a little bit late.

But I think it's just experience and practicing that way every day and them knowing that we can score points, but our identity has got to come from what we do defensively and what we do rebounding-wise, and it starts with the transition, which is where we've made a lot of strides in, and hopefully we'll continue to get even better at that.

Q. How difficult is it to coach Yogi?
COACH CREAN: It's not difficult at all because he's so smart. He's extremely smart, and he's got a very good basketball temperament. He's very cerebral. He's playing different positions on the court that most people have no idea that he's in. We'll do things defensively in practice. We had a situation yesterday, we changed defenses in practice against the scout team and a couple of coaches didn't even know we changed. And they're pretty astute to it, and it's because of the things that Yogi can do. That's the thing.

It's not the obvious that's so good about him. That's pretty clear, right? He shoots it, he's quick, he's strong, he defends, he can pass the ball. But it's the ground that he covers. It's the covering for his teammates. It's the communication he's picking up.

So really, it's not hard to coach him at all because he wants to get better, and he's growing up, right? He's growing up. So never going to talk about him in past tense until that day comes. Right now he's like all of them. It's a work in progress because he wants to get better, and there is still a lot of room for him to get better.

The more I'm around him, the more I know that his best days are going to be at that next level. I have no doubt in my mind about that. I never really have. But now that he gets older, I have no doubt in my mind because he's got so much to give because he spent so much time at it. It's an honor to coach him.

Q. 27 assists on 37 baskets and also Troy has five assists with no turnovers.
COACH CREAN: I didn't realize that. I didn't realize he didn't have any turnovers. I haven't studied that. That's good. That makes the night even better. Troy, we spend a lot of time together. He really wants to be really good. He's growing up and we keep trying to show him and have him see the things that are really going to be measurables for him: His decision-making, his rebounding, what he gets done defensively. Because the shooting and all those kind of things, they're becoming better and better because of the work ethic and the improvement aspect of the program that's always ongoing here, at least I hope it's always ongoing here. But it's that decision making that's outbounding that are going to be the things that are going to separate him. The more he understands that and buys into that and understands that his rebounding is a strength and he never wants to get away from it, his quickness and his speed and great strength can be a great weapon, but he doesn't want to make it a detriment. He's really astute to learning and getting better. That's what's got to keep up, and if that keeps up, he's going to keep improving.

Q. What strikes you most about Michael Lewis?
COACH CREAN: Well, I sat with Michael a couple weeks ago at a game. I have a great respect for him. Actually coached against him, and Tom Izzo and I took a team to Europe. I was Tom's assistant on a Big Ten All-Star team when they did that, and Michael was the Indiana representative. So got to actually coach him for a couple weeks.

Michael was one of those pure, tough, do what it takes to win, and I think if you ask the average person who the assist leader was, I'm not sure they would know Michael Lewis. If they knew Indiana basketball, they would. But if you asked who one of the great winners at Indiana was and one of the tough guys at Indiana was, Michael Lewis's name would come up. The fact that he made his teammates so much better during that time that he was here says a lot about him.

I think he's going to be a great head coach. He's got an inner and an outer toughness that's really, really clear. I think for Yogi to be in that company with Michael Lewis and Quinn Buckner and others that are right up in that top group, that's pretty strong.

Q. Yogi didn't know that Lewis had the record.
COACH CREAN: To be honest with you, we really don't spend time talking about those type of things. He's aware about the assists. The biggest thing with Yogi is this won't be the last time that he's hitting some accolades if he stays on the path he's on. But the most important thing he wants to be is known for winning.

I think that we don't really spend a lot of time talking about -- just like we don't spend a lot of time in the negative, we don't spend a lot of time in the positive. We spend the majority of our time in what have we got to get better at now? As a coach, we want to look down the road some with your team. But the most important thing is to stay in that moment. So they're pretty tunnel visioned into getting better.

Q. What was the reason for the hand raise?
COACH CREAN: Because he set a record. It wasn't because we won the game. It wasn't because it was a chance -- we'll honor him the right way. But it was a chance -- I've done that a couple times when guys hit their 1000th point. I think it's my chance to show them that we wouldn't be there without them. Right? It's a spur of the moment deal, and then there are ceremonies. But it's just quick. It's quick.

We weren't going to stop the game. But taking him out at that point just to make sure fans gave him just a little bit extra because he deserved it.

Q. Is it unfair to suggest that some of these defensive improvements have come at the time James Blackmon went out?
COACH CREAN: Yeah, I don't think it's realistic. I've heard that from some others. James Blackmon put up 21 on Illinois. He put 24 on Minnesota. We're taking 15 points, 26 minutes, high-level shooting out of our lineup. It's changed our spacing. We're doing things right now with our team that we've got -- we're building the fundamentals constantly, but we're trying to make up for that.

So, the thing that people -- they don't always see, it's like this defense, this team getting better. They don't always see the improvement level of all of them. Well, James was making improvements too. And when he got hurt, it was at a time when we were hitting the Big Ten schedule. So it wasn't like there were two weeks to play some non-conference games and try to figure out what we're going to do.

Yeah, we miss James Blackmon. I mean, ask Mike Krzyzewski what it's like playing without Amile Jefferson. When you take a really good player out of the lineup that's capable of so much, you're going to feel the effects of that. What it's done is there was no one player that is going to come in, and I think we went through this a little bit at Rutgers where a couple guys thought I may get those 16 points. Well, it doesn't work that way. It's got to come from everybody.

What it's done was OG was that much more ready to play. He's getting more minutes. Juwan Morgan was starting to get healthy and Thomas Bryant was starting to get healthy. They're getting more reps in practice. Thomas Bryant shoots the ball from three every day in practice. Tonight was the one that he took, right? So you want them to continue to get better. James was no different.

Now our mission is to help him get better at the things that we can control right now. His strength and some other things we've got planned drill-wise for him and helping him rehabilitate.

But I hope no one -- we miss James Blackmon. He's one of the great combination shooting guards, whatever you want to call him, certainly in his class or one of them in the country. And he understood that he had to get better defensively to be a good player on this team because the team needed to get better defensively. So we miss him. Trust me, if he was out there, we'd figure out a way to have him.

Q. I guess at some level, it seems like losing someone maybe sharpens guys up?
COACH CREAN: I don't agree with that at all. I think guys are getting better in practice. I don't know how to answer that other than I don't agree with that. It's all about improvement. It's all about understanding your assignment. It's all about helping your teammates. And really what happens, you get your opportunity, and then you either utilize your opportunity and continue to get more of them or somebody else gets them.

And we've had to reconfigure some things more than most people would realize without him in there. I mean, everybody gets a tougher match-up right now. So in that sense, does it sharpen them up? I guess it makes them that much more aware of who they're dealing with, but we miss James Blackmon. I mean, there's no doubt about it. He'd be enhancing what we're doing.

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