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November 5, 2016

Tom Crean

Bloomington, Indiana

Indiana - 73, Bellarmine - 49

TOM CREAN: A couple things briefly. I was really excited about our defensive effort. I thought we came out, we were very, very serious. We had two hard driving days of practice after taking Wednesday off, very intense. They carried that right in here, and it was a little concerned about that going in because we've had so many days off. All of a sudden we went two real hard days before a game, and that intensity level was at a real high level today, which carried over from the practices, which is a good sign of a team that's learning a lot.

I thought, again, it's real easy sometimes to come out in the second half and take the foot off the gas a little bit. They never did that. We had nine straight stops to open the half in the second half. We kept them out of the paint. I think they were 5 of 27 when we kept them out of the paint, which is really, really important. They're an excellent cutting, screening, move-without-the-ball quick passing team.

Scott's teams are always so sound, and they always have guys that can make big plays, and Rusty Troutman was that guy, and he could play for any team in the country, and we treated him like that tonight. He may not start on every Division I team, but he'd certainly play on them, and we treated him as the star that he is and wanted to make life difficult for him, and our guys were locked in from the very beginning on their actions. We got in on a couple cuts at times. We had a couple of fouls. We're getting used to the rules again, and the referees in two games have been outstanding at calling the game the way it's supposed to be called, but they're still telling us why they're calling it, so we can learn, as well, and I think that's really, really important.

The thing about our offense, we're not going to have many nights where we go 6 of 29 from three, and that doesn't faze me one bit. The takeaway that I'll take out of the night, certainly OG great night, Doron played very well, Freddie had the rebounds, but the biggest takeaway I'll take out is that I never could tell for a second that James Blackmon wasn't having a good offensive night, and that's a sign of maturity. I'm not sure it'll look like that a year ago, and I know it wouldn't have looked like that as a freshman. That's a guy that is growing up who has missed a lot of time, obviously, but he's growing up and he's understanding how important impacting the game on both ends is. He played the game without a turnover, and he got better defensively inside the game, and so to me, that's the little signs with a team that's got to get this understanding and this responsibility for one another, that's got to get this leadership because of what we lost from last year, those are the signs that help you, and I know it's early November, but those are things we can build towards.

59 deflections, Doron's three steals, like I mentioned, Thomas had nine deflections, OG had 10 to go with his shooting and his floor game. Those are the things that we've got to have, and we've got to find different ways to score when our threes aren't falling or when we're not scoring as easy or we're not getting to the foul line as much, and the more pressure we can bring on the defensive end, the better we'll be in the long run, and that's what I thought happened for us tonight.

Q. Did you accomplish what you had set out to do in the exhibition season do you think?
TOM CREAN: Well, I don't know if I look at it that way. You want to play everybody. I didn't get as much into combinations as I got into moving people around, and so that's not going to look as fluid, and I understand that. And we're having guys do different things in this game that they don't normally do, and they have done very little in practice, as far as off the break and things, and we're still learning how simple the game can be, the efficiency of passing it one dribble early. Devonte' took -- had opportunities where he had a wide-open shot and tried to make a shot easier, and it ends up making it harder because he didn't take the wide-open shot, and we want our guys to understand if you're open, knock it down. If somebody has got a better look, give it to them, but the one thing you don't want to do is take a good shot and turn it into a shot taken badly because you take an extra dribble or you try to create something. That takes time for guys to learn.

But as far as guys playing, as far as having a defensive level of intensity, as far as having -- seeing our conditioning, getting a lot of guys to play a lot of different combinations inside of that, and knowing that we're behind offensively as far as for sets and packages, but knowing that the ball is going to move, I think we accomplished some good things.

Q. Circling back to OG, Thomas said something when he was in here earlier, he takes advantage of what the defense gives us or what the offense gives him. What makes him able to have a night like he had offensively but still have the energy, the athleticism, the explosiveness, to be as good as he was defensively on the boards, as well?
TOM CREAN: Because it's the reverse. He comes out to defend, and everything good happens because he comes out to defend. It was the same way last year when he'd make threes in games. His defense is what got him on the floor. He came out and had the assignment of guarding Troutman, and they went to some of their mainstay actions, and he made those entries very, very hard from the very beginning. That's what he's capable of doing.

So I think offensively there were numerous times that he wasn't ready to shoot tonight. There were times that he could have shot when he got the ball, and because he wasn't ready to shoot or because he didn't have the proper spacing, but again, he took what was there, played downhill well, was probably -- probably even played with better spacing Tuesday night than he did tonight, and still found a way to have a great game and be very, very efficient.

He's a great example of somebody that's getting better constantly, understands that it all starts with what you do with your defensive mindset and how important it is to make the game easier for everybody else. He's learning a lot about that. And we moved him around. He played pretty much every position tonight offensively, and he definitely guarded every position defensively.

Q. Did Thomas accomplish everything you wanted to see in the two exhibition games?
TOM CREAN: I hope so. Yeah, that would be good.

Q. What did you guys do this summer to prepared him for that increased role?
TOM CREAN: For Thomas? Well, he got the ball quite a bit last summer. We didn't do as much as you'd think or behind there because we didn't have a healthy Juwan, we didn't have a healthy OG, we didn't have Doron here, and so really what he did is he had to deal with our graduate managers and our strength coaches sitting him with pads, and we didn't do a lot with him in the post this summer.

We're definitely behind in his efficiency in the lane, but we also know that that will come, and I think what happened tonight a little bit is he still doesn't understand all the time how quick he's got to move in the post. He's getting double and triple teams. We'll move around him even more, and I think we spent our time, a lot of time with him in the off-season building his strength, his athleticism, his endurance, his quick twitches, short space quickness, his perimeter game. We're very much on him to be active on the glass, and I think that patience and that poise that he needs in the post and in that quickness in moves will come.

Q. How good is this team defensively so far?
TOM CREAN: I don't know. It's two exhibition games in. We spent a lot of time on it. We've got some length. When you've got guys like OG and Juwan that are as comfortable guarding on the perimeter as they are the post, that puts pressure onto everybody else getting into that same place. Doron with three steals and 10 deflections, that's a heck of a night in 10 minutes. Freddie didn't start going up and down the court until the other day, and it's every other day. Today happened to be a day that he could go, and we're on a minutes limit with him right now, so that will be another guy that will be able to create more havoc defensively.

I think we'll see how it goes, but I think this team can bring pressure. I think everybody understands that they're learning rapidly. It's a different team, and I think if there'll be anything that we learn, like your defense kept you going at a really good pace tonight and kept the game out of reach the whole night, even when your shooting was 6 of 29 from three because you kept playing hard defensively, you kept being active on the glass, and you kept bringing fatigue to the game, and we were able to bring a lot of different people in.

I don't know on ceilings. I hope the whole team has got a high ceiling. I think they do, but we're going to have to measure that by how much better we get every day. I know we're behind in certain areas, and that's just the way that it is. But if compete every day like we're doing right now, then we'll get better.

Q. Talk about Josh's efficiency.
TOM CREAN: First thing, stats are misleading in the exhibition season. We all know that. Plus/minus to me can be misleading. Combinations are not necessarily misleading. You can start to get a feel for some of the combinations and start to build towards that, then look at it on film and see how that works. But really what you want to do is you want to get guys comfortable playing, you want to get them playing through fatigue, you want to get them to understand how to play in this environment with this crowd under the lights, so to speak, and understand how hard they have to play and how much they have to stay in character.

Now, our next step is to stay in that type of character as we go into an environment like Friday night, which will be easier said than done. With that being said, Josh's efficiency, keeping it simple. You can see his athleticism has improved tremendously. He's got a friend here that coaches high school in Pittsburgh, known him for 25 plus years, and he said, I don't even recognize this Josh Newkirk, which that's a great compliment. And he goes up and dunks. He wasn't doing that. He wasn't doing that before. He certainly wasn't doing it when he got here because he had one leg when he got here, but his vertical has gone up seven, eight inches since he's gotten to Indiana.

See, he's a product of really, really working hard, of recovering well, having a great attitude, working extremely hard in the gym, but yet at the same time, he can get a ton better, and especially with his shooting, and he will, but as long as he keeps the game simple for his teammates and plays really hard defensively and keeps having fun the way that he is, he'll be really good for us.

Q. What led to James Blackmon Jr.'s struggles tonight?
TOM CREAN: Just missing shots. I think he wasn't following through. If I had to be -- James works really hard. We have numerous guys that missed a lot of time. College basketball is a year-round game because they work at it year-round. Well, some of these guys have missed an awful lot of time because of the injuries, and when we brought James and Rob and Josh and Juwan in the other night, those guys are coming off major surgeries, and that takes time. So when you're going hard every day and you're trying to get that mental toughness, that physical endurance that you've got to have to move forward, you're going to have some nights maybe where it's not as fluid for you. And really with him, they were all great shots, just a little short here, the follow-through wasn't there. I can pick it, I will on film, but if he'd have stopped shooting and passed up shots, then we would have had to bring him out of the game because he made shots. I had no fear whatsoever that the next one was going in, and he still got double figures, right? Yeah, so -- again, he's getting better all the time. That's important for us.

Q. What did you see from Freddie McSwain?
TOM CREAN: Oh, Freddie. Freddie, rusty would be a key definitive statement for him right now. He's missed so much time. Again, when I tell you that he hasn't been up and down until this week, and it was every other day, that's not easy. I mean, that's not easy at all, and as I said early, I think last week, we've got to be with Doron and Freddie, and I want everybody else to be, too.

I wasn't trying to hurt Priller tonight and keep him out of the game. He's injured, so I couldn't -- for all the people chanting for Priller to get in, he would have been in, but he was injured.

But Freddie is a guy that -- he's got a high, high motor. He's not real confident yet. He's missed an awful lot of time. He missed the summer with us. He's made a lot of improvement in a short period of time, and you're probably not going to see it for a while until he some of the other things there because once I think he gets confident in the pace of the game, the movements, the offenses, playing really, really hard and fast without using his hands, getting some of the techniques down, then all of a sudden I think you'll see his shot go in, much like OG. OG didn't understand the pace of the game, didn't understand how physical and fast you have to play constantly at this. Once he did, the game slowed down for him actually, instead of speeding up, and Freddie, the game is going really fast for him right now because he's going so fast, and once he filters in a little bit and gets comfortable, he'll be really good for us. But it's going to take a little time for that, but I like that he had eight rebounds in about eight minutes.

Q. You mentioned OG played just about every position on the floor. What kind of options does that give you?
TOM CREAN: Thomas Bryant played about four positions tonight. It's really for us, it's spots, like what spot do they go to sometimes. And again, we're behind in -- we're way behind in like sets and plays, so to speak, so we've really tried to get our concepts down. So to get them communicating and to get them thinking on the fly, sometimes I'll put them in a different spot. Like I made changes at halftime. I think sometimes it excites him, it makes him talk. They can't relax, and there's probably a lot of extra thinking that goes on with that. Eventually they'll flow into it, that it'll be -- it'll be more comfortable for him. It's a good time of year to do that with the way that we play.

He's not the only one, but again, when you can shoot, when you can pass, when you can move without the ball, you can play a lot of spots, but you're really not going to be on the floor for a long period of time if you can't guard at a high level, and OG can guard at a high level.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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