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November 27, 2016

Tom Crean

Bloomington, Indiana

Mississippi Valley State - 52, Indiana - 85

TOM CREAN: We obviously had a long week and one I think that was productive in the sense that the most important thing this team has got to learn and they took steps towards that this week and I think even today, especially coming back in the second half, is just the responsibility that they have to have for one another. There's no blueprint for it. It's not like you just insert it. And like I said to our team the other day, when you play the way we played against Kansas, and it's like a game in the Elite 8, right? And you win it, and it feels great.

We play the way we did the other night, it's like losing to a first round opponent. And they earned the victory and we didn't. Each game counts for something, just like the learning experience counts, just like every game's learning experience counts. But the most important thing that you got to have daily is the edge. Irregardless of how you feel, irregardless of where you stand, irregardless of where you're at, irregardless of who you play, irregardless of what you think, you have to have an edge. And before you can get that, it's not a coach-driven thing, it's a peer-driven thing. It's a person to person, individual determination type of thing. And that's what we have really tried to spend even more time on helping them to understand. We took some steps towards that today, especially without James.

And I liked the way that we figured out that we need to attack pressure, that we need to simplify it, that we can play through it, that we just need to keep it simple. And in our case we weren't playing through the middle enough at the beginning, we were trying to make some plays that weren't there, we weren't getting enough random movement. So we needed to set up a little more structured movement in the second half. Because, again, it's responsibility. We've had Yogi Ferrell back there and breaking the pressure and guys being the recipient of those passes or we've had Troy Williams breaking the pressure. Everybody's got a new responsibility. Not new to basketball, they have all played basketball. But new responsibilities on the team.

And we just have to continue to grow through that and I think that we will. But we got better this week, we got better today. We've got a lot of basketball coming up over the next week, obviously, with Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. And we've just got to stay on the improvement train every day, mentally and physically. And just continue to work to get better.

But we got some good, good play not only from our starters today, but from our bench. I told the team, again, this is one thing that I've always tried to recruit to ever since I read it and tried to really understand, Pete Carril, great coach at Princeton, said many things that the smart take from the strong. But the one thing he said about passing is passing takes the tension out of the game. And I told the team before the game, I said, that's half true. It takes the tension and it makes the offense easier for you. It brings a lot of tension to the opponent. And what we want to do is make sure that we continue to make those simple plays. There's times we understood that well, there's times we haven't. And that's all part of the process of this team getting better.

Same thing, we can say the same thing about rebounding, we could say the same thing about shooting, we could say the same thing about defense. So, they got great attitude, they're working really, really hard, and we knew we were going to see some really good pressure today. We had a lot of respect for Andre's pressure with that team. It wasn't about their record, it was about their athleticism and the pressure that they can bring to the table. They did. We handled it. We got better and now, we'll get ourselves ready to play Wednesday night.

Q. You talk about growing that responsibility for each other. I guess it is sort of a strange question, but it almost like they're too good of friends or just that almost like it's not, it's coming from a good place, I guess, that they don't want to hold each other accountable?
TOM CREAN: Oh, yeah, that's common. It's common. It's not the first team that's been through that. Last year's team went through it. Every team goes through it to a point. Because it's very, very hard -- there's two parts, it's very hard to take responsibility for others and be demanding of them, without it seeming critical. Because it will get critical, then it gets frustrating and people get frustrated. And you don't want that, you don't want it to get to that point.

But it's also, the thing that's so different for this team, even with last year's team, guys had done that. Yogi had been having the ball in pressure situations since his freshman year here.

Troy Williams played, started a lot of games as a freshman.

Max had done some really good things at Michigan.

Nick was 23 years of age.

Collin had been through it. So like there was so many guys that could handle the responsibility, so guys could just play. Well, now you got to play and have responsibility. I think that the friendships play into that. And I've got to continue to make sure that we're not only competing in practice, but we're competing against one another, even more. And not just timing score situations or doing this drill or that drill, but really getting real competition.

But, again, I think we learned a lot from that and the other night is that -- and they earned it, right? They staggered us to begin with. We responded, but we never staggered them, right? I mean we took the punch, but we never landed a punch that put us over the edge. And we made mistakes and we didn't realize it at the time that James wasn't all the way healthy later on in that game. And we played that game with an O.G. really not, I don't think any of us understand how sick he was, because he didn't even practice again until part of the time on Friday. So, he definitely didn't feel good.

So, that's not an excuse, those are just parts of it. But bottom line is we didn't have the right edge. And you have to understand that you're not only responsible for your own edge as a player, but when you're really going to be good, you got to take responsibility for the other guys, too. That's part of the process we're learning.

Q. What can you tell us about James and do you expect him to play Wednesday?
TOM CREAN: It's too early. It's too early to put an expectation or prediction on that. He's better every day. He hasn't practiced. So it -- it's not like it's anything that anybody's looking at saying there's surgery involved here or anything like that. He took a shot in that game and we just got to overcome it. So, his work has been great. This afternoon, I go run, and I come through the weight room at the end before I go home to change and there he is in the weight room doing his leg exercises. He's very, very diligent on getting himself ready. He's been through a lot. Been through a lot before he even got here. So, we just got to make sure that we're patient with him and help him get through that part of it, and he'll know his body. He's certainly got great support here and he'll get that. And we'll just see how the next few days go.

Q. He went through warmups and things, does he still have some mobility and things he can do?
TOM CREAN: Oh, yeah. This was not a situation where he's not, where we don't expect him back, it's not like that at all. But we just got to work through it.

Q. Can you talk about the decision to start Zach McRoberts?
TOM CREAN: He had a plus 15 in plus/minus the other night. And I think I was proven right, because he had a plus 28 today.

So that's one reason I started him in the first exhibition game, was a lot of different reasons. It wasn't as a token appearance, it was to get his mind around the fact that we think you're pretty good.

And when Collin Hartman went down, a lot of things went through my mind, right? And, but, the biggest basketball issue that went through my mind is that we have got to get Zach McRoberts to the point where he feels very confident and comfortable on this team. And he's getting there. It was his first basket tonight, right? Yeah, I'm proud of him. He's stepping up there, he's, he did a -- he was as competitive as anybody we had on Tuesday night. And we have seen that in practice. Now we have seen it even more in practice.

So even though we didn't win the other night, him coming out of there feeling like he belonged -- and they go through it, too. It's not just because I say you belong or it's not because you say they belong or it's not because they do or do not have a scholarship. They have got to feel it. And I think he's feeling more and more like I can really help this team. So, I look at him as a very valuable player. Does that mean he's going to start every night? I don't know what that means. I just know that's very valuable to us and I think he's starting to see that.

Q. Can you talk about the adjustment O.G. has made, he seems to be taking more shots.
TOM CREAN: Most important thing for O.G. is to just to continue to be on the path that he's on. Because he is the same worker, we don't -- here's a kid that a week ago was coming in at 7:30 in the morning on game day, shooting, doing the walkthrough, and then coming out here earlier before game. Vic was like that. Like some players it's too much, it's too much volume. And they want it so much that sometimes you just got to make sure that you keep reminding them that -- that process word gets used so much, but it's so true. There's a process to this. We just need to let him play. That's what he did today. He played, I thought he really worked through it because he was winded and there's no question that he had lost some of his conditioning and things like that from being sick. I thought he played, he really, really was on the attack a lot today. And I don't ever sit down and say, well, he's got to make these amount of shots, take these amount of shots, get these amount of rebounds. We just coach him constantly to be better. To be better defensively, to be better with the ball, without the ball, be better with his spacing, better with his foot work. And we just got to make sure that he stays on that and doesn't get, doesn't feel anything on the outside that would even remotely get him off what he's doing, because he's really, really gotten better. He's got a lot of pride and wants to be successful and wants his team to be successful and sometimes you have to realize that what you're doing is just plenty enough and the rest of it will come.

Q. How key is it to have Robert just sliding in there with James out?
TOM CREAN: I won't look at it that way. I think they play together a lot and they played together since the beginning. And I think Rob is capable of doing what he did tonight, he's capable of even more. They have really played well together this year, so far. Now, if it would have been a more a half court offensive game, and moving him over the other side, one is usually on the right, one is usually on the left, we have added more action where they're together. We didn't get to work on that this week, but -- and Josh is shooting the ball really -- the whole thing for our team is and sometimes there's set plays for a guy to get a shot, but we don't do much of that. It's much more about the fluidity, the movement, the one dribble early, the reversals of the ball, being ready to shoot. Of all the games we played -- I got to watch the film -- but of all the games we played including Kansas and I know it was a little different competition today than it was against Kansas, I thought the ball moved the best today. And Rob was a recipient of that. Now, in answer to your question -- well I really can't answer your question in the sense of stepping in. But. Like yesterday, Rob was on fire. I heard Collin say, Rob hasn't missed a shot since Friday. I asked him last night, why are you shooting so well? The ball's moving. They answer their own questions. It's really not that complex. We make it more complex than it really is sometimes. This lineup can shoot it, move without the ball, get ready to knock it down and that's exactly what he did, for the most part.

Q. What are the keys of preparing for a team like North Carolina and then how will it be to have the 1981 team honored?
TOM CREAN: We're underway with Carolina. We haven't spent much time with the team -- we really haven't spent any time with the team. We talked a little bit after the game. But we have got a really good idea of how good they are and we've got the experience of just playing them. It's a different team, we're a different team, but our biggest thing is to make sure our players not only understand how good Carolina is, because of what they do, but how good they are because of who is doing it. And make sure that we really understand their personnel at a high level. Wednesday night when you bring in that team, with Kyle Schwarber coming back to be the honorary captain, the other people that will be around, but certainly that '81 team, so many of those people being around, that's a huge, huge thing. For many of them it will be the first time they have seen the building the way it is now. For many of them it will be the first game in some time. Not their only games, but Randy Whitman certainly hasn't been able to come back very much. And so I think that will be, that will be really special. And we always miss the best part, we miss the way the crowd responds to them. Get to watch it on video later. But I would think that that '81 team will get the same reverence and respect from these fans that every other championship team that I've seen come back through here has. Including '76, including '87, those type of teams. And rightfully so. I think the most important thing that every fan and person can focus on is that those guys were a team, they remain bonded, there's so many friendships out of that group that have stayed intact all these years and the fact that is that they are some of the tradition bearers and ownership stakeholders that have made this program what it is. What little time we get with them will be well worth it. What little time the public gets with them will be well worth it. But when they're all out there together, that should be the loudest the building is all night.

Q. Curtis Jones and his comfortability factor really quick.
TOM CREAN: Very good question. I think the last couple of games he pressed. You score 15 points in your first college game in an atmosphere like that, in a game like that, you might thinking, man, it's supposed to happen that way every night. But just like it was that night, he got the shots and a lot of that stuff in the flow of the game. And I think that if there's anything he's done the last couple games, he's probably thought it would be easier and, oh, I've got to do this, right? We don't coach in the sense of, hey, we got to have this from these guys. We coach in the sense of, move the ball, defend together, rebound both ends, all those type of things, let the offense work for you. You're a big part of the offense, create for others, it comes back to you. And all young players got to go through that. But I thought it was, I was happy to see him knock down shots, not only for us but for him today, because it proves again the point that, when that ball's moving, everybody's going to be a beneficiary of it.

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