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February 16, 2019

Tom Crean

Athens, Georgia

LSU - 83, Georgia - 79

COACH CREAN: We told our team the last couple of days when you're playing a team like this that's as good they are at rebounding the ball, and they're phenomenal at it. It's a great rebounding league, but they're phenomenal at it, the way they follow up shots. There's really two games going on in every possession: There's the offensive game whether it's full court or half court and you're guarding them; and then the next game and really the hardest game it's the rebound game.

And so -- and we did a good job. I look at the numbers. We're even. But at the end of the day the biggest story can be, why we weren't able to pull it out at the end with the 11 second-chance points they got in the second.

We had a couple of untimely turnovers. We broke a couple of plays that weren't there. We didn't have a couple -- we didn't execute a couple of things that we wanted to execute. We executed some things very well.

But that being said, we're missing some shots; they're missing shots. We couldn't guard the dunk. We struggled with guarding the dribble at times; that's why we tried to switch; that's why we're getting in the zone. And at the end of the day they crashed to the glass and you've got to have numerous people in the glass at that point in time.

And that hurt us, but I love our effort. I love their attitude. I love the way the last two days have been in practice. Very confident going into this game. I would have been confident against anybody we played based on the way we practiced. We had really good practices all year.

But the last two days were a little bit different and we've got to learn how to figure to build on them and move forward, because there's no question we were ready to play we just couldn't finish it at the end.

Q. I asked you about Christian Harrison today. With the decision to start him, was that more in the lines of having somebody to guard Waters?
COACH CREAN: No, because he plays extremely hard and he's tremendously competitive and we needed a jolt defensively and moving off the ball. And you'll give up some things offensively shooting the ball, but you'll gain some things -- and that's this program. No matter how long I'm the coach here, it's about coaching every guy every day. It doesn't matter if you're the leading scorer or a freshman that's playing very few minutes. It doesn't matter if you're a senior that never gets in the game. You're going to get coached every day and Christian responds to that.

And it's continuing to develop. A lot of it is confidence. He's confident he can go out there do that. And we're mixing our defenses more and more. We're trying to do the things we can do to cover the lane up. But I played him, obviously, different times and I felt with my instinct to start him and I'm glad that I did.

Q. When you talk about a couple good practices and you walk off the practice court yesterday thinking this is going to be a good matchup for us or not?
COACH CREAN: Oh, absolutely and again, I'm not trying to put it on these last two days. I've said this and it's the bottom line. It's part of our growth process. If we played some of these games the way we practiced we'd have a much better record.

We do not -- we have very few -- I'm not going to say we have 100 percent, nobody has 100 percent great practice every day; that's not what I'm saying. But we practice well. We practice competitively. We get our heads down sometimes too much when things aren't going well in the game, where that doesn't happen in practice. And so then we lose a little bit of our cohesion in games.

We've practiced well all year. But I thought the last two days were definitely different for us. I thought even when we wanted to walk through situations at the end of a practice yesterday and guys are just completely locked into it. And so that's where we've just got to continue to build on.

It's not like we just started practicing, I'm not trying to say that. I'm trying to say that the two days we had here had tremendous confidence going into the game and it very much felt like the confidence would carry over.

Q. I think LSU won, what 14 out of their last 15. What was the key or approach to stay close to a team like that, as well as --
COACH CREAN: You've got to do your best and not give them live-ball turnovers. That's what hurt us the first time. We did it right in the first game. It was a great example, we got down because of the turnovers over at LSU and had our head down, not realizing there's so much we can do to come back and we did in that game.

I think the biggest key is at the beginning and the end. You've got to get back in transition and then you've got to close it off with the rebounding. And we got second-chance points but their second-chance points were timely in a close game like this.

And that's what their greatest strength is to me. Tremont does so many things well. They've got a very skilled team. He's an excellent coach. They're deep. The guys -- everybody he puts in, there's no drop-off. When you're bringing Emmitt Williams off the bench -- I thought Emmitt Williams had as much to do with the win over Kentucky the other day. He scored eight straight points. He's just relentless. People forget he was one of the top five players in America going into the summer of his senior year. He's just a tremendous player.

They're deep in that way, even though they don't play a ton of guys. And you can't have empty positions with the glass. And for the most part we didn't. But the other thing is you can't overhelp. And that's the biggest thing is in the half court because Waters is such a good passer. You can't be in an over-help situation where he can kick it out for 3s. I thought we did better there. I may feel different when I watch the film. To me the biggest thing is the glass.

Q. You carried the second half strong, still had a five-point lead. What was the conversation during halftime like the approach?
COACH CREAN: No, there's no change. We were right there, close the whole way. So, no, there was no change. A couple of adjustments when we were struggling in the zone, where we got hurt a couple times. When we're in zone, we're staying with the ball. So they come up and set a screen at the top of the key or on the side.

We're staying with the ball. We're not putting two guys to defend one so all of a sudden they make a quick pass. We did that a couple times. So we had to get that cleaned up. We had to get the middle cleaned up. We had to make sure we were getting over a little bit better inside the gap.

And offensively we just wanted to keep moving. Reiterate it again. The more Ray and Nic moved the better we are, and we started off the half with an action like that.

Q. Do you see an expanded role for Christian or is it a matchup thing?
COACH CREAN: It's wide open. It's wide open. As I told the team the other day, every day, when we're trying to -- when you're trying to find ways to win and when you're trying to -- we all look to them every day. This is not about, well, let's see what we've got and let's build for the future.

No, we're building right now. If I'm going to preach to them to stay absolutely locked into the present, then that's exactly how we've got to coach it.

So it certainly could. Guys like -- he's aggressive. No question about it. I don't know. I make those decisions -- rarely the day before, usually the day of on how we're going to do that. But I'm starting to put playing groups together more in practice, which is helpful. And he has been a part of that.

Q. What are the positives and you say it every time but what are the positives you take out of this, building blocks?
COACH CREAN: Oh, competing. Without question. Competing. Not getting our head down and continuing the confidence. Confidence is a really hard thing. There's not any team that doesn't go through bouts of -- now Tennessee may be way ahead of people because they're veterans. And experience and understanding -- sometimes you don't have the experience but you've got to have the understanding. It's a long game. We can get through this. All right. We're going to play fast. I'm going to make a shot, right?

When we start seeing ghosts in a game, misses, turnovers, things like that, it's going to affect something else inside the game. And today we didn't do that as much. We grew through that in so many ways. And it's part of it for us. It's part of it. But I felt really good with these guys, and there was -- I thought our huddles, I thought all those things were really good today. And we just really focused on basketball.

We didn't focus on, hey, you're okay, it's a long game, get your head up. No, we didn't do that. I felt like that maturity that we needed to have was really important today.

And I think we changed defenses fairly well; thought we not only cut but we drove the ball. We felt like we really needed to drive the ball in this game. And what we have to recognize is, okay, are they going to come off the guy in the corner because they don't think he can shoot? Well, we've got to clear him. If they think he can shoot then we might stay there.

And you have to make those reads in the game. And I thought our guys were really good at responding quickly in the flow of the game when we were moving them around to create space. I could go on. But that's not good for me.

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