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March 2, 2014

Tom Crean


COACH CREAN:  Obviously a great win for us on a tough day weather‑wise to have so many fans be out here like that and be so energetic, it made a big difference.  Our players just responded.  I mean, this league is so tough that the only thing you can liken it to is a 15‑round fight every night, and we've been answering every round, and we've been dealing with it in a good way and I'm really, really proud of the way our team played today.  It's ironic that they were watching our highlight tape with the rematch of the Joe Louis, Schmeling fight from 1938 in Yankee Stadium after he got beat in 36.  Because that was our whole theme about losing the game in here last year.
Obviously, we've been waiting for this game for a long time.  I know I have.  They're a great rival.  Thad is as‑‑ Thad really doesn't get the national credit that he gets, not just because everybody knows he's a great coach, but that guy will be in the Hall of Fame at some point.  There is absolutely no doubt about it.  He's got almost 300 wins at Ohio State, let alone what he did at Butler and Xavier.  We battled against him a lot in recruiting, and I have tremendous, tremendous respect for him and what he does.
So we knew we were playing against not only a well‑coached team, but a great, great basketball team with one of the all‑time great leaders that I've ever seen in college basketball, college sports for that matter.  So to play the way that we did, to play the way we did without Noah, which I'm not sure‑‑ we knew it was certainly a possibility yesterday and it was a realization today this morning.
I thought our guys did a fantastic job.  The biggest concern we had there is are we going to answer the bell rebounding‑wise?  And we did.  It didn't always look like we did, but we did.
Yogi and Will led this team at a high level.  It took us a while to get solidified down low, but once Hanner did, we played pretty well there.  Austin Etherington was very unsung in this game, Evan Gordan was unsung in this game.  And really the guy that is just continuing to get better all the time is Troy Williams.  This was probably his most minutes, right?  It's got to be close, yeah.
But the bottom line it's been so important for him to be able to finish games and to get to a point where he can finish games offensively, defensively, and today I had no hesitation, no trepidation whatsoever in having him in the game.  I think that is a great growth spot for him.  So we're really, really excited about that.  I'll just answer about Noah, because I want to spend more time talking about the players who played today.
But the situation is it's an inflammation of the foot that's been bothering him for some time.  There is no stress fracture or anything like that.  It's just bothering him, and he's not very comfortable with it.  So it's truly going to be a day‑to‑day thing with him.  It's not anything that I'm going to be able to update you on every day because we're just going to have to wait and see how it goes for him.  He continues to be, with the rehab, it's nothing that's new.  It's just something that's bothering him more.  We'll wait to see how that turns out.  So I can't give you any answer on what he's going to do tomorrow.  I can't give you any answer on what he's going to do Wednesday night.  They're past that.  I really don't have much more to add to that, so go ahead.

Q.  Coach, they got out to a 20‑12 lead, and it seemed that they had a lot of things going easy, then you guys go on a 16‑0 run and kind of take control at that point.  What changed there?
COACH CREAN:  Defense, the switching, I think.  In our mind, much the same way it was the other night.  It's really hard to switch, and we had to play time and score really, really tight with Yogi.  It was a majority of one, I should say, wanting to keep him in the game when he got that second foul.  But we're trying to play time and scores as much as we could Evan Gordon was great in that.  I said, "what do you think here?"  He said, "I don't know.  You're the coach."  There is a guy I thought was going to coach one day.  I made my decision.  I got great guiding light from Evan on that.
But bottom line, the switching when they went smaller was a big thing for us.  We got good shots.  There were times we were taking quick shots and you can't do that against them.  You can't run handoffs against them.  I think our guys, as much as we tried to prepare them over the last day, not as much on Friday but yesterday.  They're as good as it gets at taking the ball from you and taking away the elbows and getting their hands on basketballs, not just Aaron, but the rest of them.  We needed to be better at that.
There were a couple times we came in there casually.  The guys that were casual with the ball, they weren't going to play for us today, because you just can't do that.
Bottom line, the defense, good shots, good ball movement, continuing to have our break and not trying to rush things was the biggest difference there.

Q.  Couple weeks ago you guys had taken some tough losses and you've now won 3 out of 4.  What have you been able to do to do that?
COACH CREAN:  Stay positive.  I just think you keep the negativity out of your world, you know?  I've cut back my reading.  I never read my Twitter time line ever anymore.  I don't care.  It doesn't have anything to do with what we're doing.  I think you try to get that across to your team.  I knew we were improving.  But you just keep that away.  It's not how you succeed in life anyways.  I've tried to get our guys to understand that.  I think they knew they were getting better.
I think we're able to point out from the films where we struggled and also where we were good.  I think it's very, very important, no matter what you do in the game, that you show them where the positives are.  It's so much about the emotion of where you're at, and if you come in and you're just dwelling on a negative emotion, that's only going to go so far.  You've got to keep taking what you're doing well.  You've got to keep taking what you're not doing well.  That doesn't mean you're accepting of what you're not doing well at all, big difference there.  But we've been working really hard to respond, and I think the bottom line for these guys is they know when we‑‑ that we are good enough to compete with any team in this league.  When we play smart and tough and thoroughly play the right way, we can beat any team in this league, and that's where we've got to be.

Q.  You said just sort of Will and recently the term was remembering who he is and all he can do and how he can affect points in the last two games.  Is that something that you just needed him to get kick started?
COACH CREAN:  It's what I said the other day.  It's not a situation to dive any deeper than what it is.  He's a really good player.  Every once in a while people forget it.  Well, I don't care if people forget it.  I care when he forgets it.  I think the most important thing is that he didn't need to forget he was a good player.  He didn't need to think that he was anything less than being a tremendous leader.  And he doesn't need to overthink it, just play, and he's doing an excellent job of that.
But there is no question he's running the court at a great pace.  He has got‑‑ your season is a lot like the individual players.  There is always a little watershed moments or defining moments that you make a decision.  I think after the Purdue game he knew, hey, I can be a lot better on the court when my leadership is where it needs to be every day, and that's exactly what he's done from that point.  So that might be a definitive place to start.
But you've got to remember this about Will, he helped turn this program.  I know we've been here a while now, but he walked into the doldrums of this place and Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo along with Jordan Hulls changed the culture of this program, and there is no doubt about it.  He is the only one left, and that culture is still moving in a great place because of what he does and guys like Yogi and others are doing more of.
But Will Sheehey is capable of a lot of things, and that's what we want him to continue to understand and do.

Q.  What did you like most about what Hanner did today?
COACH CREAN:  I've got to think about that.  He was ready to catch the ball.  We shrunk the playbook big time or the game plan, I should say over the period of time with Noah not in there, because Jeremy just wasn't going to be able to do some of those things in the sense of what Noah brings and at the same time some of the plays that we run with Noah.
But Hanner did a really good job of being in movement.  He got better as the game went on, gained his confidence as the game went on.  It was great to see his teammates were so happy for him.  I think the fact that he was able to continue to play even after he struggled maybe a little bit and really get better inside of it kind of epitomized the game.

Q.  About how much do the rapid fire games help this team?
COACH CREAN:  Well, I don't know.  I'm not getting anywhere past what day we're in, so that's all it is.  We're just trying to be better in every practice.  We don't spend a lot of time.  Like I said, we take all the other stuff out of it, and it's not like we run in there and show them what this person wrote or that person said, it's irrelevant to build a team.  It really is.  What we say matters, and you just keep staying with that and keep focused on how much better you can get, and that is the most important thing.
We have to understand that even if a team is good at getting back.  Even if a team is not wanting to run as much, as long as the ball is not stopping and the players are not stopping, you can really be in transition a lot.  But it's when the ball stops and the players stop moving, that's when it breaks down whether it's in the first couple seconds of the clock or the middle of the clock or at the end of the clock.

Q.  When you figured out you didn't have Noah, how did that change the game plan?  What did you want differently?
COACH CREAN:  Well, I think the bottom line is we still had to figure out how we're going to get fouled.  That is the biggest thing.  The two biggest things are there is no way to prepare for this.  We had to rebound better.  It's absolutely got to be a gang rebounding mentality.  I mean, all five more than ever because he gets so much done with the boards.  We said they're going to be anywhere from 8 to 15 boards sitting out there that somebody usually gets and he's not going to be out there, so we have to find a way to get those.
But we have to open the court a little bit more.  Some of the new stuff we put in, we didn't change that because everybody was here for that, but we just needed to really, really make sure our spacing was really, really good, and that we didn't become bogged down in the post where they weren't going to guard people.  Because he demands not only the best of coverages, but he also demands double teams a lot, and we prepared really hard the other day for the double team.
We figured the only way it was going to come today is if they really turned us over.  So what it was was more me shrinking what we were going to run, because we really didn't have a lot of time, this morning a little bit, but not very much.  We didn't keep them out there very long.  It was really me just shrinking what we would run.  So it was more just adjusting the game plan.  Figured out to spend a little more time running things that maybe we might just run a little bit, run them a lot more.  That's all it was.  We didn't try to put a lot of time in making them think about it other than the rebounding.

Q.  You talked about people stepping up and hitting big shots, but they cut it to one with ten to go.  Jordan hits a three, Sheehey hits a three, two really big shots.
COACH CREAN:  I don't remember all of that.  But I remember those shots.  Will's been making big shots.  That is the confidence that he has as he should.  That is the confidence that his teammates have in him as they always have.  That is the product of being in the right place at the right time because you're always moving.
Going to Northwestern he hit a big shot at a crucial time.  I mean, he's just really, really good with that mid‑range.  When he's not overly looking for the three, especially early in the clock from the corner, which is not a good shot.  He's really good with it.  So he's got very good ‑‑ there.  That is big.  I thought Yogi‑‑ it's certainly a measuring stick when you're in the game with somebody like Aaron Craft.  It's not an individual battle, per se.  I don't think you look at it like that.  But it is a leadership battle.  That young man Aaron is one of the great leaders of all time.  And Yogi matched up with that today, which is exactly what we had to have happen.
Now, can he continue to do that in his career like Aaron has?  That's the next part of it.  But today he did a fantastic job.

Q.  With the team being so young and being kind of late in the season, how do you keep everybody focused?
COACH CREAN:  Well, I don't think you worry a lot about focus as much as you don't want to put‑‑ it's really easy as a coach to put so many things in because we're such a game‑plan team.  Especially right now because we don't have the three‑point shooting.  That you've got to find different ways to do so many different things, and then every once in a while there is a situation‑‑ I always tell the coaches, I've got 12 of 14 new things (No Microphone).  An older team, I'd get to all 14.  Bottom line, you just can't do it.
You can't overdo it with the mentality part.  You want them to play free and easy, but at the same time understand there are certain things we have to do, certain things we can't do, and certain things we need to do in each game.  But we don't overpractice.  We taper this back a long time.  We're cognizant of how young they are and cognizant of how young the season is based on when it started.  I really don't know what other people do.  I don't ask many other people, because I think no two teams are alike.  You have to do what your team is calling for.  You just read your team, have the pulse of it as best you can, and that's all we're trying to do.  They're very focused.  They feel we can win.  And they know what we're going against.

Q.  (No Microphone)?
COACH CREAN:  I don't think there is any question that Penn State game shook us in a lot of ways.  They knew we weren't even close to the way we practice, and the way we prepared at the end of that game.  We knew we let the pressure and the emotion of the game get to us.  We've grown from that.  There is no question about that, even though we've lost a couple games with that too.  We let go from that.
We continue to spend time on situations.  We continue to add to the situation.  We put two new deals in today at the end of it because of the Ohio State presses off the ball so much.  And they know that is a huge, huge part of it because they've seen us win and they've seen us lose because of it.  I think the other thing is you just want your team to continue to be ‑‑ we can't get away from making sure we're doing a lot of individual improvement type things away from practice, but they shoot so much on their own as it is, but we do a lot of those things in practice.
I think you can never get away, never, ever get away, and I like that we never have.  All right.  Here or even at Marquette, you can never get away from making sure the most important improvement you do is the individual player.  So their confidence continues to grow.  Because you can have the greatest scheme in the world, and greatest plan in the world, but if they don't feel good about what they're capable of doing, it's never going to be as good.  So we try to stay with that as much as possible.

Q.  Just to go back to Will, what does it mean he's coming up on his last home game and see him closing on his career like that?
COACH CREAN:  I'm not thinking about that.  I'm sure I'll be‑‑ you're not going to Roy Firestone me.  You remember him?  Are you too young for Roy Firestone?  You're not going to get that.  I almost did it on the radio show with Don.  I'm not doing that.  He is a special young man, and we have been through so much that had nothing to do with basketball.  Same with Taylor Ware and Jeff Howard, and even Evan being here one year with us.  We'll be locked in that night.  That team could easily be ranked by tomorrow with Nebraska the way they're playing, if you're really looking at what the hottest teams are and we'll be ready to go.  I don't have any doubt about that.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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