BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana head men's basketball coach Tom Crean, along with assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Kenny Johnson, sophomore Cody Zeller and freshman Kevin (Yogi) Ferrell preview the Hoosiers' game at Penn State on Monday, Jan. 7.
Tom Crean, Head Coach Opening Statement:
"We've had a very good week. We've really focused on ourselves at the same time as getting ready for Penn State and just the league in general to make sure we can lock in to where we can improve. It's been a great week to get guys back in the flow and mix our teams and not just be in a game-planning mode. Our guys have worked. We took yesterday off and we still get about 80 percent of the team in here working on their own. We have great attitudes. There is a tremendous energy with this group, and they just keep getting better and better. As much as we want to get better for the long haul, our main focus has been and will continue to be on getting into the next game. As we get into Penn State, we know they are playing extremely hard, and it's almost like the other night they just ran out of time. They made a great comeback in that game against Wisconsin. That game was up for grabs. Wisconsin took the lead and Penn State never went away. I think that's what Pat's [Chambers] done with his team, and that's that they never ever go away. They're constantly playing. They're talented. They miss Tim Frazier, but every game they are that much more comfortable with one another, and you can see that. We're well aware of [D.J.] Newbill from when he went to Southern Miss and sitting out last year. He's certainly an outstanding player and can score a lot of different ways. Brandon Taylor has been a big part of their group as a new freshman and certainly now becoming one of the better shooters with range in our league playing from the forward position. Jermaine Marshall is a guy that continues to improve and can score a lot of different ways. I think their pick and roll defense is some of the best that we have seen. They're a physical, tough and demanding team, and we are going to have our work cut out for us. They are a team that relies on pace and wants to play a certain way, so we have to go in there and make the game go our way as far as pace goes."
On Newbill and Marshall playing without Frazier:
"Marshall and Newbill are handling the ball. They are taking most of their shots. Their teammates feed off of them. They are really dangerous when they're in the same action, whether they are on the same side, which they seem to be a lot. They both have things that they really, really do well. They have strengths that you really have to go into and try to attack those. I think the fact that Brandon Taylor is there, that [Nick] Colella is there, and make shots. I mean, Colella's shots have almost been all 3's. Sasa [Borovnjak] is also really improving. He's really good. He's as good a pick and roll defender as there is in the league right now. I mean, he's good. They're doing a great job of playing off of him. He sets great screens and he's a tremendous help to them defensively. Watching the game the other night, if they had beat Wisconsin, it wouldn't have been a shock at all. They just keep going. We learned that last year. You have to play every second of those 40 minutes against that team because they never stop going. The thing that they are doing a great job right now with is their transition offense. They do well with the delayed break and their drag actions are really good. Those guys are a big part of that."
On the importance of having their first conference road game under their belt:
"I think it's very important. It's crucial that they have that. This team needs to be in some fights. We've been in some fights, and the only way you can learn to win consistently in a league like this is to fight your way through it. It gave them confidence."
On lessons learned at Iowa:
"The biggest thing is when can you put the game away. When could we have done something better in this possession or that possession? When did we settle? When did we attack? I think those are important things as well as learning from the situations from the game, for example at the end with the press offense, who do we want to hit and what do we want to get out of it. We worked hard going into that, and I think its something we can continue to work on very hard on for each individual game. I think we can always get the ball reversed better. I think that's something we have worked hard on. We want to score. We're not trying to get it down into the shot clock, and I think the more we trust the reversals the better we are."
On the significance of responding to Iowa with a 10-0 run on the road:
"It's an understanding of what it take to win by the veterans, and it's the young guys really working their way in. We want to get this team to where Jeremy Hollowell, Peter Jurkin, Hanner Mosquera-Perea and even Derek Elston coming back from injury to be a big part of that. We haven't had a lot of that yet. We were basically a team playing with seven guys for the most part, and that's not what we want to do moving forward. Based on the ways things are and the circumstances we've been dealing with the last few weeks, especially in the case of Hanner and Peter and how long that took to get them back ... it takes time to grow into that. For that team that was on the floor to be able to do that was great for us."
On expectations of Hollowell and Mosquera-Perea's minutes to increase:
"I don't anticipate it to happen, it will. There's no question about that. It's just that Jeremy missed three games. When a freshman misses a day of practice or a game, it's like they miss a week. When you take someone out of three games, it makes it that much harder, and when your first game back is your opener in the Big Ten, it's hard. Experience is a part of it, speed of the game is apart of it, but just having an understanding of what those games take and the concentration that it takes. They'll grow into that. They've had an excellent week of practice, no question about it."
On the progress of Derek Elston:
"He's had a couple of setbacks this week, but today was good. Today was very good, and probably the best he's had since he's been back. Today he played like a guy who has played a lot of years in a lot of games with his help defense and his blocking out. He has to control what he can control. The shot going in right now may not be it, but keeping his man in front, being a help defender, being a rebounder ... those things are really important and offense will come. He just has to go out there and enjoy himself. He can't be a guy who is really vocal with his teammates when he's out, like he was, and then be really quiet when he comes back because then he's thinking, `well, this might not be going well,' or `I'm not making this shot or that shot.' You just have to play over that. It's all a part of ongoing dialogue that teammates have to have. Sometimes it's a pat on the back, sometimes it's being very demanding, but what you are is you are engaged constantly. He doesn't need to spend so much time thinking about what it's going to take to be better and come back, but more importantly control what he can do right now, which are the defensive things, the rebounding things, the spacing things and then just stay consistent with his habits on his shot. I think he'll knock it down here pretty quickly."
On the progress of Hanner Mosquera-Perea:
"I think so because even when he was out, we knew he wasn't going to be in for awhile. You want to keep him ready for games but all of the sudden the appeal doesn't go and now he's out for nine games. He's doing different things and we're trying to make his skills better, but he's not really preparing for games. As much as you try to have him prepare for games, he's not in games so he's got that game experiences and really right now just totally unleashing that athleticism and using that wingspan. All young guys think too much, and when Hanner is aggressive and spreads out and runs the court. You can tell he's thinking too much with the dunks he misses. I mean, this guy is going to win many dunk contests in his life like he already has. Just go out and play. There's that comfort level that has to come. You can't force feed it, but you want them to get more comfortable with what they're doing and that way you can keep challenging them to improve. That's where the growth really comes. I think he is getting a lot better."
On Mosquera-Perea's offensive skill development:
"We have mixed a lot with our development and skill. Today, we went 30-40 minutes of just pure working through contact, drives and shots and all of those types of things that really push them to develop their skills. He's done a good job with that. We have been spending a lot of time on pace and how we want to play, and today was probably his best day with that. He's improving with that. There are so many different things you've got to be prepared for in a game, and you want him to have the confidence that he can score, that he can get the ball and that he can stop his man from scoring. The next step is to see what his communication is like defensively.
On Jordan Hulls' response to having an off day shooting:
"He was right back in the gym. There were no real issues with that. He impacted the game. He's been fine. He has had a great week, and I wouldn't say he's shot it great. The good thing about that is that he is doing so many other things well, that even when he isn't a tremendous shooter in practice or games, he still impacts the game at a high level."
Kenny Johnson, Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator On Penn State:
"When you talk about Penn State, you have to start with [D.J.] Newbill and [Jermaine] Marshall. They are a great combination as far as points per game and leadership for their team; you start with them, but it doesn't end there. Ross Travis is a guy who is rebounding as well as anybody in the league right now. Sasa [Borovnjak] is playing with a renewed passion being that this is his last year. He has really improved from last year. Then you have a young kid in freshman Brandon Taylor, who I actually am very familiar with. I followed him a lot last summer, so I know what he's capable of doing and I kind of compare him to a young Christian Watford in how he plays based on his versatility and things he is capable of doing. Donovon Jack, who comes off the bench, hasn't played very many minutes but he is somebody who is very capable as well, and you've got [Nick] Colella, who is obviously a great 3-point threat. Over 91 percent of his points come from beyond the 3-point line. Going into the last game, he has shot over 50 percent over the last five games from the 3-point line. We have to know where he is at all times. They're a team that is going to play hard. They take after their coach. There is no quit in them. They have dealt with some adversity obviously, in losing one of the best players in the country going down, but they've battled through and were right into it until the end in their past game with Wisconsin. They do a lot of things and their strategy going into each game is very solid."
On PSU's Newbill and Marshall operating without Frazier:
"Frazier was a do-everything guard and there's no substitution for him. Newbill has transitioned into taking over some of those point guard responsibilities almost exclusively, and he also has the role of being a lead scorer for them through the past few games. Marshall is someone who is very dangerous. He had 19 points coming out on the road at Wisconsin, but Newbill does not have very many weaknesses. He drives the ball hard to the right. He's good with the pull-up jumper. He's good getting to the basket. He has that warrior's mentality. Those guys you can tell looking at the film, when they had some adverse situations against Wisconsin you could see them leading the huddle. Those guys are going to have the ball in their hands. They're somebody you're going to have to account for on every single possession. They're competitors."
On how to prepare for these early conference road games:
"Our quest is always to maximize ourselves as a team and figure out how good we can possibly be. You approach each game with the same amount of respect, so the preparation that we are doing for this game has matched every game that have played up until this point. It's making sure that we are prepared to go out there and defend, execute offensively and communicate. It's really about making sure those three things travel no matter who the opponent is."
On getting their first road game under their belt:
"We've been preparing for it. It's something that I've touched on in the past. We prepare for each and every situation every day. I think getting out there and getting that first road game under our belt was good for us. Anytime you can get a road win in this conference is something that you never take for granted. Acclimating the freshmen into that type of atmosphere and allowing them to see what that is like, we emphasize to make sure our communication travels. Your scoring may not always travel, but if your defense and communication travels you're at least giving yourself a chance, and it's something that has to happen in this league to be successful."
On lessons learned from Iowa game:
"It's really hard to simulate adversity. Basketball is a game of runs. They're making their runs, we're making our runs. Their crowd is in it. We have to make sure we make our defensive adjustments. I think they started off with maybe nine of their first 10 field goals in the second half after not shooting well in the first half, so we had to get into that timeout and make an emphasis on our defensive principles, have great shot selection and to come together as a team. There is nothing like the road to help a team bond even at a higher level thought to be previously possible."
On thoughts on having a week off from competition:
"The level that we work at, the intensity level, it's always a positive for us to get in and really emphasize certain things. I think leading into games - the things we have really emphasized have always ended up being done well. You have that week break; you are able to lock in on yourselves as much as you lock in on your next opponent. We are going to be coming up on stretches here where aren't going to have as much time to go back and emphasize what we want to do, because we have to focus on our next opponent. In this break between games, you're really able to focus on fundamental things you want to get fixed: a lot of individual player development, a lot of metal reps and a lot of film work. Things that we think will help us with the next opponent down the line."
On the progress of Hanner Mosquera-Perea:
"His approach has not changed, but I think everything slows down for you the more you get involved. There is no substitution for experience. You see the daily improvements, and the game is slowing down for him. I look at him and think he's a vastly different player than three days ago. Just looking at his level of understanding of what we want to get accomplished, his level of comfort in the system and teammates. Our guys are great with communicating with each other in this type of environment, so he's never been out of it mentally. Coach Crean does a great job of creating adverse situations in practice, and the guys have to communicate through it. As opposed to just hearing and taking instructions, Hanner's able to just verbalize and understand where we are. I think that it's only a matter of time before he is able to take off and be just as productive as he is in practice in games."
On where Mosquera-Perea needs to progress and where he is getting better:
"It's no different than any of the other guys. I talk about communication with him. His stamina obviously isn't where the other guys may have been at times. I think he's done a really good job of pushing himself to get back up to speed stamina wise and understanding the physicality of the game and grasping the game plan and really starting to execute."
Cody Zeller On what the team has seen of Penn State on film:
"I know from last year, they always play hard and never let up. They have a lot of talented players, even better from last year."
On the difference of having D.J. Newbill at point guard instead of Tim Frazier for Penn State:
"They are different players. Newbill is very explosive, can get to the rim. We haven't played against him yet, so it's hard to compare him to Frazier, but they are both definitely good scorers."
On winning their first Big Ten road game:
"We don't worry about it too much. It's big just getting us started being 1-0 in the Big Ten. Winning at Iowa has been tough for us, but it was a big win for us. But we went right back to work the next day."
Kevin (Yogi) Ferrell On the lessons the team learned from the Iowa game:
"I would say that what we learned was transition defense and getting back, working on communication. Coach talks about communication, pretty much every practice, so that's just one of the things we're working on. We feel like we're tighter as a unit on defense, especially when we communicate on the floor."
On working on communication:
"I think it just comes from within. We definitely want to show the coaches that we are tough, so showing that is just communicating to those guys because we don't want to leave guys, especially on defense, out on an island because they won't know what they're doing. Guys who are on the ball, they can't see behind them, so we just want to talk to them and tell them what different coverage we're going to play."
On how different communicating is on the road:
"We have to do it 100 times more on the road, especially because you won't be able to hear in a Big Ten game. I remember at Iowa I couldn't really hear. Its just that much more focus we have to have on communication on offense and defense."