Tom Crean Opening statement:
"We took Monday off and we've had a couple of really good days of preparation. Guys have a lot of energy, they're excited to play, and they're locked in and I think that's the most important thing you can ask of your team. They know how good Minnesota is. They know how good they have been. I don't think our guys get caught up in anything on the outside with that other than what they see on film and they really trust in what we tell them and what we see in a team in this league that could easily be 2-2 and with a couple of other bounces be 3-1 and you've got a national championship coach over there with an outstanding staff and you've got a lot of players that have been through it and some other guys that are relatively new, but they look really good to us. Rodney Williams is playing at a high level. He's an improved player. They've got different guards that can do different things. Certainly Ralph Sampson is more than capable of hurting you from the inside and the outside and we fully expect that they're going to come and play like their hair is on fire and we've got to do the same thing. We've got to do the absolute same thing. That's when we're at our best and there's really no room for error in this league. If you don't have effort and you don't have great energy and your level of execution and awareness and all those things are not at a high level it can be a tough night and we've got to make sure that we continue to stay locked in the way that we have, but these guys have done that. They continue to move forward and we've had the last couple of days where we could really lock in to not only the game-planning, but at the same time trying to work on some of the things that we felt needed to be improved upon or that might be slipping a little bit and at the same time keep them really confident with shooting the ball and working on those areas so we're excited to play."
On how Minnesota is different without Trevor Mbakwe:
"I think again you're not only taking a great player out, but you're taking a double-double guy that is a lot more than ten and ten at any given time and he commands a double team so I haven't spent as much time watching what they played like before him, but from knowing their team some. Trevor was a very underrated passer and I think what's happening now and what they're doing without him it seems like is they're cutting and they're doing a lot more basket cutting, curl cutting, things like that more than what they were. Their penetration is still really good. I think the fact that Joel Coleman, and we've always thought he was a good player, back in high school and his brother was an outstanding player there. He brings another dimension to them and they're a very capable team, there's no question about it. Again, when you watch the games you see how close they've been. Even against Purdue they had a tough first half, but they came back in the game. Still with them you're still going to start with how are you going to handle their pressure defensively and you have to keep them off the backboards and it's always been that way with Minnesota and even with Trevor out I don't think they're much different than that. You still have to be aware. Rodney Williams, inch for inch, is as good as anybody we're going to face athletically. His first step and now he's added that burst to his driving game and that's where you look at him and you see just a ton of improvement."
On the key to the effective 3-point shooting this season:
"I think we've got, for the most part, five guys on the court that you have to guard, our penetration is better, our spacing is better, I don't think there's any question that Cody (Zeller) brings more to the table in so many ways, but especially with the ability to pass and he has very good vision. Christian (Watford) has improved tremendously in his ability to see and make plays and I think our guys are better shooters. Obviously it shows up with Christian and Verdell (Jones III) is a better shooter. Jordan (Hulls) and Matt (Roth) continue to get a quicker release and they can do more than just shoot threes so I think when you're three-point shooters can put it on the ground and create for somebody else that's going to make your three-point shooting that much better and when your forwards can step out and they have honor them beyond the line that's going to make it easier for everybody else, but we're a product of good ball movement. If the ball doesn't move then we're not going to shoot at a high rate."
On Verdell Jones III's shot selection changing this season:
"I think it's everything. I think it's building on his role to be honest with you because he's a much better defensive player. He's getting even better off the pick and roll. It's having more versatile guys around him, better players, better shooters around him. It's having an absolute desire to win and knowing that we're good enough to do that and so I think that when you have that, he's improved in so many areas, so many areas. I think one thing that's keyed us is shot selection is really good, but his ability to be ready to shoot is even better because now he's the beneficiary of some passes coming back to him so I think all of those things help, but I think when he can get out in transition, he's just like everybody else, when we create a turnover, when we get a stop and he can get out and play, it makes it that much better and we've got more and more guys that can create offense from defense and that helps him."
On the different in Matt Roth defensively this year:
"I think strength is a little bit. I think intent, again, I used that word with Verdell, but I think it's the same thing with him. I think he's got some pride in the fact that people try to game-plan against him when he's in the game, but I think he's shown some really good moxie when in the 50/50 game when it's a loose ball and he's diving on the floor to get that ball or he's trying to rip it away from somebody. If I had to say one thing he's more aware defensively with help-side and being able to get off his man and then get back and at the same time he's got to continue to work at it every day and he gets pushed just like everybody else does on that because we knew going into the season that if you're a situational player it's going to be very, very hard to get minutes so his defense has improved, his ability to get the shot off even quicker has improved, and his shot fake. You want to run at him, go ahead, he's going to shot fake you, take a dribble, take the shot or make another pass and I think makes him that much more valuable."
On the importance of Roth's play with the absence of Will Sheehey:
"It was really, really good. I think down the road, who knows how it will be short term when Will comes back because you have to work a guy back in to the situation, but I think down the road there's no question that this can help our depth and it certainly hasn't been great for Will to be out and I wouldn't say it's made our team better in the short term even though we've been winning games for the most part, but I think in the long term it can definitely help us."
On Jordan Hulls 3-point shooting:
"He's always been an excellent shooter, but again, he's got other things besides shooting 3's. I think when you're known or when they can guard you for doing one thing, it limits that one thing, but because he can get to the rim, because he's getting better off pick and roll, he hit two 3's the other day off pick and rolls. That's important stuff, that's stuff that he wasn't always doing in the past. He can screen and then receive a screen. There are so many ways for him to score and again, he doesn't just have to have the ball in his hands to get shots off, but I think he's ready to shoot, he doesn't have to force shots, we've got other players on the court that can make shots, so when we utilize the entire front court and we get our movement, whether through spacing or though screening, and whether we get our shots off screens or drive and kick or inside outside of the post, he's doing an excellent job of making the next pass. Well that becomes contagious and then that next pass a lot of times ends up with him."
On the opponents 49 percent field goal percentage the last four games:
"Everything, as a coach, I don't know if you would call it a worry, but you're always trying to get it better, there's no question. We can shoot the ball better, we can defend shooting better and it's just the way that it is. I think the moment that you start thinking something is really good for you is when it's going to go downhill. There's no question that our field goal percentage defense can get better, can get a lot better, and some of that we've really tried to address this week. There are a lot of aspects to it, there's technique, there's communication, there's positioning, there's how we play certain plays, there's how we come out of timeouts, there's a lot of things that add to that. But the bottom line is it's having a unified defensive front where guys understand that they have to get better at it, and I think this team does."
On how Cody Zeller demonstrates his intelligence on the court:
"It plays itself on both ends of the floor. He's a very intelligent young man. He's got the personality, he's got the book smarts, the social skills, but he just transfers all that to the court. He can really pick up situations pretty quick; he absorbs what you're trying to get across to him really quick. He can make adjustments inside of the game, which I think is good. Anytime you give him something and he knows that it needs to be applied he spends that time doing it. He's very aware on the court. He's aware on the defensive end, he's aware on the offensive end. At the same time, we've spent as much time on him trying to improve him on certain areas defensively this week as we have with anybody else. I have no doubt that he'll pick that up and continue to get better at it."
On Matt Roth's success coming off the bench:
"I don't think we talk in terms of taking over, we don't view it like that, but I think his shooting, it energizes the team, there's no doubt about that. I think we see it in practice and I think if you're watching it you see it in games if you're really watching it close. Especially the bench, they're really, really cheering and trying to help each other. It gets so loud in the building that maybe it's hard to pick that up, but here's a guy who wants to help his teammates pick things up in practice and they're doing the same thing for him when he is in games. We just need the communication to be a little more continuous, a little bit louder, but he's as big a part as any in that because when he gets into the game that's going to change the defensive mindset. You have to know where he is at, got to have a lot of people who are aware of him. The more he can create for others, based on his shot fake, dribble, and a pass, the more that he can screen to get somebody open and in turn we screen for him, that just makes us that much more valuable.
On whether Matt Roth's defense has helped him get into the flow of the game:
Absolutely, it's helped him stay on the court, that's the biggest area. We'll see it, there are teams where they have things that they go to when he is in the game and we have other guys that they go to just like we do. There's certain players we want to see in a game and we're going to attack that, so that's just part of the strategy of the game. He take that personal and he's really trying to build on that. His improvement level is high. He's getting better, he can get better, and he's worked extremely hard. He's never not worked hard, but what he has done is he's adjusted to the speed of the game a little bit. With his shot release, with his range, his range has always been good, but his stepping into it and being ready to shoot haven't always been as good. He can backup to midcourt, but getting it off as quick, that's a different story, those are the areas where he's really improved upon."
On working to eliminate turnovers during the season:
"5-on-7 sometimes, much more physical play from the team that's giving us that look, that preparation, the guys that are doing that. There's breakdown drills that we do, there's so many different things that we do. The bottom line is I think you're constantly talking with them about the next pass, being strong with the ball, getting the dribble out in front of them, you're not saying to them `don't turn it over', you're saying push the dribble out or be strong with the ball, get the ball loaded right away, things like that. You're trying to give them positive reinforcement, but at the same time we watch the film. I think there's two kinds of turnovers, there's the aggressive turnover, and there's a turnover where we're indecisive and we're not strong with the ball and soft is usually the term we use in there. You're trying to get those corrected as much as possible and a lot of the times that's mindset. We don't want guys to not be aggressive and to not be on the attack. We want them to make good decisions and we want them to be strong with the ball so we keep making sure that we're trying to build on that in practice, show it in video, and at the same time make sure that they're thinking about that when they're away from here."
On Matt Roth saying he gets `lost in the game':
"That's Tim Buckley's saying. Yes and no. Yes, because they know he's there though. There are more plays. What you do is you try to sneak him in there sometimes with some of the sets. We had that happen in the Michigan game, and the same play in the Michigan State game where he set a screen and a guy comes off and it's a misdirection and he pops a 3. More and more people are aware of that, so the more that that happens the more he has to get lost in the game. Again, it's easier for him to be in one-on-one coverage or have it be a long close-out situation because we're moving the ball better, we're driving the ball better, and you have to guard these guys in a lot of different areas. Christian's versatility has helped everybody on this team. It's helped Christian more than anybody else. Christian can score so many different ways right now. Again, when you've got to look at that and you've got a forward who can play that way well all of the sudden the ball gets swung one more time there's Matt Roth sitting in the corner. You can't hug up on a guy right now and let Christian take his matchup because he's going to do it. It's kind of both, especially in transition you get lost in the game more. It's hard to get lost in it when you're in a half court situation and it's a shot clock type of thing. I think sometimes his range catches people by surprise. You know what, when they adjust to his range now, he'll just back it up a little more. Seriously, not many guys can do that, but he can."
Freshman Cody Zeller
On facing Ralph Sampson III:
"He's long and he blocks a lot of shots because of that. He's got good size and he seems to be pretty strong. I've never played against him, first hand, but he looks pretty good on film."
On Jordan Hulls' shooting abilities:
"Neither one of us are surprised at all that he's hitting them in games, because he does in practice all of the time. It opens it up a lot for us inside."
On how the team's 3-point shooting has helped the inside game:
"If they are covering the 3-point shooters, we're going to have a one-on-one inside which makes it a lot easier for us. But if they are focusing on us, then we can kick it out for 3's and that makes us a tough team to defend."
On adjusting the style:
"It's tough to defend both the inside and the 3-point (line). Penn State wanted to focus more on me and Christian, so Jordan and Matt (Roth) hit a lot of 3's, so it makes us tough to defend."
On going through his first Big Ten season:
"I've just been working hard in practice and doing everything that I have been doing and keep working hard."
On how practice against Tom Pritchard has helped him:
"He's definitely strong and he works hard. He's a really good defender and I've learned a lot of defensive stuff from him. He's been in this league quite a while, so I can pick up a lot of things from him."
Junior Christian Watford
On how far the team has come:
"I can look back at how fast we've turned it around. It seems like yesterday we weren't ranked and things have moved so fast. It's just been a great experience for us."
On Jordan Hulls shooting abilities:
"He's shooting tremendously. Every time he shoots, I think it's going in, and if it doesn't go in, it's not a bad miss at all. That's just the confidence that I have in Jordan. He works hard at it and is always getting extra shots up."
On Verdell Jones III:
"He's fine-tuning his role a little bit more on this team. He's more a leader in certain aspects on the court and he gets guys on the court where they need to be, more than anything. He's doing a great job for us. He's a playing a lot more defense and he's doing a tremendous job at being a leader on this team."
On how the team has worked together:
"Practice makes perfect. We go out and battle each other every day and it's only helped us get better day-by-day."