BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana head coach Tom Crean, along with junior Jordan Hulls and senior Verdell Jones III, preview the Hoosiers' game against Penn State on Sunday, Jan. 21, in Assembly Hall.
"Our mentality is excellent right now. I like our practices. I like their focus. The thing I keep reminding them - we spend so much time talking about three stops in a row, and that's a big deal to us. If we went back and looked at two of the three games and we get three stops in two of those games, we've got too more wins, and the Ohio State game not withstanding on that. We get a couple different things done in the Minnesota game, even as poorly as we played early on and in the Nebraska game, as poorly as we played late - we're right there with two wins. And our attitude is to not only try and find those stops at the end of games, but we've got to find them during games. So three stops in a row, deflections, defensive rebounds, drawing charges, making the next pass, being stronger with the basketball - all of those kind of things are things that we've to continue to harp on, focus on, get better at and understand that that's the difference between winning and losing. Like I said the other night, it's never the end of the game - that's the climactic point and that's the drama point - it's during the game. And that's what we've got to do to continue to be better. That's how close we are to having two more wins, rather than two more losses. That's what our focus is and right now we just want to have a great home crowd. It's a sellout. I think every game is sold out, but the last non-conference game of the season and that's about 100 away from being sold out. So we need that great crowd energy, great crowd atmosphere and our guys need to help bring that as well."
On getting more scoring from the wings:
"I just think it's important that we just play better across the board on offense. When the ball was moving the other day, it was good, I don't look at it `well this guy's got to do this and this guy's got to do that.' It's really easy to do that. It's real easy to look at when we win this happens, when we lose this happens. It's more team effect. We've got to better job of taking care of the ball. We've got to get to foul line on offense. We want to continue to reverse the ball. We had some of the best segments of basketball that we've played all year on Wednesday night against Nebraska. We just didn't have enough of them at the end and that's what we've got to continue to build on. It's not any one or two guys, picking it up here or picking it up there. It's about a team really understanding why they win."
On Tim Frazier:
"He's as quick as we've faced. He is tremendous at drawing contact, not only from his man, but from the help defender. What they are doing now - as earlier in the season it was a lot more about the kick-out - now if you're not alert on the weakside, people are back cutting and he does a great job of finding the open man and he always has his head up. He is a real match-up problem, because you're not guarding with one, you're guarding with your team and the moment that you put too much emphasis on him, he finds a cutter. He's averaging 16 shots a game and he gets well-over the majority of their assists, especially as of late and every body has got to constantly be aware of where he is, but they've got numerous guys playing well. Guys that have had the experience of going through and NCAA Tournament a year ago that weren't as big of factors as they are now. Guys like (Cammeron) Woodyard and (Billy) Oliver and (Jermaine) Marshall - they are doing a very good job."
On defending Penn State as a whole:
"It makes it very hard because they get it off the dribble, they can shoot it off the 3. Marshall is very good, especially driving to the left and Woodyard is doing a great job of spacing. And Tim Frazier is finding those guys, so you've got to be very, very smart, in particular, of how you guard Tim Frazier because if you play him standard, I think he embraces that. The more pressure he gets, the better he feels. He's very comfortable inside of a pressure game, so you've got be very smart and thorough in how you do that. That just frees those guys up for a lot of looks. They play really hard. They play as hard, or harder, than just about any body that you're going to face because they are just relentless whether it's the back tips in the backcourt and they are sprinting ahead, whether it's the offensive rebounds, whether it's the rotations. Whatever it is. That's why ball movement is just crucial against them on the offensive end and making sure that you're not in over help on the defensive end, but at the same time guarding the dribble."
Junior Jordan Hulls
On playing Penn State again after playing them two weeks ago:
"We know Penn State will play really hard and that they are a tough team. We have to go above and beyond their energy level and make that part of our defense which will then turn into our offense."
On what the team needs to improve upon defensively from the last couple games:
"Communicate, help-side defense and box out - basic defensive things that we need to crack down on and get done in the game, as well as get consecutive stops on defense."
On playing in front of the home crowd after a pair of road games:
"It's definitely nice to be able to play at home. We are learning from the mistakes made in the previous games and going at it practice so we can get better every day. Having our home crowd is certainly a good advantage."
On correcting the amount of turnovers in recent games:
"We are playing too fast and not playing at our own pace, trying to pass the ball when it's not there and being careless with it. Those are all things that we know we can correct."
On the similarities between Nebraska's Bo Spencer and Penn State's Tim Frazier:
"Both are good scorers and can shoot the ball and create on their own. They are both fast and skilled offensively and we have to be able to maintain and keep our chest in front of them while communicating on defense as a team."
Senior Verdell Jones III
On where the team's mindset is right now:
"I think it is real good. We have a hungry attitude like we did at the beginning of the year and that's huge moving forward."
On his message to the team during the last couple games:
"I think for Jordan and I, the biggest thing that we have reiterated to the team is that we are not going to be taking steps backwards. We have been in a slump for the last two or three years and we know how terrible of a feeling that is. We never want to go back there again so the biggest thing is to not have lulls in games or in practice. We are fighting for our lives again and we have to have that chip on our shoulder."
On making adjustments during the game when things don't go in their favor:
"The biggest thing if we are in a slump on a scoring level, that's fine, but we can't let them score either. We have to keep getting stops and communicating on the defensive end. That will keep us in the game and still give us a chance to win."