Men's Basketball

    Talking About Illinois

    Go Hoosiers! Tom Crean
    Go Hoosiers!
    Tom Crean
    Go Hoosiers!

    Jan. 24, 2014

    BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana head coach Tom Crean previews Sunday's game against Illinois. The game starts at 3 p.m. ET and will be televised on BTN.

    On Will Sheehey's status:
    "We are hopeful that he is going to play. He did a little bit yesterday in practice. I'm not able to say if he is ahead of schedule or behind it, but I think having him out there was a real good thing. He just didn't do very much, but he did some non-contact stuff and things of that nature so we will see how it goes over the next few days. I think after yesterday that we would be hopeful."

    On how the team has developed since the Big Ten opener at Illinois:
    "That is a good question. I think we have developed considerably. When we make mistakes, sometimes they are self-inflicted. A great example is the other night (at Michigan State) - we had young guys having very veteran moments, where we did some great things defensively and offensively. But then we also had some young guys that had some freshmen moments with tough shots or mistakes on screens. And what we are trying to get across to them are two things: the best teams and best players make you pay for mistakes and the margin of error that you have in this league is so small, that's why you have to keep your mistakes as minimal as possible and treat every possession as the most important possession in the game. Now that is very hard for a young team to get to, but I do think we are making strides in that area. I think our desire to compete to win, understanding more and more has been very strong and a lot better.

    "With the exception of Saturday (against Northwestern), when you are not making shots and your confidence starts to go, it is amazing how much more fatigued you can look in those situations. When you are making shots and having success, it's amazing how much energy you can have. I think our guys have to understand that it doesn't have anything to do with that. Your energy and ability to play through things has to remain a constant, no matter what is going on with your own personal game or shooting or how much of a grind it is. You have to be able to play through it. That's an area that we have to continue to improve upon. But I think we have made a lot of strides in a majority of areas since we played Illinois the first time."



    On what he sees from Illinois:
    "They are still a very veteran group, there is no question about that. They do a great job of getting to the basket. They have had some tough shooting nights, like many teams in this league can have. Because of those veterans and the abilty of guys like Bertrand and Abrams and then what Ekey is capable of, especially the way he shot it last night. We know Rayvonte Rice, after having a tough night last night, is going to come in full of energy and intensity. I think they are just a product of this league. You have to make shots in this league and they are hard to get, they are very, very hard to get. There are a lot of different ways to play and there are a lot of different styles inside of a game, no matter what your style of play is, it is always going to be different because of the other team and it is going to change throughout the game.

    "But I think they are a veteran group. I think they are going to come in with a ton of excitement and energy. I think we are going to get their very best and I hope they get our very best."

    On what Rayvonte Rice did well in the first meeting this season:
    "He got to the basket. Pure and simple he got to the basket. He creates angles and he is very strong and creates contact. He got to the free throw line as well as the basket and made some shots. He is a great competitor and you can see that. He has uncanny ability to use his body and get around people. Some of that is strength, some of that is speed but some of it is an inner sense in his game to create different moves. Stanford Robinson has some of that.

    "Bottom line is, the other thing (Rice) has is that it is hard to come off his teammates because Bertrand is capable of making shots; Ekey is a tremendous shooter; Tracy Abrams is a guy that can get to the rim and make shots; Kendrick Nunn is playing better. So to me, he really over-powered us at times getting to the rim."

    On how the team can improve on making layups:
    "I think some of it is fundamental and some of it is part of the game. If you look around this league especially and follow some of the comments from other coaches, it is the same thing. I have seen other coaches, most recently Thad Matta, reference that you have to be able to play through the contact. And there is a lot of contact at the basket. You have to be able to keep your concentration his and keep your fundamentals high. You have to use the backboard.

    "For us, so many times it has been taking one more dribble. We had a couple of tough shots at the basket the other day. The one thing you can't do is throw the ball at the rim or the backboard and hope that it goes in. We had a couple of those moves in that span in the second half where Michigan State was getting a bunch of great looks and we were taking a couple of tough ones. Our intention was good; our intention of getting to the basket was good, but the fundamental of making the shot or making the next pass wasn't as good. We have to out-grow that. That is youth and inexperience to be honest with you. It is really nothing more than that.

    "As far as the layups, we work harder and harder on that. A guy like Stan Robinson is one that has to make the crane layup instead of always looking for the contact that comes with it. And then at other times, you have to be able to play through the layup. Really, we concentrate on the fundamentals as much as possible on that, nothing has changed on that from the beginning of the season. Now it is just a matter of `Do I have a layup?' or `Do I need to pump fake?' or "Do I need to take one more dribble?' or "Do I need to go get it on the other side?' And I think what happens is, because of the length and athleticism in this league, it is a lot easier said than done. Every situation is different. We are no different than other teams in this league, and I just make a point of it because it is what has hurt us some.

    "We are the same team that made a ton of layups and close shots in the Wisconsin game a little over a week ago. But it is all part of the game and all you can do is continue to build their skills and help them build their concentration."

    On what Stan Robinson and Troy Williams has improved upon this season:
    "I will start with Troy. He is continuing to build patience and learning the different angles. We still see this in practice and yesterday was a great example. There were times when he was absolutely tremendous yesterday in practice but there were also times where he had some turnovers because he goes too fast. You have to have patience with Troy because speed and getting to the rim and playing fast are part of his game. But helping him get that internal compass and clock that slows him down a little bit, that takes a little bit of time. You have to develop that. He is getting better with moving without the ball. He is getting more and more consistent at going to the offensive glass, which is a big thing for him. He is learning, defensively. The big thing for him moving forward defensively is to not react to movement, but react to the ball and react to the players midsection, rather than reacting to head fakes or change of direction or shot fakes and things like that. That is part of gaining some stature and experience defensively, of being in those situations. And then being able to play through his mistakes and get back into it. I think there's where we want to see his confidence take the next step. He can get out in the open floor and we want him to continue to do that. He has a flair about his game but at the same time we want to keep putting those fundamentals that make that flair really come out. I don't think he is any different than some of the other great, young talents with athleticism that I have had the privilege of coaching. It just takes some time to get to that point.

    "What Stanford Robinson has been is a guy that has continued to develop his skills. He has continued to develop the ability to go both ways. He has a very natural instinct at being able to get to the basket. He is improving his shot. He is improving at not playing in tight spaces, which is where a lot of his turnovers came. Or they come from not pounding the dribble and turning it into a drive versus just dribbling the basketball and using a crossover as part of his game instead of a weapon. I think the next thing that we can see from him is continuing to have improved decision-making on the court. He has to make his close shots and layups. If it's a clean layup, take it. If it's contact, take the contact and make the play to get to the foul line with confidence.

    "Both of them need to really keep being on the glass, offensively and defensively, because that is always going to be a big part of their responsibility and a big part of their game."

    On each game in the Big Ten being a new challenge:
    "There is no question about that. I do think it is like anything else, when you have veterans like Illinois does, and you get caught up in looking at the numbers and their percentages, that can be very misleading. They have got players that have played in a lot of Big Ten games. Even the guys like Rice and Ekey have played in a lot of big games. (Indiana Director of Operations) Rob Judson knows all about Ekey after coaching him at Illinois State. And obviously with what the Missouri Valley Conference is doing in both of those guys (Rice and Ekey), they had a lot of success in that league and it's a strong league. So they have great understanding of what it takes to be successful and they have a lot of very tight games.

    "I think that is what the Big Ten is all about. You never know what play is going to win it for you, just like you never know which one is going to lose it for you. That's why you have to put some much into every possession. At the same time, you want to be able to run and play the way you want to play. When you look around, maybe a lot of the other leagues are having conversations about poor shots and finishing through contact but that is a topic in our league right now. They are hard to get, they are harder to make and they stand out when you don't get them. I think that is the epitome of the league. It is so close and so closely contested - look at the end of the Penn State-Nebraska game last night. We have only had one game (home vs. Michigan State) where it didn't come down to one or two possessions, win or lose. You have to have confidence; you have to have energy; you have to be able to play through your mistakes. So much of it in this league is being able to have a short memory and move on and not live in the last success or the last failure. You just have to move forward. And I think that is what will withstand it over a period of time in this league."

    On having three former Division I head coaches on staff with the addition of Rob Judson as Director of Operations:
    "I love having great people around me. I was always taught at a young age to surround yourself, whether you are working for someone or with someone, with people that make you better, can make you think and have creativity. To me, I love flexible thinkers and people that have been there. I love people that have a willingness to learn, grow and change but also have some real-life experience to bring forth. Because it is one thing to have a lot of untried and untested ideas; it is another thing to have people that have actually been through it and know what works and what doesn't. I think already, in a short period of time, the aura of having Rob around our coaching staff has been fantastic. We are talking about a man that has done it at a high-level as a player. He has done it at all levels of high school and college as a head coach, assistant coach or you name it, and had a lot of success at it. I think there are a lot of things that he can bring to the players, in terms of life skills and life perspective. But I think he is bringing a ton to the coaches and I think Tim (Buckley) and Steve (McClain) and Kenny's (Johnson), who is going to be a head coach it's a matter of when, not if. I don't plan to lose that desire to have great people around me, because I was fortunate enough to be around some coming up as a coach. I think they bring a ton of confidence. I think they bring a ton of ideas. But at the same time they understand that when we walk out of here, it is unified and you don't have guys with hurt feelings because their idea got shot down or didn't come to life. They move right on and I think that is a big thing."

    Expanding on "taking one more dribble or getting a better angle":
    "I think the biggest thing on that... I will give you a great example. The other night (at Michigan State), Jeff Howard makes a back-cut and with no defender there it would have been a clean layup. When the defender comes, taking one more dribble, rather than trying to speed it up, allows you to take it to the other side and into a fundamental layup, giving him a better chance to make that layup. I think what we are constantly working on is all the different ways to make layups. It is not just about the conventional layup, we are working on those things constantly in practice against pads and against other contact. Yesterday, we even had more hardcore battles in there in our post work. I am not big on us practicing fouling, but for a couple minutes yesterday, there was some of that because you have to be able to play through that.

    "To me, it is the `straight ahead' where you can really see it. When you are coming down the lane and you are either changing hands or changing direction without changing hands, you are trying to get by the defender and you are so concerned about making the move that you forget to take one more dribble to get a better angle. So the dribble is like the backboard. The dribble and the backboard are really synonymous with creating an angle. Take one more dribble to get to the glass. Take one more dribble to give yourself a better angle at the rim. When you try to finesse it or finger roll it or throw it up or get the contact rather than make the layup, you usually are not going to be successful. You might be successful 15 or 20 percent of the time.

    "When you play it as fundamentally sounds as much as you possibly can, and take that extra dribble and use the glass the proper way, I think we have to pump fake more inside and we are working on that, then you have a much better chance. What you have in us the last two and a half years is we have led the BCS in free throw attempts. I think we have had a lot of success around the basket; even when the shot didn't go in, we drew the foul. Sometimes I think that's where a pump fake with this team will help a little bit. Frankly, we are not as strong as we have been the last couple years of playing through that contact because we are just not there yet. Our bodies have not matured to that point yet, but they will. So in the meantime, you have to be in a situation where you give yourself every opportunity to make the basket."


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