BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana head coach Tom Crean, along with junior Jordan Hulls and sophomore Victor Oladipo, preview the Hoosiers' game against Illinois on Thursday, Feb. 9.
"I think our guys are really excited to be home. Last week was a challenging week, an interesting week, and one where we played a lot of different games and to come out of it 2-1, especially with the start we had at Michigan, I think was strong for us overall. We learned a lot about ourselves last week. I think we really did. We learned what we're capable of. We learned what kind of toughness you have to have and how you have to be resilient when you're not as tough or when you're not as aggressive or when you're not on the attack like you are one night and you've got to turn back around and understand that you're fully capable of it and I think that's what our guys did at Purdue. We knew we there would be very little margin for error when you go into a place like Purdue and what errors you make you've got be able to make up for in your hustle, you've got be able to make up for in your aggressiveness, you've got to be able to make up for in your confidence and you just keep playing and I thought our guys did that.
"So now as we get ready for Illinois it's much the same situation. We're going to be playing against a team that is hungry. We're going to be playing against a team that has won big games, that has been ranked throughout the season, that knows how to win on the road, and they're extremely well-coached. I think they're one of the better coaching staffs in the country. I think the Big Ten is full of good coaches, but I think the Illinois staff is one of the best in the country and I think they've proven that over a period of time with how they've played year after year. It's a tough league and they're capable of winning anytime, anywhere. That's exactly how we're preparing for this game. We know it's a big game for the fans in the sense of rivalry. We know that we had a big win against them last year. We also know that we got smacked around pretty good when we went up to Illinois last year. They really showed no mercy in that game and we did not match their aggressiveness and we did not match their intensity and we paid for it.
"So we've had some really interesting games with them over a period of time, but we know this one is one that will be an incredible challenge because they understand what's at stake. They've got some guys that have been through it. They know what it's like to play big games in the months of February and March and we've got to continue to learn to understand what that means. That being said, we're looking forward to a phenomenal crowd. It's not only a white out, but I hope it's a loud out. I hope it's just numbing for how loud it is inside of the building and just breaks that decibel level again like we have a couple times this year so that's what we're excited about. We've had a good week of practice and we're excited to play."
On the problems that Illinois presents:
"They've got a very talented team. They're explosive. They've got tremendous guard play. Right off the bat they've got the leading scorer in the league, the guy that makes more threes a game than anybody else in Brandon Paul. They've got a guy that went from averaging two and one a year ago to 13 and 9 and gets all kinds of attention in Meyers Leonard. They've got Joseph Bertrand, who has bided his time in that program and is now one of the mainstays in that program. They've got Tracy Abrams who is a freshman point guard who has started all these games in the league and doesn't play like a freshman. They've got D.J. Richardson who is one of the more underrated guards in our league and maybe in a lot of leagues because of how good he is and how quick he is with the ball and how good of a three-point shooter he is. So they're a very talented team.
"Sam Maniscalco is a guy that has made big shots his entire career. He's a guy that has been a volume free throw shooter. He's a guy that is a tremendous three-point shooter when he was at Bradley. He's a guy they have on the court for them at the end of games when it's winning time so they're a deep team. (Myke) Henry is a tremendous athlete who can shoot the ball, who can get to the basket. Tyler Griffey I've always felt is a very underrated player in this league. They're a very good team and there's balance there. There's inside outside, they can run, they can score in the half court. They're one of the better teams in this league and I think when you have a lot of teams that are right there together sometimes it's easy to forget that. They're one of two teams that have beaten Ohio State in this league and they had a guy get 43 in that game so we know what we're up against."
Junior Jordan Hulls
"Illinois is a very talented team. Everyone is going to come into Assembly Hall and take us down and get the win in here. Everyone is going to attack us. We're going to get everyone's best shot. It's the Big Ten and everyone can beat everyone, so we to prepare ourselves for that and just get ready to play"
On the game against Purdue:
"I feel like we played a lot more desperate. We have to play that way all of the time. We can't deviate form what we know we can do and they way that we need to play in order to win."
On Victor Oladipo's performance against Purdue:
"It was really good for Vic and good for this team, really, because Victor can do so many things. More importantly, he can do things defensively for us that a lot of guys can't. He's 6-4, long, quick and strong, so he can do a lot of different things so for him to play that way offensively is really good for us because he can really open up the floor. He's so fast with the ball. He made good decisions in that game and hopefully, we can see that develop."
On Illinois' Brandon Paul:
"He's a really good player, a great scorer. He loves coming off curls. We've just got stay on him and not let him get loose or get any shots because once he gets his confidence up, he can hit really tough shots. You want a guy to get going that's a good as he is, so we've just got to do a good job of staying with him and making him take tough shots."
On Illinois' ability to play its own game:
"I really think so. It's on us to play our own game, don't let them dictate what we do. They are very versatile - they can run and slow it down. They are very big and athletic, a lot of guys can shoot the ball, too."
On what the team has learned over the past month with a large amount of road games:
"Road wins are hard to come by in the Big Ten. Being able to win at Purdue and Penn State were big road games for us and to be able to get that under our belt, we really feel like that's going to help us. It's the Big Ten and anyone can beat anyone."
Sophomore Victor Oladipo
"They are a really good team. They have a lot of players that can do multiple things on the court. We're going to have to come out with a defensive mindset in order to win."
On what the team learned from road games:
"We've definitely learned from the road games. Winning this past road game, we know what we have to do in order to win on the road and that's get to free throw line and not turn the ball over. We've got to do the same thing at home because nothing is handed to us. We've just got to come out with a good mindset and a quick start and see where it goes from there."
On his performance at Purdue:
"It gave me a little more confidence and I'm just going to do whatever I can to get my team the win. It just shows that if I keep working hard, things will pay off so I'll continue to keep doing that."
On the challenges that Meyers Leonard presents:
"He's very physical, big and demands attention. He's a very good Big Ten player."
On Illinois' Brandon Paul:
"He's good. He had 43 against Ohio State. He does whatever he can to make his team better. We're going to have to slow him down a little bit and see where it goes."