BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana head men's basketball coach Tom Crean, along with juniors Jordan Hulls and Derek Elston, preview the Hoosiers' game vs. Northwestern on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
"We've enjoyed the time to get ready for Northwestern because they are such are hard preparation. This league is full of teams that are unique, that you never feel as a coach like you have enough time for once the game comes, but with Northwestern there is no way around that. They're very, very, very good at what they do and like I've said to the players, your communication has got to be at a high level, your physicality has got to be at a high level, you've got to play extremely intelligent and know what they want. At the same time, you've got to come down and play with great confidence and confidence comes from sharing the ball, from helping each other out offensively and defensively, from doing the things that are really, really important to winning, which is making sure we're taking care of the ball, making sure we're getting great shots, making sure we're screening at a high level, but again, you cannot come down and try to play this game individually against Northwestern because they are so good at what they want to do.
"They have a high level team. We have great respect for their toughness and they are a group of guys, not only do they have a great system, but they have an excellent group of players. I think when you've got people that have scored the way John Shurna has and the way Drew Crawford has inside of this league over a period of time, the way they're shooting it right now, the last five or six games those two have averaged 28-29 shots between the two of them so they're a big, big part of their offense, but they truly never put a guy out on the floor that can't make a three-point shot and that you don't have to guard to the three-point line and that creates challenges and it creates unrest as a coach, but hopefully it creates a lot of excitement for the team."
"The moment you start to think you're going to play to take one thing away, they just beat you with something else. They do the best job around of reading how you're playing the man they're bringing the ball to. So when they start their drive they're not reading where their teammate is, they're reading how he's being played I think because that's what they seem to take advantage of. There are certain constants, there are certain non-negotiables that we have got to be certain of as we play and at the same time, if you start to be so concerned about the back cut you leave them open for 3-point shots. They're getting 27 points or maybe a little bit over that per game right now. They had 30 points from three the other night against Purdue so they're a very dangerous team from all across the board.
"There are two things that are very underrated with them. They run extremely well. They get out and play. Shurna does a great job of running the right side and they do a great job of finding him and they post very well. I think they've added even more ways to post up, more ways to isolate than I remember in the past so that just creates that much more of a challenge to your guys to make sure that they stay true to their principles."
Junior Jordan Hulls
On the being familiar with Northwestern's offense:
"It's definitely a lot easier, but it's still a tough offense to guard. They execute really well. We've had a good week of practice preparing for it and we know we've got to be locked in on the defensive end because of how well they do execute."
On having a six-day break:
"It's just a huge deal for us, especially going through the Big Ten. It's such a physical conference and when you do get a longer stretch between games, it's always good to get in the ice tank a little bit more, stretch and some time off. It's a physically demanding game, so you want to take advantage of it."
On Northwestern's offense:
"You have to be alert and aware on help-side defense. You over-commit too much because step back and hit a 3. We've just got to be aware all the time of where the shooters are and where your man is. Like I said, our defensive mindset is going to be have be really good."
Junior Derek Elston
On the benefit of having a six-day break:
"We like back-to-back games, but with teams like Northwestern, we're glad to get that break because this is a team where you kind of need a couple extra days to get ready for. We've been getting a lot film sessions and getting our bodies prepared for this grueling game."
On being more comfortable in games knowing of this season success:
"Honestly, I don't think any of us look at it like that. After what we've been through that past couple of years, we kind of feel like every game is so important to us whether we're ranked or if we weren't ranked. Every day we're going to come out here and practice, and even in the game, we're going to give it our best shot and I feel like that's how we've been playing all year.
On defending John Shurna:
"Shurna is a very good player. He's a jump shot, it's a little strange, but it goes in 50 percent of the time. I feel like every time he shoots it, you're expecting it to go in and if you do jump, he's very skilled enough to just shot fake and go right around you. He's very crafty around the rim. He throws up stuff that just seems to make it's way in so you just have to have your chest in front of him."