It's a night late, but here is the transcript from yesterday's press conference following IU's season-ending loss to Northwestern in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament:
COACH CREAN (opening statement): I think the story of the game for us was really when we were up six, had six turnovers within four minutes and went down four. The bottom line of this game was the points at transfers, the transfers came at very tough points for us. There were times I think our youth showed maybe in the sense we were tentative in our first postseason type of action here with a lot of our -- with probably half our team. But when we just were confident and attacked and got the ball into the middle against their press, we did some really good things. But we had a couple tough times with the ball, and they made us pay, and we've just got to continue to build our will on both ends of the court, build onto the rebounding mindset and culture that we've started to build again this year, and take that into a lot of different areas as we continue to bring the program back. I thought our guys moved pretty well defensively. They made a couple tough shots. When half your shots are threes, some of them are going to go in. But I think to hold them to 22 percent in the game, I think was a tribute to the way these guys defended. They were very active. But again, it was the points off turnovers, which got us and they did a great job of capitalizing on that.
Q. Just for whoever, or Verdell, what part do you think the zone and how they extended that in the second half had to do with those turnovers that coach talked about?
VERDELL JONES III: I think when they extended the zone, we became very passive and we weren't attacking it. We had a game plan, we just weren't following the game plan, and that affected us.
Q. For all three guys, what do you feel like you accomplished this season, and in what ways do you think you're better maybe individually than you were the first game?
DEREK ELSTON: I feel like the team, you know, just came as a whole. You know, in the beginning we kind of -- a lot of people wanted to do their own separate thing, and coach kind of got us together and told us we've got to play as a team, and that's exactly what we came to do.
I mean, it wasn't always the best at times, but every time in the huddle everybody was always together. So, you know, individually, I felt like I was real passive in the beginning, and then towards the end, I kind of picked it up a little bit. I just felt like the game was coming to me finally.
VERDELL JONES III: I felt like we finally meshed. We had some returns from last year, but we still pretty much had a brand new team with six freshmen coming in. I thought at the beginning of the season we were -- we really didn't get -- play well together yet, but I thought through the Big Ten and as the season went on and the more battles we fought with each other, we became closer on the court.
CHRISTIAN WATFORD: The main thing is I feel we got better overall individually and as a team, like Derek said. We came together toward the end a little bit, and we gave it a run.
Q. Derek, can you just talk about what you just mentioned, how maybe at the start of the season you were a little passive? What triggered that? We could tell in the box score your minutes have gone up the last few weeks, your stats have gone up.
DEREK ELSTON: You know, in the beginning of the year, I kind of -- I actually started, I wasn't playing too bad. Then towards the middle, you know, the Big Ten came, and I don't know, just I kept beating myself up. It really wasn't anything anybody was saying to me, it was just kind of all me mentally. But you know, I think it was after the Ohio State loss, I kind of talked to my dad and I got with Coach Buckley and a couple of the coaches, and they just sat me down, and you know, they told me -- I told Coach Buck, my main thing I was doing was I was trying to be like my dad, and he told me I had to go out there and be my own player, and that's exactly -- when I hit the court a couple practices in after that, I just felt into the game, I felt involved with the guys early. In the Big Ten in early practices, I didn't even feel involved. But I finally put my foot down and said I've got to start doing something, and like you said, my minutes went up, and then I got some confidence back, and then I started to roll with it.
Q. Verdell, can you talk about what were the big differences between Northwestern five days ago and Northwestern that you faced today?
VERDELL JONES III: I thought our turnovers were the biggest thing. I'm looking here, and they got 29 points off turnovers. If you want to win any game, that's unacceptable. I mean, I thought our turnovers was the biggest key and biggest difference.
Q. Verdell, how does the end of the season compare to last year for you?
VERDELL JONES III: I mean, we still lost in the first round, so it's still very disappointing. I mean, we had three seniors go out in a way we didn't want them to go out, and we've just got to build for next year.
Q. What's the biggest thing that the three of you each feel that you need to work on before next season?
CHRISTIAN WATFORD: My main thing would be just get in the weight room, just putting on weight for the physical aspect of the game and just keep working on my skill package.
VERDELL JONES III: Like Christian, weight. I'm still very thin, and I don't want to get beat up as much. My outside shot, pretty much every aspect; you can never stop working.
DEREK ELSTON: For me, I feel like my defense just needs to come along, just guarding someone one-on-one. That's the biggest part.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Crean, please.
Q. You started off talking about the zone. What did they do differently in the second half that kind of made it a little bit better, or what helped them more so, I guess?
COACH CREAN: What helped Northwestern?
COACH CREAN: I think when we go back and see the tape, they got some unchallenged points. There were a couple of rotations. We'd come out of the timeout and we played very tentative, our young guys played extremely tentative. It's to be expected to a degree when you're in the postseason like this, and you've got to go through it, and there's so many things. I'd like to have a dollar for every time I've said this season we have to go through it. But we do. We come out of a timeout, they run out of bounds, play one out, we're not alert to the ball, they get a layup. I thought our guys did a pretty good job. When you shoot that many threes, and we hold them to 22 percent from the three-point line and we're predominantly zone to the very end of the game -- they had some good movement. A couple times we got caught not coming all the way over with the cutter from the weak side when they overloaded the zone. But the adjustments we made this week, for the most part they were good.
A couple times we got a little -- we just weren't as alert as we needed to be, and that tentativeness played into it, and I think the bottom line, when you're turning it over like we did, you just lose confidence so fast because they're getting easy baskets.
Q. No one expected Jordan to make eight threes again, but he only got three shots. Was that them taking him away, or was that him not really looking for a shot?
COACH CREAN: You know what, I think -- constantly. I didn't tell him to shoot on Saturday. I didn't have to. Too many times I reminded him that he could make shots. He played like a freshman today, and he's done an outstanding job for us in a lot of respects. We expect a lot out of him. I think there was some tentativeness and apprehensiveness on his part. It was not a game where we could run a lot of screens because of their switching. It's a spacing game, and when we got the ball -- that being said, he did facilitate some, but we needed to make some adjustments in a hurry. There's two things a guard can never do, just like a quarterback in football can never do. You can't throw it across your body, and you can't pre-determine your decision. And he was pre-determining his decisions a little bit in the first half, and in the second half if you noticed we took the ball screen out of it. The ball screen was ended in the first half because we were so tentative around the half court line.
Now, we take the ball screen off and all of a sudden we're attacking that much better, and it shouldn't be easier, but it was. I think they were keyed on him, there's no question about that. But I also know that he passed up some opportunities that none of us would have had a problem with him taking. Just all part of a learning process for him.
Q. You talk about your young team needs experience, things for the first time and go through processes, how many of those things did they go through this season with the overtime victories and tough losses? Do you feel like they gained some of those experiences this season?
COACH CREAN: I think every time they set foot on the floor. When so many things are new for them, there is -- there's no question. A lot of guys have made a ton of progress, and what they're talking about is exactly right. I mean, they have to be able to mature their bodies and grow into certain things. We have to be able to learn how to really defend at this level, and so much of that is strength, it's hand placement, and we rarely ever get called for having our -- hardly anybody gets called for having our forearm into somebody, but we rarely ever get called for that because we're not strong enough yet to hold people off. We're not strong enough to body up people on cuts and drives, and we've really got to -- we've got to get to that. Our bodies have got to really take a totally different look.
And this is -- every program I've ever been in year one to year two is such a big jump. I think it's that way maybe in any sport, but certainly in college basketball it's a big difference, and that's -- our toughness training, our ability to get stronger, our ability to really will is the biggest word in my mind right now. We've got to develop more of a defense of an offensive will.
We do trap drills every day. We spent ten minutes yesterday doing trap drills around mid court because we felt like they would pressure us more because of the way we didn't deal with the press very well at our place near the end of the game. The first turnover from Tom Pritchard, I mean, he basically just puts it in his stomach and hands him the ball. That's not how we want to play. So we've got to continue to develop a toughness. We've made strides there, but we're not even -- we don't have close to the physical and mental toughness yet we've got to have to compete at the highest level in this league.
Q. I know this has been a grind --
COACH CREAN: Ya think?
Q. Are you happy to have a chance to breathe here or would you much rather get back to practice tomorrow?
COACH CREAN: Absolutely. I love the game. I love coaching so much. I felt the same way last year. It's a grind.
But I told the team something, I'm not sure they believed me, but this is the best conditioned team in March I've ever been a part of, going into the way that we practiced and our energy level and everything. That includes the Final Four team that we had. I mean, really, really in good shape.
Now, are we as good, are we as tough, are we as strong? No. We all know that. But I've enjoyed this team. I've enjoyed coaching them. There's been a lot of trial and error in this. You guys see where we're at on gameday, and a lot of times it's not very good. I can promise you with the trial and error and the rebuilding situation that we've been in sometimes, I'm shocked we're as far
along as we are. I know our record doesn't indicate that, but this program has endured a lot, a lot. And certainly we're not -- we're not through the tunnel yet, but I love coaching, I love coaching them, and I love watching them get better.
And now we've got to put our energies into recruiting even more so and doing the things that we have to do to move the program forward as they get a little break before we start back up.
Q. Derek talked about having peaks and valleys out there. What did you think he did near the end of the year to gain more playing time?
COACH CREAN: I think people forget he was starting for us during the Big Ten season. It wasn't just because I said, hey, let's give Derek a shot. He was earning it. We wanted to go bigger. Like I said, there's been -- the injuries set everything back, as they do on any team when you don't have a lot of depth to begin with. We took a couple of very good shooters out of the lineup from November and December when you look at Matt and Maurice. We weren't going to make up for that in one guy or two guys making a ton of shots. So we had to play differently, and Derek has learned how to do that. I think it's confidence for him, and it's alertness, it's awareness. It's not playing with anxiety, it's playing with that alertness. And he made a lot of strides this year, a ton of strides, and I think you've seen some of that. But he also made some freshman mistakes, and he's no different than anybody else. But he's been -- our young guys have made some very good strides, and we just had to -- sometimes they're not as noticeable, because sometimes when they're out there as much as they are, they're not nearly as noticeable if they were out there in bits and pieces because we'd have an older team where they could stand out a little bit more. They're going to continue to get better, I have no doubt about that.
Q. Moving forward, how do you address the need for some big guys?
COACH CREAN: Well, I think we have a lot of needs, and I think we've got to develop the bigs that we have. We've got a very tough situation right now in the sense, if you people have followed our program at all, which I know that you have, we had to get a team on the floor before we could build a program. Okay, that was last year. Then we were able to recruit guys that we wanted, that we had a chance to develop relationships with. We're very bottom heavy.
We have to have a balancing act right now between what do we need to do in the short-term versus how are we not going to have to start over again when these guys get older. In the purest sense of your question, there's no doubt we're trying to address that in a big way. They've all got to get stronger, bigger, better, more athletic that we have in the program, but we need to continue to address that. But I look at our team, and we also need somebody that's better at getting in the lane. We need somebody that can get in the lane and create havoc, that can get into that paint and make decisions to get the ball to shooters.
Our team will look different when you add the spacing element into it that Matt Roth and Maurice Creek bring. Obviously Maurice was our best guy as absolutely being able to get in the lane and make a play and make a good decision with it. But we're not anywhere close to being done recruiting, and that'll pick up again tomorrow in a big way. So we're going to address it. We have been, and at the same time I have to sit here and look ahead into the future and figure out, okay, how are we going to not have to do this again, and that's what's hard, because there's a lot of good young players that we're recruiting that we want, and we've got to make sure that we get those, and we've got to make sure that we have the ability to sign them when they come.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, coach.
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