They said it: Indiana coach Tom Crean and players Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams and Max Bielfeldt after losing to North Carolina, 101-86:
TOM CREAN: First and foremost, I can’t even begin to describe how proud I am of this group — these three and their teammates. With everything that they’ve accomplished this season and the things they’ve had to endure, to get to this point, and then even the things in-house with the injuries and situations like that that we’ve had to handle.
And every team goes through different stages. And they either really bond together or they fracture apart. And all this team did throughout everything is bond together to where it was just incredible. And it certainly hasn’t hit me yet that it just ended. So I’ll probably struggle with the questions of finality. But they’ve given everything to Indiana.
Yogi is leaving here as one of the great winners, and it’s really no way anybody’s going to be able to take that away from him. He’s won two outright championships in four years. And he leaves obviously with the accolades, was a part of our two Sweet 16s in the last five years. And what these guys have done is remarkable. And it’s been an absolute honor to coach them. And I can’t put it into words anymore than that.
As far as the game, North Carolina played outstanding. If they play like that, even remotely close to that, then they’re going to be very, very hard to beat. And I hope they do. Because Roy deserves it. And they shot the ball — first thing Roy said coming off the court is they shot the ball extremely well. Obviously we didn’t shoot it nearly as well as we’re capable of. I was never down about where our offense was, because we were missing shots we usually make. And we were missing shots that — I mean, you can’t have the success our team’s had on both ends of the court without having that level of confidence that those shots are going to go.
And they just didn’t enough. And the first half really hurt us, no question about that. But we never really got the post game under control. The 3s hurt us, no question about that, but the post-ups, they destroyed us. We couldn’t overcome that. And so when you’ve got a team like that that’s got the depth, the consistency that they have, and then obviously we’re playing without another starter in Rob tonight which hurt our depth in the back court and hurt our depth defensively certainly, it was just too much for us to overcome tonight.
But these guys battled to the very end. And that’s exactly what you want. And I feel awful for them, because they gave everything. They gave everything to each other. And they were getting better up and to this morning — or this afternoon at the walk-through. When your team is getting better all the way throughout the year and you can look at that and you know they know they’re getting better, then we got a lot out of it. That’s why it’s hard to see a season end. It wasn’t like we were running on fumes. We were injured, but we were improving constantly. But Carolina deserved the win, no doubt about that.
Q. Just how tough was it to have them get out in the lead and try to play catch up the rest of the night, how hard was it trying to get back into the game and doing what you normally do?
TROY WILLIAMS: The way we started it off, we had another slow start — this whole tournament we’ve been starting off slow and it came back to hurt us. I mean, we had games throughout the season where we would start off slow but we’ll find a way to get back. But — and they’re a great team. They just kept the lead and sustained the lead and also pushed the lead even more.
YOGI FERRELL: They were consistently making shots inside, outside, to start the game. And our shots weren’t falling. So going up against such a great team as North Carolina, can’t come out to a slow start. Gotta be clicking on all cylinders. We couldn’t stop them to start the game.
Q. All week we’ve heard that North Carolina doesn’t shoot the 3. They don’t make a lot of 3s and they come out and hit all those shots. How surprising was that for you guys and how did that take you off your game, so to speak?
MAX BIELFELDT: Yeah, you know, they’re not traditionally known for knocking down all those shots. But today they did. And sometimes you’re in games like that and you just have to be able to adjust. And we tried to do some things adjusting-wise, but one guy stops, knocks them down. Paige started and another guy would knock them down after that.
So as far as the scouting report, a lot of the guys who are numbers-wise decent shooters, had a lot of great days. When you’ve got guys like that with a team like North Carolina, it’s a tough train to stop.
Q. Yogi, could you elaborate or describe your feelings when you checked out and the fans are chanting your name, just your emotions at that time?
YOGI FERRELL: Emotions are high. To lose a game in the Sweet 16, didn’t get to where we wanted to get. But just reflecting back on all the four years I’ve had at IU, had a lot of accomplishments, and I felt I gave my all to IU. And at the end of the day I’m glad that Coach Crean took me to come to this university. I met a lot of people. Learned a lot of great things, and it’s just something that I’ll remember.
Q. Troy, you had a point in the second half where you scored about 14 straight points. And all it did was cut the lead to 10. How frustrating was that at that point to feel like you must have been doing all you possibly could?
TROY WILLIAMS: It’s not really frustrating. I mean, those points, I mean, it always sparked the team. Since I’ve been here, I always had to find ways to impact the game, not only for me but for my teammates as well. If it’s by a dunk, rebound or pass I do it. I always put the team first. And just, if it has to be scoring, it’s going to be scoring.
Q. Coach, could you talk about, in Louisville, with the run you guys made just to get here, just how special was this and is that one of the things you’ll take away when you think about this team?
TOM CREAN: I think they’re going to be so bonded. There’s going to be very few things in their life outside of personal issues or tragedies and things like that with what they’ve had to overcome. It’s been a bit crazy. And again we’re still talking about going in here yesterday, we’re talking about stuff that happened in November and December. I mean, I don’t know many teams that have to deal with that, but they’ve overcome that and continued to get better constantly.
And I think the way they were able to look at adversity or people’s version of it shut that out and absolutely focused in on what improvement is all about, what a level of commitment and connectedness is to one another. That’s why we had the success that we had. And the program has done a fantastic job of overcoming those things, and these guys take a back seat to no one on that.
So I’m proud of what they’ve done. And this loss will certainly become — it will hit me in a bit and that film will hit me. But it’s hit me every day that I’ve been fortunate to coach these guys.
Q. You touched on this a little bit in your opening statement. When Paige and the guards were making shots like they were, how much unreasonable does the task become because of how big and strong —
TOM CREAN: Marcus was making video game shots to start the game. I mean seriously. He’s a tremendous player. And Roy, I’m sure, feels about him the way I feel about Yogi and deservedly so. I remember when they were both in the game as freshmen at Assembly Hall. But we never got him under control with what we wanted to do on the wings. And he’s a tremendous wing shooter, and what he did was he got hot and was able to make them from other places.
And no question I was — I had to think about going against doctor’s orders for a minute to get Rob Johnson into the game, but that wasn’t going to fly. But he did a great job and he brought a lot of confidence to his teammates tonight. When you’ve got that, with the level of what they’ve got inside, it’s hard to deal with.
Jackson was as scary going into the game as any of them, because he’s their Swiss Army knife, like Troy is for us. And he did a fantastic job in the first half. He’s a high, high level player because he’s in constant movement. When a guy can move like that, can make plays, make shots, that movement frees it up for other guys, and Marcus did a fantastic job throughout the game, and especially to start the game.