They said it: Indiana coach Kevin Wilson and players Nate Sudfeld after Hoosiers beat Purdue, 54-36

Indiana’s 54-36 victory at Purdue on Saturday earned the Hoosiers their sixth win to make them bowl eligible. Where they will go — likely the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium — will be determined this weekend.

But while the opposition wasn’t the best the final two weeks of the season, it’s important to note that the Hoosiers won two games on the road to get to 6-6, beating Maryland 47-28 and then claiming the 18-point win at Ross-Ade Stadium for the program’s third-consecutive win in the Old Oaken Bucket series.

Here’s what IU head coach Kevin Wilson and quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who became the school’s all-time leading passer, had to say after the game.

Indiana Head Coach Kevin Wilson

Opening Statement:
“Our mantra has been that you’ve got to go hard and go for it, because we have struggled through the years and we didn’t want to get into a game where we are playing not to lose. We just wanted an aggressive mindset. We’ve had some injuries and guys keep stepping up, it was really good to see. I’m proud of the guys to finish with two good road wins and get us to six wins and a chance for a bowl experience.”

On quarterback Nate Sudfeld’s play:
“The last couple of weeks, we had a couple guys out and it shows how good our team is. The key thing is that the line is good, our tight end group is good, and the running game goes which allows Nate to distribute. Nate’s playing good, I’m proud of him. He’s awesome. He may have a chance to be the best quarterback in this league. There are a couple of great ones, but he’s played well. We need to win more games, but he’s playing with a decent group. I don’t know if it’s a great group, but when you put them together it functions pretty well and it is fun to coach.”

On what being bowl eligible means to the program:
“I know how hard these guys have worked. I want these kids to taste some of the rewards for their time and energy. I am just proud of those guys as seniors, those fourth- and fifth-year guys. To me, they had already done a lot, win or lose, and I hold them in high esteem no matter the outcome of the day. I’m just glad we get to spend a few more weeks together.”

On winning three in a row over Purdue:
“I go back to the fact that we are fortunate to have a rival. Not everyone truly does in this game and this sport. We respect their team, their program, and the sport. You want to win with class, and then I told the guys today that at twelve o’clock, we didn’t have the bucket anymore. So, again, I just respect the rivalry. It is about the memories of the week. I respect that we have this rivalry and we are lucky that we get an opportunity to play in this game.”

Quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who now has 7,490 career passing yards and 58 touchdowns
On the running game:
“The running backs did awesome. It really goes to our offensive line for opening up holes and giving me protection. We also have a running back by committee. They all come in and have different strengths. We feel really good about all the guys who come in and run the ball for us.”

On the 71-yard touchdown that gave him the school record for passing yards and put him over 3,000 yards in a season for the first time (3,184 yards with 24 TDs). Against Purdue he had 385 yards and 4 TDs:

“It was a cover-2, so I was thinking play-action to suck the linebackers in and work the slot guy. I peeked at the safety and he was a bit nosey. So, all I knew was I had to get it over the defensive back’s head, and you know [wide receiver Andre] Booker is really fast and then it all worked out.”

Hoosiers’ collapse against Rutgers was epic

So much for that 4-0 start and dreams of a bowl bid by Indiana’s football team.
While a postseason appearance is still within reach of the Hoosiers, they made that quest much tougher by blowing a 52-27 lead at home against Rutgers last Saturday in a 55-52 loss to the Scarlet Knights.
For all of IU coach Kevin Wilson’s proclamations about having a vastly improved defense this season, the results haven’t shown on the field. At least not consistently.
Now, with a trip to No. 7 and unbeaten Michigan State, Indiana is looking at a four-game losing streak if they can’t upset the Spartans.
If that happens, Indiana would then have to win two of its next four games. That includes home games against surprising Iowa (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) on Nov. 7 after a bye week and then a date with Michigan (5-2, 2-1) on Nov. 14.
Then the Hoosiers will close out the regular season (and the month of November) with road trips to Maryland (2-4, 0-2) and Purdue (1-6, 03).
Those two games provide hope, particularly because Purdue has yet to win a Big Ten home game for Darrell Hazell during his three seasons.
But a win over Rutgers would have given IU a fifth win and a much easier path to a bowl bid.

If Iggy does return, Aces should be MVC favorite

Marty Simmons swore he hadn’t even heard the rumors about Egidijus Mockevicius possibly considering either heading to Europe for a pro basketball career or beginning his grad school days at another university, taking advantage of the NCAA rule that allows players who earn a degree and still have playing eligibility to step into the starting lineup at another school.
But when Simmons was asked about the rumors on Friday, he said there had been no discussions with 6-foot-10 Mockevicius that would indicate he’s thinking about not coming back for his senior season with the Aces.
“I am confident he will be back next year,” said Simmons.
He went on to say that Mockevicius not only likes his teammates and the other friends he has made at UE but that he enjoys being in Evansville.
“I think our community recognizes how special he is,” said Simmons. “He’s obviously a great basketball talent but he’s a wonderful personality and he’s a wonderful person. I think he’s been great for the Evansville community and I think (the fans have) wrapped their arms around him as well. To see him play so well last night (Thursday night’s CIT championship game) was awesome.”
MocKevicius scored 27 points and had 12 rebounds against Northern Arizona to lead the Aces to a 71-65 win.
“He’s good. He’s made himself better. And that’s the great thing because I think he has another level,” said Simmons. “I think he can get even better.”
If the big Lithuanian does return, it would mean the Aces would have everyone back from a 24-win season except for Jaylon Moore, who was Mockevicius’ tag-team partner in the paint.
The 6-7 Moore was often instant offense at times for the Aces and had a knack for changing momentum in games.
Still, next season’s UE team will have more size with 7-1 Nebraska transfer Sergej Vucetic and 6-7 Willie Wiley, a transfer from Vincennes University, ready to play after sitting out as red shirts.
“Now that they know they are eligible, they are ready to go,” said Simmons. “I think Willie and Sergej will bring vast depth to our basketball team and athleticism and obviously some size. And then Harris Brown, the guard from Indianapolis, is a heck of a player and I think he’ll battle his way in there as well.
“There’s a lot of things that factor into it, staying healthy and so on and so forth. Our guys have to understand that we must continue to improve. We must get better in this offseason.”
The biggest pieces to the puzzle, of course, are D.J. Balentine and Mockevicus. Balentine averaged 20.0 points per game this past season and Mockevicius nearly averaged a double-double of 12.3 points and 9.9 rebounds. They were both first-team All-Missouri valley Conference.
That should make them the preseason favorites to win the MVC in 2016 shouldn’t it?
After all, Northern Iowa graduates 6-8 Seth Tuttle and loses four other seniors who combined for nearly 55 percent of the Panthers’ offense.
Ditto, Wichita State loses Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter and Illinois State will have to replace leading scorer Daishon Knight.

He said it: Notre Dame coach Mike Brey after 68-66 loss to Kentucky in an Elite Eight game:

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey and players after 68-66 loss to Kentucky in a NCAA Elite Eight game in Cleveland on Saturday:
MIKE BREY’s OPENING COMMENTS: What a great college game. It was thrilling to be part of it. It lived up to the hype. We’re extremely disappointed. We really thought we had a great chance of beating them, and I thought we displayed that, but I think you’ve got to give them credit, they made some big plays, they made some timely 3-point shots at key times. And we got a little stagnant offensively, but it’s easy to get stagnant against that length. It takes its toll on you at times but I’m proud of our group, man. We emptied the tank tonight, and that’s all I asked them to do before the game.

Q. Mike, you lost the game, and I’m sure it’s still pretty raw, but how much do you think this game is testimony to the idea that there are no sure things? I think a lot of people didn’t see this kind of game coming.
Yeah, I mean, we really thought we had a great chance as the game was going on, you know, I thought we just felt we could win the game. We were very confident. The first half gave us even more confidence. We played such a great schedule and played so many hard games and good teams, I think we’re really battle tested to absorb their punches. I’m really proud of our group. We were a little tired at the end. I used a couple timeouts just to rest us. We were fatigued a little bit because our guys play a lot. Their length at times shrinks the court and it just makes it a little difficult, and it did there a couple possessions at the end of the game.

Q. Mike, I know the last play didn’t have any timeouts, what was the plan, what was discussed?
I told Jerian to try to get – can you get to the bucket, maybe you can just get to the bucket. They did such a great job kind of doubling him. He went for the win, I don’t fault him for that. He tried to get something off but I don’t think he could turn the corner. Even some of the shots he took in those possessions that were a little empty, you can say get to the basket, it’s a little harder to get to the basket against these guys, there’s not a lot of room in there. And I thought they doubled him out of bounds and they did a great job kind of riding him all the way to the end. You know, when we couldn’t get the key stop to get it to overtime, that’s where you lose the game really. You’ve got to get that stop. And it was Harrison, I think, right, that made the drive? Demetrius tried to get the charge. You don’t get a stop there, you know, you’re starting to doubt a little.

Q. Can you talk about the defensive game plan. And aside from Karl, it seemed like Kentucky’s bigs really struggled to get anything going down low?
We just didn’t want to give up too many clean looks. We felt we could absorb two point shots from their bigs. Towns was fabulous. Our two big guys, God bless them, they were on their own most of the night. The one time I go zone, Booker hits a 3, and the one time we tell to help a little bit, Ulis hits a 3. So now you’re like, the rest of the game, fellas, you’re on your own, we’ve got to hug these guys because I think we can absorb 2s. I love how we battled on the board against their size. But we have played big teams and we’ve held our own on the backboard and we did that again tonight to give ourselves a chance to win.

Q. So how do you balance the emotion then of playing as well as you did, taking down to the last possession and knowing that this is the end and you lost the way you did?
Yeah, I don’t know if it will sink in. I think I was in denial because walking down the hall, I had Auguste and Vasturia and I was talking about next season, that was my way of thinking ahead a little bit. The one thing I did tell them, I said, when we walk out of here, man, we’re champions now, we’re going to get championship rings, this group won a championship and hopefully it’s something to build on and I spent some time with Pat and Jerian, and just thanked them for what they’ve done for our program. I think it will still be a little raw here until tomorrow, but I’ve been in long enough, I’ll be abel able to look back and digest it, and my assistants will probably have some recruiting stuff for me tomorrow, knowing them.

Q. Mike, you mentioned Pat and Jerian, is that kind of the toughest part of losing in this tournament, is saying goodbye to seniors, especially two that have meant so much to you guys?
COACH BREY: Yeah, the one thing I said to them in the locker room, “You know what’s really depressing? We lost the game but we don’t get to practice tomorrow, I don’t get to be around this group.” And that includes certainly our two seniors because it was so energizing and rewarding to be with this team, it was uplifting. I was thinking, walking down the hall, that’s over, you don’t get to do that anymore. But those two guys are big-time winners, and man, have they left a mark for the young guys in our program.

Q. 34 seconds left, sorting through the loose ball. Did you care one way or the other whether it was a jump ball or your possession?
: Well, I loved that we had it. One second’s a little tough to operate with, and we tried to get something for Jerian curling. The problem is when Cauley-Stein is hot on the ball, there wasn’t a whole lot of room to get anything, and it’s too bad we at least couldn’t get a shot upright there. But I thought the ball pressure of a 7-footer, and wing span on Pat, we just couldn’t get anything. And then you’ve got to be really mentally tough. And this group, they have been all year to kind of flush that and guard to get it to overtime. We’ve done that a bunch, but we couldn’t do it tonight, and you give Kentucky credit.

Q. Coach, you joked about being the loosest coach in America. What are you telling them in the second half when you guys go on that 13-4 run, and also the final minute?
We were talking about this is what we’ve done in the second half, we’ve had runs offensively and we’ve played with great emotion and spirit and fearlessness. I wasn’t saying a whole lot. They were talking in the timeouts like, we’re up five, let’s see if we can get it to 10. All things that we talked about through the year. I mean, we gave ourselves a chance, and it’s disappointing because, you know, you really had — you had the thing, you had a great chance to win it. But our guys felt we had a great chance to win it.

Q. Looking ahead to the Final Four, what type of team, what sort of style do you think can give Kentucky the kind of —
Wisconsin, did they win? Yeah, that’s a great match-up, that’s a great match-up. Wisconsin’s a little bit like us, they’re skilled and they can spread people out a little bit. They have a little more bulk and frontline size, but they’re really skilled offensive guys, and certainly we were able to get some things tonight. But the size does get to you, over 40 minutes it can take its toll on you and I thought the defensive possessions, as good as Jerian was getting us there, getting us a couple possession lead, it kind of swallowed him a little bit a couple times. But we’ll go down with him making plays because he’s made all the plays for us all year to get us here.

They said it: Indiana coach Tom Crean and player Yogi Ferrell after 81-76 loss to Wichita State in NCAA tournament:

They said it: Indiana coach Tom Crean and player Yogi Ferrell after 81-76 loss to Wichita State in NCAA tournament:

TOM CREAN OPENING COMMENTS: … As far as for the game, hard-fought game, no question about that, both teams playing very, very hard, the 50/50 balls going both ways. Unfortunately for us the biggest difference was the points they were able to score inside of the paint. When we have been able to keep that under control this year, we have been better and when we haven’t, that’s what we have struggled. A few points off turnovers, we would like to have back, we shot the ball well, you come into a situation and shoot 50% from 3 there is no argument on that part of it but we gave up too many easy baskets and VanVleet did an excellent job of controlling the game for Wichita State. He broke us down some in our coverages, but he was also able to find the roll. They did a better job than we did of finding the roll in the pick-and-roll because we felt we could run a lot of middle offense, ball-screen-type of offense, which we did, but we had a harder time dealing with their length, finding that roll man and, again, they were able to get more points in the paint. To me, we will watch the film and see different things but bottom line is I think that’s the biggest difference in the game for us. I’m proud of our guys, the way they have persevered is a great word for us right now. I wouldn’t call it a mantra, we’re not trying to make a T-shirt, but the bottom line is that’s what our guys have done all year long. They have persevered through adversity, persevered through different trials, and they did some things that not a whole lot of people expected them to do. Unofficially picked 11th in the league and they get into the NCAA Tournament with a 10th seed as the youngest team. We’re not happy with the outcome today, certainly we could have played better, but I have zero disappointment in the way these guys battled, competed, got better and persevered throughout the season.

Q. For Yogi, even with the points you guys were giving up inside, you guys kept hitting three after three. Were you thinking for most of that second half that that was going to be enough?
No, I mean, we never knew it was going to be enough. Our offense was hitting a couple of shots at the end of the day, we should have been playing better defense. They scored so many points inside. If we could have got more stops in a row, which is what we wanted to do and knocked down a couple of shots, we could have been right there.

Q. Tom, I know it’s difficult in the moments right after a loss, but what would your expectations be for next season? You mentioned a young team. What would you think this team could do next year?
You said it all first, it’s too early to think about that, but my thing would be that we continue to build on the things that we do pretty well, and absolutely be obsessed with getting better at the things that we struggled with. We’ve got to get a lot stronger. We’ve got to have a more consistent — we just got to build consistency. We’ll leave it at that. I don’t have a lot of deep thoughts on that one yet, but we have to build consistency in all the areas and improve and stay on course, because I think they got a lot better during the year. Our record didn’t always reflect it in some of the games, but I’m with ‘em every day, so I’m going to stick with being the judge of it. And I don’t get to have an opinion and insights — I can have an opinion. I have insights into this team because I’m with them every day. I like where it’s headed, but there is no question that we’ve got to continue to improve in not only in the basketball areas, but certainly the strength areas; and being able to, I would say, the biggest thing right now is putting more multiple stops together, because when we did that, we were a pretty good team. When we didn’t, it got a little harder for us. Off the top of my head that’s where I am at. I wasn’t ready for the checklist at the end of the year.

They said it: Purdue coach Matt Painter and player A.J. Hammons after Thursday’s 66-65 loss to Cincinnati in second round of NCAA tournament:

MATT PAINTER’s opening comments: First of all, I want to congratulate Cincinnati. Obviously, they were able to hang in there when we got that lead in the last minute, and make some plays, make their free throws, and get the game into overtime. Just a hard-fought game. We had all the opportunities in the world, and that’s why it hurts as bad as it does because we knew we put ourselves in position to win and we didn’t make the necessary plays. That hurts. The guys in our locker room really battled, and they were really good on the glass. I thought we did an excellent job of attacking their zone. We simply just struggled making open shots. We had to do a better job of helping our interior players by knocking down some shots, and it just wasn’t our day. But our guys did a great job executing. They did a great job rebounding the ball. We had some breakdowns, and that cost us, but give Cincinnati a lot of credit.

Q. A.J., when their center went out, did you feel like the momentum had shifted in favor of your guys and that was something you could build on?
A.J. HAMMONS: Yeah, I felt like the momentum changed a lot. We just tried to keep pounding the middle because they only had like one big left. We just tried to keep it going in the middle. The momentum, we had the whole game. We just had to finish the game off.

Q. Coach, what have you learned about your team? What has been the big lesson?
No question about it. We’ve had these struggles during the season, just taking care of the basketball, making a free throw. The necessary things that you have to do. When you have a group of guys that have changed your culture — we had a really good culture for about a six-, seven-year period. Then took a couple steps backwards. These guys have been huge with that. Their effort was unbelievable tonight, but our execution at times was not. We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the basketball, knocking down your free throws, and then keeping them out of rhythm on the defensive end. We weren’t able to do that, especially at the end. We had a lot of things that happened — it wasn’t a lack of effort kind of thing — that got to a point where we still could have finished the game out. Their intent was to make those plays, and we just weren’t able to do that. Hopefully, in the future we can be better, and you learn from it because we put ourselves in a good position tonight, and we didn’t capitalize.

Q. Matt, what were your thoughts when (Octavius) Ellis was ejected from the game and how your team responded to that?
I didn’t see what happened. He threw an elbow or something like that. I didn’t see it. But I thought we had an opportunity, without their leading scorer to be in the game. Any time you lose your leading scorer, I thought that kid that came in and backed him up, I thought he played great. He had some key plays, especially late in the game and overtime. He got a golden opportunity to play well, and he helped his team win. But we had that stretch right there where we had a couple of wide-open shots. We got the ball inside, and we got nothing for it. I said earlier, it’s very bizarre because all we kept doing is executing on the offensive end and getting good shots and missing. We don’t normally take that many 3s, but we just kept getting wide open and moving the basketball and just getting standstill shots. So we just continued to be positive and say, hey, we’ve got to drive the ball. We’ve got to get the ball inside. But that’s what we ended up getting a lot. They weren’t quick threes, outside of maybe a couple of them. In hindsight, you say, you shot the ball on the perimeter too much, but I thought our guys did a really good job.

Q. How would you sum up the season after the rough start from where you came?
We have great guys. We faced some adversity, and we had a couple of really good nonconference wins, and then we had a couple bad ones. Our guys didn’t hang their head. They kept fighting. We really improved on the defensive end. So I thought we had a good year. Obviously, you like to win in the NCAA Tournament after getting here, and you put yourself in a position to do so, and it hurts. But I thought we had a good year. It’s more than just that. It’s building on it, and we got a lot of the right guys in our locker room.

They said it: Indiana coach Tom Crean and players James Blackmon Jr, Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams previewing Friday’s game against Wichita State

Indiana coach Tom Crean and players discuss Friday’s game against Wichita State:

Q. Yogi, as you look at Wichita State, what are some of the things that they present that make them a difficult match for you guys? What makes them good?
One thing about their team is they’re a very solid team. They’ve got basically five solid positions, and that’s what makes them such a great team. They start junior and seniors, so they’re obviously a lot more experienced than we are. They’ve got great 3-point shooters; they’ve got great post presence. Like I said before, just a great experienced team.

Q. Seems like everyone is talking Kansas/Wichita State on Sunday. You guys hearing any of that? You feel like you’re being slighted at all?
We haven’t been paying too much attention to that. We’re just trying to read into what we can do on this game and we’re focused on Wichita State and we want to get the win and play against Kansas.
TROY WILLIAMS: We heard about it, Coach told us about it. We don’t see each other as a local team or a local act, so we’re just going to put up a great fight against them.

Q. Yogi, problems in the off-season and this season. In what ways do you think your team has grown up and become more accountable to one another?
I think one of the ways we have grown up is when we took that trip to Montreal, I felt like as a team, getting to know each other and getting to know each other better, coming together. We have had our off-the-court problems before, but I felt like we’ve came a long way from that. When I listen to all the outside really, we’re just all staying together as a team, not reading articles with our names in it, not listening to what anybody says. Just listening to our coaches and teammates. That’s the only people that really help us.

Q. Coach, when the Selection Sunday came, Bill Self says Wichita State being a 7 blows him away. Do you get that?
We looked at Wichita State as a great program. I didn’t get caught up in the seeds part of it. We just know that they’re a great team. Seeds, they’re relevant to some, but to us, they’re really not. If we spent too much time talking about seeds and all that type of thing with our guys, that would defeat the purpose. They’re excited to be here. They know the opportunity. We know what we are here for and we know that Wichita State is a great program. That’s the bottom line. No matter what they’re seeded, they’re an outstanding team, and they are deserving every year of the champions that they are, because they find a way to do that in the nonconference; they find a way to do it in the conference, they find a way to do it on the road. Again, when you have that kind of toughness, especially on the glass, I mean, you can go back to some of the close games they’ve had, and it comes down to that loose rebound, that 50/50 ball, that loose ball on the ground, the next pass, they play the game so thorough. That’s what we’re more focused on than anything else.

Q. Coach, talk about the Fred VanVleet and Yogi match-up.
I think it’s more about the Wichita State and the Indiana match-up, personally, because everybody is going to be guarding different people, and I’m not sure how they’ll match up. I’m sure Gregg wouldn’t trade Fred for anybody and I certainly wouldn’t trade Yogi for anybody, so let’s sum it up that way. Both high-character winners. I don’t know Fred; I know of him, but I know Yogi. He puts winning first, extremely tough, smart, makes his teammates better, defends at a high level and I would imagine that’s describing Fred, the one I’ve seen on film. Like I said, I can’t give you personal knowledge, but the one I’ve seen on film, that’s what he looks like to me.

Q. Tom, your players talked a little bit about the experience and Wichita State having more NCAA Tournament experience. How do you kind of approach that as a coach? Is there a way you can help them through that, if that’s a factor?
There is really nothing we can do about that. Yogi is the only one that’s played in NCAA Tournament games. Hanner was here, but he really was not a factor like he is now. So we can’t do anything about that. It’s been all year long, we’ve got to control what we can control. That’s easier said than done, it sounds like “Coach speak” but it’s really something you got to try to get out of them every day and try to help them understand that every day. And now it’s the opportunity we have to come out and play with great energy and make sure that our execution is right. They will make it hard, they will make it hard for us to score, I don’t think there is any question about that. We fully expect to be pressured, and certainly as a coach that’s a concern because I think their pressure is really good. To me, when that shot goes up, it’s not going to — we’ve got to be able to match that toughness, and they have tremendous, real toughness. There doesn’t look like there is any trepidation, any nervousness, any of that when they play. They’re a very, very confident group. And for one day we’ve got to have that same level of confidence like that. Hopefully our league and nonconference schedule and things like that prepare us for that. But they’re one of the upper-echelon programs because they have one of the great teams every year. Obviously Mark Turgeon got it rolling there, and Gregg has just built upon it in such a big way. So we have to do a great job of just matching up with them on that toughness and execution level more than anything else.

He said it: Purdue coach Matt Painter on NCAA tournament

Purdue coach Matt Painter, looking ahead to Thursday’s NCAA tournament game against Cincinnati:
Q. When you have a team that doesn’t have NCAA Tournament experience as a group, what are some of the things that you try to emphasize for them that are most important going into that first game?
I think just sticking with what our guys are – the strengths that they have going in to the game. I think, if you sit around and talk about the big picture and not talk about the actual game, you bring it into play. We have one guy with NCAA Tournament experience but not at Purdue. I would say the best thing for us is the fact that we’ve lived on the bubble here for three weeks. I think that preparation and kind of that pressure, if you want to say that, is the best thing to help us because we’re a loss, two losses away from not being here, which everybody that’s in this neck of the woods, they can say the same thing. But for us, when we don’t have that type of experience, I think that’s really helped us. But really just keeping our focus on playing to our strengths and trying to stay away from our weaknesses.

Q. Do you think that they have the right level of maturity to handle all the uniqueness that this week brings?
I hope so. You find out at tip-off. You’ve played – we’ve played a good schedule. We’ve played in Maui on a neutral court. We’ve been in the Big Ten Tournament, obviously, in two games on a neutral court. So you try to do your best to prepare your team. I like our guys. I think we have stuck together. We’ve faced some adversity. We’ve been able to battle that. We’ve been able to overcome a couple of tough losses nonconference, and we played better in conference play. I spoke on it earlier, but getting on the bubble, I think, is the best way to try to fight some of that. You know that you have to win, getting into the end of February, the beginning of March, and then you come in and get really good wins right there, I think that helps prepare you. There’s no substitute for the actual thing. We have a lot of guys outside of one that hasn’t been here. You still have to play hard. You still have to produce. You still have to do those things. But I do understand your question.

Q. Does it help, coming from the Big Ten where defense is such a premium, to play a team like Cincinnati that does so many things well, similar to you on the defensive side of the ball?
I think that’s a great point because they do have a lot of similarities to people we play. Like ourselves, defense is important. They are different when they play their matchups zone a lot. And they really make it difficult for you to get into a rhythm on the offensive end. But in terms of playing hard, playing physical, and rebounding the basketball, they are a Big Ten team, and they are a top half Big Ten team. I think it just goes all the way back to the days of Coach Huggins and obviously Coach Cronin. When you think about Cincinnati basketball, that’s what you think about. You think about hard-nosed, tough, rebounding, attack you on the offensive end. We have to be prepared for that.

He said it: Indiana coach Tom Crean after 75-69 loss to Maryland

Indiana coach Tom Crean after Indiana lost 75-69 to Maryland in Big Ten tournament quarterfinals:
COACH CREAN, opening comments:
Well, we just went toe to toe with the eighth-ranked team in the country and came down to the very end with them in the last eight minutes of the game. There were three field goals scored until our kid Max Hoetzel hit a three with two seconds to go between both teams.
First and foremost, we understand that we’ve got to play defense at a high level and energy and a hustle game at a high level, and I think we’ve come to Chicago and done that. Unfortunately we’re walking out of here without the win today, but we’re getting better. Our defense has gotten better. We got a lot of really good basketball from a lot of people. We needed to get better inside of the game in the second half, we did. The second chance points in the first half were 13-3, and we held them — we got nine in the second half, they got none, all right, that’s an improvement. We got to the foul line more in the second half.
I’m walking out of here knowing that our defense is getting better, our energy is high. No doubt we missed Hanner today, especially around the rim, and Nick Zeisloft according to the Ken Pomeroy rankings is the Number 1 ranked offense efficiency player in the country. It’s very uncommon for him not to have a good game or back-to-back good games. Offensively he didn’t, but he’s going to keep getting better. We’ve got some guys did some really good things, but unfortunately so did they, and we went against an extremely good team.
Dez Wells is not only one of the elite players in our league, he’s one of the elite players in the country, and for a lot of reasons. He can score, he can pass, he can drive it, he can defend, he can get out in transition, he’s tough, and he makes every one of his teammates better, and that’s a hard position to cover when they have as many shooters and somebody like Melo Trimble and people like that.
But I’m proud of our players. I’m proud of the way we’ve approached the week. I’m proud of the way we responded to a couple of tough games at the end, and with a team like this, the youth that they have, the fact that they’re getting better this time of year is a very encouraging thing for us.

Q. The first half was explosive. It was very– I don’t know how else to put it. And then both teams kind of slowed down. What were the adjustments you made to make that happen?
I think it slowed down on purpose. I think it was a matter of making sure– we need to get to the foul line, okay. And the other thing is we don’t have very good match-ups for Dez Wells, and so it was really we’re going to make sure we’re moving the ball, getting people in movement. If you noticed, they really weren’t guarding Troy very high at all in the first half, and they really backed up and he hit those pull ups when we went into the ball screen. So we wanted to make sure we kept the game in movement so then that we could get into things, the 15-second area, the 13-second area, but still very good running in the break running our early offense.
But I thought our pace was excellent. I thought their conditioning was excellent, our conditioning was excellent, and so it was a matter of whatever the speed of the game called for was fine. But I think at the end of the game, like I said at the beginning, in those last eight minutes, I know there’s some free throws obviously, but in the last eight minutes to have three combined field goals– I believe, I was told that number before I came in– but three field goals in the last eight minutes before a shot with two seconds says a lot about the high level of play defensively, and that’s why I’m proud of our guys. We were going toe to toe with them. They made a couple more plays than we did.
Certainly the free throw situation that hurt us, and nobody feels worse than Troy on that. That hurt us. But we tried to recover from it. But it was just a hard-fought game, and both teams probably intensified their half court defensive efforts a little bit.

Q. How would you describe the urgency that your team played with in these two games here?
I would say it was fantastic, and I’d say it was because they were reenergized. I think we really went home — we were home, I should say, but really looked at what we were not taking care of. It wasn’t about let’s follow the bubble watch and let’s read about how bad we’re playing. Let’s focus in on what we can fix, and the bottom line was the rebounding, and we had to get better at defensive rebounding the ball because we were giving up too many points on second chance points. We were getting some offensive boards, but we weren’t getting the points from it, and we had to clean up some points off turnovers, and we certainly had to do a better job of getting to the foul line.
We hit a little bit of a cold slump, and when you’ve got a lot of shooting and you don’t have that true, we’re just going to throw it down in there and command that double-team type of guy, you’ve got to make sure you’re hitting your shots. We had a couple games where we weren’t. Look at the Northwestern game; we’re flying around, doing an excellent job in the first half. We hit a 10-minute, 9-minute, 11-minute lull, whatever it was, where we just weren’t making shots we were making in the first half. So you’ve got to play through that. That’s our team. Our team has got a lot of three-point shooting, a lot of movement, and we hit a little bit of a lull on that. But we knew we could get better defensively, we knew we could get better at blocking out and rebounding the ball. We knew we could reenergize if we got some rest, and I think that’s exactly what we did, and I think– put it this way: If we’d have won the game, I would have felt great about us having a chance to go into tomorrow no matter who it was, Michigan State or Ohio State because of their confidence level, because of their urgency level, and because of their conditioning level.

Q. What’s the plan for Sunday, and have you ever been in this situation where you’ve got to watch Selection Sunday and not really be completely sure?
No, I don’t have a plan yet. I’m not sure. I’m really not. I haven’t even close to thought that far ahead. I don’t know. I’ve got to start thinking about that tonight.
Other part of your question, I don’t think so. I don’t think as an assistant or a head coach. But you know what, it is what it is. We’re getting better. I love coaching these guys. They have grown up on and off the floor. They deal with a lot, and yet the resiliency of coming in and getting better is constant. They have a closeness that’s been able to develop over the year. It’s growing. It’s growing. It’s not all the way there yet, but where they will– they have started to learn how to hold each other accountable, and they will get on one another to be better, and I saw some of that the last couple days, again, too. I love coaching them, and I’m looking forward to continuing it next week.

He said it: Indiana coach Tom Crean after 71-56 win over Northwestern

Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean after Hoosiers beat Northwestern 71-56 in Big Ten basketball tournament in Chicago:

CREAN, opening comments: We’re extremely proud of the way our players played from start to finish, and in a 40-minute game, you’re going to have some runs, and it’s how you get back to the next run. When you hit a lull — we hit a little bit of a lull, but we reversed it and played right through it. Some of the things we really need to get corrected were second-chance points and doing a much better job on the defensive glass, and in turn doing an even better job on the offensive glass. We didn that. We moved the ball extremely well, but the pressure of our defense, the energy, the tenacity, all those things were really, really strong, and extremely proud of the coaches and the way that they prepared them and the way these guys and their teammates, the way that they played.

Q: is that the best sustained defensive effort you’ve seen from your guys this year or at least in a while?
I’m not sure. We’ve had some really good defensive efforts throughout the
season. Pittsburgh at home, SMU at home. I thought we did some really good things against Maryland. I’d have to go back and really think about it. But for this time of year and in a situation like this, this week to come in here and play that way with the youth of this team that we have and for them to be recharged and energized and doing
what we needed to do defensively and really understanding what we wanted to take away, and the bottom line is, it all starts with Tre Demps. That’s the bottom line. I think he was averaging 14 the first time we played them, he had 23. So really getting after a player like that is crucial, putting pressure on the ball.
But the biggest thing for us is we had to do a much better job when we look back over the last three games if we’re going to find a common denominator. We’re giving up too many second-chance points. We were not making our free throws as much, but more importantly, we weren’t getting nearly as many attempts and were giving too many attempts to the other team. And then we were getting beat a little bit on points off turnovers, and then when you add a Demps situation when we’re giving up too many points to the best player, those are all things that have to be part of the mindset. And I thought our players did an excellent job of, again, locking into that, playing over the time of year and the significance of this part of the season and really locking into what they had to do to get better this week, and hopefully it continues on for us.

Q. How is Hanner, and will he play tomorrow?
It’s too early to tell. He aggravated an earlier injury. He’s being x-rayed, I
believe, here. I love our medical team, so whatever needs to happen to help him, it’ll happen, and we’ll hope for the best.

Q. Do you think you’re in the NCAA Tournament now?
Well, I don’t know. You know, I really don’t know, and no one knows. That’s the beauty of it all. I would think when you look at criteria, I would think when you look at what we’ve done with the RPI wins, what we’ve done with the non-conference scheduling and winning some of the games that we did, who you choose to play, I would hope so. I think when you win 20 games and you end up winning now the tenth conference game in this league, I know it was 9 and 9 during the league and beat some of the teams that we’ve beaten, I would hope so. We’re getting better.
Collin is not all the way back yet, but I love what happens when this team starts to get that jolt again, what they’re capable of on the defensive end, what they’re capable of on the glass, and it makes our shooting so much better. When we’re not guarding as well as we need to, when we’re not rebounding as well as we need to, it puts a lot of
pressure on our offense. That’s what they’re learning and what they’ve learned at different times throughout the year, and I think it showed today.
When their defensive rebounding is at the forefront of everything, that drives our offense to a high level because we’re playing a very good offensive and defensive team today. They wouldn’t have had the finish to the season they had if they weren’t. I love
our capabilities, I love our potential, and I certainly hope that we are, but we have not spent any time talking about that, and we didn’t spend any time talking about it in the locker room in the short time we were together, and we haven’t spent any time
talking about it tonight. It’s all been focused on what they need to do to get better, how we can continue to get better, and then getting ready for each and every game.

Q. Nearly half the shots taken tonight were three-pointers. In general do you think that’s a position where your team can succeed?
CREAN: I’m not sure. I think what worked tonight worked tonight. I think the ball
moved. I think the bottom line for us is that the ball go through the paint and what did we make here, 11 threes? When the ball goes through the paint, whether it’s in a post-up situation, whether it’s in a kick-out situation, that’s the most important thing for us.