TOM CREAN’S OPENING COMMENTS:
CREAN: I thought our guys took the disappointment from Tuesday night that they had from a game that they felt they could win, that we all felt we could win, and transferred that into some great energy and work the last couple of days to get ready for what we knew would be a desperate team, and we played with that same level of desperation. I never follow that whole must win theory or any of those. It’s about putting yourself in a position where you take the next step, and that’s exactly what these guys did in this game.
When you have some tight games like we’ve had, it’s very, very easy to get especially for a young team. I think this happened to us a little bit last Saturday when we weren’t making shots. It’s real, real easy to get discouraged. You want to try to have them understand there’s a huge difference between being discouraged and being disappointed. Disappointment is inevitable, you move right on. If you get discouraged, you’re kind of building your own wall there.
When you’ve got two teams trying to win as bad as they both were today, it’s not going to be pretty. It’s just not. Both teams are trying to make it extremely hard for the other team. But to continue to play inside of the game with the changing of defenses, with the way they were doing a good job of really putting three and four people around Noah (Vonleh) a lot, Noah continuing to work extremely hard, and guys being the recipient of cuts and movement because there was so much attention being paid to him and Yogi (Ferrell). Where a week ago we might have tried to force the issue a little bit, we might have gotten stagnant, today we continued to have great movement. We continued to play out of corners. We continued to make the next pass.
Q. Noah only scored four points. Can you talk about his impact on the game?
CREAN: He did a fantastic job of just continuing to play. Sometimes I don’t think he understands just how much we want to go to him. Today they did a great job. We were having success with our drag pick and rolls in transition. We hit him on a pocket pass, and there are three people waiting on him. They know we want to throw him the ball. The fact that he can step out, the fact that he can play at the foul line, the fact that he can make threes, that helps his game, helps our team. But also the fact there was so much attention being paid to those two, it opened it up for other people, and the fact that Yogi just continued to play like an outstanding point guard throughout the game freed it up for him because Yogi in the first half managed the game at a high level, and in the second half, you know, was able to take it over at certain points. That’s what you want. You want somebody that’s always looking for what is the game giving you, not what do I want to bring to the game. And I thought Noah and Yogi did a tremendous job of that, and the rest of the guys played off of that.
Q. Tom, what are some of the things you need to see in the next month or so to get your team in position to qualify for the NCAA Tournament? What are you looking for?
CREAN: I’m really not looking at it like that. I’m sorry that I can’t give a better answer on that down the road because the bottom line is we have to just keep improving. We have to keep improving our and maybe this falls into your question. Because I can’t think that far ahead because we just don’t with this. We have to get better at making decisions, there’s no question about that. We’ve got to continue to play through those ruts in a game when it’s not going right for the individual or they’re taking things away. We’ve got to continue to get the pace of the game to be a place which is best for us because sometimes the lane is getting so packed in right now and there’s so much attention being paid to Noah and Yogi. I don’t want to say that it’s just, well, you have to have a third or a fourth scorer that has to be defined. I think we have to have numerous guys that can make those plays, much like we had tonight. But the bottom line for us on offense would be continuing to be better with our decision making, not trying to make hard hitting, flashy plays. And then defensively, can we keep building the concept of keeping the dribble in front of us? Because if we can keep the dribble in front of us, now we can zone, now we can press, now we can switch, all those different things. I think along the way, if we can do that, then we’ll get better at game planning and be able to steal some games here and there. That’s really what I would see in the major areas for us, and hopefully that does play out for us down the road.
Q. You guys shot less than 41 percent and only got four from Noah. Is this a game that, with those kinds of numbers, you would have won earlier in the year?
CREAN: Probably, for lack of thinking about it deeper, I would say probably no. I thought Noah did some fantastic things, and we didn’t give him much rest in the he got tired a couple of times. He got tired in the first half a little bit. They were making a run, but then he came back in and did a good job. The last thing you want to do with a young player, if they get fatigued, they start to lose concentration. When they start to lose concentration, they foul. We’re not very good if Noah is going to be in foul trouble. You have to continue to work through that. He did a very good job of that the second half. I think our team is getting better. We’re in the hardest league in the country. We really are. And you’re forced to get better because everybody else is. So we’re working hard at it. We’re working hard at our offense. We’re working hard at our defense. They’re gaining more confidence because of it. Games like this exponentially raise their confidence level, and we just have to continue to move forward with it.