Tom Crean Postgame Presser – Georgia vs. Cincinnati

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Tom Crean Postgame Presser – Georgia vs. Cincinnati

On playing against such a physical team… 

“Do you want the honest truth? I was scared to death because we hadn’t played a team like this. We had been through different games, but we certainly knew the competitiveness, the strength, the length, how good they are was going to definitely be a test. I felt good throughout the day because we had a solid week. There were some days that were really good like yesterday practice was excellent, Thursday’s not so much. There were a few times that I felt like we were practicing like we were 5-0 rather than really getting ready to go against somebody who is highly competitive and one of the better teams in their league and really a household name when it comes to basketball tradition. I loved our energy today. I thought our walk-through was really good. The warmup, the coaches were raving about it. We came out with great spirit and energy. It’s always risky when you have the last couple of weeks that they’ve had academically with all the stress and anxiety and pressure that they feel to do well there and to get those things done and to still come out and be connected like they were in basketball, so I was really proud of their effort.” 

On what he saw different tonight… 

“I would have to really think about that. I was just happy with the way we competed. I liked the way that we scored in the first half. We got out and attacked. I would just say, in answer to the question, that we really rose to the level of the competition. It wasn’t us just matching their energy and toughness. We brought our own energy and toughness. I think that’s the biggest thing. The mentality of our team has to be that it’s not about winning streaks. It’s about getting a one game winning streak. As corny as that sounds, that’s how you have to train your mind to think, and that’s what we have to continue to learn to do.” 

On Toumani Camara… 

“With your better players, your players have to feel impacted by, inspired by, and safe with them. They feel better because they’re on the floor, and I think tonight, Toumani [Camara] showed that. We certainly missed him last week. There’s no doubt about that. If you take Toumani [Camara] out of the equation, and you take the fact that we went 19-31 from the foul line. That’s a lot with that game. We were fortunate to win it. You bring him back, and he raises the level of everybody. He had 11 deflections tonight, and that’s three under his average. Sahvir [Wheeler] had 14, and that’s a high for him. Justin Kier had 12, and we had 58 deflections in the game. Toumani [Camara] leads the way with that kind of stuff. When you have the length and what he’s doing strength wise- and he’s really only had, with live contact, yesterday was the only day all week long- so for him to come out and play that way against a physical Cincinnati team, said a lot.” 

On stepping up to the challenge of playing an athletic team… 

“I think they stepped up well. That’s why we have to keep improving because we’re going to see this every night. If you told me at the beginning of the night that we were going to win the game with 83 points and P.J. Horne and Andrew Garcia would combine for four points, I wouldn’t have bought any stock in that. I wouldn’t have thought that was going to happen, but we did. You know what? We don’t win the game without the way those guys defended. We don’t win the game without their physical aggressiveness. We don’t win the game without their presence. That’s how it has to be for us. We had four guys in double figures with one guy with nine. As I say to this team, in any given night there’s going to be guys in double figures, and it could be almost anybody on this team right now. Bottom line is that we have to meet the challenge defensively, and if we do that and we meet the challenge defensively and on the glass, then we have a chance to get our running game going, and our speed is pretty good. We made adjustments today. What I’m most proud about with these guys is that we’ve made some adjustments over the last few days. Even in walk-through today we made some adjustments in how we wanted to attack, and they came out and did a really good job with that. We made defensive adjustments yesterday, and we made some offensive adjustments this afternoon in a one-hour walk-through, probably 20-25 minutes of it spent on offense, and they came out and they executed. That’s how we have to be. We have to have a collective mindset of toughness, togetherness, and commitment every day to be successful.”

On getting better and sharper before SEC season…
 
“Well as a coach they are not generalities. There is not one that I would say we’re doing a great job of and that where the improvement comes in. It’s going to be a short turn around, so I don’t think we are going to spend a lot of time on the mistakes we made, but improvements become decision making. The improvement becomes creating passing angles, it comes in finishing, it comes in making sure we aren’t settling for jump shots and getting the ball reversed two or three times in a possession. So, there’s always going to be a litany of things and as a coach a good team never arrives, and a coach is never satisfied. You’re just looking for more things. I’m proud of their effort, and really looking at the competitiveness of tonight. We have got to turn around and get better and we can’t have a letdown, at all. If Tyson Walker plays, which the information we are getting is he will, he is going to be one of the better point guards we’ll face. It doesn’t matter who we play, so every night there is a different challenge. The thing you must do as a coach every day is make sure they understand to meet those challenges, the improvement cannot waiver. I know I spend a lot of time trying to get better at a lot of stuff and sometimes you can’t do that. We better make sure we do understand what we do have to get better at and we have a short period of time to get ready for it and it’s going to be even shorter once the SEC hits.” 



On having a “melting pot” team…  
“I told Tye Fagan after the game, we could really feel his presence of leadership the last couple of days in practice. I thought he played that way; he missed a double-double by one rebound.  I think the fact that Sahvir [Wheeler], Justin [Kier], and Andrew [Garcia] live together is a good thing. I think the fact that P.J. Horne has been coached so well and has been a winner, especially with what he did in high school and at Virginia Tech, he’s been a winner. I just think we have a melting pot and that’s what most teams are. As these rules continue to change, and college sports, and in our case, college basketball continues to change, it’s really, really important that players come in, and they find their voice, that they can back up their voice, and that they’ll listen to another voice. When you do those things, now you’ve got a chance to build the most important thing any team can have, which is mutual respect, because everybody wants to achieve, everybody wants to score, everybody wants to get to the next level. This team will not have anybody reach a high level of success if this team isn’t balanced because we just were not built that way. If we continue to build on that and enjoy watching our teammates have success, then we’ll get better. My job as a coach is to keep reiterating that and forcing that, looking for that, praising it and not be afraid to absolutely go after it if I don’t see it. And that’s when you got good leadership, usually you’re preaching to the choir. If you can get that done, then you got a chance to take steps. You know, it’s still very, very early in the season, we’ve got to continue to learn a lot about that.” 

On bench energy… 
“I thought our bench energy was tremendous because my biggest complaint after last week’s game was our bench energy. We’ve got to create our bench energy, our verbal energy, we’ve got to be connected. Now, with that being said, I thought our crowd was really good last week, and I thought it was even that much better tonight. I mean, to have our students come out like that when they don’t have to be in town, all right, and exams are over, graduations over and for them to be here like this, it’s just awesome. I mean, when I took the job, I said something that I’ve believed since I was an assistant at Michigan State with Tom Izzo, is that every person in your building matters. Right now, we’re only 17 to 18 percent capacity, every one of those people matter. When they’re bringing that level of energy, they’re bringing that level of noise and passion, it really makes our team better. Well, our team is close to the action. So when our team is bringing that level of energy to one another, whether it’s on the court or whether it’s on the bench, and our guys respond to that. So that’s a huge, huge thing for us. I thought they gain confidence and they stayed extremely active and on the attack. 

On Mikal Starks… 
“As far as for Mikal Starks, when he got hurt last Saturday, he has not recovered from that. We’re dealing with that. I’m not sure on his status for Tuesday night. He has not practiced this week. He’s been there every day obviously, but he has not practiced this week. He’s dealing again with a lower body injury, and we just need to let it heal.” 

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