Video/Transcript: Tom Crean Pregame Presser – Georgia vs. Missouri

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Video/Transcript: Tom Crean Pregame Presser – Georgia vs. Missouri

On the challenges Missouri presents…

“They’re playing so much faster than they have in the past and if you look at the statistics, it shows. A year ago, they were scoring in the first eight seconds of the clock 18-percent of the time. The year before that it was 10-percent, now it’s 35-percent of the time. They’re playing fast. They have tremendous guard play, they’re one of the older teams in the league, maybe one of the more experienced teams in the country with what they have and they’re playing very aggressive. The Alabama game, the Tennessee game, there have been certain games where it was like impossible for teams early on to score and they are like every team, they got through their ups and downs. We have tremendous respect for Cuonzo Martin, tremendous respect for that staff and the way that they play, their guard play. Whether [Jeremiah] Tilmon is in there or not, they’re bringing a really good, strong aggressive front line that can not only score at the rim and rebound but can shoot the three. If there is no Tilmon, it increases their spacing. If there is a Tilmon, obviously it’s a different story when he’s at the block. They have a lot of answers because they have a lot of depth and a lot of very good players.”

On what his program can do to improve perimeter defense / defense in general…

“It’s a matter of locking in and it starts with transition defense. A lot of the time, it’s stopping the ball, but then getting your people in help. The problem with Alabama is they space the court so well that you end up not being in the gaps all the time because your man can shoot the three. A couple of times we didn’t get matched up correctly and they took off. They did a great job, and we emphasize this to our team, that they do as good a job as anybody around in making the next pass, making the one more pass. They stay so true to that corner. There is always that spacing. When we got back and defended correctly, we challenged shots, we missed some, the ones they missed we defended correctly, even some of the ones they made, maybe four or five, we were right there, we had a hand up and there was nothing that I could say that we would do differently on it. The other ones, we were late, we didn’t get that extended hand, the way that you have to be or we got into a rotation, which is not good. Frankly, no matter what we’re doing, whether it’s a guard or a bigger guy guarding the ball, we have to do a better job of taking the first dribble without opening up, so that we can guard the second dribble better. It’s the second dribble that ends up beating you because you didn’t do a good enough job on the first dribble and you end up opening up. That’s the part of the technique and things of that nature that we work on all the time that was a letdown the other day that we have to continue to get better at.”

On what the key has been in keeping team morale high and not letting losses linger…

“Why would it? We’re in the middle of a season, we just won three in a row, we just won five out of seven before that. There’s absolutely no reason for morale to drop. We didn’t play well. What I’m going to remind them today, it was a 12- or 14-point game in the second half, much of the game still hanging in the balance, we miss an open three, we miss a layup, we turn it over in the middle of the floor and they scored on all three of those possessions. That is sometimes what the game comes down to. Certainly, the final score is the final score but there were moments in that game in the second half, much like we had with Tennessee where we came back but didn’t get the win, but we capitalized on taking advantage of how long the game was when we got down. Alabama shot an unbelievable amount in the first half, there’s no doubt about that and a lot of that were our own mistakes and just being a little late against a team like that. Then we weren’t able to capitalize on our shooting, it’s just a snowball. There were numerous ways to win that game. Yesterday’s practice was very much a get better practice, it wasn’t about burying of them or three hours of total physicality, no. We come to work every day, we isolate our skills, we want to get better, we don’t want to lose confidence. We have a lot of things that we can do and we have an opportunity to play a very, very good, highly ranked team on Tuesday night.”

On how the absence of Missouri’s Jeremiah Tilmon changes Georgia’s preparation for tomorrow’s game…

“I don’t think it changes, because when he’s out, they play differently. So, you prepare both ways. You have to prepare for everybody that’s on the roster, unless someone is out for the season, that’s a different story. You just have to be prepared. We’ll have game plans both ways, but they definitely play different and they played that way against Arkansas where there was a lot more space on the floor. The most important thing is that we don’t get confused or locked in to something different. We stay focused on what’s most important, which is how we attack them in transition, how we continue to space the floor, how we get on the offensive glass but most importantly how we get back on defense. If he’s not in there, that’s five guys that are trying to beat you down the floor than maybe sometimes four and a half, because Tilmon is under the rim a lot and he gets there and he’s a pretty fast big guy, there’s no doubt about that. The speed will change a little bit. The bottom line is we have to be able to get back and deal with that. That also puts another three-point shooter on the floor in most case, especially with Torrence Watson coming off a game where he had three threes the other day. Mitchell Smith made threes early, Kobe Brown can make threes. There’s a lot of movement and it probably makes them a little more similar to Alabama and how you get ready for them.”

On what he believes is affecting Justin Kier’s offensive effectiveness lately…

“We have an attack mentality, and that’s a big focus—to play very, very confident. I totally believe in him. I’ve never been around a guy who scores points, in all the years of coaching, who really, really scores when he comes in focused on scoring. They score when they come in focused on locking up a matchup or defense as a team, rebounding, setting screens, setting people up, or whatever it is. That’s the thing here. With him, it’s that he’s got to be an elite defensive guard for us and focus really hard on that, and at the same time be ready to attack and score, because he can score. He’s one of the greatest layup-makers I’ve ever recruited. He’s got a pull up, and he just needs to relax and let the game come to him, because his coach believes in him 100 percent.”

On the keys to slowing down Missouri’s Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith…

“Dru Smith is playing phenomenal basketball. He’s shooting at a very high level, he’s taking what the defense is giving him. He’s playing like a true guard. He moves the ball and, again, he’s shooting the ball really well. He moves quick, and he plays with a great pace. Pinson attacks you and can shoot the ball. He can really, really get to the basket. Mark Smith, I believe, is still the leading three-point shooter in our league, and even though he’s been in a slump, I’m fully aware of what he’s capable of from recruiting him in high school. I definitely know what he can do range-wise, what he can do off the catch, what he can do off the dribble. There’s nobody that they’re going to put in the game and we say, ‘Okay, well we don’t have to guard him.’ We’ve got to do a really good job with individual defense, with our team defense and take the gaps. Then, we’ve got to do a phenomenal job of challenging shots, much better than we did the other day.”

On what he has seen from K.D. Johnson and his progression…

“He just needs to keep getting comfortable and keep moving without the basketball. He needs to understand it’s a long game, and the movement without the basketball and being in the attack is really, really important. He’s been eligible for about a month, and it’s so crucial that he just stay on that path. I’ve said this other times over the last few weeks—the development that he’s making now is the development that he would have been making in December hopefully, but we didn’t have that. So, he’s just got to continue to learn and get better. He’s a guy that cannot only let the game come to him, but he can attack. We need him to attack. We need him to be on the attack. We need him to be ready to shoot, and I think when we can play three guards like that it opens things up. It may even open things up more for Justin [Kier]. Every game provides something different. We may get smaller, we may get bigger, and having K.D. in there as a guy who can play in both situations is very helpful.”

On the other ways Georgia can control games, even when being out-shot by opponents…

“Without question, you’ve got to get to the foul line. I mean, there’s no doubt about it, and we’ve been pretty good at that. You have to get to the foul line, and you’ve got to be able to set your defense. That’s the most important thing. You want to try and get easy baskets. You don’t want to take confidence away from shooting the ball, but you have to understand that when the other team is shooting at a high rate, and we’re not, the bottom line is the movement has got to continue, the drive and attack has got to continue, but we’ve got to be able to put pressure on the rim which then hopefully gets us the whistle we need to be able to get to the foul line.”

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