COACH CREAN: We are extremely happy with the win. Not satisfied in the sense that there's ‑‑ we could have played better at times, and there's more basketball ahead of us, but happy to have the first game put away now. And the key for us was our approach. Our approach was outstanding, it's been outstanding all year.
But for a team that had not been in this environment, had not been in this type of arena, and I don't mean just the Rose Garden, but the NCAA tournament arena, they handled it very, very well. They came out in an attack mode. They were following the game plan. And we wanted to attack on the break.
We wanted to do a great job, as good as we could, of holding this team under their offensive rebounding average. We did. We held them under half of that. That was important.
But again it's like so many other things, when you haven't done it, the experience of going through it and getting involved and seeing that you can compete in this environment at this level, the guys noticed that, they felt that right away. And it helped carry us throughout the game.
And we got a lot of great basketball from a lot of guys, obviously these guys up here. But I thought everybody that went into the game continued to adjust to what had to be done. And it was an excellent victory for us, it's one that we can build on. Certainly, like I said, there's things we have to get better at in a short period of time as we prepare for VCU. But we're very, very happy to have this.
Q. What happened for you between the first half and the second half shooting the ball where you really got hot in the second half?
JORDAN HULLS: Well, I was just getting up with my teammates, whether it was the ball screen, or coming off the ball screens. But I hit the first shots, so then started feeling a little better once it started leaving my hands and I was able to knock down some shots. But I got the majority of my shots from my teammates just setting up good ball screens for me.
Q. You come from a deep, rich basketball background with your dad. Playing out in Indiana, how much does it mean to you, not just to win, but to win in the fashion you did, where you guys just put on an offensive clinic and looked like old school Indiana basketball?
JORDAN HULLS: When we play the way that we're capable of playing, moving the ball around, as long as the ball goes to the basket and especially on the defensive end when we're getting steals, deflections, and turning that into our offense, that's when we're playing at our best. We did a great job of doing that tonight.
Like coach was talking about, it's not just us three up here that played great, everybody on the team contributed, especially Remy Abell came in and handled the ball as well as we needed him to.
Q. Wendell McKines only had 10 shot attempts, been averaging 15 or 16. How important was it to eliminate his touches tonight?
WILL SHEEHEY: It was very important. He said some things in the press conference earlier that were a little questionable. So we took it upon ourselves that he didn't get those touches. He said something about no mammal can guard him or something like that. So I guess Victor is not human. I don't know what's going on.
Q. You guys obviously went into this game knowing you had to keep them off the glass. How important was it to hold them to 23 rebounds and only 7 on the offensive glass?
CODY ZELLER: That was huge for us. Getting a lot of offensive rebounds, getting to the free throw line quite a bit. That was two of the biggest keys. I think it prepared us playing good rebounding teams in the Big Ten, like Michigan State, teams like that. I think that was a big key for us tonight and I think we did a fairly good job of that.
Q. You had 6 steals tonight, that's a Big Ten NCAA record, most steals in a game since 1976. Talk about that and basically just getting in the passing lanes tonight.
CODY ZELLER: Yeah, I felt like I was quicker than their big guys. They were probably a little bit stronger, but I was trying to use my quickness when they were passing inside and tried to get some deflections. But I was trying to be active.
Q. In the first half when you weren't necessarily putting a lot of points on the board, what was your mindset like to set you up for the second half that you had?
JORDAN HULLS: The first half I was trying to take what the defense was giving me and hit my teammates when they were open. We got a lot of backboard cuts and just moving the ball around. So I didn't feel like I needed to force up any shots and none of us really need to do that if we keep moving the ball like we did in the first half. From my standpoint that's really what I was looking at was just getting the ball where it needed to be and running the plays and executing them.
Q. What was it like for you, did anything catch you by surprise or just like any other game this season?
CODY ZELLER: Yeah, the first NCAA game for all of us. But I think once we got out there we realized it was just basketball. So we just tried to play our game and just glad we came out with a win.
Q. The head coach of New Mexico State said he noticed at one point, and I think some people watching noticed, their team splintering, getting a little chippy with each other. Did you guys notice that? And if so, did you get any energy, feed anything off of that seeing that they were starting to turn on themselves a little bit?
WILL SHEEHEY: I didn't personally recognize that, no. I don't think any of us do.
But we really had the same mindset throughout the game. We feed off our own energy and our own plays. I personally did not see it, no.
Q. With about five minutes left they had trimmed the lead to about 11 and you started to attack the hole and dribbled in from the perimeter. Did you get in that attack mode later in the game when you weren't doing that earlier on?
CODY ZELLER: Yeah. I mean, in the first half they were ‑‑ everyone was watching me when I got in the post, so I was trying to find other guys. I just tried to be aggressive and get to the free throw line or get my shot. I was trying to be aggressive, like you said.
Q. You had early in the game noticed that New Mexico State would come down, call the play and immediately the bench was calling the play. Talk about the preparation that you guys get in your assistants.
COACH CREAN: Again, the coaches deserve the credit because they work so hard. And that's what it's been like getting ready for the next game. We've hardly seen Tim Buckley since we've been here, other than practice, because he's been preparing for Wichita State and VCU. And Steve McClain and Bennie Seltzer, they did a fantastic job. All our video people.
We started right away on Sunday night. And what we have is a team that they really do respect preparation. They understand that it works, works for them. And we don't try to inundate them. But we try to get their attention. And they absorb it very, very well.
And communication is not just what's said on the court, it's also the bench. Our bench energy. Ever since Jim Harbaugh has been on the bench, our bench energy has gone up that much more. Bottom line is everybody has a role on our team, whether they're playing or not. And I thought our guys did an excellent job of that tonight.
Q. Speaking of that preparation, VCU Rams play a little bit different stylistically, I wonder if the short time to prepare changes anything?
COACH CREAN: Well, we feel good about our short‑term preparation. And obviously I don't know the VCU staff, but obviously they must feel pretty good about theirs, too, based on what they did last year. It's just that way.
Our guys have been in some quick turnarounds. We played Minnesota on the road and came home and played Michigan State on a Tuesday night. The bottom line is in a situation like this there's some physical to it but it's much more mental and retention, and seeing how it applies to you.
I'm looking forward to being up late. I know our coaches are, too. We won't have our players up too late. They pick it up quick. The biggest thing that we will see that's been different, because we played a lot of different teams, a lot of different styles, VCU's full court pressure is the real deal. That's probably not something we see on a nightly basis in the Big Ten. We've seen it. But that will be the biggest adjustment we'll have to make in a short period of time outside of us learning their sets and their concepts and things like that.
Q. Can you talk about just how good of a shooter Jordan is for you guys?
COACH CREAN: Well, Jordan is an excellent shooter. And we have some other ones, Matt Roth is shooting 59 percent in our league and he didn't even play that much tonight. Jordan did a great job of taking the right reads, seeing what the defense was giving him.
We had a chance in the first half to maybe put the hammer down a little bit more and we didn't. We gave up some baskets. We were a little quick with a couple of shots. Jordan was a part of that. There was too much dribbling and not enough ball reversal and body movement. And Jordan took the challenge defensively when they were attacking him. And did a better job especially when we went zone. But he continued to absolutely have great confidence on the offensive end. And we're used to that with him. We really are.
We did a 3‑point shooting drill the other day that we do numerous times throughout the year. I'll give you an example of how hard this is, Steve Novak I coached in Marquette, he's the best in the NBA, and the most he ever made in this drill was 72. Jordan averages about 74. The other day he made 85 in five minutes. We had four other guys break 70 in the University of Portland gym.
That's when I started feeling good about our team being out here. A lot of times your shot doesn't travel. Your defense and your rebounding do, but when you've got enough good shooters somebody is going to find a way. And tonight was Jordan's night. And I thought Christian did a good job. Christian Watford was excellent tonight, got very little rest. Victor Oladipo did excellent things. And they've mentioned Remy.
When you've got numerous guys that can shoot the ball, that can space the floor, there's going to be times where somebody really takes off. And tonight Jordan did that.
Q. What are the rules for that shooting game?
COACH CREAN: One ball, one rebounder, don't touch anybody else's ball, and you just move around the perimeter. Don't take a shot from the same place twice and it's on one end. And it's a great focus and concentration drill. There's conditioning in it. We do it at the end of practice and it was amazing. We've had one guy break 80, we had two guys break 80 the other day.
Q. For how long?
COACH CREAN: Five minutes.
Q. You talk a lot coming into this about their ability to get to the foul line, they only shot 10 free throws. What did you do about defending without fouling?
COACH CREAN: It was positioning, it was technique, it was our guys moving their feet. I thought we had great verticality in the post. Our whole thing was attack on offense, have verticality on defense, and block out like crazy. And we did that. To cut them in half on the offensive boards, they shot good percentages and they got too many layoffs, to keep them off the foul line and the second chance board, the way they had been, those were the keys to the game.
Again, positioning, technique and awareness were absolutely crucial for us not putting this team into the bonus and allowing them to live on the foul line. You can see they have very good foul shooters.
Q. You've been there now four years, and this is the first NCAA tournament game you guys have had since you've been there. Can you reflect just a moment about how far you guys have come winning an NCAA tournament game and what it means to you?
COACH CREAN: I think when I look up at the crowd and catch a glimpse of my family, our families, I've got some good friends here, Tony La Russa and Dick Strong, I catch a glimpse of them and I think then it hits you just for a brief moment that this is really, really special. It really is.
We've been through so much to get to this point that it's hard to spend a lot of time reflecting on it. I guess I have the last couple of weeks with some interviews. We've all learned a great deal. Everybody is better. It didn't seem like it at the time, but everybody is better for what we had to endure. I have no question I'm a better coach. The most important thing to me is that I'm a better Christian.
And I think our guys, and I look at Verdell Jones and I look at the selflessness of him, looking at all he's done as a player and all the points he scored to be like a coach for me tonight, for us tonight, and to be talking to Remy and Jordan and to be emphatic with things that he sees. I can reflect on that. Those are the kind of things that really lead you to believe that this program has been through a lot, we're better for it and we're just getting started.
Q. It seemed like the deflections number was high tonight?
COACH CREAN: 32 at half, which was crucial. It was 20 in the first 8, 9 minutes, which was absolutely paramount because the last thing we wanted to do was let them establish pace. And we wanted to be active.
We knew we were giving up something in size and quickness. You saw that. The plus/minus of Mullings being in the game, and we could never get it to a point where he wasn't a factor. But they're a different team when he's playing well. And that's why they made such a comeback. He might be a freshman that doesn't shoot a lot of 3‑point shots, we don't see guys that get to the rim like that. I told him that after the game.
I thought our activity picked up, even though our deflections weren't as high in the second half, our activity picked up because our ball pressure got better. We were letting the ball in the post too easy. And they've got great size. So they were making too easy of catches and we weren't getting our dig down there fast enough. Our activity was a huge part of us getting our break going and being able to establish we were going to run inside this game early, middle and late.
Q. During the day today did you notice any difference in the way the guys were approaching the game, were they more nervous?
COACH CREAN: No, you know, one of the coaches thought they might have been a little tight when they were stretching, but, no, not at all. These guys have been excellent. They know when it's business time, they really do.
We just talked before the game, I said the most nervous I was all year was what are we going to do when we got to Evansville, how are we going to play? And my body and head and stomach were moving in such directions, we come up and get 51 points. We beat three teams away from home that are in the NCAA tournament. It's a whole different deal. But we've been in deals like this for a long time. We can't do anything about what we don't know, let's do something about what we do know.
They were ready to go. There was nobody in the corner. We had a couple of guys under the weather, but they got over it and they played right through it and I'm really proud of them.
Q. You talked about the deflections before, Cody had six steals tonight, talk about what made him successful?
COACH CREAN: He had 14 deflections, which is even bigger than the steals. Jordan had the points, he had nine deflections. We're always looking for those double double, triple double numbers with the deflections, because it's just such a key to your defensive transition. And being able to get out ‑‑ and get in offensive transition.
In our league, and teams we play, we're looking at the numbers, four of the top ten teams in turnovers are in the Big Ten. We've worked hard for our deflections. The teams in our league don't turn it over much.
We've got to make sure we don't get away from having active hands, active feet, active mouths, and great court side defense. And in the short looks I've taken at VCU, they're handling the ball great. They're certainly not going to give it to us. But when you can be active and you can start to wear people down a little bit with that pressure, it just fuels our team. Those deflections are like dunks for us. We drew some big charges tonight. Those are huge. Those are like deflections for us. When we're getting that defensive energy, this team really thrives on that, and that's what we've got to continue to do on Saturday.