DES MOINES — The Indiana Hoosiers were already having communication problems the day before their NCAA tournament game against Kentucky.
“Coach Crean has just said it’s going to be a very up-and-down game, so get our shoelaces ready,” point guard Yogi Ferrell said Friday afternoon. “Gotta get back on defense.”
Minutes later, Tom Crean set the record straight.
“First of all, I didn’t say shoelaces tight,” he said. “They better be. If we even have shoelaces. Some of them may be Velcro.”
The coach did agree with Ferrell’s general statement, saying Indiana needs to “keep the foot on the gas” if it gets an early lead. But defense needs to trump pace.
“We’re not very good if we’re just trading baskets,” he said.
Neither Indiana (203rd in possessions per game) nor Kentucky (211th) have been particularly fast-paced this season, though both have the athleticism to make Saturday’s matchup a shootout.
“If they want to run, let’s run,” Wildcats forward Marcus Lee said. “We obviously don’t have a problem getting out there and running.”
The teams combined for 192 points in their most recent matchup, a 102-90 Kentucky win in the 2012 tournament.
“It was a high-flyin’, fast, you know, played fast kinda game,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said Friday. “So I would expect this to be the same.”
Kentucky went on to win the national title, while Indiana’s Sweet 16 run was cut short. It’s still the furthest the Hoosiers have advanced since making the national title game in 2002.
“I still look at that one and see the misses more than I see the 92 points that we scored,” Crean said. “Because we missed baskets that, if they go in, it’s a different story.”
Saturday, it’s the Big Ten champions vs. the SEC champions, and neither one expects a slow pace.
Ferrell, who’s counting on a “very fast-tempo game,” said conditioning will be key.
“The main thing is you’ve just gotta get your wind right,” he said. “Get ready for this game because it’s going to be a very fun game.”
Kentucky-Indiana tips off at 5:15 p.m. ET on CBS.