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December 28, 2017

Archie Miller

Bloomington, Indiana

COACH MILLER: I think every coach and player had a few days to themselves to take a deep breath. As we returned, I thought we had some guys with some freshness about them. There's some energy about getting back to work, but obviously getting a little bit of time away. It's always a good balance.

But we've had good workouts since we've been back. And I think getting back to the floor on Friday is important as we get reengaged here, as we go through the beginning of the Big Ten. So we have another day today, then we play. And then from that point forward, I think we'll have a lot less practice time just due to the way the Big Ten schedule is set up.

These last three or four days heading into Youngstown State have been important as we get our practice routine back, because we know we're not going to have -- very seldom are we going to have multiple days in between a lot of games.

Q. When you have a non-conference opponent like that, is it more working on yourself?
COACH MILLER: We're working on ourselves. To be good, to be great in the hardest moments of the season, in your biggest games, you can only really rely on you. And you've got to be able to execute the things that you're trying to do offensively and defensively.

We spent really all of our time on us continuing to try to get better, continue to try to play harder, getting more guys to do more things, to contribute. And as you go into Youngstown State or whether you're playing against Wisconsin, there's always a game plan. But you have to be really good, I think, at what you do more so than the other teams do.

Q. You spoke last (indiscernible) about the need to challenge guys and be tough on them coming off the Fort Wayne game. What's the balance now? Is it still --
COACH MILLER: It's the same. We have to keep our foot down and we have to be a very goal-oriented team right now. We have to be a very driven team, individually and as a group. And we have to be pushed. Our staff has to be pushed. We have to push our players, our players have to push one another and the competition, the competitiveness, the spirit of what you do every day matters right now a lot.

And we've had a couple of guys come off the break, have been really pleased. Justin Smith and Al Durham, you forget those freshmen; they can hit those walls during school, during finals. I think those guys have been really good in practice the last couple of days. It's been nice to see those guys re-energized, so to speak, with a spirit about them. I think that's what makes your teams better, is guys working at it every day.

Q. Talked about them having the gap between games to work on stuff. I think there's a push in some segments of the league to maybe almost mandate that between Christmas and New Year's no games. Is that something that's beneficial in your mind, or is that something where you have to figure out what the 20-game schedule looks like and whether or not that would be doable?
COACH MILLER: I'm not sure. There's a lot of leagues that are starting up relatively really quick after Christmas into their conference play.

It's a balance when you're playing 20, because of the non-conference schedule, how you're going to have to deal. So I think there's going to be some trial and error.

I did feel like when we go to 20 we'll have a portion of our Big Ten schedule early, which is going to give you maybe some space in January and February where your Big Ten games aren't as stacked up like they'll be this year.

But I think when you come off a break, in general, it's a time you can really continue to work hard. But conference play is going to get started earlier. So I'm not sure how it's all going to work.

For us to be able to play after Christmas, to get a game in before Big Ten play was important for us getting back off of break. We'll see how it works.

I think everybody will look at this 20 games, see how it lines up, and then you have to build your non-conference schedule around.

Q. Talk about goals. If you had a New Year's resolution for this team, what would be foremost in that?
COACH MILLER: Oh, man, be a much improved team defensively. To be a team that's much improved offensively in terms of execution and taking care of the ball.

And as we get ready to play in Big Ten play, that we're right there. And I think that we made some major strides. I said that I think after the Notre Dame game. And also take a major step back.

So the quest is to continue to keep climbing every day and not really dwell on what you can't control, and just keep trying to improve. And the hope would be, towards the end of the season, as you're a team that's at the end, you're playing your best ball and you're a much improved team than you were before you got ready to get started.

A lot of teams that start off hot can fade, and a lot of teams that maybe are not trudging their way as smoothly as you like that find a way at some point in time to hit it and be able to hit a streak.

And I think you're never going to be able to achieve that stuff worrying about what can you really control, what can't you.

But the one thing you can control are the things you do every day. And you've got to really focus in and not get frustrated with wins and losses and keep improving, because if you do that, you'll find a way at some point in time during the season to hit it and you never know where it can take you after a couple of wins.

Q. There's been a lot of illness going on. Have your players been affected by that?
COACH MILLER: Not very much. I think everybody has their coughs and colds right now. That's been pretty much around. But we haven't been hit by knock on wood any of the holiday bugs coming back.

We've had relatively consistent practices. And all of our guys for the most part are feeling pretty good.

Q. As far as challenging players, who do you feel like there's some guys that have responded positively and really improved over the last week and a half or so since those practices after --
COACH MILLER: I mentioned Al and Justin just post Christmas have really come back ready. I think moving off of our Fort Wayne game, I thought some of our guards, Newkirk and Devonte, in particular, have been turned up just a little bit, those guys have to stay up.

And I think looking at how these other guys are playing, you can't be satisfied. I think a guy like Juwan right now needs to be pushed another level. De'Ron needs to be pushed another level. And for us to be successful, their improvement and their acceptance of being pushed is going to be important.

What you've done right now may be good in your mind but in our mind right now, we're not anywhere where we need to get to.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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