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January 18, 2018

Archie Miller

Bloomington, Indiana

ARCHIE MILLER: You know, a heck of an environment going to Michigan State Friday night, national television. Both teams have had some days off here to kind of get ready, so anticipating one heck of an environment playing against potentially the national -- a National Championship team. That's kind of who they are. It's a great challenge. It's very exciting.

And then moving forward from there, the gauntlet that we'll go through, really no team in our league will have to endure over the next three weeks. It's going to be challenging, but it's also going to give us a lot of opportunities here to continue to find a way to make things happen for these guys. They've done a really nice job here in the last few weeks of improving, and I think we're continuing to improve, and I think our guys are excited to be playing.

Q. How do you turn (indiscernible)?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, playing the games is obviously fun. I mean, there's not a whole lot to talk about. The preparation and the time in between, it'll be hit and miss. It'll be trial by error for our coaching staff. You have to take sort of the temperature of your own players, are they injured, how tired are they, et cetera, coming off wins, losses. There's a lot you'll balance over the next, I guess, three weeks. But the big thing is to continue these guys -- allowing them to feel good about themselves, allowing them to continue to improve, working with them individually, and finding a way just as the next three weeks, four weeks, having more guys step up and play their best basketball.

Q. You mentioned feeling good about themselves; how do you see that kind of manifest itself as far as feeling confident?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, confidence, you know, belief in one another, being excited to be there on game day, not worried about anything other than the opportunity to compete and play to win. That's what those guys have been doing. It hasn't been pretty, but we've found a way to gut a couple out, and then obviously had a breakthrough second half the other day in conference play for the first time at home, which was another big step in the right direction. So I think our confidence is growing. I think we're continuing to enjoy the process right now. It's going to get hard, but at the same time, you have some older guys that -- you know, when you're a senior and you have about a month left in your college career, you're giving everything you have right now, and that's a good thing. Our older guys are engaged.

Q. Health-wise, everybody okay?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, knock on wood, we're having full practices right now. We've had a couple nicks and bruises from the games last week that guys sort of weathered through and were able to be full go for Northwestern, and we've been full go all week with what we're doing. We'll try to save some legs here today before we take off, just because not just the Michigan State game but Monday, Wednesday, Sunday, Tuesday I think is the next sort of gauntlet. So the amount of time they practice in between these next three to five games will be a little bit slim. Today may be one of our lighter days as we get ready to approach kind of a thick part of our schedule.

Q. Michigan State has got six days to prepare for you or five days, whatever it is. What challenges do they present to you?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, they've got it all. I mean, they've got the whole deal. Starts in the inside game. Their transition game, their inside game with Nick Ward, that's a heavy emphasis for how they get started. When that's going well for them, everything else seems to throw. You've got outside shooting, you have physical wing play, and you have depth to absorb, so to speak, some foul trouble and whatnot. They have a lot of great things going for them as a team.

When you start talking about Coach Izzo and the preparation and how he has his team ready, I'm sure that there's a few speed bumps every season for every team once you get into conference play. That's how it is. But fully anticipate a ready team and also a team that can contend to win it all. That's a great thing for our league.

Q. The intensity or mood in the locker room, has it changed much from say when you were struggling against Indiana State versus now when you guys have won three in a row?
ARCHIE MILLER: No, I think we're in a much different place mentally. I think we have a focus about us. There's very little distraction in terms of within the locker room. I think we're really focused in on just improving, getting better, finding a way to improve individually. Guys feel good about themselves playing, and I think that was the case. As we entered conference play, we started off at Wisconsin, and I think I've said this a number of times, just really disappointed with our second half toughness level in that game, and since then I think we've been really focused on not letting that happen again. Not that it won't creep back in.

I think playing in the league, you're going to have some ups and downs and some highs and lows, you've just got to find a way to stay even-keeled and stay with it, and I think that's what we've done here in the last few weeks is just kind of stay with it every day, as a staff focusing on the guys and try and help them improve individually and as a team, continue to compete and battle in practice every day for however long you go, and hopefully you start to see some translation into the game, which I think we have seen a little bit.

Q. In terms of like concepts and being able to execute them, have things snowballed a little bit for guys that maybe they were moving too slow or thinking too much early in the season but they're building --
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, I think we're much more in tune with how we want to play. You're at game, I guess, 18, going into game 19 now, so roles are defined and the expectations are there. I think we have most of our guys playing in a way that they understand individually and what they're being asked to do to help us win. If they do that, good things will happen. And I think we have a lot of guys focused in hard on trying to do the little things. I think we've seen some guys step up here in the last two or three weeks and play better, and I think as that's happened, our team has gotten better.

Q. We've talked the last couple weeks about just looking at the numbers, Josh specifically, they've been some of the most efficient games he's played since his freshman year.
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, I think especially our last two games at home with Penn State and Northwestern, Josh was a big reason why we were able to win the game. We had really solid guard play at the point guard slot for heavy minutes, and he played close to probably, I don't know, 30 minutes in both games, or 25 or 30 minutes. He's been able to get double figures. He's had a high assist-to-turnover ratio. He's made free throws, and in general defensively he's probably had two of his better games just being able to stay in front, keep guys in front. Especially I thought in the Northwestern game was one of his better defensive games.

But make no mistake about it, there's correlation to our team being successful and having some consistency in the backcourt, whether that's Devonte and Josh and Rob against Penn State, whether that's Rob and Josh against Northwestern. There's a correlation that goes with our team playing well, and having good guard play is something that I think as we hope to be more consistent, having those guys play the way that they've played really helps.

Q. Is there something that sort of sparked that after the Minnesota game where you go into Penn State feeling a little different?
ARCHIE MILLER: No, I didn't think so. I didn't think that Josh particularly played very well at Minnesota, but I do think he came back and continued to really work, and I think as we're trying to get our guys to free up and play aggressive, teaching them through film, he's had much more of a play-making mentality rather than just shooting and scoring. If you look at him, he's had some really, really big-time plays in terms of being able to pass the ball, whether that's the assist, whether that's the kick-out in transition. He's had some really good plays where he's made the game easy for other people, and I think we missed that at times, and I think he's really done a good job in our last two games in particular of being a facilitator and being a guy that has made some plays for others.

Q. Juwan Morgan has added a lot to his game this year. What do you think is the next step for him in his development?
ARCHIE MILLER: You know, I think Juwan is doing a really nice job right now. I think the one thing and moving forward an added element is consistency, maybe more from the perimeter, shooting the ball. I think right now he's a better shooter right now than he was earlier in the season. He's more confident in taking the shot in the games. But at the same time, being a guy that can really put the ball on the floor and get fouled, being a guy that can stretch the floor from behind the line I think is something that as he continues to work he'll have kind of a full arsenal.

Q. You've talked a lot about being a better three-point shooting team, and it's shown. Do you have some practice habits that might bear that out, or is that just your observation?
ARCHIE MILLER: Just shooting the ball in the spring, shooting the ball in the fall. Looking at our practice stats, looking at our shootings drills in practice and the percentages, we have guys that shoot a much different percentage in practice and in our workouts than we do in the game. That's probably just the one outlier that from a percentage standpoint, why would we say we're a better shooting team than we have. Just I think we are. I think Al really hasn't got it clicked in conference play a whole lot yet. He's a better shooter than that. Rob finally broke out maybe a little bit against Northwestern behind the line. I think Rob is a much better shooter than he shot leading into the Big Ten. Josh is probably as consistent as anybody from a percentage standpoint in the games, but I think he's another guy that can make multiple shots. Collin has shown the ability to stretch the floor, but he's been a little bit erratic here lately.

But I think we have better individual shooters. When I watch them in drills and I watch them in practice and then in the game, we haven't put like one of those games together where everybody was hitting. So there's still hope that I think maybe we can get a little bit hot here as conference play goes and improve our percentage from behind the three-point line.

Q. As a former college guard yourself, did you ever have a chance to dunk one like Josh did the other night?
ARCHIE MILLER: On a low rim, really low rim. (Laughter).

Yeah, he pulled one out of the bag. I think Josh has been renowned for being a really good athlete in his time. I think as he's gotten a little bit older here and especially dealing with the knee injury a few years back, you're seeing a guy that's got a little wear and tear on his legs. But it was good to see him make the play. He had a nice game.

Q. With Michigan State's length, is it 12 defensive rebounds you still want out of your guards?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, that's a good barometer for our guards is the defensive rebounding numbers; 12 or more is always really good. But against Michigan State it's a little bit different. Being able to keep them off the glass is very, very difficult, and it's going to take all five guys to sort of grind it out. If you look at some of the teams that have been successful here against them or had a chance at being successful, they've rebounded adequately, and that's going to be a huge thing for us on Friday night is be able to contain the glass.

Q. Defensively what are you guys going to do against the bigger bodies?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, it's not about necessarily the size. It's going to have everything to do with our discipline and being smart. Michigan State clearly has a size advantage. But I think at the end of the day, it's all about quickness and it's all about positioning. We're going to have to really cover for one another, try to do our best to eliminate the easy catches and the easy stuff, where they're just not able to pound us. But they're a downhill team. They execute. They're very physical, and I think just for us defensively, the challenge will be foul trouble. That's the thing we're looking to avoid the most is to really be able to play without fouling because that's something on the road there that we won't be able to endure as easy, say like we did against Northwestern being at home.

Q. With the foul trouble, is it even a bigger challenge to avoid the cheap little offensive fouls?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, I mean, the ones -- yeah, you can't have the -- I guess the loose ball rebound foul, which they're calling nowadays, the one-on-one block-out where they say you hold the guy. That's a tough one. The moving screen is a tough one. The offensive charge is a tough one. You have to be really disciplined with how you want to play.

You have to have your antennas up just in terms of how the game is going to be called, as well. Once you pick one up, you're going to have to be smart. Playing hard without fouling, it goes without saying, the harder you play, the less you foul, and I think the more disciplined you are off the ball, the less you'll foul. Those are a couple things we've really just spent a lot of time on in the last few weeks just with ourselves really, really trying to be disciplined.

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