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December 21, 2018

Archie Miller

Bloomington, Indiana

Q. Coach, talk a little bit about Jacksonville and then the upcoming break and what the team hopes to accomplish.
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, well, we have our last non-conference opportunity here on Saturday evening. Just got done watching Jacksonville play Notre Dame from their game last night and studying them through the course of their season so far. They're going to present a number of challenges for us. They have some guys that can really cause some problems with their ruggedness, their physicality. They play fast, and they can really drive the ball from five spots.

There's some concerns there going into tomorrow's game just in terms of our guys being dialed in and ready to go. We were disappointed in the way we started the other night just taking care of the ball, and I think Jacksonville could take advantage of some of the same things. And we have to be prepared.

I think obviously attack some zone, as well. We had a day yesterday to kind of recuperate and get ourselves ready. Today we'll have hopefully a good workout, and tomorrow we'll be ready to go to finish up non-conference play with a tough opponent.

Q. Do you have an update on Rob Phinisee at this point, where he stands in the concussion protocol?
ARCHIE MILLER: He's still in the concussion protocol. I don't think he feels great. He won't be available tomorrow. From that point forward moving on, how he recovers, we'll see, post-Christmas. But he's feeling better, I think. I think each day since the night of the game he's gotten a little better, but he's still in protocol.

Q. You've talked about the slow starts and wasted possessions early. I don't know how much Devonte helps in terms of the turnover situation all the time, but is he somebody that could be catalytic from a scoring point of view to help get things going early?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, I mean, he's more experienced, he's played more games. I think he definitely has a more offensive mindset when he comes in the game in terms of how he's looking to play. Sometimes it's feast or famine with him where he tries to do too much, and then there's times when he looks like a million dollars. Big thing is him running the team and him getting our guys going in terms of the movement, the ball movement, the sharing of the ball, making plays. He's definitely a guy that comes in with that type of a mindset. As he gets ready to come into hopefully Saturday's game, he's ready to go. I don't think by any stretch here -- in the last couple weeks he's gotten a lot of things done for us, so he's got to keep going.

Q. This is kind of familiar territory with Devonte where he rides the highs and obviously falls sometimes with the lows? How do you maybe approach it now with him? Is there anything you say to him mentally from a mental standpoint, or how do you maybe approach it coming off a game where he played so well and you want to obviously see it keep going?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, it's gradually built. He had such a different role in this game just because of how much the ball was in his hands, and Rob wasn't out there as much. But he did some good things against Butler. He did some good things in the Louisville game, I think, and then coming of the Penn State game -- he's been working his way back, and sometimes the opportunity and the role when you know you're not coming out as much, you play with more confidence. But he's been a tough guy to read at times, just because of the ups and downs and the plays that he tries sometimes that he knows he probably shouldn't, but he also is a guy that is our best post feeder. He's our best passer just in general, making plays for the assist. It's not close. And he can stretch the floor behind three. You just want him to be able to take the good ones, which he's made here recently.

Defensively he's been pretty solid for us, too, as well. I don't see as many breakdowns there here in our last few games. He's done a good job there, as well. And we're going to need him to be as solid as possible. He's going to play a big role for this team all season. Sometimes seasons go through ups and downs with injuries and whatnot. Hopefully this is his time to take advantage of the opportunity where he can grab and get more rhythm going as he's moving into Big Ten play.

Q. Kind of a bigger picture question, but as you do get to the end of non-conference here, are there things you were hoping to see that you have gotten out of this team through challenging them on the road, on neutral floors here in the last couple months and are there things that has surprised you about what this team has shown you it's capable of?
ARCHIE MILLER: I mean, we've seen a lot. We've played good teams. We've been on the road, I think, three true road games, a neutral game. It hasn't been like we've been in Assembly the entire non-conference slate. We've played games that have been grinders. We've played some games that have required us to make comebacks. I think there's a resiliency about the group. Our returning guys I feel are playing pretty hard right now. I think our young guys have surprised me that they've been able to be incorporated in there and make -- not that they don't make mistakes, but they've been able to be tough-minded in pressure situations really on both ends of the floor.

This team has underachieved in my opinion offensively, regardless of our numbers, regardless of how many points we score. Our execution, our taking care of the ball, our style of play that we're trying to play hits a lot of speed bumps, a lot of road bumps, and that's been the one thing that's been not just frustrating but perplexing. We haven't been able to put a game together where we're fluid on offense. We make bonehead mistakes. We miss free throws. We just haven't put it together offensively where we've been really fluid, and that's going to be a search, a quest and a search because once you get to Big Ten play, the easy ones go away, and you have to play in the half court, and you have to execute and you have to be able to not turn it over in particular on the road. There's going to be some real grinder games coming up where we're going to need our offense to raise its level, and I would say through non-conference, if you asked me, I think we played pretty hard. I think we have some tough-minded guys. I think we play to win.

I think offensively our identity hasn't been able to be as fluid or as effortless, as easy as you want to make it. We've made it hard on ourselves at times there.

That would be the -- as of right now, as we head into January, the next step.

Q. This 12-day break, it's not something you see always in the schedule. You've known it's coming. How do you handle this in terms of maybe letting guys rest but not losing the sharpness that they're going to get from just that rhythm of playing games this time of year?
ARCHIE MILLER: You can look at it a number of different ways. I think sometimes you put a game in there as you get back to get it out of the way before you get to Big Ten play. For us, we'll continue to finish this thing off, and once we get off the break we're 100 percent committed to Illinois. That's the way I look at it. We're 100 percent committed to getting better and preparing to play Big Ten opponents where we have some time to work on ourselves, which you're not going to get past the I'll I will game. You're just going to be practicing and sort of preparing. This is a chance we can continue to really spend some time on ourselves before we really get to the heavy grind because you take the Penn State-Northwestern split and move it out of the way, six out of the next eight are on the road. There's a lot of travel in there. There's going to be a lot of wear and tear. So us coming back from Christmas having an opportunity to work and prepare and play against one another and hopefully have consistent practices will maybe make us a little bit more in tune with the start of Big Ten play.

Q. Besides offensive fluidity, what are some other areas of improvement that you and the staff are targeting with this team not only in the game against Jacksonville tomorrow night but when you return from the holiday break later next week?
ARCHIE MILLER: Just continuing to play together and being smart, ball movement, spacing. We've caused problems with ourselves just trying to do things that we don't practice a whole lot. Even the first five turnovers of the game the other night, they were ridiculous turnovers where it just -- you don't even see that in practice happening. There's guys not thinking the game. We have to do a better job of playing with one another, reading space and moving the ball and moving yourself. We have to become a team that is effortless in terms of the way the ball moves instead of sticking and driving back where it came from and running into the paint and there's nowhere to go. We have to become just a better offensive team.

The key is you have a lot of opportunities here to work, and you're going to play against good opponents that are going to test you, so if you're not doing that, you're going to struggle.

Q. Back to the break, because of the injuries you had a lot of young guys in the first half of the season that had to play some serious minutes. The fact that you do have this 12-day break, how is that going to help them just recover from the grind that they've never been through before?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, I mean, like I said, it's been a challenging non-conference for us. We've also been down bodies for a good portion of the thing. We're going to have to adjust to what we're going through right now. But yeah, I mean, every kid, every team goes through that, just that mental grind, and I thought this team actually handled this better than teams I've been around before. That's probably a credit to the young guys, just being a little bit more mature and being a little tougher minded. Sometimes a freshman can really just get gassed out, which the quality of our opponent has really kept us on our toes, as well. When you're going Butler, Louisville, Penn State, Northwestern, Duke, you've got to be ready for those games.

But the recovery time is important. You know, getting them home for Christmas is always the goal where they get away from the -- what they've been through doing. They get a chance to relax a little bit, and then when they come back, you've got to ease them into it, but you've got to go back to work, and there should be an excitement level when they come back because obviously we're heading into conference play.

Q. I'm not sure if you mentioned before, when are they actually coming back? When are you guys starting practice again after Christmas?
ARCHIE MILLER: We'll be back on the 27th. Typically we've always been back either the day after Christmas -- this one allows us to bring them back on the 27th just due to the distance of the games and the gaps. We don't have one on the 28th or 29th or whatever it may be like some teams do. To give them a window, they're going to play a night game on the 22nd, realistically they'll travel on the 23rd, so hopefully they can get the 23rd, 24th, 25th, get one day after Christmas, some of them will return after Christmas on the 26th and some of them will return on the 27th.

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