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January 18, 2019

Archie Miller

Bloomington, Indiana

COACH ARCHIE MILLER: Well, obviously we get ready to get started here with obviously a great rivalry game at Purdue on Saturday afternoon. I'm sure it's going to be one of the most challenging environments that we've been in this year.

Purdue is playing really, really well. Just in watching them post-Christmas as they have entered January, they have a lot of guys contributing in a lot of different ways.

I know all the attention really goes to Carson and what he's doing, which is phenomenal, but they also have just a ton of other guys right now that they are bringing into the fold that are doing a lot of the dirty work. They play extremely hard and they are rebounding the ball great right now on the offensive end. Obviously their execution is something that they take great pride in, but they are playing very hard on defense, as well.

So I think they are playing as well as anybody right now, especially when you look at what they have been able to do in Mackey over their time. That's obviously on our mind right now.

And then, you know, we'll go right back on the road again at Northwestern. Seeing them in early December, have a lot of respect for their team and how good they are. You know, playing them there will be a lot different than playing them here, and we're going to have to be ready to absorb another blow, so to speak, in terms of how tough we're going to have to be. We're going to have to be ready to respond.

That's what we've really focused on these last few days, getting our legs back underneath us. Try to have an energy about us, and being able to go back to work here today before tomorrow is an important thing.

Q. Coming off that Nebraska game, are you pushing any different buttons and handling things any different, given that performance the other night?
COACH ARCHIE MILLER: In general we were bad at everything. That comes back, you know, obviously to the focus of the group, and to be able to realign their minds on what's important is the most important thing.

At the same time, I do think that we've got to get more guys playing in the games, for either quick stretches or more -- we were fatigued, you know, mentally and physically against Nebraska. We weren't ready. I think part of that is, you know, we have some guys playing a lot of minutes.

We've dealt with a lot of injuries, so our practices have been tough for guys that are in there, and we've got to get some more guys playing with some confidence. I think that's a big thing for us.

And as our staff has approached it, just getting our guys' minds right. This isn't anything different than any team in the league isn't going to experience at some point in time, a little adversity, and for us, we have to come through it.

Q. We didn't see Al through the second half of the Nebraska game. Where is he at? Do you expect him to be available this weekend? Is there a timetable?
COACH ARCHIE MILLER: We're hoping. He got a kicked or kneed, and right in the back of the leg, and couldn't put any weight on it after it stiffened up, and wasn't available to play in the game.

So you know, he's gotten better with treatment this week. If we would have had, you know, maybe more of a mid week game, he wouldn't have played. I think he has a chance to play at Purdue.

Did a little work on the court yesterday. Still having some problems, I think running. Hopefully today, as he gets, you know, warmed back up, we'll see what he can do.

Q. After the Nebraska game, you mentioned some guys had maybe lost their confidence a little bit. When you were a player, whether it was high school or college level, or even if it was a teammate who was going through something like that, what did you kind of do to get through that mental block or whatever it may be?
COACH ARCHIE MILLER: You know, I think one of the things that's very unique about confidence is, you know, you can get caught up in the wrong things, whether that's your shooting or whether that's your playing time. I don't know what it is, but then it affects everything else. It doesn't affect the things that you even imagine.

To me, we've lost our confidence defensively. I do think that some of the focus on what's going on is guys being able to make shots or scoring at times, but the one thing we have always hung our hat on, especially at the very beginning was the identity that this team was going to have to play with and how hard they were going to have to compete and dig in.

Some of our big wins, we were down. We had deficits. We were down under two minutes, and you forget that. I think what we've tried to really center back in on is the edge that we are not playing with right now defensively, and the teams that we are playing can really expose you and take advantage of that.

You have to separate sort of your confidence individually, and you have to focus in on the identity and the responsibility that you have as a teammate, to be able to play the way that we want to play. And I think good things start to happen when you sort of get back and invest sort of more so in those things.

There's been a lot of conversations this week with our guys. There's been a lot of conversations amongst the coaches that one of the things that we've been very proud of this group is that through a lot of adversity through injuries or whatever it may have been, who is available for a game, guys have showed up and been ready to battle and play and give great effort, and I think that's the thing that we have to really zero in on right now.

Q. You mentioned effort. When it comes to things like effort, how much do you try to let the player leadership work those things out without you stepping?
COACH ARCHIE MILLER: That's a huge point. The players have to control what they can control and you can always control, so to speak, your attitude, your communication with one another, what's important to the group.

You have to coach yourself, so to speak. I think that energy level, that communication is something that we've got to keep our eyes on, and I think for the first time, especially in Monday's loss, that we had great communication; that we had great fight; that we had guys in time-outs or huddles or even in the locker room at times, really being, you know, zeroed in on, hey, we're okay or we've got to do this better, blah, blah, blah.

I think it was more so of a lethargic deal, and it can happen. It happens to a lot of guys or a lot of teams. They go through a season where the mental is just as much as the physical and I think that's the thing that we have to keep our eyes on, like I said, we have to zero in.

The players have to be engaged and our best players have to be the guys that are engaged and I think that's something that the guys with experience, veteran guys in our system for a couple years understand how we have to play and those guys got to hold each other accountable to the best of their ability.

Q. You talked about Purdue playing better since Christmas. They had a stretch in there where they had three games in 20 days. That gives the coaches a little more time to teach and sort of think, what have you seen that from them. And by the same token, you had the 12-day break around Christmas. Did that affect your momentum at all?
COACH ARCHIE MILLER: In terms of our break, it didn't affect our momentum at all. We had good work outs, good practices, leading into the beginning of January and Big Ten play.

You know, I think one of the things that's unfortunate is, you know, we lost Robert for a good portion of all those practices and weeks, and having that sort of -- you know, sort of get him back into the flow is good, but he's still not himself in terms of his confidence level and how he WAS playing before he went out. So that changed us just a little bit, just in terms of having his consistency, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

When it comes to Purdue, I'm not real sure what they are doing in terms of their practices or whatnot, but I just see them really investing in more people playing a bigger role. They have a lot of different guys in there right now, young and old contributing, and I think that's really made them better, especially defensively.

I think they are playing very, very hard right now. They have at least, what I can tell, is more of an emphasis right now on offensive rebounding, and they have a lot of guys right now contributing on the glass, hustle plays, long rebounds. They are scrapping right there much differently, and I think they have more guys contributing in their own way. It's not just a one-guy show.

Carson is a terrific player and he's going to be a terrific player, but like I said before I think they have a group that's playing really well together right now, and you can tell coming off of their non-conference schedule, it was very tough; that they were tested, and I think as they have gotten into the Big Ten, they have their confidence and their belief in what they do.

Q. One of those guys that's playing a lot more is Trevion Williams. How much different of a scout are they?
COACH ARCHIE MILLER: He's doing really well. He's going to be a terrific player in this league. You can tell that they are starting to trust him a lot more. You know, he gives them an added dimension because he's got great hands. He's a terrific offensive rebounder. He's skilled and nimble. They can give him the ball at times.

I think to me, just in watching him, he's got a bright future but he's going to be a bright spot for them coming into Big Ten play. He's giving them another strong body that they can play around the basket where it's not always just around the perimeter. He's tough to deal with, and you know, he's definitely made a big, positive impact on their team.

Q. You mentioned earlier about playing more guys to give rest to some of your starters and stuff. Who do you look to in particular at times like this, guys to come off the bench?
COACH ARCHIE MILLER: The hope, obviously is that we can get Damezi, De'Ron and Clifton and Jake sort of in the mix.

De'Ron's really struggled since rolling his ankle in the Illinois game. He's not been himself. He's had a very hard time moving.

With that being said, we've had to get Clifton in there a little bit, and just in looking at some other things from a rebounding perspective where we're struggling right now, I can see us having to try and play Juwan, rather than just with Justin all the time.

So that gives an added element to our team in terms of our depth that we can maybe get another guy or two in there for short bursts.

But I see Damezi being start to be able to work in there. Damezi can shot shoot the ball for us. He's a big, strong kid, and you know, you've got to be able to trust these guys and to do it you've got to play them.

So for us, we're trying and we're definitely looking at different options in terms of making us a deeper team because I think that will make us a harder-playing team and I think that will give us more of a camaraderie, more of a chemistry as we get into January where there's a lot more guys feeling good, rather than, you know, as you go through even the winning and the losing, I'm not part of it.

That's all part of it, and you have to go through your roles and the coaches have to make decisions. But we're looking for more help right now. We're looking for answers, and I think that those guys, as long as they stay with it and keep coming to work, firing them in there is going to help us.

Q. Rob getting his confidence and rhythm back, how big of a miss was it for him not being able to work on that long break, being able to review what worked well and what he needed to improve on from the first two months and have that intensive time to go back and work on his own game in that way?
COACH ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, it's an unfortunate setback for him. He wasn't able to do much in and around Christmas break at all, as he's gotten a little bit better, he's started to work more and more. He's still not even right now able to practice full-go just because of his wind.

So I mean, you're taking three or four weeks off, and he hasn't felt well most of those weeks, you just don't come back swinging, you know what I mean. He's the type of kid that I think that is really mindful.

He's diligent, he's smart, and I think he knows right now that he's going to start to play more and more minutes as the games continue to come, but he's also a guy that right now is starting to feel his way back into the flow of the game, shooting, passing, playing defense. It's a timing thing. Basketball is so much about rhythm and he got his rhythm sort of knocked out.

So we are hopeful as each day goes by and he gets his legs back under him, so to speak, is what our staff has tried to consider it. It's more of getting your feet under you a little bit, and that's what we're trying to get with him.

He's a big, big part of what we were doing and he'll continue to be so, and hopefully as time goes by, he starts to regain a little bit of his -- I don't want to say, but sturdiness in terms of what he's brought to the table for us over the course of the first non-conference.

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