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March 1, 2019

Archie Miller

Bloomington, Indiana

ARCHIE MILLER: Tomorrow, obviously, we have Michigan State coming to town. They are an excellent team and have been all season. They've dealt with adversity with their top couple guys being out and they still seem to, obviously, fit the mold of a championship type of team. They've got a lot of guys doing a lot of good things. Cassius Winston right now, if it ended today, would arguably be the Big Ten Player of the Year. He's had that type of impact on their team and what he does for them. Xavier Tillman and Kenny Goins doing a fantastic job with Nick Ward going out of the lineup. Those guys have really stepped up and they're getting great shooting and great contributions from their perimeter guys as well.

Speaking of ourselves, we have to continue to play as hard as we can. We're going to have to do some things that, in that type of game, that you have to do; especially since our first time we played them. In the first time we played them, we did some of those things -- we hit shots, we had 20 assists in the game. We were able to rebound and it's going to have to be the same thing tomorrow after noon.

I thought that our team in the first game played extremely hard and that was the biggest thing. Sometimes when you play really hard and you are committed to playing to win and not worried about a whole lot, sometimes the ball sort of finds you on 50/50 plays and which we had a number of them in that game. I thought we were very active in getting back and stopping some of their easy ones and they had a tough night at the line in that night which played a part in it. We had some guys to drive to pass unselfishly at times. We had some guys make some really key shots at really key times.

That's what you have to do to play a team like Michigan State to be able to win that type of game. You're going to have to make some plays. I just thought our team in general had a good spirit with them that night, had some breaks go our way. But as we play them here the second time, it's going to require the same type of mentality. You can't worry about anything else other than trying to play hard and playing to win, and usually good things will happen if you have that type of a mindset.

But from an execution standpoint, especially offensively, we were able to move the ball that night and I'm sure they're going to do some things differently in game two that won't allow us to do that, so we're going to have to adjust.

Q. De'Ron the last two, three, four games seems like he's kind of been himself again. Why do you think his play has been on an uptick?
ARCHIE MILLER: He's definitely playing the best that he's played since pre-injury. It took him obviously a good while to get his rhythm back. He lost confidence. He lost conditioning. But he's played his way through it, and I think he's as healthy as he's been all year.

He's really, really playing an outstanding game defensively for us right now. He's our best perimeter defender by far. I think offensively he's starting to get a lot more aggressive. You're seeing him get in transition to the basket. You're seeing him get fouled a little bit more. I don't think he's afraid right now to take shots. I think just for whatever reason, he's played himself through it, and he's kind of gotten himself back into form. Just in watching him in our last two games, it's probably the best back-to-back games he's had maybe in a long, long time.

But he's doing a really nice job at this stage of the year for us.

Q. It's been a little while since you guys have won consecutive games. Is there anything you can learn from this stretch following the first Michigan State win where you guys couldn't eke wins in close games?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, I mean, I don't think there's any correlation. We're obviously trying to play our best. We're trying to win every game. Building off the momentum that we got against Wisconsin being able to finish a hard-fought game should give us a positive balance. I think that's the one thing; you want to get that pressure sort of off your shoulders as a player, as a coach, whatever, as a team, where you're coaching and practicing and you're playing without distractions, and I think right now going into this game on Saturday, our team knows what type of challenge we have, knows obviously that we're going to have to raise our level. I think that's the one thing our team has tried to do here in our recent two, three weeks is we've really tried to raise our level in terms of how hard we're playing, how committed we are to doing the little things, and it's helped us. We've gotten better. We've gotten better, especially defensively we've gotten better.

But I think a big thing winning consecutive games or however you want to stretch it, you've got to be able to score the basketball at some point and you've got to be able to use your defense hopefully to create you some offense at times, but you're going to have to execute and you're going to have to make some shots, and we obviously have gone through some steady droughts in our games where we haven't been able to get over the top, and the other night obviously we hung in there pretty good.

But we were able especially in the first half, our defense created offense. We were able to score the ball for a good portion of the game in transition, which was good.

I think that's going to be a key in this game. Obviously Michigan State's transition game is great. They're as fast a playing team as there is in this league. They go inside, they can play outside, and we're going to have to be able to get back and deal with them a little bit. But hopefully our offense can stay with us a little bit.

Q. Can you just talk about De'Ron and how he's been playing the last couple games, what you've like that you've seen, and then Race getting into --
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, I think it's been pretty much -- De'Ron in the last I don't know how many games, but since he came back and that first Michigan State game where he's been healthy, he's been able to give us a presence inside. We can throw the ball. He gives us another guy on the offensive glass that can get us second shots. Defensively he's the biggest body that we have, so he's able to kind of hang in there at times in between him and the rim, and he's been able to play longer minutes, which has helped our depth.

Without question the other night, even though he's sick right now, he was sick before the game and he's still been sick, he was able to fight his way through that and really help us at the game. Exhausted really in the second half, especially late and then overtime, but he was able to give us a veteran presence, a guy who's been in Big Ten competition before, and I think right now he's probably the best he's been since we've been here, pre obviously achilles.

Race, it's a credit to him. It's a credit to who he is. He's a worker. He has a year under his belt, which helps him that he's not completely learning on the run. The fact that he was able to get in there the other night and sustain it and compete and play just speaks volumes about who he is as a competitor and also what he brings to the table in terms of a team guy. But I thought he did as good a job as any in the game defensively for us, got seven rebounds. Like I said, I think the other day, I don't think you're ever going to see Race be the total offensive player that he maybe can be at times, but if he's in there and he's playing, to me it gives us another player that's playing pretty hard that's trying to do the right things.

Q. With all the close games that went against you guys the past few weeks, to finally come out on the right side of one of those, what does that do for the vibe in practice?
ARCHIE MILLER: It's self-explanatory really. It obviously helps the spirits of the guys. We had been knocking on the door, playing in one-possession games here for the last few weeks, and to come up short obviously at times was very disappointing, but to see us continue to play hard, continue to play to win and have confidence in each other means a lot. But to get the win obviously it really helps the morale of the guys. Winning cures a lot of evils, so to speak.

Q. What difference does Xavier Tillman make? He's been filling in for Nick Ward while Ward has been injured. What does he do differently than maybe Ward does?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, he can shoot the ball from the perimeter a little bit. He stretches the floor a little bit more maybe than Nick does. But he's doing the same thing. They're pounding the ball inside, he's giving them a strong presence around the basket. Maybe needs angles and maybe gets some seals more so than actually just playing sort of with his dribble behind the back.

But they do a good job getting him the ball, and he gives them a good presence in transition, and I think he's averaging about 16 a game in the two or two and a half games that Nick has been out. He's really picked up right where he left off, and it hurts their depth obviously long term, but here in the short-term when they have their five out there on the floor, to me those five are very, very good, and Xavier was good in the first game against us, as well.

Q. You've obviously talked a lot about these guys playing as hard as they're supposed to, I guess. What have you seen in practice outside of games that shows you that they're in a place where they can also sustain this?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, I think the accountability in practice and the competition level has gone way up. I think that guys understand that when we practice right now, that's probably as important as anything that we do. I think those guys have really raised their level of intensity on a daily basis, our perimeter guys in particular are getting better. They're doing a better job of working on the ball and working on shooters, and I think that's really helped.

But just in general, I think our mindset has been one of which when we go to work every day, that's push each other as hard as we can, and you're constantly trying to improve on things, and playing hard is something you can improve on. It's simple, but it's self-explanatory. If you're working as hard as you can every day and you're able to sustain that and carry it over into games and you're getting contributions from a lot of guys, that's probably a team that has a right mindset, and I think we have a good mindset right now.

Q. If you could talk about the intensity and the accountability going on in practice? Is that something led by the coaching staff? Is that seniors taking charge? What's going on?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, players gotta do it, and I think that's the accountability that we've been asking for here the last three weeks is for those guys to hold each other accountable, from Juwan all the way down. You've got to look as a coach and say are these guys giving the effort level and the attention to detail that you're asking them for right now, and they are. Not that we weren't before, not that we weren't trying or -- not that we weren't working hard before, but I just think right now there's a different type of a focus. There's a different type of accountability on what we're doing every day, and that's the change that needed to happen.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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