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March 6, 2019

Archie Miller

Bloomington, Indiana

ARCHIE MILLER: We are obviously going into the final stretch here of the regular season. It will be two very challenging games. Going to Champaign, Illinois is up first and that's pretty much what we've concerned ourselves with right now. They are playing extremely well. They're much improved. At home they've been very, very difficult to deal with regardless of who's went in there and played them. Their style is so unique, it's hard to prepare for, and us playing them so far long ago that it's almost like a totally different team and totally different game. But it's going to be very hard fought.

Then very fast turnaround with the late finish on Thursday and then the early start on Sunday, we have a quick turnaround to get ready for Rutgers, and Rutgers is also competing and playing very, very well, regardless of who they play and have great size. These two games this week will be just the same as every other one we've played; they'll be very hard fought.

Q. Given what's at stake these last two games, do you kind of approach this week as a play-in game to the tournament at all, just kind of looking ahead?
ARCHIE MILLER: No, we've got to approach things the same way we've been approaching things. I think everyone understands that there's a lot to play for for a lot of teams, but we've had a lot to play for for a long time now, and being able to get up off the mat last week and get two big wins was great to see, that we're still right there in terms of our disposition and what we're playing for and the focus of our group, and it won't be any different this week.

You can't make it any bigger than it was last week. Each game feels bigger because the season continues to get longer, and everyone is striving for something right now at this time of year, and in the case of our league, it doesn't matter if it's team 1 or team 14. Everyone is good.

As we head here, I think every team is trying to position themselves for the Big Ten Tournament and see how that stacks up.

Q. You talked about Rob Phinisee after the game against Michigan State, some of his defense on Cassius Winston, but more broadly, after that concussion layoff, when did you feel like you were seeing maybe the same Rob that you were getting the performances from in late November and December in terms of his confidence and kind of his command of just everything, and how have you seen him grow maybe in these last couple weeks in particular?
ARCHIE MILLER: I think he started to become himself again probably about a month ago, maybe in early February, maybe even -- the first Michigan State game he was able to -- in watching him prepare for that game and just remembering after the game, see Rob was kind of himself there. And as we've mowed through the ups and downs of the season, he's sort of continued to get better. He's sort of continued to look the part of a guy that we saw glimpses of in November and December that helped us win games, and I think his last -- probably his last four games, defensively he's been back. He's been himself. He's impacted our team immensely in our last four, five games that you start to see the difference in our team and what it means when our team is defending well and playing hard. Well, he's a big part of that when he's playing a lot of minutes.

So I think just here in general, the last few games, the last couple weeks, I think he's back to where he was.

Q. The contributions you got from Justin and Devonte, what's the key to getting that from them consistently here the rest of the way?
ARCHIE MILLER: You know, at the end of the day, it's attitude. It's work ethic. It's everything. I think Justin has gotten over some of the doom and gloom of not playing well there for a while, and all of a sudden he just got away from it. His attitude changed, and he became more the guy that has helped us win a lot of games this season with his effort level, some of his athleticism in transition, his offensive rebounding, his defense. He's focused in on doing those things again, so if he stays with that, he'll be fine.

Devonte is a guy that has a scoring punch for us. He's one of our more talented players. When he plays well, he has good moments for us. He gives us an added dimension from behind the three-point line, and he gives us another guard. He's going to play a big role this week, especially going to Illinois with their pressure play in those games and make some plays that other guys, so to speak, can't make. But Devonte in the Michigan State game, he really stepped up. He made some really big shots for us.

Q. On that note about Justin, he got minutes back because of an illness with De'Ron. How do you envision your front court minutes panning out this week?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, De'Ron is back now. He's practiced. He's feeling better off last week's illness, so he's been back in practice full go. We're obviously working really hard here with another one today, and as we prepare tomorrow we'll see, but I don't foresee the minutes of our front court getting swayed one way or another. I'd like for Evan and I'd also like for Race to have a crack here this week. Race was really good in the Wisconsin game, and then we sort of stuck with our rotation in that Michigan State game and for whatever reason had confidence. Justin was playing really well and kind of hung in there with Juwan, but looking back at the game and evaluating it, we needed to get more guys in the game just to play harder and continue to kind of give us a boost. So I think going into this week, we're hopeful that we can continue to have more guys step up and play.

Q. What do you have to do against their press or their kind of pressure?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, I mean, the big thing is you just have to try to be organized. I think when you go down there, it's a different feeling than when you play them at home. Their man-to-man pressure is one thing, which is obviously on top, chin on shoulder, and they're willing to give up some offensive rebounds and some baskets and commit some fouls for the turnover margin. They want to turn you over. They want you to not be able to do anything that you practice. They don't want you to have any semblance of organization. So you have to be organized and keep things very simple for your guys and understand that it's going to be a hard game.

When they mix in their zone presses and they go to their zone, they can also really try to turn you over. Against Northwestern they were really aggressive in that 1-2-2, which slows you down, and then as you react again, whether you're playing against the man-to-man or the zone. It's just a difficult game in general for your players. It's a physical game. You play through a lot of contact, and I think the biggest thing for your guys is you can't panic. You have to be organized. You have to understand that it's going to be a little bit difficult. But when you deal with all that pressure, you can get consumed with it. The other thing that when you play them, you have to have the ability to defend. They're doing a much better job offensively at running their offense. They're playing extremely fast. Their three perimeter guys in Frazier, Feliz and Ayo, those guys are really hard attacking, pushing, and inside Big Georgi is terrific for a young freshman. He's a physical guy that they've been able to establish. So they're much better on offense. They're rapidly really improved offensively, as well. So they're a much different team than we played in January. They were a lot younger then at times. They're more experienced with their group now.

But it's definitely a hard game. It's one of the harder games you'll play in.

Q. Talking about Rob and his defense, where have you seen him improve as the year has gone on, and what has he come to understand about defending guys at this level that maybe you don't know when you come in?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, I think the first thing is with a freshman, you have to come in from a defensive standpoint and you really have to learn. You have to learn what's going on. Rob has a pretty high IQ. He came in understanding defense. He came in understanding sort of off the ball. He's smart. So he's got a mind. He can think. Defenders have to be able to think the game a little bit.

And then I think as he's gotten more experienced and he's been battle tested, so to speak, put up against the other team's best perimeter guy most nights or a very talented guard. It started very early when you got to watch him play against Markus Howard and Marquette. He's very strong. He's sturdy, and he's confident in his ability. He's got unbelievable feet and quickness. As a freshman, you combine the mind, you combine the physical, you obviously get a guy that's pretty talented.

But I also think he's a tough kid. I think he's a tough kid that's coachable, and he's going to try and do what he can to help you win the game. But make no mistake about it, there's very few freshmen that I've seen or been around that have the ability level of him, to play the amount of minutes that he plays and do the job consistently pretty much every game and he's pretty solid. Not that he's perfect or not that the guy that he's going against doesn't have good games or whatnot, but he's pretty much right there in terms of when you're watching film and you're doing some things, there's some mistakes, there's obviously breakdowns, but Rob is a very gifted defender as a young player.

Q. Following on that, how have you seen him, I guess, embrace sort of the intangibles of being a point guard at a young age? I know that some of that role kind of he steps into because Devonte is hurt early in the season and he kind of takes it with both hands and runs with it, but has his demeanor changed at all in maybe the way he handles the pressure of that position?
ARCHIE MILLER: No. I think one of the things that Rob has a good feel for is Rob is safe. In many terms, you want your point guard to be rock steady, and I think that's probably the term I would use for him on both ends of the floor.

You know, both ends of the floor, he's pretty steady. He doesn't turn the ball over a ton, and he makes the simple plays, and I think he just tries to play within the constraints of what you're trying to do.

As he gets older, you know, the one thing that he's got to continue to do is evolve offensively. He's got to continue to be more of a play maker, more of an attacking, downhill player. He can get to the basket, I think, right now decently. He can finish a little bit. He's got to become a guy that reads plays more and reads ball screens at the end of the day but pushes tempo, and eventually becomes a guy from behind the three-point line that's very consistent. He's a much better shooter than his numbers would say because a lot of his numbers have been impacted in my mind by the month of January and just in terms of how he felt, what he was dealing with, the time off. He lost a lot of rhythm there. But he's a much better shooter than he's been given credit for.

But he's rock steady. He's got to keep developing. He's got a chance to have a really, really bright career because he's a terrific teammate, he's a great kid, and he loves the game. He wants to do what he's supposed to do. He wants to win.

Q. Going back to talking about Justin, De'Ron, Race, as far back as the preseason, you said you thought this team would be at its best if it was deep and versatile. I know there's some stuff you can't get back with Jerome and some guys playing injured, but do you feel like this is kind of at least roughly what you had in mind with the ability to match up in a lot of different ways down low, play the hot hand --

Q. -- go with guys with different skill sets?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, I'd way we're probably, just in terms of our season, this has been the best we've been in terms of having the ability to fire all of our guys in there, whether it was De'Ron and Race against Wisconsin or it was Race and Evan against Iowa, where you were able to play De'Ron and Juwan more together. It's just been a different team in having those type of combinations being able to play. We played the Wisconsin game, and Justin and Juwan, they fouled out. They weren't even a part of the overtimes. Think about us in January, having the ability to survive something like that would have been -- you wouldn't think we could do that. But Race has given an added advantage. In his defense, he's really had it stacked up against him. But he's stayed with it, so we have another guy that I think is physical. And again, Justin playing a little bit better here the last week has changed our team a little bit, and then De'Ron through the month of February has helped us. He's been a big help just in terms of more depth.

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