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December 20, 2019

Archie Miller

Bloomington, Indiana

Q. Talk about the week's preparation going into the Notre Dame game.
ARCHIE MILLER: It's obviously been a little break here for us heading into finals. We've tried to take our time this week, recover after a pretty hard stretch going from the Big Ten challenge through Nebraska.

Physically get our guys back with a little bit of freshness as they balance academics, mix in your work in practices, preparing for Saturday's big game. Physically get our guys back with a little bit of freshness as they balance academics, mix in your work and practices, then preparing for Saturday's big game in Indianapolis against a very good, very skilled Notre Dame team.

They can really shoot the ball from typically five positions on the floor at times. They're traditional in their MO of not turning the ball over, very hard to speed up. Do a very good job of playing together. Very poised team offensively.

We have our work cut out for us defensively in particular. It's something that we try to hammer home after the last few games, really identifying some things trying we can get better at.

Heading into conference play defensively is where you have to hold your hat in our league. We'll see Saturday. It's going to be obviously a very difficult cover for us. Hopefully we'll be ready to roll with an early tip.


Q. How do you feel about events like this doubleheader, playing in Indy, all eyes on the state?
ARCHIE MILLER: It's a great event. The environment in Bankers Life is a post-season type of feel. There's a great crowd, there's a lot of buzz around the city.

Being in Indiana, obviously it's a huge deal for our team and our fans as we come into Indianapolis. We have now a group of players that are from the state. It's a great opportunity to play in that environment.

I think we take it very, very serious, explaining things for our guys, trying to talk about it. Heading to Madison Square Garden was a great chance for us to play in the similar setting of a doubleheader. A lot of buzz around the game. I think this is very similar.

For us, we have to be ready. We have to be very responsible. It's an opportunity for us to represent not only our university, but now we have some players here that are representing where they grew up, as well. It means a lot to them.

Q. You talked about how little they turn the ball over. They don't really foul either. You talked about wanting to get in transition, get to the free-throw line. How much will they test some of those things?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, they're as good as there is in college basketball not fouling. They're very disciplined. They don't play a ton of guys, so they have good chemistry. They're smart, they're very intelligent in their approach.

It's something they do a really good job of. It's something we obviously aspire to do a good job of as well. You have to play hard, smart without fouling. It's huge in not only keeping your best players on the floor, but you're keeping the other team off the line.

When you flip that, look at our style of play, what we try to do with our depth and hopefully our transition game, our ability to attack offensively, we're trying to get fouled. It's sort of that balance of style of play.

Can we execute? Can we do a good job of finding a way to run good offense? Can we do a good enough job of working longer into the clock offensively to find good possessions where you can find a way to get fouled?

It's a game within a game. Your style versus their style. They have a lot of things they do really well. One of them is they play really good team defense. They're very smart. They're disciplined. They don't beat themselves in terms of unnecessary fouling. It's a big thing for us on the other end obviously to attack.

It will be one of the storylines in the game, is can we get to the foul line, can we find a way to continue the way we've been playing offensively to dictate that. Our hope is that we're able to. I think it's something that we have done well.

I think Notre Dame does a good job on their end of that, as well.

Q. When you're playing against a team that likes to put as many as five out on the perimeter shooting threes, your scheme is generally trying to push guys out to the perimeter, take contested threes, seems like an inherent conflict. What are you trying to get accomplished against a team like that?
ARCHIE MILLER: You're not going to shut teams down that are that skilled, especially when you have front court players like they do who can shoot it. At times they're very difficult to guard because they're random. They run good motion. They play together.

It's not as if you're defending certain players in set plays or something like that. They get them in transition, get them after a lot of movement with their motion. They're hard to guard. They've been like that for a long time with Coach Brey, his system, how he likes to play.

Defending the three, really it comes down to a lot of things before they get the shot off. You have to do a really good job in transition to eliminate the easy ones. That's where teams get most of their threes. In the halfcourt, the better you are guarding the basketball, the better you are at doing a good job of containing the dribble-drive, that's a second area where you don't collapse your defense and give up a lot of threes in that area.

Trickiness of ball screen defense. A lot of different types of ways that you set them. They go skilled, a lot of different guys popping all over the floor. It comes down to your system and being able to execute. That's communication with us.

If you take it back to the Wisconsin game, it was as poor of a communication and as poor of an execution defensively to start that game as we've had in terms of being able to understand how important defending the three is, especially from the front court.

We're going to have to be much better in this game than we were a few weeks ago when we defended a couple of front court players that looked to stretch the floor throughout the game.

Three-point line is huge. Notre Dame, look at where their point distribution is coming from, it's coming from the three. They have a lot of guys that aren't just okay shooters, they have a lot of great shooters. They have guys that can make them in bunches. As a team, I think they made 35 threes in their last two wins versus Detroit and UCLA.

The three-point line, that's going to come down to becoming a huge storyline in the game. Can you defend the three? Are you going to do a good job in the areas you can control, not shutting them down from getting a lot off?

You have to do some things that require intelligence and communication, some smarts. That's a big deal coming into this game with Notre Dame because if they hit the three, they're not turning it over, they're going to be tough to beat.

Q. Where is Devonte at from a recovery standpoint? How does that impact your offense against Notre Dame?
ARCHIE MILLER: Devonte is fine. He's worked his way back into practice here middle of the week. I would say he's not 100%. He's dealing with some soreness, Achilles stuff, hamstring stuff from earlier in the year. Lower body is kind of sore.

He did practice yesterday. Barring any setbacks here, he should be available depending on how the game goes. We'll see what he can do. If he's not available, we play who is available. That's just how it is.

I'm not sure it impacts what we do a whole lot other than our depth in the backcourt, which we need. We have to find a way to get those guys to play together as a unit. Armaan, Rob, Devonte, Al, being the true ball handlers, perimeter players, those four guys as a unit have to evaluate them almost as a unit during the game. How are they playing assist-to-turnover, shot selection? Definitely how are they defending? Those are key elements coming into the mid part of our year as we keep growing those four guys.

In their defense, their rotation has been very choppy, their practice time together has been very choppy. As we head into this one, moving post Christmas, hopefully we can get some time where those guys are together for quite a bit of time. First time Rob has strung together continuous practice time with his teammates.

Getting Devonte back here a little bit at the end of the week. Love to have the opportunity to have those four guys in tip-top shape. Right now it hasn't been that way since the start of the year. But I do expect everyone, barring today's practice, to be ready to go for tomorrow.

Q. Rob hit a big shot in this event last year. He's been set back health-wise. How have you seen him continue to develop his offensive assertiveness, particularly last game?
ARCHIE MILLER: I think Rob, if you talk to him or ask him, he's excited to place. He's excited to just get back. He's had a tough start to the year in terms of not being available. I think he's been chomping at the bit, so to speak, to kind of get back in the groove.

He was able to establish that he's ready. Regardless of how he played, he wanted to be available for his team going into last week, going into Madison Square. His minutes were valuable. He really helped us in that game early, then he helped us in the game late.

Nebraska, you're talking about a very 50/50 game. Could have went either way a lot of different times. Again, his readiness and his ability to step up and make some big plays for our team late, then in overtime, was huge.

I would say that his biggest problem right now isn't his mindset or what he's trying to accomplish, his biggest challenge is conditioning. He's got very few practices under his belt. He's basically getting game repetitions. That's very difficult for a player.

Then you're asking him to play extended minutes, 26 minutes against Nebraska, which he's probably not ready to handle that amount of minutes in a row late in the game, then the entire overtime. I think he was fatigued.

I think you see that he's not afraid of the big moment. He hasn't been since he's been here. He's been ready to step up to the plate, so to speak, from day one. Knock on wood, he stays healthy, will continue to get back.

He's confident right now. I don't look at him saying I don't feel good, I'm not confident. I think his health is good, his mindset is good. Yeah, he's going to go through some rhythm and ups and downs on the floor with some mistakes and whatnot, some of which will be timing, some of which will be conditioning. I don't think right now as we view him or he views himself that he's not ready to play.

That's a big thing for our team. He's a big, integral part to what we do. As he gets his legs and his feet back under him, the soreness out of his body, hopefully this is a good week for him to practice. He has a game, Christmas, then comes back with one more opportunity before the Big Ten as we hit January.

Q. You mentioned how this week off can help you guys physically. With the way that the schedule has escalated recently, does having a week on either side of the Crossroads Classic help catch some balance mentally as well?
ARCHIE MILLER: It's tough. You can use it any which way you want. It was a mentally taxing week for us as we approached the Florida State game. You head to Wisconsin, have a very difficult travel schedule coming to and from New York City. On a short turnaround a Big Ten home game you have to be ready for which went into the overtime.

I think more so than anything, finishing the Nebraska game, you have to evaluate these guys on where they're at mentally. Physically they're going to be taxed, go through a lot.

I think at this time of year as you head to the end of November, finals, you're dealing with guys that have been through eight or nine games, sometimes it can just be mental fatigue.

We've done our best this week to alleviate some of the mental fatigue. You balance that with their academic schedule, sometimes that plays a big role into it, what they are dealing with in school, the amount of time they have to put in for their testing.

But I think we've tried to break the week up, we've tried to alleviate it where we're giving them the time they need. We're also working.

I think this has been a less taxing week on us physically. Hopefully as you get finished with tests today, take a deep breath heading into tomorrow, you're relaxed and free from the school part of things.

You have to get better at this time of year. As a coach, you say, Boy, we got a lot of time here, really want to get better. At the end of day you're dealing with fatigued minds, guys that have a lot on their plate here.

Once you finish into this, post Christmastime, head into early January, that's a time when your team can reboot, get back into their game routine. As a coach, you're anxious, want to play, get better as a players. You have a lot going on, wish you had more time to yourself.

As we head in here, our schedule has a break where we kind of hit finals, play a huge game against Notre Dame, got Christmas break right on the heels, then you come back and have a huge non-conference game against Arkansas before the end.

There's some time here for our team to regroup, mentally more than anything, to stay fresh, positive, keep getting better.

Q. John Mooney leads the country in rebounding. What makes him so tough in that part of the game?
ARCHIE MILLER: I think number one, he's a very experienced player. I think great rebounders have a knack for the ball, which he does. He also adds the element of great motor. He plays hard all the time. He's going after it on both ends of the floor.

He's not one of those rebounders that's up over the top of you. He's angles, smelling the ball. He goes and gets the ball with two hands, too. A great two-handed rebounder. He's got mitts, so to speak. When a ball hits his hands, it's his ball.

To lead America in rebounding, I don't think a lot of people understand how hard that is. 13 rebounds a game is just an astonishing number. He's almost at four a game on the offensive end of the floor for them as well. He is an all ACC caliber player, has had a great career. To me as he plays effectively, he does his thing, he gives them a chance every night.

Special player. Got to try and do your best to keep him off the offensive glass the best you can, because he can shoot the ball, deals with a lot of switching at times, so he has guards on him because he can shoot the ball. It is to his advantage to rebound against mismatches at times. I think he gets you there a little bit.

Without a question, he's as productive a player as there is in the country game in and game out.

Q. Those four guys that do a lot of ball handling, Devonte, Al, Armaan, Rob, you haven't been able to think of them as a group because of injuries. In an ideal world what do you want that rotation to look like most nights? Two or three? All four of those guys healthy, where do you want that to be distributed?
ARCHIE MILLER: It's a good question. Me personally, I've taken a step back and really tried to identify that position group. I think you look at them as almost like a football team where you have your DBs. That's our guard. That's our backcourt group.

I've taken some steps myself to meet with those guys as a quartet, so to speak. We haven't had them all together. Now that they are, how do they play off of one another and how do they make guys better is a huge thing for our team.

Our guard play isn't so much about scoring as it is as much about ball handling and assist-to-turnovers. Right now if you look at our assist-to-turnover as a group, it's not where it needs to be as a backcourt that's heading into the thick of Big Ten play. I think the assist-to-turnover ratio is a huge element to how well they play.

They don't have to score to play well. That's my message to them. Add that into the defensive side of the ball, we got to do a better job of holding our own in terms of defending the other team's backcourt one-on-one. It can't always be about the team defense, how much help are you getting.

Sometimes our guards have to do a good job or a better job of defending the ball and defending their man one-on-one. I think those are huge things for our team.

If we're winning, we're going to get good guard play. If we're not winning, a big attribute to not winning is not getting good guard play. That doesn't mean making threes and that doesn't mean scoring a lot of points. That means as a quartet, as a group, their floor game on offense, making guys better, assist-to-turnover, then their floor game on defense in terms of not only one-on-one but a commitment as a group to defend the other team's backcourt in a better fashion.

Getting Rob back and getting him more minutes helps both of them. It alleviates some pressure from some of the other ones.

They can all play together. There's going to be some times maybe where we have three of them on the floor in special situations, pressure offense, zone offense, end of game I think we need to be a bigger team to do what we need to do.

Without question, all of them are going to play a big role in the impact of our team. As I look at them in evaluating the group, not the individual player per game, it's the group, what are we getting from them in terms of making their teammates better and what are we getting from them on the other end of the floor in terms of being rock solid defensively and being able to hold their own?

Those are two areas, assist-to-turnover, defensive responsibility. If those two areas are pretty good on a game-in, game-out basis, I can say that our guards are doing a nice job.

At times we've really done a nice job. We've had one or two guys in a game, game in, game out, play well. We haven't really had them in sync where all four guys are really doing a really good job in those areas where I can say to myself, Wow, look at the guard play.

We had double-figure assists, double-figure defensive rebounds, and we didn't get blitzed a ton off the bounce in this game. We held our won.

As a coaching staff, and me in particular, as we value them, continue to teach them what this team needs, I would say that's the stress of those four.

They play as big of a role in us winning as it comes. I'm just trying to get them to understand it doesn't have a lot to do with the amount of shots or buckets that they get as much as it does with the other areas that they can contribute to as a group, as a quartet.

Make no mistake, I view it as important as any aspect to our team, is the development of those four guys, the consistency they bring in terms of solid play on both ends of the floor in those areas.

Thank you.

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