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January 8, 2020

Archie Miller

Bloomington, Indiana

Indiana - 66, Northwestern - 62

COACH MILLER: Big Ten win. Doesn't matter how you get it, but they're all hard. And I think it showed tonight. Obviously Northwestern's really a well-coached team that executes and does their stuff. And they were able to execute on us for a really good portion of the game and they made it hard on us.

And we were not very together, not very energized early. And it took urgency and it took desperation to sort of kick us into gear. That helped our crowd, who was just waiting to cheer for something out there, it seems, sometimes.

And then once it got going, I thought we played a little harder. We had a group out that that competed, made a lot of hustle plays. There was a lot of deflected balls. We got in transition and were able to make the game, obviously, tight.

But being down three with them going to the line with 3:27 to go, our guys found a way, which is a good sign, that the group there at the end of the game found a way to win it, and we're going to take it. But very concerned with our group right now, just in terms of where our brains are, where our minds are and what we're about.

It can come and go with wins and losses. With a team like ours, with as many guys as we have trying to play and do things, we could really use a shot in the arm in terms of some consistency with some guys, so they're playing more.

But just looking at our team as we're heading into Saturday and then we move into this month of January, we've got to get ourselves out of a little bit of a funk, and we have to start competing a little harder, because this is the toughest league in America right now to win a game.

Q. You talked about the energy kind of coming and going. How do you fix that as a group? And also who do you need to see in terms of specific players or positions kind of leading the charge on that on a game-by-game basis?
COACH MILLER: I think as a team, sometimes you can watch how plays deflate guys. And as a coaching staff and as a team, as you're trying to evolve and get better and you're pointing out things that you need to do improve and you see guys do the same certain things after the fact, game in and game out, it deflates you. And guys get frustrated.

And you see the same things happening mistake-wise that we're not making any improvement in that area. And it takes the camaraderie out of your group. They start to worry about themselves a little bit more.

I think that's where we're at more than anything now. We're just searching for ourselves again rather than unconditional approach and buy-in in terms of how hard it is to win a game and how fun it is to compete in that environment out there.

But we're a little bit more conditional right now. We're a little bit more about ourselves. We've got to figure that out. I'll be honest with you, I don't necessarily know right now if the 11-guy rotation is going to work. I just don't know necessarily if that's the best thing moving forward if we're not going to get all 11 heated up and playing as hard and as unselfish as we possibly can. It may be five. It may be just five. I don't know.

But we're going to have to eliminate some of that, what are we getting, and understand like moving forward, we need to know what we're getting. And I think as a staff, as you're kind of coming in here right now, we can really take some of the confusion out by not worrying about playing; we just play as many guys as we need to play to win the game and who is playing the hardest, because you're not going to be able to compete against Ohio State or anybody after that or moving forward, each down the line as teams keep getting better, if you're still standing in the same conversation.

We've got to get out of that and we've got to get better and get back to playing team ball again and playing hard and not worrying about it a whole lot. But we have a team that tonight you could just tell very early how they started the game, easy basket, easy basket, easy basket. That's not the MO how it's going to work.

Q. I think to that effect, 12 points allowed in the last 12 minutes. You had guys really getting up and pressuring the ball full court. Al was doing that, but even in the half court felt the defensive intensity really took Northwestern --
COACH MILLER: It was very desperate. Once the staff -- and obviously, picking up full court at that point in time was necessary. We needed to jump-start ourselves and get ourselves going.

I thought Al, Armaan were in there and Rob was in there. They did a good job, started to apply the pressure, sort of slowed them down a little bit. We were trying to be as aggressive as we could on the ball screens and whatnot. We were active, got some deflected balls. They just weren't moving it as easy as they did in the first 30 minutes.

Then we got some defense to offense. A big play was Al to Justin. I thought that was a huge conversion off the defense to offense. Al made a great lead pass. Justin finishes it and gets a five-point swing right back to even right there. That was a big play in the game.

And Trayce got some good, deep rim runs. And Rob and Al and even Armaan fed him for deep catches; he was able to get to the line.

I was proud of the guys going to a line. That's a big deal for our team, getting fouled. We were able to get fouled in both halves. And we went to the line tonight and obviously needed every bit of it. But guys went to the line and made them tonight. Al was big and Trayce was big in terms of making free throws.

Q. Couple of those losses you talked about the heads hanging when adversity hit. Tonight when you were down 50 to 40, did you see anything different from them? Were they more engaged?
COACH MILLER: We were at home. It helps. You got that kind of crowd behind you, just waiting to burst. You give them a few things to cheer about they'll help you. They really want to help you. Don't give them anything to cheer about, they'll obviously sit there.

But we need to do a little more for them because obviously when they get rolling it's a different place in there. And we need to do that. Our guys need to play more inspired and do more.

But I thought the urgency in the huddles and some of the conversations the guys were having in that one break around 12 minutes, 10 minutes, eight minutes, we started to look more about the competitive group that was in there, that was having some success, started to get going.

And we're going to have to find that group to stay with them here a little bit longer here because it's the teams that you're playing against right now on a night-by-night basis, they're too good. You can't be soft and not be able to play well and turn it on. It's just not going to happen. We fought through it tonight tough spots down five, 3:27 to go, made some really big plays.

Q. I was going to ask about one of the huddles, you mentioned, the under-12 timeout is obviously where everything seems to change for you. You're down 10. By the next one, you're only down by two. Obviously there was the strategic decision to pressure them. What was said in that huddle, what were guys saying, what were you saying to get everybody woken up at that point?
COACH MILLER: I think the group that was on the floor at that time, when we went to the pressure and the press, I think that got us going a little bit. And they were able to make a couple plays to get the score from 10 to whatever it was, 6 or 5 quickly. It wasn't a 10-point lead for a long time. The fact it was a workable margin gave us some confidence.

Then we had some deflected passes, some hard hustle plays that got us going. And once you get out in transition you're able to get a couple things going for you it was good. We didn't deflate ourselves at the foul line. That kept the momentum going.

And once we had a little bit of confidence, eight minutes under, six minutes under it was fine.

Still, Northwestern did a good job, they hung in there. Miller Kopp hit a 3, and I think A.J. Turner either got fouled or made a tough shot on Armaan in the left corner, short corner. They made some big plays.

They run good stuff. They've got young guys, and they've got their best players are hurt right now. So it's tough on those guys. But for us to be able to win the game it's just a positive right now.

Q. It was kind of a tale of two halves for Justin Smith. How did he manage to stick with it, and how did maybe you and the staff kind of encourage him to stick with it after all the turnovers in the first half?
COACH MILLER: He had a rough first half in terms of taking care of the ball and had five turnovers at halftime. And I think we jolted him at halftime about getting going. I don't think he had a bad attitude. I don't think he was not ready to play; I just think he had some plays in there that were sloppy and didn't go his way. And it deflated us. Those turnovers hurt us. We had five turnovers in about a four-minute stretch which changed the game. Can't have that.

I thought in the second half he did a much better job on the offensive glass, four offensive rebounds; he's able to make some free throws; he ends up getting the five turnovers to stay put. The second half he played much better.

But Justin's a key part of the team. One, our guys count on him in terms of knowing what he's doing on the floor. And when he's not playing well or he is impacted by some negative plays, it changes the complexion of our team. We count on him. And he can impact the game in so many ways. I think we just need to bring his best to the table, and he's got to continue to be smart with the ball. I think that's in general, our team tonight. Early in the game, when we were playing well offensively, we had some good passing. We had some really smart plays, and we had some good sharing of the ball.

Middle of the half, second half, first half moves on, really sloppy with the ball and just unsure of ourselves. And I think part of it is right now we just have a lot of guys who are unsure of themselves. So over a 14- or 15-game span you hope you can develop your chemistry and your rhythm.

It just doesn't seem like our group is just locked in on "I do my job when I come in the game," and it just seems like we have some guys that are really unsure. I think that's why we have some turnovers, and I think that's we're playing lethargic defensively. Like I said to them after the game, strength in numbers is only going so far right now. The number has the shrink, maybe, in my opinion for some guys to get a jolt.

But like I said, we'll have to find the guys ready to roll at the start of a game that are ready to play like we need to play, and like our fans and our crowd and everybody wants to see.

And nobody needs to see anybody jogging up and down the floor not playing hard. That's just not going to work. And it starts with practice. I think we've had good practices. We've had competitive practices. But on game day we need production.

And we're looking for effort, energy and hustle more so right now than we're looking for anything else. That's going to give us more confidence than we had couple weeks ago. But it's hard. Navigating deep waters. Lose a couple here and there. Lose confidence, what's wrong, blah, blah, blah, and it can play a role. That's when you need your older players and you need your most experienced guys come ready to roll.

I give Al a lot of credit tonight; he played like a leader tonight, did a really good job for us.

Q. That final group that you went with, what was it that you saw, how did you make that decision, we're rolling with these guys down the stretch?
COACH MILLER: I just think that that group had the best level of intensity and was playing the right way and they had some defensive intensity that made some plays together and were able to get some things going in transition and on offense.

And we just -- we're not moving the ball right now. We don't move the ball as a good basketball team, and we're fighting to pass.

When you're fighting to pass and everybody on the team and on the bench and in the locker room knows it's the thing we need to do better and we're talking about it a lot every day and the ball won't move, people look around and say why isn't that happening? We just worked on it.

Then we've got to figure out, like I said, who is not moving it. And then we move him on and we get somebody else in the game who will move it, because we're not moving the ball well right now. We're not a very sharp oriented offensive team because of it and we're turning it over. And we're unsure of ourselves. We need to get confidence in moving the ball and trusting what we're doing and we need guys who believe in that and we'll be all right, and the competitive spirit of our group will get better.

We've got to punch through this wall right now. We're struggling a little bit of a rut and we've got to punch through that wall a little bit and I'll say if you're not ready to go on Saturday, that's a problem.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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