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January 23, 2020

Archie Miller

Bloomington, Indiana

Indiana - 67, Michigan State 63

COACH MILLER: Heck of a game. The environment in there is as good as it gets. Our fans right now, when we play a home game, man, it's second to none. And it's a great feeling because in this league it just seems like every single night it's almost impossible to find a way to pull through. But when you're at home it's very important.

And that was a big step for us tonight, being able to pull this one out.

I give Michigan State a lot of credit. They took a big punch early. And, as we knew they would, they came right back and sort of steam rolled the back six minutes, seven minutes of the first half.

And in the second half, our defense just wasn't as tough. We had a harder time on the ball screens. We didn't impact the ball as much. And when the ball gets zipped around with a team like that, they really stretched us from 3.

I give our guys credit, though. We found a way to gut it out. Struggled from the foul line again, which is disappointing. But we were able to make enough plays.

I thought Al Durham made some really big plays, not only the big 3 at the end of the half, but I thought his five points to finish the game in that back part of it with the break-away or the drive, and then he made a huge 3-pointer, I thought, that gave us a lot of momentum.

But the last play of the game, even Trayce, asking Trayce to switch a ball screen on Cassius Winston just so we didn't give up a pop 3, did a great job of just making him put the ball on the floor, so he didn't raise up on him and shoot a three. He just made him get inside the 3-point line, which is what we asked him to do. And then deflected ball or whatever it may have been.

And Jerome sort of took the anxiety out of the building with making two free throws -- most important two of the game went in.

Proud of our team. Very thankful we're playing at home this week. Can't do it without our crowd. And kind of sleep on this one, because we've got Maryland on Sunday. But proud of our guys.

Q. I know you have a lot of high expectations for Al coming into the season. What did you see in him today to make you decide to ride him down the stretch?
COACH MILLER: I thought he was comfortable on offense most of the game, and he made plays from the outside, made some really good shots. And I felt at the end of the game he was the most comfortable of having the aggressiveness to make a play to get to the basket and score.

We seemed to be bottled up a lot at the end of the clock here tonight, which is something we obviously have to get better at. But for Al, you know, he comes every day. He goes to work. Never says a peep. And to see a guy get rewarded with a couple go down like he had is always rewarding.

But definitely he was up to task and I thought he played a really nice game.

Q. I asked Al this, but the more experienced guys went through a lot of tough, close losses and obviously you had some injuries, too. But do you see maybe some carry-over of those experiences on a night like tonight, especially when Michigan State's giving you that big push early in the second half to not just kind of fall apart but to understand how to dig in push back?
COACH MILLER: We have good camaraderie as a team. We have good leadership right now. And we have some poise that in tough spots we can come back and hang in there. Obviously we're not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I think our team believes if we do what we need to do and play hard and compete we can beat anybody.

When you're at home you have to find a way to dig it out and use it to your advantage. But coming into the last 3:52 or whatever it may have been, very calm, poised group. And the guys that were in the huddle and even the guys that didn't play as much I thought were ready to go.

And we'll need the same effort on Sunday. Maryland's a great team. And we'll need different guys to step up and play. Some guys don't play as much certain days. Some guys have good games and bad games. But part of having a team in a long season is being able to count on each other night in, night out that you've got a good attitude and you're ready to play. I can't say enough good things about their attitude and their preparation and just being ready to play.

And I do think that the guys that were here last year, I think the guys that were here last year understand how hard it is to win. And you can't take it for granted. And you can't have any slippage when it comes to the daily process. I thought our guys have done a really nice job in the last month, win or lose, of just having a really good approach to the process.

It's hard, but if we would have lost tonight, can't be any different. You've got to be ready to go on the next one. And I think that's what we're going to try to do as we come into Maryland, is just put our head down and kind of keep trudging along this conference season. It's a very difficult league.

Q. You talked about the importance of rebounding, entering the game. An overall assessment from you of how your front court fared tonight? And if you know anything about Race Thompson, why he didn't come in in the second half with the injury?
COACH MILLER: There's no more important number to our team than rebounding. It's not just this game. This game carries a little bit more weight when you play them because of how good they are and the attention that they give you that you have to have when you're rebounding.

But I thought -- they only had five second shots and maybe part of it was their getting back. I don't know. But I thought our guys rebounded the ball really well for most of the game. We had very few long ones or hustle plays we didn't get. Maybe the start of the second half there was one flurry that we didn't do a good job. But for the most part we rebounded the ball pretty well.

Joey's second shot late in the game, I think he caught one, it was an air ball and he flipped it in. As big a play as you're going to make. Being able to get that type of effort on the glass is huge.

But it's huge for this team all year. This team has to rebound. With our size and to be successful how we have to play who we have, rebounding is essential. So that's that point.

Obviously I thought Race Thompson was unbelievably good in the game. He played his tail off on both ends of the floor -- his best game as a collegiate player. On the lob pass or whatever it was on the 50/50, landed on his lower back at some level. And it locked up and stiffened up on him to the point where he had a really hard time sort of moving around.

I don't think it's anything serious, but to say he's going to be sore here for a few days is probably the case. Whether he's available or not Sunday, I don't know. But what I'm hopeful is this isn't something that's -- hopefully it's more day-to-day.

Q. You mentioned about Trayce getting switched up on Cassius there. First off, what goes into the decision to decide to switch everything there?
COACH MILLER: Three beats you. Three beats you. And to be able to switch all ball screens, you take away hopefully the pick-and-pop. And we gave away some pick and pops in the game, just basically trying to keep the ball out of Cassius' hands and make other guys make some plays. And they did it through the course of the game, especially in the second half.

But the last play of the game, with 9 seconds you don't want to give up an easy pick and pop, so we switched it. Bottom line is you have to press up on the guard and you have to move. And you can't allow him to knock you back and shoot a 3.

I thought Trayce was aggressive on his switch. A good ball handler will attack you and he did. Once he got inside the 3-point line, at that point make a hard play and hopefully there's no 50/50 foul call and no and-1. But if they were going to tie it up, that's fine, but we didn't want to give up a pick-and-pop or a ball screen 3-point shot.

Q. What impressed you with what he was able to do there? I mean, he's a big guy.
COACH MILLER: Yes, he can move. Trayce can really move, when he motors and he wants to and he knows what he's doing in terms of being engaged on things, you won't see a big guy cover more ground or move like him. It's one of his great gifts.

So for him to be able to do that at the end of the game, we were fine with it. It's just I thought he executed. He executed. We've had some games that you can go back to against Arkansas where he switched, or even against Rutgers, where he switched and dropped. And he's more protective.

He wasn't protective. And he knew he couldn't be in this situation. So he did a good job executing. And his ability level, obviously he can do whatever you ask him to do.

Q. They were able to force you guys into a lot of late shot clocks there, especially in the second half. But to your guys' credit you didn't shoot a lot of 3s; you didn't really turn it over. Did you feel your guys were composed there in the half court?
COACH MILLER: I think so. We didn't do a good job with the play after the play. When plays broke down or our break didn't work, we got really stagnant and standing around. We didn't move the ball and we didn't cut or screen enough off the ball, and that bogged us down. But we didn't jack shots.

And I thought when guys did put the ball down, they were aggressive at least getting to the basket, and we had hopefully some assist-type plays and passes that were good.

But the late shot clock stuff kind of happens in this league; teams just don't let you score the first time. I think early in the game when we were cooking pretty good, we were in transition a lot. When we were in the half court, they're either going under or they're baiting you, not baiting you, but they're throwing all their marbles at keeping it out of the post.

Q. You mentioned that shot that Joey made on the Phinisee miss. He also had the basket right before that one. He had two early. How important has he been to sort of give this team a little bit more of a blue-collar approach?
COACH MILLER: I can't really put it in weight but it's not measurable what Joe's meant to us. His everyday approach is something, as a coach, you marvel at, the work ethic. And there's no fake work ethic. There's no -- I mean, he's at it every day.

He's given his absolute max on everything that he's doing. You never question his effort. And I said this the other night, I don't know who I said it to or when I said it, but he's improved -- for a first-year player in our system, learning what's going on with new players -- he's improved as much as any player I've been around from month-to-month.

If you look at October and November, early December to late December and now January to late January, I mean he has absolutely brought us production that it just means the world. To have that type of size, his ability level, he can score the ball. He moved tonight on ball screens as well as he has all year. But to say he hasn't impacted our team immensely would be an understatement.

And part of it is just his attitude and the way he works. He's an unbelievable kid. And that's why we wanted to bring him in when we had a chance to get him is he brings such a high-character level to the deal. And he was able to get, I guess, 14 and six tonight and he earned them all.

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