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January 31, 2020

Archie Miller

Bloomington, Indiana

ARCHIE MILLER: Obviously second time around, we're getting ready to go play [Ohio State], and going into their place after the first time we've played them. They've had some time and I'm sure they're going to be really ready, and they're shooting the ball extremely well coming into the game. Our first time a huge concern was the three-point line, and I think they've continued to really shoot the ball well across the board, not just one or two guys, but across the board.

You know, clearly Caleb Wesson is still a huge, huge presence.

To me, Ohio State is a terrific team. They're like everyone else going through the Big Ten, and as it all shakes out, I'm sure they'll be there right at the end, and we know we're in for one heck of a challenge.

Q. How much better do you feel about the match-up with Wesson, how well your guys will be able to defend him?
ARCHIE MILLER: I don't feel very good right now. That's one of our big concerns right now is our interior defense. Here recently, especially in our last two games, our interior defense has been nonexistent, and it's resulted in a lot of fouls. Our opponents right now are shooting -- making more free throws than we've even attempted in our last few games, which is one of the things that we've done well all year up until about the last week or so, and being able to defend inside against him is where the game starts and stops because of the way that he posts and they play, and they play around him. If you're going to allow the ball in at will, if you're going to allow him to operate, he's going to cause a lot of problems. It's a huge concern going into Game 2.

I thought in Game 1, we did a really good job of playing as hard as we could, battling. You're never going to be perfect against him. He still got, I think, seven twos off in the game, but his deal is you have to be ready to defend the three-point line, too, because he can impact the three-point line as much as anything, and in our game, I thought they really utilized him, especially in the second half picking and popping and doing some things on the perimeter as much as anything.

But he's a handful.

Q. Sort of a loaded question, but Jerome had been playing well in different ways for you guys. Is maybe not having him Wednesday almost indicative how well he's been playing, that you didn't have that option to turn to?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, you combine that with Race Thompson's not being available, it crushed our depth, especially early when we got some fouls. We had to play three guards at times, which doesn't happen for us quite a bit, and that's a little unorthodox. We played some lineups that we weren't used to. But Jerome not being available due to being sick on game day, and in particular right before the game, and then Race continuing to be out, it really shrinks your forward and your frontcourt rotation when you get fouls. Like I said before, we're fouling right now way too much and it's put some pressure on some other guys to play longer minutes and more minutes. The other night I thought it stood out a lot, not as much defensively but offensively our consistency and being able to have chemistry out there at least. At times we played with lineups that don't play together a lot or hadn't played together a lot, and it messes some things up for sure.

But you have to adjust. You have to adjust on the fly, and as we go in here to Saturday, again, hopefully we'll have Jerome back. I think he's feeling a little bit better. He practiced yesterday. But he's been playing well, and we've made a commitment to sort of working those guys in there, and Jerome's minutes are important for us right now.

Q. DJ Carton announced he's stepping away from the game for a while. How does that change things for your backcourt, and are those kind of conversations that you have with your team, focusing on mental health?
ARCHIE MILLER: There's no more important issue in collegiate sports, in particular as we deal with college basketball with our players every day, than the mental side of it, and mental health. It's a very serious note from our staff, obviously our thoughts go out to DJ and hopefully he's doing well. Hopefully he continues to do well and gets back as soon as he can for himself.

But if you just look across the board in the NBA and you start to see some of the guys that are talking about it now, it's becoming more of a thing, and in this day and age kids have a lot on their plate, and you never know what somebody is going through on the way up before they get to you or what's going on inside of them.

As a coach, I've had a few experiences with some guys that have had some trouble and lost a player, Matt Derenbecker, a few years back to a death, and you think about the times that he was with you and the times that he wasn't, and you just wonder to yourself could you have done more.

Now, times have really sped up since 2014 or '15. Four or five years later now, it's much more prepared and you're much more equipped as a university and as a staff, and it's more serious when somebody has something. But nothing is more important and nothing should be taken more serious when it comes to that type of stuff. You just never know. There's a lot of guys that go through a lot, and you look down the line, what happens when you don't deal with it, it can be really impactful and catastrophic, really bad.

So hopefully, like I said, our thoughts go out to DJ and his family, and we need to get him back as soon as possible. He's a great kid. He's a great player. In terms of the game, it won't change our approach much. As you look at their backcourt with Walker, Washington, Muhammad, they're playing Ahrens a little bit more now. They're equipped to handle a guy being out. They've done it all year long, and those other guys at the beginning of the season were playing outstanding basketball, so they'll pick it up for him, and for us, it won't change our approach much. All of their perimeter players are really good.

Q. You've talked a lot about the backcourt this season. Specifically for Armaan, how have you seen him grow on both ends of the floor, and his confidence, as well?
ARCHIE MILLER: Armaan is doing a good job. You know, he's one of our -- to be honest with you, you take away the label of freshman and the inexperience, and sometimes as a coach that plays in your mind, and playing time and the amount of rope you give a guy sometimes. But he's starting to earn that rope where he should be able to play more.

I think defensively he's as good as any guy we have in terms of off-ball. I think he's drawn close to 10 charges on the season, which is probably 10 more than anybody else on our team has, which is a credit to him. His positioning is pretty good. And he works hard on the ball, as well. He's not perfect, but he's as good right now as we've got in terms of accountability.

Offensively, like I've always said, he's a really good player and he's a smooth player. At times I think as a young player you try to find your way through games, but as we hit February, if you look last week against Maryland and as you look against Michigan State in particular, he made big plays for us. He can pass the ball. He's adept at scoring. His shot and his percentage aren't what it is, but he's capable of hitting shots for us at times, and when he does we're better. I'm happy with Armaan. I think the month of February will play a big role for him as he continues to go, and I anticipate him playing a big role for our team coming down, which should pay dividends for a young player to be able to play this much as a freshman.

Q. You mentioned after the game the other night about Penn State had a week off, and Ohio State does, too. Can you talk a little bit, was fatigue a factor in that game at all?
ARCHIE MILLER: No, and I don't think fatigue played a factor at all. If you watch the film, like we have closely, our guys competed and played hard. We ran into a road block offensively where we weren't very good, and we shot ourselves in the foot with the turnovers that changed the game, not the turnovers that are out of strength but the turnovers that are out of weakness, and we had a lot of weakness turnovers in the game. You talk to our team about that with the poise that you have to have, and 21 points off turnovers, if you look at our Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State game, there's a very similar theme in that, which is turnovers leads to baskets, which we can't defend.

In terms of our effort level, I thought guys played really hard. Our first-shot defense was pretty good. We could have got a lot more 50/50 plays and ground some balls out, but our defensive numbers, when you look at it, other than fouling, which is a big negative, especially late, we caved in mentally, we started to panic and foul unnecessarily, but if you look at it, they shot under 40, under 30, and they really didn't have a good line at the foul line.

We defended pretty good at times. We didn't convert. We just weren't able to convert all game long in transition, and we definitely couldn't convert in the half court, and once the turnovers in the second half started to play a bigger role in the transition defense where they started to go down the other end, the game got away from us a little bit right around the eight-, six-minute mark.

But I didn't feel that fatigue was a factor. I thought our guys were there and ready and didn't play particularly well, especially at certain times offensively, but defensively at times we did some good things. We got some stops, and especially in the early part of the first half, we were able to get two or three straight stops, and I think we missed maybe two or three lay-ups in a row and then turned it over three times in the first four minutes, so it sort of got away. But it was still 51-46 with, I don't know, 12, maybe eight. It was a workable game, we just couldn't get a grip on the ball security in the second half, and under eight, under six, under five, we sort of caved in free-throw line-wise in terms of putting them to the line. It just was a -- we had some unnecessary fouling.

A lot of it's discipline. A lot of it was mental and panic that things weren't going real well, and we've got to have more poise than that. Saturday has got to be in attack mode. You're not going to be able to go in there and play against those guys in terms of the way they're going to be ready to play. We've already played them once, and you're not going to be able to play that way on the road and be successful anywhere, but let alone as we go into Saturday, we have to be a lot sharper and a lot tougher.

Q. You talked a lot about attack mode and sometimes it's getting to the free-throw line, something a little exasperating about that. Have you evaluated that and what can you do in terms of attacking more to kind of get to the line a little more in this game than you have the last two games?
ARCHIE MILLER: You know, it's been something we've built on. If you look at our first game against Ohio State, the free-throw line played a big role. I think we shot 36 free throws. Now, we missed a ton, but we shot 36 free throws in the game, and you look at our aggressiveness in transition on the glass, in the post, on our drives, we played with great toughness on offense.

That hasn't been the case here recently, in particular against Maryland and in particular on Wednesday at Penn State. We're playing very soft around the basket. And you're not going to get calls when you're playing away from the defense. The defense is physical in this league, and you have to be able to play through the contact, and right now we're not responding to that contact here in the last couple games, and the free throw is what it is. The aggressive team is going to get to the line. Penn State did it the other day, and we've typically been that team, but we weren't here recently, and I think just in talking to our players, watching film with them and talking about what we've got going on in and around the basket, there's way too many possessions of fading away, there's way too many possessions right now of playing away from the rim, not playing in the front, and in transition in particular, our post presence and our ability to get the ball down the floor isn't as good.

Although we scored against Maryland, we were very efficient offensively. The free-throw line plays a big factor in our team's success, and here recently I think we have a lot to do with it. It's not the officiating. It's our inability right now to play through the contact and be aggressive and consistently continue to come at it the way that we need to, and if we don't, again, this will be the tale of two games. Ohio State is going inside to big Caleb, they're an aggressive driving team. They're good in transition. They really spread you out, and the free-throw line plays a huge role for us, and here recently we're losing that battle.

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