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February 7, 2020

Archie Miller

Bloomington, Indiana

ARCHIE MILLER: Well, tomorrow comes at a good time. We have our week here to sort of regroup physically is the most important thing here in February, try to get as healthy and mentally fresh as you possibly can. You try to improve on some things you're really struggling on, and then you're preparing for Purdue.

Purdue is coming off the most impressive performance I think that any Big Ten team has had all season with their game against Iowa, the 19 threes that they made, and just in general how hard they played on the glass and defensively against a really good Iowa team. So it was really, really an impressive game, and them being able to get one on the road at Northwestern, how hard it is to get one in general, so they've got to be feeling pretty good. They're playing pretty well.

Defensively they're as good as it gets in the country, and offensive rebounding wise right now they're the best in the league. So they're doing a great job, and I think that Trevion Williams has really established himself as one of the premier bigs in our league just in terms of being able to operate, and they've got a slew of other guys that are contributing in a lot of different ways at different times, but to me they're playing pretty good basketball right now, and they're a team down the back stretch that could be pretty dangerous in terms of winning a lot of games here down the back road.

They're really to me a traditional typical Purdue team that's playing tough together, and obviously for us on Saturday, we've got to get ourselves playing tough and together, as well. Should be an opportunity in the league that means a lot in terms of standings, but just in general both teams have a lot to play for here down the stretch with their own resumes and trying to build towards the tournament, and to me every game from this point forward regardless whether it's Purdue at home or you play Iowa at home, it doesn't really matter, there's so much on the line for every team in the league in terms of trying to finish this climb that's been very difficult to navigate.

But it's that time of year, and for our guys, we've really got to step up to the plate and be ready to go against a good team.

Q. Can you just talk a little bit about how good it's been to have a couple extra days to get fresh legs and reset a little bit?
ARCHIE MILLER: It is. I mean, I think every coach is looking for an opportunity to practice a little bit more. Every coach is looking for an opportunity to probably take some time and talk to your guys and just -- you get out of that rhythm of the pressure of preparing and playing, sometimes you're winning, sometimes you're not. But as a player, you want to play. As a player, you want the games. As a coach, you want time. Sometimes it's too much.

But it's very, very important, I think, at some point in time during the year to recover physically. These guys get beat up. The road swings are hard. We were on a really tough swing coming off about two or three weeks in a row, so it came at a good time. That doesn't mean you're going to play well. That doesn't mean you're going to have guys, whatever, but I just think from a physical standpoint of being able to recover a little bit, give Race Thompson a few more days to try and get his leg -- you need as many weapons as you can on game day.

This week came at a good time for us because I think we were battling some things with illness. We were battling some of the flu stuff and we're battling Race being out. Jerome was sick, Joey is sick. So it just came at a decent time for us to find a way to kind of get our guys back together on the practice floor for the first time in a week or so, and just it's good to have your guys back out there.

Q. A question about Jerome. I know he obviously was out one game with illness, but 27 minutes, 28 minutes, how indicative is that of his conditioning level and how much that's improved?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, you know, Jerome is unique with his minutes because he asks to come out quite a bit. Sometimes it's fatigue, sometimes it's more of a soreness that he has naturally has to deal with with his situation with his leg injury. Sometimes he'll come out of the game and say I need one. So he's not a guy that stays out there a ton of minutes and you're worried about him. Usually Jerome is going to give you a look like, hey, I need a break right now, I'm tired or whatever.

But his conditioning level has went up and his game minutes have went up because he's been able to handle them for longer stretches. He looks the part. He looks like a guy that we saw a few years ago in terms of what he can be. He's not anywhere near where he needs to be. He's not anywhere where he's going to be, but I think you just see a natural progression of a freshman. He's played 22 games in college. He's found his way through October, November. You get through December and you start to head into conference play, and you start to learn a lot about your team and your guys, and he's stayed with that very consistent approach. He loves the game. He shows up to practice every day ready to go. He's not afraid. He will compete. He battles. But more importantly, he loves the game. He loves basketball. He can play all day long. He's the guy when practice is over you're trying to get off the floor to come to the film room because he still wants to shoot a little bit more or whatever.

But I'm proud of Jerome. He's had a very difficult situation. All players go through their own ups and downs, but his has been a long road back, and as I said the other day to our staff, if he just keeps improving every day and hopefully he gives us enough of these minutes that we're getting more consistent play off the bench or whatever it may be, but we're confident that he's out there playing pretty hard right now. I think he knows what to do. You can see he's got his legs under him a little bit offensively for the first time, where he's confident in being able to take some shots. He got to the basket a few times in our last game. He's got to get better at rebounding. That's the one thing, and just coming off our last few games as he's played more minutes, our rebounding has really suffered. Not just because of him, but he can add to help the cause, so to speak, in terms of being able to rebound for his position battle on both ends.

But he's playing more minutes. He's earned them. He's done it the old-fashioned way, and he's kept them by being able to get on the floor and be effective for us at times. I'm hopeful that as we keep going here, he continues to give us good things.

Q. With Purdue coming off the game with 19 threes, how much do you account for the perimeter and so that there's not maybe a carryover from what they did?
ARCHIE MILLER: I mean, yeah, hopefully they don't start going 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25. Each game is different. You know, Purdue to me is a team that can really attack us inside. They've got great big play. They've got great ability to get it inside a lot of different ways. They've always been great at it. And I think they can really hammer us inside. So that's step one.

Obviously they made a lot of threes the other day, but when you look at how they got them early in the game, it came off of fan it, three-point shots off offensive rebounds. It came off of some broken plays, some transition. They made a ton of shots early off of great effort on the boards, and I think that's the thing that probably goes the most underrated when you start talking about Purdue is how good they are on the boards right now. They're killing teams on the offensive glass, and they're generating three-point shots for Stefanovic, Boudreaux and Wheeler hit one the other day. You start to look, they have guys that can shoot the ball over the course of their career. To me they're a dangerous team. Like I said, if they start to shoot the ball a little bit more consistently with some guys that are good players, they'll get even better.

But you have to start and stop the game with Purdue inside and on the glass. You've got to answer both bells. If you can't answer those two bells, you're in trouble.

Q. Are there any match-ups that you see it's possible to take advantage of, and are there any things you team needs to do specifically to be successful?
ARCHIE MILLER: I think one is rebounding. The game is going to come down in February in our league in general, who's rebounding the ball effectively home and away. We didn't effectively rebound the ball in our last two games on the road, and we got crushed. When we effectively rebound the ball on both ends of the floor, we have a chance to be a pretty good team.

So to me right now, it starts with rebounding. Defensively, interior, being able to play smart defense, being able to play hard without fouling as a team is good. But to me in this game, the glass and then our ability, are we going to be able to run offense and not turn the ball over. Can we be able to get offense where the ball moves and our players move and we share the ball at times when we've seen it. We're going to have to deal with post traps all day long; can our guys handle the post trap, are we going to turn it over, and are you going to be able to make some big plays. Players step up in these games, now. This is a big-boy game, and you've got to step up and make some shots.

But it's the defensive glass that concerns me the most, and it's the ability to defend their inside guys with the way they get them inside. Their perimeter guys are all good players and they can shoot, but you deal with good guards every game. You don't deal with the type of inside attack that they have and the way that they get the ball inside so easily all the time. They're good at it.

For us, our guards are going to have to play. They really are. They're not going to allow us to throw the ball inside and just play. Teams aren't doing that right now. They're not allowing us to get easy baskets in transition. So what ends up happening is can you run good offense and can your perimeter players make some good open ones and can they make some plays for others.

I look at our guard assist-to-turnover ratio; I'm going to look at our guards' ability to make some open shots the score the ball. It's going to be huge. But it's going to come down in this game and really every game from this point forward is can you rebound in the Big Ten.

Q. Basically it's big boy ball in the Big Ten most every night. Is it really accentuated when you play against a team like Purdue?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yes. I think Matt has done a great job with his team of transforming them a few times during the year and trying different lineups. To me they're really effective right now with Trevion Williams, Boudreaux is in there, and then they have Haarms and then they'll bring in Wheeler, so they have a nice four-man rotation in there. If they need to go small, they'll actually even put Nojel Eastern in there who's as physical as any player in our league.

But they've got a great thing going on with their front court players in terms of being able to play through them and being able to use them for action creators with the way that they run offense. But they do a great job of getting them the ball into spots that they can go to work. You know, to me, you compound that with their offensive rebounding, they're getting the most out of their guys right now offensively, and if you watch them play, I think they have the most impressive wins in our league. Not that every team doesn't have a signature win at home or whatever, but if you look at the impressive games and you say like who in the Big Ten had a night where man, that team, boy, were they good, they've had about four or five of them. When you look at the Michigan State game at home, the Iowa game at home, Wisconsin at home, you start to look at some of those games and how they've played in those games, they have absolutely throttled people. Mackey is one thing and confidence level is another, but actually winning a game in that form or fashion has been impressive. So to me, Purdue has had some of the most if not the most impressive wins in how they've played on that given night in the league.

To me they're playing really good ball right now.

Q. How is Race doing, and without him against a team the size of Purdue, who has to step up?
ARCHIE MILLER: Race is doing better. I don't know how many weeks it is now. But he's been moved into some non-contact stuff early in the week. He's been moved into some more half-court stuff in the week. If all goes well today and tomorrow, maybe he'll have a chance to play. I don't know how effective he'll be. But Race has been a big part of our team. If you look at per-minute played of any player on our team, per minute he rebounds the ball better than anybody on our team, and then when you add in that he's smart and he knows his role, offensively, although maybe not huge scoring numbers but creates action for people, screens, offensive rebounds, good pass.

Defensively he obviously gives us in my opinion our most fundamental low post defender on and off the ball. The plays that he makes off the ball with the charge circle, the wall-ups, the blocked shots, the defensive rebounding that he brings in, he's our most fundamental big in terms of being able to be where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there and have some discipline in doing it.

Him not playing in the last three games has really hurt our rotation. It's also really hurt some of the winning plays that he makes.

Every team goes through guys not being available. It's been our team here recently with Race, his unfortunate fall he had in the Michigan State game, but he brought a lot to the table that night, and he brings a lot of good things.

We need to get him back. He helps our rotation more than anything. He gives us the ability to bring a guy we have confidence in that can play hard. That's what you need right now. You need guys coming in there playing hard and confident and doing their job. Proud of Race; obviously he's fought his way back to practice, so hopefully he can find his way back into that rhythm that he had going into the game because at Nebraska he made plays for us, Michigan State at home. He's made plays for us here recently, and you need everybody you can at this time of year doing and chipping in a little bit, and that's what Race embodies.

Hopefully today goes a little bit better for him than yesterday did, and we can kind of get him kind of moving back in the right direction.

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