Indiana basketball players Justin Smith, De’Ron Davis, Devonte Green and Al Durham met with the media on Tuesday in advance of the Big Ten Tournament.
You can read the full transcript below.
Indiana will play Ohio State on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern at the United Center in Chicago.
Opening Statement on the Big Ten Tournament
JUSTIN SMITH: I would say just getting the opportunity for me to be able to play in my hometown, and then being able to compete, and really all — everything that’s happened in the past is kind of off the table, and so it’s kind of like a new season. It gives everybody a new shot, a new opportunity to really do whatever they want to do when it comes to the postseason. So we’re looking forward to starting it off with a bang and doing what we know we can do.
DE’RON DAVIS: Just exciting to play in the postseason. We’ve worked our whole time for this moment, to play out here. This is single-game elimination, so I feel like it’s just a blessing to be here. Not everybody gets to go to the NCAA Tournament, so I feel like we’ve all got to seize the opportunity and enjoy it.
DEVONTE GREEN: It just means more to you when it’s in the postseason because you know you’re going home at any moment. I mean, you just want to leave it all out there.
Q. What was it like for you to play at home last year?
DEVONTE GREEN: In New York? I mean, if we would have won, it would have been great. But it was still to see family. I had a few family because I don’t have much family come to games often. So for them to see me in the Big Ten Tournament last year was nice.
ALJAMI DURHAM: Playing in the postseason, I think it just means more. You get a clean slate. So I feel like you get to get a shot at reaching all your goals, and I feel like it just means a lot to us, and we’re just going to work hard and try to win it, actually.
Q. You guys have the first game against Ohio State. What have been some points of emphasis?
DE’RON DAVIS: I feel like Coach has been emphasizing making the bigs play, people that they didn’t in the first game, you know, put in a couple different things. So I feel like just a point of emphasis of just making everybody guard everybody on the court, and making — putting a little bit more movement into our offense?
Q. De’Ron, do you keep up with any of the bracketology? Are you looking at what people are saying it would take to qualify for the NCAA Tournament?
DE’RON DAVIS: Yeah, we hear people talking and it’s all over social media. But we don’t really pay attention to it. We just focus on what we’ve got to focus on and the next game and each war.
Q. What have the coaches told you this week? Have they told you not to think about the NCAA?
DE’RON DAVIS: No, Coach is just focused on the game plan and what we’ve got to do to beat Ohio State. That’s all really.
Q. Justin, you played you’ve played at the United Center before. What do you remember about that? And also speak to the last couple weeks, your improved play, what are two or three keys in your mind that made that happen?
JUSTIN SMITH: Well, playing at the United Center there’s a lot of energy. There’s a lot of Indiana fans in the Chicago area, so I would expect that we’ll have a good crowd whenever we play. But for me the last couple weeks has been really about just getting back to playing my game and doing what got me here. I think I kind of lost sight of what I was able to do well last year and leading up to last year, and now I’ve really started to go back to doing what I know how to do and what I’m good at.
Q. Devonte, sort of a similar question to you, three straight games in double figures scoring, 10 assists to two turnovers the last three games, shooting well from behind the arc. What do you think is kind of working for you here as you do get ready for March or the postseason?
DEVONTE GREEN: I think just being consistent and staying focused and locked in and knocking down shots is big, of course.
Q. I guess for both you and Al, between you, Al, Rob, just the whole team, something like 13 turnovers or 15 turnovers last week total, I think the turnovers numbers have been depressed the last few games in general. What does the enhanced ball security come from, especially when playing opponents like Illinois where there’s obviously a lot of pressure defense and difficulty holding on to the ball?
ALJAMI DURHAM: Honestly, just emphasis on taking care of the ball, and just knowing that we’ve got a good backcourt, and we just are taking care of the ball, really, and not allowing the pressure to speed us up and just taking our time.
Q. De’Ron, what have you seen in Devonte these last three or four games that’s allowed him to hit a consistent level he’s been working toward?
DE’RON DAVIS: Personally I feel like he’s just playing more confident, just playing more poised, not letting the game come fast to him, just slowing the game down in his head. I feel like he’s eliminated distractions as far as he’s moving on to the next play. If he gets one turnover he’s going to make sure he’s not doing that mistake over and over, so I feel like he’s playing more poised, more calm and more confident.
Q. Devonte, what is your confidence level now as opposed to maybe two weeks ago? Seems like you’re a guy that doesn’t really lack confidence. What’s maybe the confidence level you’d describe right now?
DEVONTE GREEN: I think it’s higher than it’s been in the past, and I’m glad you think that. (Laughter). I’m always confident, so that’s good news.
Q. Justin and De’Ron, in his postgame speech the other day, Juwan mentioned how he’s a guy who a lot of the team turns to when they need advice on and off the court. Being at that same kind of position and being a bit younger than him, how has he kind of helped you guys along, both on and off the court during your time here at Indiana?
JUSTIN SMITH: He’s definitely, especially when I came in, he’s definitely taken me under his wing, kind of shown me the ropes, how to do things. He’s always talking to us. If something goes wrong, something goes good, he’s always in our ear telling us keep going or keep your head up, stuff like that. He’s definitely been a good presence to have.
DE’RON DAVIS: Yeah, he’s Uncle J-Mo. On the court I can constantly tell you what he does and how even if he’s out he’s still talking to us. But off the court, if you’ve got a flat tire in Chicago, he’ll drive to Chicago and get you.
Q. Is he one of your emergency contacts?
DE’RON DAVIS: Yeah, definitely. He’s not listed as emergency, but he is the guy. He is the go-to guy for anything that happens on campus, off campus. He’s called J-Mo.
Q. You guys have kind of played with your backs against the wall for three, four weeks and now you know you can’t lose. Now you’re going to face some teams that haven’t been in that situation. Is that a little bit of an edge that you might have in kind of a neutral tournament type setting this week?
DE’RON DAVIS: Yeah, I feel like, like you said, we’ve been playing with our backs against the wall. I feel like we’re not really focused on if any other teams have wins or losses or what their schedule is or what they need to do to get to the tournament. I feel like this whole week and the last two weeks, we’ve just been focused on us and how hard we go in practice and how hard we play.
Q. It’s a simple question, but just how much of a difference has being healthy made for you guys? This is probably the healthiest you’ve been maybe since November, not having to worry about fatigue or anything like that, that maybe you were dealing with in January and parts of February.
DEVONTE GREEN: I think it’s a blessing that everybody is healthy right now because we’ve had bad luck with injuries all season, and as you see, we have a lot of different pieces that are important to this team and to winning games.
Q. How big of a difference is it in practice, because I know that’s something Coach has talked about, just there was a stretch there where there were guys that were injured and maybe guys that were playing but were still hurt enough that they needed to be limited in practice and there was a lot you couldn’t do. How different are practices now that maybe you do have some of that health back?
JUSTIN SMITH: I’d say they’re a lot more competitive. We’re able to compete more. We’re able to go at each other, which I think is why it’s translating so well to the games. I mean, we’re really getting after each other and we’re putting ourselves in game-like situations, and we see that’s translating, so it’s been a big help.
Q. The idea of having to win a couple games to be able to make it to the tournament or something like that, the fact that you need to win, is that a pressure that you guys enjoy, that you think the team will handle well, especially given how it’s composed of some younger guys?
ALJAMI DURHAM: Yeah, I feel like it fuels us, gives us something to work for, like a goal. But I mean, like any team, we all want to make the tournament, especially for our seniors that haven’t been there since freshman or sophomore year. Yeah, like I said, we just are working every day to get to that point, and we’re just going to take one game at a time and take it each war at a time.
Q. These last three, four games, is this the team you guys thought you’d be, could be, would be earlier in the season?
ALJAMI DURHAM: Yeah, I feel like we started off hot, then came to a little slump, and Coach just kept pressing, like you never know how things can switch for teams. He’s always saying teams start out hot, then cool off and never pick it back up. Teams stay hot or teams waver. He said we’ve been going up and down and we’re playing our best ball right now, so we’ve just got to keep the P in practice.
Q. Devonte, we’ve asked you what has been different for you these last few games. Is there anything you’re not doing that’s maybe helped you out a little bit more these last couple weeks?
DEVONTE GREEN: No.
Q. Any bad habits you’ve tried to eliminate or anything you’ve just tried to do differently?
DEVONTE GREEN: No.
Transcript via ASAP Sports Transcripts.
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