Watch as Indiana’s Mike Woodson, Trayce Jackson-Davis and Xavier Johnson discuss a 65-63 Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals win over Illinois.
Further below is a transcript of the post-game press conference on Friday afternoon at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
See also: Three keys, highlights, final stats
MODERATOR: We are joined by the Indiana Hoosiers.
Coach Woodson, if you could make an opening statement about the game, then we’ll take questions from the students.
COACH MIKE WOODSON: Well, again, today was another great effort on our ball club. For 40 minutes, I mean, we competed. And Illinois and their coach, great staff, they competed. Nobody really wanted to give, but I thought we made some damn good plays down the stretch to secure the win.
With that being said, I’m very pleased with our performance tonight, but we’ve got to get ready for our next opponent. That’s what it’s all about.
Q. Trayce, this basically locks up a spot in the NCAA Tournament, where you wanted to go, where you guys wanted to go. What’s it like to come into the Big Ten Tournament needing wins, getting them and being solidly in the NCAA Tournament field?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: It’s big for us, honestly. But what X told you guys yesterday, we didn’t pack for two days, we didn’t pack for three days, we packed to win the Big Ten, and that’s what Coach Woodson’s put a big emphasis on this year. I’m glad we got this W today to solidify our spot, but at the same time, we want to play two more games.
Q. Trayce, you seemed to find another level yesterday. Did that help you get through and play really well today and even you were hitting jumpers and so forth, was that a confidence builder yesterday to make you play well?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Most definitely. There’s been a lot of talk, especially the last two years of me not showing up at the end of the season, so I’m trying to change that narrative. I think that team is honestly the team that got me in the slum that I’ve been in the last month. And when we played them on February 5th, it took a lot of my confidence away.
So Illinois was a bully today and I think we took care of that problem. So I’m just going to keep playing the way that I am and then we’ll go from there.
Q. Trayce, you’ve seen Kofi a lot, I think this is hands down your best game against him. And I know it’s not just a one-to-one matchup, other guys are involved, but what was working for you to allow you to be so efficient at both ends of the floor today?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Well, Kofi’s going to get hit his. He’s a great player, he’s an All-American. But at the same time, we knew that we were going to try to slow him down. But in the second half late, he started getting a lot of buckets, but we really shut their guard play down. So basically we were just trying to let me play one-on-one with him and then have our guards be taking away, and that’s what we did. So our guards did a great job stepping up and not letting him pitch 3s.
Q. Trayce, you played in this tournament last year, and when you lost, you guys were booed as you walked off the court. Now you’re going into the semi-finals, which Indiana hasn’t done in a long time. What does it mean to you?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I think our team right now is playing with a lot of confidence. And Coach Woodson said it all year, he said this isn’t last year’s team. And I think yesterday, finally getting over that hump, proves that we’re a new team with a lot of new pieces, like X over here. But we’re just going to keep playing our solid basketball and hopefully that keeps transitioning to wins.
Q. X, seemed like they were trying really hard to make sure you couldn’t get anything going on the ball screen today. How did they change your reads, what do you think you did to keep yourself out of making mistakes, and how do you think you were ultimately effective in dealing with the way they were trying to defend you?
XAVIER JOHNSON: I was just constantly trying to get down hill. I mean, they iced the ball screen pretty well. They play really good defense. I was just trying to get downhill and make other players better, because that’s one of my jobs, that’s one of my favorite jobs to do on this team.
Q. Yesterday Coach Woodson mentioned that he really liked what he saw out of all of you in regards to composure down the stretch. You guys have been through a lot of tight games. From a player’s standpoint, what was the composure level like truly out there on the court in a one-possession game basically for the last 7, 8, 10 minutes?
XAVIER JOHNSON: Coach Woodson got us to believe. Everybody believes that we can win. We were playing both sides on the ball well. Our defense really picked it up for the last couple games, because that’s really what’s winning us games right now.
Q. This is for either one of you. I think you guys had lost 7 of 9, heading into the tournament, and seemed like it would be easy for the locker room to fracture. Why do you think that did not happen?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I just think the biggest thing for us, this was finally our chance to prove something, really. I think after we let the Purdue game slip away from us, even though we lost, we lost by 2 and it was in Mackey Arena, which is one of the toughest environments. And it just proves that we can compete with anyone. So coming into this tournament, we kind of had a chip on our shoulder to prove ourselves, and I think we’ve done that so far.
Q. Question for you, Trayce: What does this win against Illinois mean for the program and also you individually?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: It’s really big for me, honestly, and our program, because a lot of us, I know I haven’t, beat Illinois throughout my whole career. So finally getting that one like Michigan, I think it’s just getting another thing off my chest. And then getting ready for whoever we play tomorrow, it’s going to be a great game.
Q. Trayce, you had just six points against Illinois earlier this season and there were times where you were down in the post and there were guys that you could have kicked it out to. What was going through your mind when you decided to go one-on-one with Kofi so many times?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Coach Woodson gave me confidence, my teammates gave me confidence. And I think after I got in that rhythm, I got two buckets early in the first half. The rest goes from there. I felt like I could score, so I was just doing my job.
Q. X, you and your team have had problems with some of the fans not always being as supportive this season. What do you have to say to those doubters and now you’re advancing into the semifinals at the tournament?
XAVIER JOHNSON: I don’t have anything to say to them, honestly. It’s just us, honestly. We’ve been about us all year, and we’re going to be about us when we’re successful.
Q. Trayce, can you speak to going to the free-throw line, 26.1 seconds left, you guys are down one, and overall it was a pretty good day for 10 to 13, but just your mindset going to the line in that situation.
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: It was just belief. I’ve been working on my free-throw routine, and it was something that I shoot a hundred free throws with some of our coaches every day, so I was just thinking of practice and trying to get that scenario in my head, that I’m just in practice knocking them down, so that’s what I did.
Q. Trayce and X, second straight day you get a late turnover against a team you’ve never beaten, they throw the ball out of bounds. When stuff like that happens, do you get some belief that maybe something special is going on right now?
XAVIER JOHNSON: I mean, when we turned it over there was 10 seconds left and Miller came in. Miller’s a great free throw shooter. He missed, but we just came back in, played defense and we got the stop we needed, and we came down and got the rebound and Trayce (indiscernible) his free throws.
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Picking backing off of what X said, I think that’s big for us because it’s always been one stop, one key stop, one key rebound that it’s been the last seven or eight games where we haven’t gotten those. So finally getting some of those breaks I think has been good for us.
Q. X, what’s different about your jump shot lately? Is there anything you changed mechanically or anything different about your confidence with it, and how important especially is the mid range for what you’ve been able to do off pick and roll?
XAVIER JOHNSON: Coach is always believing in me, keep shooting. He’s not going to tell me to stop shooting. I just get in the gym and he see me always just working on my game. I’m always working on my craft every day and now it’s just starting to come.
Q. Mike, I know that this is not about you and I can only imagine how happy you are for the players, but for someone who is too old, who hasn’t coached the college game, who hasn’t recruited —
COACH MIKE WOODSON: Who were you calling old?
Q. — how good does it feel to have Indiana in the NCAA Tournament, further than they’ve been in the Big Ten tournament since 2003 and I’m sure plenty of other accolades that go along with that? That has to feel confident for you?
COACH MIKE WOODSON: Are you sure we’re in the tournament?
Q. I would guarantee you’re in the tournament.
COACH MIKE WOODSON: Okay. Well, that’s a great, great feeling, I think it’s great for our program really. And these players, it’s been about these guys ever since we started the journey. It’s been — for me it’s been fun because it’s kind of been a rollercoaster ride watching these guys develop over this season so far, but the thing that I like about our team, man, we are competitive. Even though we’ve lost a lot of close games, we are very, very competitive. From a coaching standpoint that’s all you can ask for, but I think it’s great for our program, it’s fantastic that we’re back in the big dance.
Q. When you guys had lost seven of nine there to wrap up the regular season, were there any moments that you had to soul search with the guys and help them believe that it wasn’t over and that they could have a run like this this week?
COACH MIKE WOODSON: No, not at all. I mean, you look at seven of the nine games we lost, we either held leads, we just couldn’t close. And, you know, I kept saying early on that we’re still trying to figure each other out. And you say, well, hell, we’re at the end of the season now, you should already have figured it out. Well, I take responsibility for a lot of the games that we’ve lost. I mean, I just couldn’t get them over the hump. And now they’re really starting to believe. You know what I mean?
You lose enough of them, hell, you start to get breaks your way. And I thought today we got a great break in the turnover that they had down the stretch and we were able to still secure the win.
Q. Mike, Trayce talked there about how he felt like the first time you guys played Illinois, that game, that performance, what Illinois kind of did to him that day got him in a little bit of a funk. He’s had some other tough games against Illinois and Kofi particularly in the past. What was different about him today? How much do you think in particular was a carryover from yesterday?
COACH MIKE WOODSON: I know that affected him. I went back and watched some old films of him going against Big Fella, Kofi, and he didn’t fare well and he got in foul trouble at our place early and he was just never a factor. I think yesterday’s play, you know, after the halftime meeting that we had, he bounced back and showed his teammates and the coaching staff and this program that he’s a damn good player in the Big Ten and he’s been that way for some years.
So today, I mean, I challenged him again. I was like, man, you’ve got to go out and play this guy and make him respect you, and I thought he did a hell of a job in that regard.
Q. Coach, how is Jordan Geronimo doing, and just speak to your bench today because that was another big lift you had?
COACH MIKE WOODSON: Well, I really don’t know yet, he’s being evaluated. I mean, it’s his knee, so I don’t know how bad it is. I think we’re going to have to get an MRI done on it, but we’ve just got to wait and get that information when it comes.
But our bench was great. I’ve always coached and I’ve always said that your bench has got to be as important as the guys who start the game, doesn’t matter who starts, it’s who finishes the game and we finished the game pretty much tonight with two guys coming off the bench.
Q. Coach, listen, this isn’t your first rodeo. I mean, you went to the playoffs with the Hawks with a young team, with the Knicks. I’ve got to ask you, with the last couple of wins, especially this one, is it a joy that you have from a win like this or is it a relief that you’re advancing on?
COACH MIKE WOODSON: It’s not a relief. I mean, it’s a journey that we started way back in the Bahamas. I’ve had an opportunity, like you said, to build young teams like in Atlanta and I know what the grind is like. It’s just getting guys to believe in what you do on and off the court, both ends of the floor. Our guys have bought into my stuff, I guess you can say, and my stuff ain’t always the greatest, but it’s working for us now. That’s what’s more important for me and makes me feel good, too.
It’s more about our university and the program, guys. I mean, we’ve been kind of on a rollercoaster ride with Indiana University basketball and it’s nice to see guys now playing at a much higher level and now get an opportunity to play in the big dance.
Q. Coming back from a muscle strain like Trey is, fully exerted himself yesterday, how did he feel last night, this morning, and can you talk a little bit about what you got from him on both ends of the floor?
COACH MIKE WOODSON: Again, I thought he was great again. You know, I’m sure he’s probably a little sore because he hadn’t been able to practice and he’s basically just bringing it in the ballgame. We’ve just got to keep nursing him and get him ready for tomorrow. Hell, he’s what, 19, 20 years old? Man, he’ll be all right. That’s kind of how I look at it.
Q. Coach, could you speak to the defensive effort today and then balancing guarding the 3-point line and Kofi and what you learned from the first meeting that maybe you carried over to this meeting in terms of defense?
COACH MIKE WOODSON: Our defense has been pretty damn good this year, guys, and we knew coming into this game we had to guard the 3-pointer line. That’s where they got us in Bloomington and I thought we did a really good job. Hawkins was the only one that got away on us and he really didn’t play much in Bloomington. So you’ve got to tip your hat to him because he stepped up and made big plays for his ball club as well. But our defense, it was solid all the way through. Neither team — and their defense was great, neither team wanted to give. It was just a grind to win this game.
Q. Mike, when you were talking Trayce into coming back, you told him you wanted him to develop a jump shot in his right hand. When he made that jump shot, did you nearly feint?
COACH MIKE WOODSON: I said, “Hallelujah!”
No, listen, I tell Trayce to try to get two or three jump shots. He just, he won’t shoot them, and then today he stepped out there and he shot — I mean, he doesn’t have a bad looking shot and he shoots them in practice, but he made one that really counted. That was a big shot that he made.
Q. Coach, from your first press conference, you really have stressed defensive effort, defensive effort and the shots will come and I think this was a real testament to what you’ve been working towards all season. Can you kind of talk about that and how that’s kind of come to fruition over time?
COACH MIKE WOODSON: Listen, I played for a great coach in Bob Knight and the one thing he taught me was defense wins games. The offense is not going to be there every night, but if you can put a good defensive system in place, you put yourself in a great position to win every game, you going to be in every ballgame, and that’s how we’ve been all season. It’s not just been Knight. Larry Brown, the great Larry Brown that I worked with, I look at the Detroit team that we championed back in 2004 in the NBA there and that team was as good a defensive team. That’s basically how we want it. So I know defense will win games if guys are committed to defending, rebounding the ball and that’s what we’ve been doing here as of late.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports