Watch as Indiana’s Mike Woodson, Trayce Jackson-Davis and Xavier Johnson discuss a win over Michigan on Thursday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Further below is a transcript of the post-game press conference following the 74-69 win over the Wolverines at the Big Ten Tournament.
See also: Three keys, highlights, final stats
MODERATOR: We are joined by Indiana Head Coach Mike Woodson, along with Xavier Johnson and Trayce Jackson-Davis.
Coach Woodson, if you can open with an opening statement and then we’ll take questions for the students.
COACH MIKE WOODSON: Well, it was a hell of a game. I mean, I have nothing but respect for Juwan and his staff and that organization in terms of how they pushed us to play. These two guys sitting next to me, along with the guys in the locker room, had a lot to do with this win, along with my staff. It was a total team effort and this team hadn’t quit all year.
We’ve been so competitive over the course of this season. And a lot of games that we’ve lost, we just, we didn’t get rewarded for it, you know. I’ve just, I’ve felt — even at halftime, guys, that we still had a shot to win the game. And these guys came out and they just played and played and played themselves back into the game and was able to pull it out.
Q. This is for both you guys. Trayce, first of all, what do you feel led to your big second half? And then, Xavier, if I can get your thoughts seeing him do what he did in the second half?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: The biggest thing for me is that in the locker room, Coach Woody got on me. He told me I wasn’t playing up to my capabilities, but then he said at the same time, basketball’s two halves. So I went out there, I think it started on the defensive end, I was up, kind of getting in the passing lanes, the ball lanes, and then coming back. And then on offense, having this guy right next to me coming off the screens, getting easy lobs, I think that got me going.
Q. For either of you guys, we’ve asked you so often after those close losses what you needed to do to get over that hump to finish out a game like this. Are there moments you can kind of trace — sorry Trayce, no pun intended — in this performance, I guess, experiences you’ve drawn on in some of those losses to be able to say we’re not going to let that happen this time?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: So basically, the game that I think about is Wisconsin, the first time we played them, what they did to us. And how you watch a team and you start coming back and the one team believes and the other team gets defeated. So we believed we were going to win and we kind of saw them deflating and deflating, and then we finally got back.
So hopefully we can carry that energy because I feel like that we can beat anyone. But at the same time, just getting over that hump, especially to a team like Michigan that’s beat us the last nine times, it’s big.
Q. Trayce, I understand this is kind of more of a philosophical question, but I think it was a couple weeks ago you tweeted “Embrace the struggle.” What about being in the struggle is so difficult? How do you try to get through that mentally, and now kind of getting out of it a little bit, what makes it so rewarding?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Basically for me just struggling, even this game in the first half, not having it go my way, you can’t get too down on yourself, you’ve got to keep playing. And then my guys were always picking me up. I think the fans were big, even in the first half they were still cheering for us, so that was huge for us. And then going into the halftime, having my teammates believe in me, that’s big for us and that’s way big for our team us. It’s believing we can win and believing we have opportunities to succeed.
Q. For either player, they’re at 60 points with about 12 minutes to go and then you guys really clamped down. What changed defensively for you guys, was a matter of figuring some things out or what spurred on the defense from that stretch on to start the run?
XAVIER JOHNSON: I just feel like we locked in. With the last 12 minutes, Coach said we’ve got to get a stop. It’s all about getting stops. We’re scoring, we just can’t get a stop. And everybody looked — everybody held each other accountable for that man, and we just dug in and got stops.
Q. Can you talk a little bit, too, about all the contributions you guys got in the second half from Trey and Jordan, especially on the defensive end and turning defense into offense?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Most definitely. JG, he’s an energy guy. He’s someone that’s going to come in and get rebounds. I saw him when I was going up to get some of them, he was a whole head above me, so he’s huge for us. He blocks shots, and then he’s a positive influence on the floor.
And then, Trey coming off ball screens hard, making the right plays. He struggled a little bit, but got to keep his head up and just keep playing because he had to play through his mistakes. But I thought both their contributions really helped us and really got us the win, honestly.
Q. Just following up on that, it was the two of them, the two of you out there and it was that combination of five for the entire comeback. What about that lineup that you had, it was Miller, I think, was the fifth, what about that lineup works for you guys?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I just think with that lineup, you had Trey coming off ball screens, X coming off ball screens, and we had space with shooters. And then JG can also stretch the floor. And me being able to be a lob threat was big.
But at the same time, it’s not just going to always be those five. It’s going to be a contribution of different guys every single night, and that’s what Coach is big on, it’s got to always be next man up.
Q. Guys, we’ve asked you so many times about closing games, you worked so hard to finally get that lead. I’m curious what the conversations were like when you had it there in the final minute or two?
XAVIER JOHNSON: I feel like we learned from our mistakes in the past. We’ve been watching a lot of film. Credits to the coaches, watching a lot of film, learning from it, and just working on it and now we have the chance to go prove it, prove what we working on.
Q. Trayce, I guess just start, what did you see go wrong in the first couple minutes, I guess? What were they doing to hold you back and what did you have to kind of get over after that opening stretch?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I just think they came out with more intensity and energy, honestly. They punched us in the mouth and they just kept punching us in the mouth, honestly. And we carried that over, I think we had a little bit of life kind of going into the first half, and at the start of the second half it was kind of the same way, we really honed in on defense and got stops that we needed and we were putting the ball in the basket.
Q. For either player, one of the keys to beating Michigan is obviously stopping Hunter Dickinson. How were you able to do that, especially in the second half?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I think Hunter’s a great player and he had his way in Bloomington. And then he had his way in the first half, honestly. He was hitting shots. But the big thing with him was pushing him off the lane. And then I thought our guards really helped him crowd and they were pressuring the back so he couldn’t get it.
Q. Gentlemen, can you talk about — well, express to me what it means to advance in the play on Friday? I mean, express what Friday represents because you’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel almost and you can advance, so can you express to me what it means to advance in the play on Friday?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: For me, it’s just the next game on our schedule and we play a really good Illinois team, but I’ve never played on Friday, so it’s a new experience for me. I hope I see a lot of fans in the stadium and we’re going to go out and compete.
XAVIER JOHNSON: To me it’s just another game as well, just next step to what our goal is as a team. We want to win this whole thing and that’s what we plan on doing.
Q. Mike, I know he didn’t play much in the first half because of the fouls, it seemed like kind of from the moment he stepped on the floor X was just intent both with his play and he kept kind of gesturing to the crowd, gesturing to his teammates; just I guess energy as much as anything else and that obviously manifested itself somewhat in the statistics, but just how important was he from an energy perspective at both ends of the floor in that second half?
COACH MIKE WOODSON: X has been pretty good here as of late. I mean, really playing solid for our ball club on both ends of the floor. I thought again tonight he led us, but it was a combination of Geronimo and Galloway, having him back, and Rob. You know, we had places to go and during that stretch I was searching as a coach trying to find the combination that could change the game in Geronimo and Galloway and X and then I came back with Miller along with Big Fella, changed the whole dynamics of that game.
Q. Coach, I asked Coach Terry here last week on the Big Ten Women’s, what’s it like for you to see these fans here, Hoosier Nation, traveling and how exciting is that for you as following you through the tournament?
COACH MIKE WOODSON: Well, it’s always been that way as far as I can remember. But it’s great to see them out, come out and show their support. I mean, we need it, man. This is probably the biggest win for our program in such a long, long time. I’ve got to give my staff and the guys in that locker room that wear that uniform a lot of credit, man, because this team, they just won’t quit. And that’s — that’s a good sign to me.
Q. Yeah, Coach, just the poise and execution down the stretch, you’ve unfortunately been on the wrong end of some close games lately. What was different today, particularly in the last three minutes, in terms of how you think you played?
COACH MIKE WOODSON: I thought that coming down the stretch, even when they made the run to cut it to two, I just — in the time-outs, I just saw steadiness. Like we’ve been here and we’ve struck out so many times that we not going to let it happen tonight, and we came out of the time-out and we executed, we made plays that we needed to make to secure the win.
Q. Mike, I know you’re not a licensed bracketologist, but do you think this gets you in?
COACH MIKE WOODSON: I don’t know. The only thing I can say, Bob, is that if you look at our schedule and how we’ve competed this year, I would like to think that this game would put us over the top, but like I told the guys in the locker room, I don’t know how it works. I’m new at this, but we got to get ready for Illinois and see if we can play like we did tonight the second half and see if we can get another win that might secure us for the big dance.
I don’t know, I don’t know how the selection committee works, but I’ve just got to tell our guys we’re still playing and we’ve still got to play hard and try to win.
Q. Trayce mentioned you got on him at halftime. What in particular were you upset about in the first half and what did you say to him?
COACH MIKE WOODSON: Well, his play the first half wasn’t really good, I’ll tell you that, and I kind of keep locker room things inside, but it wasn’t pretty, I’ll tell you that. I thought he responded extremely well and we needed that. I mean, I think Trayce is a hell of a player, man. He’s one of the best players in the Big Ten and I didn’t think he played that way the first half. Second half he stepped it up and played like we thought he could play.
Q. The past dozen games or so Trayce has struggled a lot in the second half of games. How gratifying is it, especially considering the significance of this game, for him to step up and lead you both with scoring but also the four blocks?
COACH MIKE WOODSON: No, it’s huge. I mean, this game was huge for this program. I mean, we lose today and I don’t know what the committee is going to do or say about Indiana University basketball. Our guys, not just Trayce, everybody that played tonight contributed in some way and we going to need that the rest of the way. Illinois is a good team and they kind of had their way in Bloomington as well. So we’ve got to go back, break this team down tonight and learn from our mistakes in this game and get ready for Illinois.
Q. Coach, we talked about the tale of two halves, but Hunter having the great first half in Michigan and in the second half, Trayce coming alive, but Xavier Johnson was the same in both, he was consistent and his play has been that way here of late for the last four, five, six games, seven or eight rebounds, seven assists. How important has his being able to stay so middle of the road and stay — keep everything calm been the difference for you guys?
COACH MIKE WOODSON: Well, I like to think he’s grown as a player. From the time we started to where he is today, he’s put a lot of work, you know, on the court and off the court in terms of watching film and just learning. I’m not the easiest to deal with and him being the point guard is probably the toughest position for me as a coach. So I think he’s grown, man. I think the game is starting to slow down for him and he’s seeing things. He’s always been pretty good defensively, he gives you a lot of effort there, but point guards, there’s a lot that comes in being a point guard, man, and it’s just not me on him, his teammates are on him, that’s just the nature of being a point guard, but I think he’s grown so much since we’ve started this journey.
Q. Coach, it feels like we’ve been talking about getting the team over the hump the entire end of the regular season. How did you do that today, what was the difference, and on such a big stage, how did you do that?
COACH MIKE WOODSON: Well, I couldn’t be more proud of a group of guys because we’ve been striking out. When you think about all the close games that we’ve had this season, this is really gratifying in terms of getting over the hump on a major stage, a big game that we had to win. But hey, I didn’t play, those guys in the locker room played and they made it happen, so that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. We’ll see you tomorrow.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports