Indiana head basketball coach Archie Miller and senior co-captain Juwan Morgan met with the media on Friday afternoon to preview Saturday’s contest against Michigan State.
The Hoosiers and Spartans tip-off at Noon tomorrow at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
(Note: There is no audio for the first two minutes of the video. The full transcript is below.)
Video credit – IU Athletics
ARCHIE MILLER: Tomorrow, obviously, we have Michigan State coming to town. They are an excellent team and have been all season. They’ve dealt with adversity with their top couple guys being out and they still seem to, obviously, fit the mold of a championship type of team. They’ve got a lot of guys doing a lot of good things. Cassius Winston right now, if it ended today, would arguably be the Big Ten Player of the Year. He’s had that type of impact on their team and what he does for them. Xavier Tillman and Kenny Goins doing a fantastic job with Nick Ward going out of the lineup. Those guys have really stepped up and they’re getting great shooting and great contributions from their perimeter guys as well.
Speaking of ourselves, we have to continue to play as hard as we can. We’re going to have to do some things that, in that type of game, that you have to do; especially since our first time we played them. In the first time we played them, we did some of those things — we hit shots, we had 20 assists in the game. We were able to rebound and it’s going to have to be the same thing tomorrow after noon.
I thought that our team in the first game played extremely hard and that was the biggest thing. Sometimes when you play really hard and you are committed to playing to win and not worried about a whole lot, sometimes the ball sort of finds you on 50/50 plays and which we had a number of them in that game. I thought we were very active in getting back and stopping some of their easy ones and they had a tough night at the line in that night which played a part in it. We had some guys to drive to pass unselfishly at times. We had some guys make some really key shots at really key times.
That’s what you have to do to play a team like Michigan State to be able to win that type of game. You’re going to have to make some plays. I just thought our team in general had a good spirit with them that night, had some breaks go our way. But as we play them here the second time, it’s going to require the same type of mentality. You can’t worry about anything else other than trying to play hard and playing to win, and usually good things will happen if you have that type of a mindset.
But from an execution standpoint, especially offensively, we were able to move the ball that night and I’m sure they’re going to do some things differently in game two that won’t allow us to do that, so we’re going to have to adjust.
Q. De’Ron the last two, three, four games seems like he’s kind of been himself again. Why do you think his play has been on an uptick?
ARCHIE MILLER: He’s definitely playing the best that he’s played since pre-injury. It took him obviously a good while to get his rhythm back. He lost confidence. He lost conditioning. But he’s played his way through it, and I think he’s as healthy as he’s been all year.
He’s really, really playing an outstanding game defensively for us right now. He’s our best perimeter defender by far. I think offensively he’s starting to get a lot more aggressive. You’re seeing him get in transition to the basket. You’re seeing him get fouled a little bit more. I don’t think he’s afraid right now to take shots. I think just for whatever reason, he’s played himself through it, and he’s kind of gotten himself back into form. Just in watching him in our last two games, it’s probably the best back-to-back games he’s had maybe in a long, long time.
But he’s doing a really nice job at this stage of the year for us.
Q. It’s been a little while since you guys have won consecutive games. Is there anything you can learn from this stretch following the first Michigan State win where you guys couldn’t eke wins in close games?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, I mean, I don’t think there’s any correlation. We’re obviously trying to play our best. We’re trying to win every game. Building off the momentum that we got against Wisconsin being able to finish a hard-fought game should give us a positive balance. I think that’s the one thing; you want to get that pressure sort of off your shoulders as a player, as a coach, whatever, as a team, where you’re coaching and practicing and you’re playing without distractions, and I think right now going into this game on Saturday, our team knows what type of challenge we have, knows obviously that we’re going to have to raise our level. I think that’s the one thing our team has tried to do here in our recent two, three weeks is we’ve really tried to raise our level in terms of how hard we’re playing, how committed we are to doing the little things, and it’s helped us. We’ve gotten better. We’ve gotten better, especially defensively we’ve gotten better.
But I think a big thing winning consecutive games or however you want to stretch it, you’ve got to be able to score the basketball at some point and you’ve got to be able to use your defense hopefully to create you some offense at times, but you’re going to have to execute and you’re going to have to make some shots, and we obviously have gone through some steady droughts in our games where we haven’t been able to get over the top, and the other night obviously we hung in there pretty good.
But we were able especially in the first half, our defense created offense. We were able to score the ball for a good portion of the game in transition, which was good.
I think that’s going to be a key in this game. Obviously Michigan State’s transition game is great. They’re as fast a playing team as there is in this league. They go inside, they can play outside, and we’re going to have to be able to get back and deal with them a little bit. But hopefully our offense can stay with us a little bit.
Q. Can you just talk about De’Ron and how he’s been playing the last couple games, what you’ve like that you’ve seen, and then Race getting into —
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, I think it’s been pretty much — De’Ron in the last I don’t know how many games, but since he came back and that first Michigan State game where he’s been healthy, he’s been able to give us a presence inside. We can throw the ball. He gives us another guy on the offensive glass that can get us second shots. Defensively he’s the biggest body that we have, so he’s able to kind of hang in there at times in between him and the rim, and he’s been able to play longer minutes, which has helped our depth.
Without question the other night, even though he’s sick right now, he was sick before the game and he’s still been sick, he was able to fight his way through that and really help us at the game. Exhausted really in the second half, especially late and then overtime, but he was able to give us a veteran presence, a guy who’s been in Big Ten competition before, and I think right now he’s probably the best he’s been since we’ve been here, pre obviously achilles.
Race, it’s a credit to him. It’s a credit to who he is. He’s a worker. He has a year under his belt, which helps him that he’s not completely learning on the run. The fact that he was able to get in there the other night and sustain it and compete and play just speaks volumes about who he is as a competitor and also what he brings to the table in terms of a team guy. But I thought he did as good a job as any in the game defensively for us, got seven rebounds. Like I said, I think the other day, I don’t think you’re ever going to see Race be the total offensive player that he maybe can be at times, but if he’s in there and he’s playing, to me it gives us another player that’s playing pretty hard that’s trying to do the right things.
Q. With all the close games that went against you guys the past few weeks, to finally come out on the right side of one of those, what does that do for the vibe in practice?
ARCHIE MILLER: It’s self-explanatory really. It obviously helps the spirits of the guys. We had been knocking on the door, playing in one-possession games here for the last few weeks, and to come up short obviously at times was very disappointing, but to see us continue to play hard, continue to play to win and have confidence in each other means a lot. But to get the win obviously it really helps the morale of the guys. Winning cures a lot of evils, so to speak.
Q. What difference does Xavier Tillman make? He’s been filling in for Nick Ward while Ward has been injured. What does he do differently than maybe Ward does?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, he can shoot the ball from the perimeter a little bit. He stretches the floor a little bit more maybe than Nick does. But he’s doing the same thing. They’re pounding the ball inside, he’s giving them a strong presence around the basket. Maybe needs angles and maybe gets some seals more so than actually just playing sort of with his dribble behind the back.
But they do a good job getting him the ball, and he gives them a good presence in transition, and I think he’s averaging about 16 a game in the two or two and a half games that Nick has been out. He’s really picked up right where he left off, and it hurts their depth obviously long term, but here in the short-term when they have their five out there on the floor, to me those five are very, very good, and Xavier was good in the first game against us, as well.
Q. You’ve obviously talked a lot about these guys playing as hard as they’re supposed to, I guess. What have you seen in practice outside of games that shows you that they’re in a place where they can also sustain this?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, I think the accountability in practice and the competition level has gone way up. I think that guys understand that when we practice right now, that’s probably as important as anything that we do. I think those guys have really raised their level of intensity on a daily basis, our perimeter guys in particular are getting better. They’re doing a better job of working on the ball and working on shooters, and I think that’s really helped.
But just in general, I think our mindset has been one of which when we go to work every day, that’s push each other as hard as we can, and you’re constantly trying to improve on things, and playing hard is something you can improve on. It’s simple, but it’s self-explanatory. If you’re working as hard as you can every day and you’re able to sustain that and carry it over into games and you’re getting contributions from a lot of guys, that’s probably a team that has a right mindset, and I think we have a good mindset right now.
Q. If you could talk about the intensity and the accountability going on in practice? Is that something led by the coaching staff? Is that seniors taking charge? What’s going on?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, players gotta do it, and I think that’s the accountability that we’ve been asking for here the last three weeks is for those guys to hold each other accountable, from Juwan all the way down. You’ve got to look as a coach and say are these guys giving the effort level and the attention to detail that you’re asking them for right now, and they are. Not that we weren’t before, not that we weren’t trying or — not that we weren’t working hard before, but I just think right now there’s a different type of a focus. There’s a different type of accountability on what we’re doing every day, and that’s the change that needed to happen.
Q. Juwan, start with the Michigan State game. What did you feel when you guys went up there and beat them? What did you feel when you walked away from that, like, okay, these were the things that were different for us in this game?
JUWAN MORGAN: I think everybody just played hard. Nobody was really trying to think too much logically about the game. Everybody was just out there trying to play their hardest, defensively, offensively, just going out there and doing what we practice every day.
Q. Coach was talking about just the accountability level in practice going on the last week or two. Where did that start and where did that come from? Where did that need to raise that accountability start?
JUWAN MORGAN: Honestly, there’s no defining moment where it just happened. Kind of it was just one practice, and I think red team had won like six or seven straight segments, and then the next day we were talking about it in the locker room, and then after that practices were just ultra-competitive like nobody wanted to lose, nobody wanted to run. There was no defining moment, it was just something that just happened.
Q. What’s it like going up against Race in practice?
JUWAN MORGAN: It’s like looking at myself almost. I think I was the same way coming in, just going out there playing hard, not really looking to score, which we all got on to him for that because he’s able to score. But at the same time, he’s just — you know what you’re going to get from him. He’s going to play defense, he’s going to get rebounds, and he’s going to do all the little things that nobody really wants to do.
Q. From that standpoint, whether it’s a guy like Race or a guy like Clifton, how much do you try and take hold of these other players, kind of mold them after yourself and model their game the same way you were brought up through the program?
JUWAN MORGAN: I wouldn’t say that I try to make their games the same way as me, but I just try to tell them that you’re not going to come in and just be an All-Star immediately. I told them that they’re going to have to work for it and that they have to find basically what they’re good at and just make it something that’s undeniable by the coaching staff, and in Race’s case it was just that you knew he was going to play defense and you knew he was going to get rebounds, and I think they couldn’t ignore it, and as you can see in the game, he was doing just those things.
Q. I know we talked about this through the years, but give me a few examples of growing up in a military household with parents who sort of instilled that in you. What were some of the big takeaways?
JUWAN MORGAN: Well, growing up in a military family, things only had to get asked one time. After that, there wasn’t going to be anything more asked, it was just going to be discipline. But at the same time, I think that helped me in every aspect of life, just being able to listen to directions and carry those things out, and then at the same time, just being able to accept all types of criticism because I watched my mom and how she interacted with some of her privates, PT and things like that, and if any of them stepped out of line, there was like a drill where they had to pretty much like subdue her, and she had on boxing gloves, so she just got to take off on them as much as she wanted and they had to subdue her without punching back.
So I just kind of learned from watching those things where if you step out of line then you’ll be dealt with, and I think just growing up, I really just never tried to step out of line, and that’s just something my mom and dad instilled in me, and I think it’s helped me in class, just in life and in basketball, with everything I do.
Q. Correct me if I’m wrong, you were like in middle school or maybe you got into junior high or high school but you went out there and did PT with the guys?
JUWAN MORGAN: That was elementary school, but yeah, I was doing that all the way up until like seventh grade when I started playing football and basketball for the school and it would be like 4:00 a.m., 5:00 a.m. and we’d go out there, and I wouldn’t run as much as they did, but I would try to keep up with them, and just going through all the physical things they were doing, and I just realized like what camaraderie can do for a unit and just seeing how they were all up at like 4:00 a.m. and nobody really wanted to be up, but they just were out there laughing, talking, having a good time all doing it, and that just made me realize things that we learn later in life early in life in my case.
Q. And your family was stationed where at that point in time?
JUWAN MORGAN: It was Texas at first, Fort Hood, Texas, and then Fort Leavenworth, Missouri.
Q. Any fond memories or fondest memory from your time here with the program?
JUWAN MORGAN: My favorite game would probably be freshman year against Wisconsin here. I remember all the coaches and players, especially with Yogi and Troy telling me that was my best game, and I remember looking at them like they were crazy because I remember I played 20 minutes, the most I played all freshman year. I had zero points, like two rebounds, one block and five fouls. So I was confused. I was like, how is that my best game, and they were telling me like because of the way I guarded Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes that day really helped us come through with a win, and that’s kind of when I realized that it’s not all about scoring, rebounding, things like that. It’s just about doing your job.
Q. How do you want to be remembered?
JUWAN MORGAN: I just want to be remembered as somebody that never gave up, regardless of who we were going against, what we were going against or anything like that. I never gave up, and every time I went out there, people knew what they were going to get from me, and I was going to give 110 percent every night.
Q. Going back to the family childhood, understanding the discipline, understanding to follow orders, do you think maybe that helped you more in a pressure-cooked environment at Indiana compared to had you gone elsewhere?
JUWAN MORGAN: Yeah, I think it did. Again, I think applies to all aspects of life, but at the same time, just dealing with the pressures of being here, you hear it every day, regardless of where you’re at, how important it is being a basketball player here, and I really don’t let those things get to me, and I know it’s a lot of pressure. But I think just — I’m just putting a ball in the hoop. The pressure those guys felt every day, having to protect their country, things like that, it’s nothing compared to what they were doing. So I just take it and look at it from a different perspective.
Q. You’re a guy who’s gone through some coaching changes, gone through some injury stuff. Has been there a lowest point or most difficult point of your Indiana career that you look back on the past few years?
JUWAN MORGAN: Yeah, there definitely was. Pretty much any time my shoulder came out, I never knew if it was going to go back in sometimes. You know, I think any time that happened, I was really at a low point, and then I remember Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament in Indy freshman year, I was in the game, and it was — it pretty much came out any time I went to like stride and my left arm went back, it came out, and I remember sitting there talking with Coach Crean worried about the surgery that was coming up, and I remember telling him that I wasn’t too sure about it. I told him I’d rather just deal with it coming out all the time than get the surgery and it not fix the problem.
And just thinking back to that, that was probably the lowest point I was at, but I think after surgery after all the confidence from the doctors, things like that, I think I was just in a better place mentally, and I think that’s helped me going forward.
Q. You talked about your memory of that Wisconsin game freshman year and how you guarded Happ. Did those memories come up before the game the other day and kind of remind you of a similar game where you did foul out but you did the stuff you did on the court to help your team win?
JUWAN MORGAN: Yeah, I kind of do that with every game. If we’ve played the team before, I definitely think of moments I’ve had against those teams, whether it was good or bad, and I think I’m not going to try to let those memories determine what I do out there because it’s a new game, every player is better, so I just tried to go out there and really just demonstrate what was going to need to be done in order for us to win the game.
Q. People don’t really get to see guys like Johnny and Quentin a lot in games, but what can you tell people about those guys in practice behind the scenes?
JUWAN MORGAN: They’re definitely probably one of the biggest parts of this program. Those guys, they always keep the spirits up, and we always tell them that they’re like the most important people on the team. Whenever one of them is not traveling with us, we always recognize it. We always tell them we wish they were there, and I think just the way they go about every day knowing that sometimes they’re not going to get in the game; obviously when it’s coming down to the wire, Coach isn’t really looking that way, but at the same time, they give just as much as everybody else does knowing that. So I think that just deserves admiration on their part.
Q. When Johnny first transferred here, he was talking about wanting to come here and learn about coaching at this level with hopes of maybe becoming a coach one day. Do you see some things in Johnny that might lead to a successful coaching career down the line?
JUWAN MORGAN: I definitely do. Just even when we’re going through practice, if he sees something, he’ll let whoever it is know, and he’ll do it in a way that you can almost see him being a coach. I don’t know how to really explain it, but if you saw it, you would know exactly what I was talking about.
Q. You mentioned a little bit the impact that Yogi and Troy had on you. Is there anything you learned from those guys that you tried to pass on to some of the younger guys as you’ve stepped into a leadership role the past couple years?
JUWAN MORGAN: Yeah, especially just about working hard. I told them they’re not really working hard until you meet somebody that’s actually working hard. Like for myself, I knew I wasn’t going to lead after freshman year, but Yogi and Troy, those guys were going that direction, and so I knew what they were working for, and they were working extremely hard. I always thought — I considered myself a hard worker, but it was nothing compared to what those guys were doing. We would go through a two-and-a-half-hour practice, and right afterwards they would either be extra stretching, in the weight room or shooting or doing whatever, playing one-on-one trying to get better with certain moves or things like that. Back then, I couldn’t see myself doing that at all, but now I do.
Q. Is there anything that you wish you had known going into freshman year that could have helped you through your journey?
JUWAN MORGAN: Well, there’s a lot of things, but I think the main things would be I wish I knew what real hard work was. Like I said before, I thought I always was, but I didn’t really realize it until seeing those guys.
And then I also wish I knew how to take criticism from my peers. That was a big thing with me, especially because just hearing from my mom and dad and people around them in the military, I could always take authority from those, but it was when my peers tried to talk to me where I just had an attitude problem. I really don’t know where it came from or why I had it, but I just couldn’t do it, and even sometimes I would just blankly stare at Max and Yogi, and they would wonder what was up, and I wouldn’t tell them because I just didn’t want to hear from them, just because I was like, dude, you’re only like two or three years older than me, you don’t get to tell me what to do. But it was just something I had to overcome, and I think I’ve done that.
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