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  • Indiana head coach Archie Miller directs his team against Rutgers during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, in Piscataway, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Thursday, February 15, 2018 11:10 pm

Archie Miller radio: On Illinois, Morgan, progress

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Indiana coach Archie Miller joined host Don Fischer for their weekly radio show Thursday night. Here are some of the highlights from the discussion.

Miller on...

Getting past a sluggish start against Illinois: "We've gotten past (those slow starts). Just staying positive, staying together. With the effort right now defensively, (we're) just stopping the other team and finding ways for our defense to create offense. I thought that was the case last night (against Illinois). ... Our defense right now is giving us a chance here in a lot of games here of late, whether we've won them or not, to have a chance to win. I think last night was a really good, indicative play of a guy like Juwan (Morgan), who's just absolutely doing everything for us. But defensively being able to make the plays he made, tough, hard plays that he made, it's just good to see us winning different ways."

Getting 38 points from the bench against Illinois: "Al (Durham) was really good. He played well on both ends of the floor, seems like he's got a little bit of his confidence back offensively, which is good to see. He made some big plays for us. Josh (Newkirk) made some big plays for us in that second half. He hit a huge 3 that gave us some separation. And then Justin (Smith), he played limited minutes with the fouls, had a couple big plays for us as well. That should give those guys a shot in the arm. The more guys you have playing well at the end of the year, that's always a good sign. I think it's just a good sign that this team, as people have watched us, we just continue to get better. ... We play different types of styles and combinations out there where guys are being productive and that's usually a good sign at this time of year where you're evolving in a positive way."

Juwan Morgan: "I think he had five blocks and four steals in the game (against Illinois). That's like unheard of in terms of what he's doing, but he gets every statistical category on the sheet and then he does the things that you don't see on the stat sheet, which is the effort level that he's given us, scoring from different positions. He's a load on offense although at one time I think he was really just about scoring and now he's distributing, he's doing all kinds of things. I would say if there's a guy in the Big Ten who means more to his team, I'd like to see it. Doesn't mean he's going to be Big Ten Player of the Year, but ... we just depend on him so much. He's had a spectacular year. ... Huge, huge (leadership role he's taken on). He's not just an every day guy, but he leads by example on the floor, he leads by example in practice. He's using his voice in a much different way right now. He's not as frustrated as he would get early in the year. ... (Early in the year) where things weren't going well as a team, you could see him wear his frustration on his face. He doesn't do that any more, he's much more of a guy who everyone's looking to see what he's going to do and how he reacts."

Playing hard: (This team is) hard playing. They play hard. What this group has done here for a long stretch is playing harder and harder for longer stretches every game. They're playing smarter too defensively, being more disciplined, got some discipline to us in terms of what we're trying to do. But even through some of our losses, you know people made a big deal about a four-game losing streak, it never felt like we were on a four-game losing streak during that stretch. You saw us getting better. We responded almost every game in a positive way. So that's a great thing about this team has just been their coachability and their character."

The difference between Iowa now and when the Hoosiers played them earlier this season: "They play extremely fast. Their offense has really, really improved as the course of the season has gone on. When we played them the first time, they were really struggling taking care of the ball, which is not an issue for them right now. Offensively they've really, really improved. They've played more multiple defenses here of late, more zone, we could see a lot of zone. Their team in general has great size. The biggest thing with them the second time around is how fast they play and how good offensively they are. ... Really good offensive team, one of the better offensive teams in the league. Defensively they seem to play different styles, but offensively we have our work cut out for us guarding them. (It's) fast, motion, lot of screening. (Sophomore forward) Tyler Cook is really, really good and they've got multiple shooters on the floor so it's gonna be a difficult challenge for us."

Freshman guard Aljami Durham joined Fischer as the show's player guest. Here is what Durham had to say about his decision to remain committed to Indiana after Miller replaced Tom Crean:

"I always loved the environment (at Indiana). It always felt like home to me. Once I met Archie, I really liked him, so it was a no-brainer for me."

dsinn@jg.net