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Everything Indiana basketball said previewing Kent State



Trayce Jackson-Davis, Miller Kopp and Race Thompson discuss Kent State. (

Indiana head coach Mike Woodson and players Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson and Miller Kopp previewed IU’s matchup against Kent State.

Tip is set for 9:55 pm ET on Friday night.

Below is the full transcript.

Q. Sort of win one, lose one, win one, lose one for the last month or so. I know that’s the nature of the Big Ten schedule and such. Now that you’re here in the NCAA Tournament where it’s one-and-done, what changes in regard to the laser focus and such when you get out on the floor where every possession is going to matter even more now?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I think the biggest thing for us is just preparation. We’ve had a lot of time to prepare, and you’ve just got to take it one game at a time. Obviously it’s a win or go home, so we’ve just got to play as hard as we can each and every game.

It starts with Kent State, and that’s all we’re worried about right now.

Q. Trayce, for you, how do you balance that? Do you think at all about wherever — the reality that wherever this journey ends in the next three weeks, this is the end for you? All you’ve talked about wanting to grow into being a leader, a captain, all the things you’ve accomplished at Indiana, ultimately there’s a time limit on them no matter what. Do you think about it at all? Do you process that? Or do you sort of lock that away?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I really don’t think about it that much honestly. I always just think about being there for my teammates, just taking it all in, and just taking it one game at a time.

Right now we have to focus on Kent State, and if we lose, yes, it is our last game. So that’s all we’ve got to focus on. We can’t focus on anything else past that. They’re a great team, and we’re ready to get to work.

Q. Jay Bilas has picked Kent State to beat you guys. A lot of people doing the brackets have picked against you. Are you guys aware of that, and what’s your response to it?

RACE THOMPSON: It doesn’t really matter. We’ve still got to go out there and play the game. People make brackets for fun, so it’s all fun. But we’re going out there to win the game. That’s the goal at the end of the day.

It doesn’t matter whether people pick us or not. We think we can win any game.

MILLER KOPP: I agree. Like Race said, everybody makes a bracket and picks whatever team they think is going to win, whatever it is. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. All that goes out the window when the ball goes up to start the game.

So for us, it’s about handling what we can control and going from there.

Q. What challenges will Kent State present for you guys?

MILLER KOPP: Kent State is obviously a really good team. They’re obviously in the tournament for a reason. They’ve got some guards that are really good off the bounce and can dribble and score, and our threat, kind of three levels.

Defensively they’re good as well. They junk it up. They run around. They trap. A lot of it seems a little chaotic at times, but it looks like they have a sense of how they’re rotating and stuff.

They’re a good overall team, but at the end of the day, it’s about our principles, and if we stick to our principles, we think we’re going to be in a good spot.

Q. Miller, guard oriented teams that shoot a lot of threes and try to do a lot of kick-outs and such have bothered you guys at times this year. But you’ve seen enough of that now to know. Has the preparation of what all you’ve been through to prepare for this game, is there a lot that you can build on from what you’ve already experienced this year?

MILLER KOPP: I think one of our best attributes as a team and staff is learning from our losses, taking them as lessons, and applying them all to now, I think is the biggest thing.

We’ve played and put ourselves in a position right now to be in this spot, and so we’re going to take every lesson, every loss, and use it now and hopefully use it as a culminated type deal to where that other stuff doesn’t hurt us like it did before.

Q. Trayce, you’ve seen every trick defense there is. What do you expect Kent State to do? Do you expect to be doubled, or do you expect them to mix it up, zone? What do you expect?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I expect it all honestly. I think that just depends on where I catch the ball at. They do heavy digs a lot. They might double from the weak side, but I feel like my passing has gotten so good that they really just can’t come out and just double me and send a guy up because I see it coming, I already know where the ball’s going to go.

So I just think that they’ll mix it up, try to do different things, and hopefully they’ll try to find something that works for them. I’m going to do the same thing. I’m going to try to be aggressive and attack whenever I can. So that’s basically what I think.

Q. Race, looking at Sincere Carry for them, what does he bring to the game? How does it translate on the court? And how important is it to make sure you don’t let that guy go off?

RACE THOMPSON: I think he’s a very good player. Their team goes as he goes a little bit. We know that. We know he’s an aggressive guard and he can get down and score from all three levels, like Miller said earlier.

I think that one of our best attributes is playing team defense, and if we can get our team defense clicking, I think we’ll be in a good spot.

Q. All three of you guys played in that First Four game last year in March and then had to fly across the country to play in that next game. How different has this experience been just in the last couple of days? Do you feel more confident than you did last year?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Absolutely. I think last year was just kind of just a cluster. It was like very, very rushed, as in a sense we were in the Big Ten Tournament and then we just had to get on the road, drive to Dayton, play a game the next day, then fly out that night at 4:00 a.m., get there at 9:00 a.m., do what we’re doing right now, then play a game.

It was just kind of everything was so on top of each other. We didn’t even get a chance to enjoy what being in this tournament and what it’s truly about. So I think just getting here four days early, having preparation, having rest, I think it’s huge for us and our team. I think it will help us for this game.

MILLER KOPP: Obviously we’re in a different spot physically and mentally. We’ve had some time off from the Big Ten Tournament. It hasn’t been such a quick turnaround. Mentally also, there wasn’t the question marks of if we would get in at all, so that’s kind of given us a boost of energy in terms of our preparation too. So it’s definitely a better spot to be in.

Q. For any of you three guys, for a team that doesn’t press a lot, Kent State forces a lot of turnovers, and they’re really good offensively when they do. What makes them tough in terms of just getting up into the ball and forcing those kinds of mistakes?

MILLER KOPP: They’re just super active. They fly around. They usually switch one through four. So in the half-court, I think that’s when they’re at their best defensively when all five guys are kind of connected and moving on a string and flying around.

So they create a lot of turnovers because they come and attack the ball and are kind of unrelenting in terms of how they trap and rotate and defend.

Q. For any of you guys, I wonder what it’s like to play in a program where standards are very high, maybe they haven’t been met in the relatively recent past, you’re bringing that back. Do you embrace trying to be the guys who bring Indiana back to greatness? Is there a special pressure that comes with that? What has that been like?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I wouldn’t necessarily think of it as a pressure, but I do take great pride in what I’ve accomplished here and what I’ve been able to do and just the growth of this program in the last four years from where I started as a freshman to where I am now.

I think I can speak for the two next to me as well. It’s been a long time coming and a long time to get to this moment, but just being here, making the tournament for the second straight time, second time in four or five years, we’ve accomplished a lot. But our story’s not finished yet, so we’ve just got to take it game by game, and it starts with Kent State.

Like we said, they’re a great team, and it’s going to be a battle Friday.

RACE THOMPSON: I would say just pretty much the same thing. We take pride in it. I wouldn’t say there’s pressure. I mean, we love playing basketball, and it’s what we love to do. So we go out there, we just try to give it all we’ve got. This year’s been on our side. So I think we just take great pride in it.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks again for joining us. We have Head Coach Mike Woodson here.

Q. Mike, you’ve referenced those early meetings with Trayce a lot in the last few months. Just how much it meant to you and how much that bond sort of grew in those first days when Trayce first committed to coming back after you got the job. Do you think about that more recognizing that wherever this journey ends ultimately, the finish line is in sight, whether it’s here, next weekend, the weekend after that?

MIKE WOODSON: All I can say to you, it’s been everything to our program. Had he left, to me it would have been just like starting all over again, being a first time coach. For him to make the commitment to come back, it really set the stage for where we are today because he didn’t have to do that. He could have left and went and did his own thing.

But it put us in a better position from a program standpoint, and he and I have been able to develop this relationship and help each other. Yes, it hasn’t been pretty all the time, but that’s a part of coaching.

I would be stupid to sit here and say that I don’t want the best for my players because I don’t think there’s a coach in the world that doesn’t want the best for his players. I only coach one way, and it’s hard for me to change. I push players to play at a high level. That’s important to me.

In doing that, you learn how to be a better basketball player. I have a track record for that. So I thought last season was a great season for him, and this season he’s kind of knocked it out of the park because we’ve rode him all the way to this point.

Q. Kent State ranks among the Top 20, Top 25 teams in the country in forcing turnovers. What’s the secret to you guys not letting them get going on that way and creating easy offense off their defense?

MIKE WOODSON: Well, every night that we play, even when we step on the practice floor, I’m always stressing take care of the basketball. The key to winning and beating any team, you have to defend and rebound the ball, and you can’t turn it over. If you do those three things, you’re going to put yourself in position to win. I don’t care who you play.

Kent State is a great team. They’re well coached. They’ve had a great season up until this point, just like we have. I don’t want to go home, and I’m sure his coach is saying the same thing, he doesn’t want to go home. I want to extend this season as long as we can for Trayce Jackson-Davis and the surrounding pieces because I think that they deserve that.

So in order to get that done, we’ve got to commit for 40 minutes when we step out on that floor tomorrow night and see what happens.

Q. Mike, all those years in the NBA, basically Friday night is another Game 7. The one-and-done aspect of this tournament, what changes for you this week in regards to preparation or what you might do during those 40 minutes knowing that it’s basically another Game 7?

MIKE WOODSON: It’s like do or die. You can’t get around it. And it’s the little things. I put on the board every game, “simple plays win basketball games”, and they do. You can’t over complicate things. You can’t change who you are.

We’ve won a lot of games with our defense this year, and when we’ve added some good offense with our defense, we’ve really, really been good. So tomorrow night, it’s not going to change. We’re playing a damn good basketball team, and we’ve got to come ready and committed, you know what I mean? Because you win, you go on, you lose, you go home, and have to deal with it over the summer and think about all the things you probably should have done to extend your season.

I’m not ready to go home, and I hope the players feel the same way.

Q. You understood the challenges of this job when you took it, but what are the challenges of building a program at a place where the expectations are so high and they really haven’t been met lately. How do you go about sort of incremental growth when everybody is sort of dying for a championship?

MIKE WOODSON: Again, this is not my first go-around. I built a couple of teams — the Hawks, the Knicks — and it’s no different here. Yes, expectations are high, and I knew that coming in. Hell, I played here. They should be high, and it’s okay.

I’m not a coach that’s ever run from a challenge. Yeah, there are always naysayers around you, but if I listen to that, man, I can’t do my job.

Indiana is a big time program. It’s been that way for years. I’m just trying to get them back on top, man. That’s all I care about. It’s not about Mike Woodson. It’s about the players that I coach and this program. That’s what means more to me than anything.

I don’t know how long I’m going to do this, but while I’m doing it, I’ve got to try to put my best foot forward to make sure that we can get back on top.

Q. We’re talking about Kent State’s defense a lot, but look at Sincere Carry, the kid can score. What is it about his game that translates so much, and how important is it to make sure you know where he is at all times on the court?

MIKE WOODSON: Again, it’s Carry, it’s Jacobs, it’s Thomas. They’ve got weapons all over the court. We’ve just got to be solid in what we do. Carry is kind of the guy that drives this team, and he does a lot of good things offensively in terms of getting the ball where it’s got to go, and he can score the basketball.

I don’t think you go into this game saying, hey, you’re just going to stop Carry — I mean, they’ve got some pieces that everybody’s got to be aware of, key match-ups all over the floor that we’ve got to commit for 40 minutes to defend. And then we’ve got to make them play us.

Q. Trayce has given you Player of the Year performance all year long, and Jalen Hood-Schifino has been very good. How important is it for you to get a third or fourth piece offensively that sort of gets up to the next level?

MIKE WOODSON: It’s very important. I think, as we continue this journey tomorrow, and Bates and Miller Kopp and Gallo and Geronimo, the guys that play, Malik, they’ve got to give us more. This tournament over the years has been driven by teams that three and four scorers, two or three guys that can make the long ball consistently.

We’ve been good at times in those areas because when Tamar Bates and Gallo and Geronimo and Malik are playing well and scoring the ball, it’s a deadly combination with our defense, and we’ve been damn good when we’ve been doing that.

So that’s how we’ve got to think going into this tournament. Everybody’s got to do their part. That’s how you advance. Only time will tell.

Q. To expound on Ralph’s question from before, how challenging has NIL made your job over the last two years? Did you ever envision it creating such a sea change throughout college basketball?

MIKE WOODSON: Again, we didn’t have this when I was in school. So for me, me being new at this, there’s a lot of moving pieces that I’m still trying to figure out as a coach.

But the NIL is what it is. It’s very challenging. I don’t deal with the NIL. We have outside people that run our NIL. And I like to think we’re sitting at the top when it comes to the NIL. Based on our support from our Indiana base, which is pretty damn good.

So by me saying we’re sitting at the top, it puts a lot of athletes in a good position when making a decision to come to Indiana University to play basketball or football or whatever sport it may be.

But that’s not what’s driving me. These players understand how I feel about the NIL. You’re going to come play for Mike Woodson, you’re going to have to come to school and get an education and play basketball, and NIL takes care of itself.

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