Transcript: Mike Woodson, Race Thompson, Xavier Johnson and Trayce Jackson-Davis preview Saint Mary’s matchup

  • 03/16/2022 8:04 pm in

Mike Woodson, Race Thompson, Xavier Johnson and Trayce Jackson-Davis addressed the media on Wednesday in Portland in advance of Indiana’s matchup against Saint Mary’s in the 2022 NCAA tournament.

The full transcript of the press conference is available below, via ASAP Sports:

Q. Trayce, I know we talked about this a couple days ago, too, but the four games in six days, 100-something points, on a roll, feeling good, how much does it help getting on a plane and coming here and doing it again tomorrow?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Really I’m doing what my teammates need me to do to win. My teammates put me in the position to get these buckets, but at the same time it’s going to take the team effort the rest of the way. And I know my teammates are excited to get started, and I’m just going to continue to produce for us.

Q. Xavier, can you describe what your guys’s itinerary has been, how early you had to get up, what your travel has been like in getting here?

XAVIER JOHNSON: We left right after the game after we won last night, we had an hour delay because of weather, and we had to switch planes and all that other stuff.

We are just blessed to be here and get here and play.

Q. (Away from mic.)

XAVIER JOHNSON: We got here about 7:00, 7:00 in the morning.

Q. (Away from mic.)

XAVIER JOHNSON: I probably only slept an hour. He went to sleep for a long time, I don’t know if he went to sleep. But everybody else might have went to sleep.

Q. Trayce, the St. Mary’s guys, coaches and the players compared you a lot to Drew Timme. I’m curious, do you think that makes sense? I’m curious?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Drew is a great player. He’s got a lot of pieces around him, but he’s got great footwork on the low block, does a lot of things for their team. I think that’s a compliment. He’s a Player of the Year finalist. So I think that’s a compliment.

Q. These trips are fun, but at what point this morning were you ready to get into your hotel room, get to bed?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: We got on that plane, we were there, and then they’re like hour delay. So we’re like, all right. We were enjoying the win, and then we had to switch planes, and two hours later we are taking off.

And slept a little bit on the plane, but it was bumpy. And getting here, and then the bus ride was 30 minutes to the hotel. So by that time I was like can we please just get here. We finally got to the hotel room, and I probably fell asleep in three minutes.

Q. Race or Trayce, Matthias Tass from St. Mary’s, what did you learn about him, and what are the challenges he will present tomorrow?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: He’s a great player, honestly. He does a lot of work on the low block. They do a lot of split game actions where you can’t double them. So it’s going to be a tough battle between me and him, but I can’t wait. I’m excited to go.

RACE THOMPSON: He’s definitely a great player, strong big man. Nothing we haven’t seen before. I think we will be able to key in on that and take care of what we need to do.

Q. Trayce, following up on kind of the point on Timme, in the St. Mary’s win against Gonzaga, they were physical with them, pushing them around a lot. I’m curious, you see a lot of that in the Big Ten, but that challenge? And if they’re physical with you, how will you respond?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I think playing in the Big Ten gets you ready for moments like these, going against 7-foot, 280-pound guys night in and night out.

I feel like I’m going to have to use a lot of my athleticism and my quick feet. I hope they’re physical. I think that’s what their game plan is going to be. Wyoming kinda did it last night as well. But I’m going to have to use my athleticism really.

Q. I don’t want to bang on the travel issue a lot, but for any of the three of you, I know how tired I am, and you guys just played in a very physical Big Ten tournament. Then you had the physical game on Tuesday night with travel problems that you had. Woody talks about how you’re young and it doesn’t really matter. I know how tired I am. It’s got to affect you some. Are you feeling it?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: We think of it as you’re going in, maybe you don’t get as much sleep as you want, but you’re playing one game, and this one game could be the last game of your season.

You don’t have time to hone in on how tired your legs are because all you want to do is win that game. So it’s basically whatever it takes. And maybe our legs are tired, but we’re going to play through it and play as hard as we can.

Q. X, looked like last night you just didn’t have your legs because a lot of your shots were short. Did you feel like you were kinda tired from the Big Ten Tournament and your legs weren’t what they were supposed to go?

XAVIER JOHNSON: No, I had rest, I just put the ball short off the glass. And I was a little nervous going into the game, I can’t lie, because it’s a different stage, even though it’s another basketball game. But I got my feet wet last night, so I think I’m fine now.

Q. Race, you had an off-game the other night. Uncharacteristic for you. What happened? Some people were asking is Race sick? Did he get hurt? Bad night? What happened?

RACE THOMPSON: I think it was an off night for me personally. The Big Ten Tournament I had another off night, I was grateful to have Jordan Geronimo coming off the bench, having a huge game for us. He’s capable of doing that for us. Trayce had the big game, and X did what he had to do to help us get the win.

Coach said I’m a leader, I gotta be better. So I’m going to try to do that for our team coming in tomorrow.

Q. Following up on what you said, Race, there have been a lot of teams who played in a game when they got to Thursday or Friday, did have those nerves out of the way. How much does it help to have one game under the belt in regards to what you will feel like with regards to butterflies when the game starts tomorrow night?

XAVIER JOHNSON: It’s important because it’s all of our first time in the tournament. So just to go out there and play and get another win for us and go into the next round is important. I think everybody will be ready going into the next game.

Q. Trayce, so many players can have their legacies defined by NCAA Tournament games. This is your first opportunity to play in such a game. How much have you looked forward to this opportunity? And now that you’re here, what are your emotions sitting around with March Madness logos behind you and ready to get on the big stage?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: It is a big moment, but at the same time you’ve got to stay level-headed. Coach Woody has put a big emphasis on me. Ever since the Big Ten Tournament, I feel really confident in how I’m playing.

But at the same time, other guys, like this guy right next to me, X, has been putting me in really good positions to score the ball. We have to keep playing how we been playing. And a few of my teammates had a rough game, I think they had pre-game jitters, but tomorrow night I think they’ll be ready.

Q. X, basically, obviously Wyoming liked to play slow, St. Mary’s does as well. What do you think you learned from that game basically in terms of dealing with that kind of slow, deliberate pace?

XAVIER JOHNSON: I just had to take chances when I get a rebound or my teammates get a rebound and try to get a good push. And when I don’t have a good push, set up the offense, and run my team like normal.

Teams in the Big Ten play the same way, kinda like Wisconsin, honestly, and you gotta take smart shots and play great defense, and you can’t give them any slip-ups on defense to where they can score the ball.

Q. Going back to your plane troubles, what did you do to pass the time? Were you able to sleep at all? Or I don’t know if it’s too old school to bring out a deck of cards, but what did you do during those couple hours?

RACE THOMPSON: I mean, we were just hanging out, talking to each other, goofing off, really just enjoying each other’s company, talking to the coaches and other players.

Not really much to do but hang out with each other. Once the plane got off, I know a lot of us were asleep on and off, but in the meantime we were just hanging out.

XAVIER JOHNSON: And we made a TikTok. Went viral. (Laughter.)

Q. Trayce, considering where this team has gone the past week, have you allowed yourself to imagine what that locker room will be like tomorrow night if you walk out of here with a win?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I think it would be exciting, and we’re capable of doing it, but it’s going to be a hard-fought game. St. Mary’s is a great team, especially defensively. And everybody has to play their best. And it would be great to walk out with a W, but getting that true March Madness W would be great not only for us but for our program.

Q. Out of left field, Cody Zeller and Mark Cuban were tweeting about the new ball. Is it different? What’s it like?

XAVIER JOHNSON: It’s a rubber ball, that’s what it feels like, it’s brand new. When it’s broken in, it’s a good ball. I can recall probably my worst game I had with it was Notre Dame when I went 2 for 9 from three because the ball is just — it’s just different. It’s more sticky, and it’s hard to — it’s a different English going off the glass when you make layups. That’s probably different about it.

Q. Trayce, your dad, I just want to know, obviously you talk to him a lot. What kind of information did he give you heading into this tournament?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Basically the only thing that he really told me — after watching the Big Ten Tournament, he said I have to continue to play the way I’m playing. He said I’m doing a lot of good things for the team.

We sat down and had dinner the night before we left, and he said bring it to ’em. So I’m basically just going to try to keep playing at that level.

Q. Coach Woodson talked about how this year he wants to build great men in the program, not just great basketball players. What would you say is the biggest way that he has helped you become better men since you started playing for him?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I really just think, honestly, with Coach Woodson, it’s accountability. It’s all about family. It’s all about us as students and athletes second, honestly. He puts a really big emphasis on that.

He’s almost like our dad in that sense where we can come to him for a lot of things, and he’s going to help us out and do whatever he needs to do.

Overall I’ve been blessed playing for him, I think I can speak for them, too, and honestly just learning. Everything he has done for us, it’s been a big impact on all of us.

Q. You guys played Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament without Jordan, you played a lot of games without Trey Galloway and Rob Phinisee. How fortunate do you feel now that you have all the pieces in place?

RACE THOMPSON: I think it’s really good to have all our pieces in place at the same time. I think we’re playing some of our best basketball as an all-around team.

But, I mean, just having everybody healthy, it just makes everything better. The vibe is better, you get a different spark from each and every person coming off the bench. And I think that Jordan and Trey and Rob gives us extra boosts coming off the bench.

Q. Plus 9 on the boards last night, 16 second-chance points, how important is that going to be for you guys to continue?

RACE THOMPSON: Second-chance points are big in every single game. So that’s something that coaches preach to me and Trayce and Jordan and Michael. So every game trying to get second-chance points. If you can get more shots up, you score more points. So for us that’s a big emphasis coming into every game.

COACH WOODSON: Well, it’s good to be back here in Portland. We had a long trip last night, but we made it here safely, and I gotta get our players’ program ready to play a good, well-coached team in St. Mary’s and their ball club.

Q. Coach, how do great teams handle fatigue? I don’t know if it’s a complicated question or not, but what’s your answer on that one?

COACH WOODSON: All I can do is relate to the NBA when we made the championship run in Detroit. It’s a grind, man. I’ve always said only the strong will survive. That Detroit team, man, we were so battle tested throughout the playoffs, they just refused to be tired because they was chasing that title.

I think the teams — when you look at all the good teams in March Madness, everybody wants to win a title. So, really, there is no room to be tired.

I mean, you know, yeah, we had a long flight. I get it. Took us a while to get here. But we got here safely. And, you know, this is what we signed up for. We’re here to try to win a game, see if we can advance. I don’t want to go home, and I hope these guys feel the same way.

Q. Mike, Trayce talked about this is one game and you have to focus to get past the fatigue. Is there anything you are going to do, knowing ahead of time how tired these guys might be, to change, whether it’s minutes doled out, rotations, things like that?

COACH WOODSON: Well, as the game goes on, I coach pretty much by feel. We only had three guys that played over 30 minutes last night. So a lot of guys should be fresh and eager and ready to play is how I look at it.

But I will gauge it as we go along and see how guys are playing on the floor. And if they’re not giving me anything, then I’ve got to go elsewhere to try to find it.

Q. Trayce talked about breaking out of that slump he had been in for about a month or so was important to him, and he’s been playing at a very high level in the last weak or so. What’s been the specifics to the difference in his game this last week compared to February when he struggled?

COACH WOODSON: I don’t know. I mean, I just think he’s starting to — he was starting to find himself again. It doesn’t hurt that he has a coach that’s kind of screaming and in his ear a lot, too, trying to push him in the right direction.

I thought the halftime of the Michigan game was — it could have gone totally bad for me and the team, but as coaches we always look to find ways to get players to step up and play.

I challenged him. And like I said, he could have gone the other way, but he didn’t. He responded. And his play from that halftime on has been tremendous, man.

He’s playing at such a high level, which is kinda nice to see, and we are all, as a team, benefitting from it.

Q. Coach, on Monday before Wyoming you mentioned nobody talks about the fact that you guys played a lot of games without Rob Phinisee and Trey Galloway. What did you mean by that, and what do they bring to complete you as a team?

COACH WOODSON: They bring some seniorship. Rob has been around a long time. Galloway is still young, I get that. But when we put this roster together to start the season, those two guys were a big piece of the puzzle. And when you lose them, Rob being 15 games, I said 14 the other day, and — I mean Galloway 15 and Rob 10, that’s a big piece of the puzzle. When you’re talking about some of the games that we’ve lost down the stretch of games, maybe they could have been the difference maker. I don’t know, I’m just reaching.

But they are a big part of what we do, and we rely on those guys to help us win games.

Q. You have been away from the college game for almost forty years. And stepping in as the head coach, you talked about this before, you’re kind of feeling your way. How much advice are you getting from your assistants, and how much advice are you going on your own?

COACH WOODSON: When you put a staff together, you’ve got to work hand-in-hand. That’s, I think, important when you’re talking about trying to build a team and getting players to play at a high level. But when I coach, I always have coached on feel, based on what I see on both ends of the floor.

And, yeah, I get advice from all over the place when you got coaches around you. But at the end of the day, you know, coaching, you’ve got to make decisions very quickly.

I’ve always felt good about the decisions I made. They might not always be the right decisions, but that’s just a part of coaching. I’ve always said coaching is coaching, I don’t care what level it is. If you can get your team to buy into what you do on both ends of the floor, then you’ve done your job. It’s when they don’t buy in and they go the other way is when you struggle.

This team has really allowed me to coach them, along with my staff.

Q. A lot of analysts around the country have described St. Mary’s as being a rugged team. I’m curious about what you have seen on film and the challenges that they’re going to present on Thursday for you guys?

COACH WOODSON: Every team is rugged this stage of the year. I just came through a grueling Big Ten season, man, and I mean, that was just brutal, the way they let you play and get after one another.

So I’ve watched St. Mary’s. They’re a hell of a team. They’re well coached. Randy has been a part of this program for a long, long time, and he’s seen a lot of players come and go. And they’ve had some good teams.

This year they won 25 games. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit because they’ve had a hell of a season. We’ve got our hands full. We have to come and commit for forty minutes on both ends of the floor and see what happens.

Q. I’m sure you know, those of us on the West Coast know how good St. Mary’s has been for the past 15 or so years. Do your fans and your players realize how good St. Mary’s has been for the past 15 years or so?

COACH WOODSON: Well, I think they have. You know, I don’t let our players get too high or too low. At the end of the day, you’ve got to respect whoever you play. That’s professionalism. That’s a part of sports.

I don’t think our guys are taking them lightly. Their record indicates they have had a hell of a year. They’re in the tournament, just like we are.

So both teams want to advance. That’s kinda how I look at it. Something’s gotta give. So only time will tell once the game gets started and finished.

Q. Mike, in our college days we came into Portland once for a college tournament. I was curious if you had any good NBA memories as a player and coach for anything that might have happened here in Portland?

COACH WOODSON: I came to Portland to play in the Far West Classic, and we got beat by Magic and that great team that went on to win the national title that year in the championship game.

And then all my days of coaching and playing in the NBA, coming to Portland. I like Portland, it’s a hell of a city. It’s good to be back, but it will be even better if we can come out of here with a win.

Q. Mike, obviously Parker and Miller have struggled shooting the ball lately, but you’ve stuck with them, giving them a bunch of minutes. What do you like about what you’re getting from them outside of shooting?

COACH WOODSON: They’re seniors. They’ve been around. I respect that. That’s why I start them and I play them. They haven’t shot the ball extremely well here of late, but I’m going to keep riding them until they do. And guys that are coming in off the bench are going to have to fill in around them and do their part as well, like Geronimo did last night, which was kinda nice to see.

Q. Coach, you talked about a couple days ago that you wanted to create great men in the program, because that’s what. Bob Knight did for you. Thinking back on that, were there any moments that are transformative, something that helped shape you, something that Bob Knight taught you?

COACH WOODSON: I think my biggest moment was my senior year when everybody thought it was over, when I had the back surgery, and Knight just stuck with me and hung in there with me. Man, it was a tough time for me.

You play all your college career never being hurt, and then you get to your senior year and something that drastic happens. To the point where doctors were telling you, you would never play. He hung in there. He was patient until I was able — he put all the good medical people around me, the physician that did the surgery, all the people who helped me get back, Doc Councilman, who helped me get back on my feet, and he never forgot about me.

When I came back, shoot, he played me forty minutes a game. That was kinda nice in terms of helping me get back on my feet and helping that team win the Big Ten title that year. So I have him to thank for that as well.

Q. Obviously Parker Stewart, Miller Kopp and Race Thompson, they all struggled at the same time the other night, combined for only 8 points. Was there anything in particular you saw when you go back and watch film this is why they struggled? What happened to those three guys on Tuesday?

COACH WOODSON: Again, if you go back and look at the game, X missed three or four layups, Race missed some layups. I’m just saying first time in the tournament, man, I’m not using that as an excuse. None of these guys have been in tournament play, and I think they were a little edgy last night in terms of how we started the game. Neither team could make shots.

I mean, I looked at the scoreboard at three, four minute mark and it was 19-17; it was a really low-scoring game. I felt good because our defense was pretty good. I figured whoever found some offense first had a shot at winning the game and I thought we found it before they did.

Q. You get through today, how do you address tomorrow? Do you make any alterations to a normal game day schedule considering the weird arrival?

COACH WOODSON: No, I mean, we — I got ’em here, we slept in a little bit. Coaches, we didn’t really sleep. We started prepping, getting ready for these guys to get out of bed and come down and eat a little bit, and then we walked through some things, and we’re going to go back and walk through some things.

We’ll watch film and tomorrow morning, we will get up and do our normal routine and get ready to play.

Q. St. Mary’s is 9th in the country in defensive efficiency. What about the make-up of that team allows them to be really good at that part of the game?

COACH WOODSON: Again, I mean, they have a senior team that’s been together a while, well-coached team. Their system it in place. That puts them in a good position on both ends of the floor, I think. But we’ve been pretty good defensively all year, had our ups and downs all year offensively so we’re going to have to rely on our defense to put us in a good position to win this game.

Q. Coach, do you have any favorite memories from late-night road trips in the NBA? And what are some things that maybe help you get through that, whether it be someone you talked to or snacks you had or anything like that?

COACH WOODSON: Well, like I told the guys, you know, we could never complain, they can’t anyway, and I know I won’t, about travel. Because in the NBA, back in the old days, man, it might have been the worst travel in the world.

I mean, there were red eyes that we had to catch to catch next game the next day, and we were sleeping in chairs in the airport to try to get to where we were going to go. But we were signed up as NBA players, and that was part of it. They have it pretty damn good right now, I think.

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