On being No. 1 in the polls:
"I think the whole thing with the team is that they have been down this road before. They know what it means to the opponent's fanbase. They know what it means to the opponent. They know what that means on the national level. And really what has become so popular is once that number one vote is made, is to predict who is going to be next and when you are going to lose and let somebody else get that number one spot."
"I think the more we focus on that would not be good. But I think the more we understand the responsibility that comes with it, especially on the road and knowing that you are going to get the best shot from those teams. It is amazing what that number, whether it is a four, three two or one, what that does. What we have to do is make sure that we are better; that we are not trying to defend anything but the other team. We are not trying to prove anything except that we are going to get better."
On the Big Ten
"Day in and day out the Big Ten challenges you in every part of the game. Anything can happen because teams are full of talent and toughness."
"We know going into Fighting Illini country will be major challenge. We will be as good as our preparation, toughness and execution. John Groce and his staff can really coach. They play very, very hard. They are very aggressive on both ends."
"Illinois runs great things on offense. They get excellent ball and man movement. A ton of handoffs, ballscreens and drive and kick actions."
On not taking Illinois lightly:
"I don't think in college basketball you can take anybody lightly. I think everybody is a different team the day that you play them. You don't know what they could play like and you have to assume that they are going to play their best. I think our team is mature in that regard, although I don't think even a year ago there was any of those games that we took for granted. We still have to keep that edge and we have to keep that chip on our shoulder."
On what stands out about Illinois when they are playing well:
"Probably like a lot of us, they are making shots. When they're making shots and they're in their rhythm and they're playing the way that they want to play. They're probably playing better defensively; they're playing better on the backboards, those types of things, so you can't let them get into that type of rhythm. I think they are very capable offensively, so they're going to make tough shots so you can't give them any easy shots."
On how the Big Ten has fared so far from expectations they had coming into the season:
"The Big Ten has always been a great league, traditionally. I would say that from top to bottom, it is probably as strong as it has ever been. I started coaching in the Big Ten in 1993 and then followed it along the way. It was very good in 1993, but I would say it's very similar to that.
"Earlier in the year when we went and played at Iowa, we kind of `escaped', I think it was written or said. I don't know about escaping at Iowa, because I don't know how many teams are going to have the chance to go win in there because everybody's really good at home. It was kind of the same thing at Northwestern, when we hung on to beat Northwestern and then they beat Minnesota, then they beat Purdue at their place. Playing anybody on their home floor is tough, and you've got to be ready to play.
"At the same time, when you're playing on your home court, a really good opponent is coming in so you've got to play well then also. I would say that the league is as good as it's been in quite some time, but I think it's been good for a long time. Its just that from top to bottom, there are some games where you're going to have to fight, scratch and claw when some people think you should just win those games and I think they're all difficult."
On how well it serves them to have (Brandon) Paul going and the rest of the team shooting well:
"One of the areas where they have really improved throughout this season and even from a year ago is the abilities of (Nnanna) Egwu to step out and shoot that 17-foot jump shot, whether its off the pick-and-pop or its off penetration, he's gotten very good in that area. So that pulls your big guy out a little bit if your five-guy is guarding him. I think (Paul) an important key to that, and I think when you've got Paul and you have Richardson, both those guys can get it going from the 3-point line. Then you mix in Bertrand who is as good of a mid-range player as there is in college basketball. I think he's really good at getting into the middle, getting into the lane and either shooting the floater or the pull-up jump shot. That adds another dimension to them as well and Tracy Abrams is much more offensive minded this year and scoring the ball even better than he did a year ago."
"On what is impressive about Brandon Paul when he's operating at his highest level
"He's going to hit some shots where you're going to say `Wow, I thought he was covered," and the defense played the coverage the right way, whether it's in the pick-and-roll, or you're getting back in transition and your draped all over him and he can just rise up and shoot it. I don't think that he has a range, I think its limitless. I think he can shoot the ball really deep and when he's in that rhythm, anything that he throws up there looks like its going in. I would say he's as good a shooter or scorer as there is in the country when he's really got it going."
On how the team handles being ranked number one:
"It never really gets talked about. Every day we come in here, we just try and improve and get better. I don't think any of that's changed from the time when we got here five years ago. We've just been able to add to it with the depth of players that we have and how many guys are in doing extra things beyond what's required of them and making themselves better players.
"They weren't just trying to achieve number one, I think they're trying to get better and improve on a daily basis. If you do that, then you have opportunities to win in your league, you have opportunities to win in the post season. I think everybody's been focused on that and coach always does a good job of keeping everyone grounded and keeping everyone on task."
On whether having success on the road this season has affected the mindset of the team when playing on the road:
"Probably to a degree, but it doesn't really matter how many you win in a row, the next one is new one. It's a different game, it's a different place, it's a different team and you don't know which team you are going to get when you go there to play. You've got to have a great defensive mindset; you have to have an edge, you have to have a toughness to you.
"For us, the things we're emphasizing are taking care of the basketball and rebounding the basketball. We've got to a good job of guarding our man plus one. We've got to help, and if we do that, we feel we have a good opportunity to win no matter where we play."
On how valuable going to an atmosphere like Purdue is for the team when they have so many tough environments to play in the rest of the season:
"I don't know that helps you at all having the experience, other than knowing what your mindset was going into that game and having the same mindset when you go play in that other arena. We know that all the crowds, no matter where we go are going, will be difficult to play in front of. They are going to be hostile and you have to block all that out and you have to play with the four other guys that you're with on the floor and the other guys that are on the bench have to be prepared to play. I think our mindset is very important as we go through it. You can't take it for granted that you played well at Purdue so that means you're going to play well at Illinois. But you've got to be prepared for that game and our preparation has been key all year. We have to have great preparation going into this one."
On what Illinois does well when they're clicking:
"Their three guards can fill it up and they are very talented. Their inside guys are good pick-and-pop guys. They are work horses and they are a good team. They haven't won as much lately as earlier in the season, but we've got to be prepared for their best, because that's what we're expecting."
On how this team is playing on the road:
"We have older, mature guys that don't caught up in the crowd or being in a rough environment or anything like that. I think it's a lot of credit to us for keeping our composure."
On how this Illinois team is different from the one they played last year:
"Obviously losing a high draft pick with Myers Leonard kind of changes their whole aspect, but they have skilled big guys that have filled in for them. They still have the shooters that are always scary because you never know if one of them is going to get hot. We'll have to be prepared for their best."
On how the Big Ten has been different from expectations coming into the season:
"It hasn't been too much different because we know that every game in this league is going to be tough. We have a lot of tough games coming up and it doesn't get any easier from here, so we can't be satisfied with where we are at. We have to take it one game at a time and keep winning."
On how Jeremy Hollowell's game has changed:
"It's changed a lot, especially since this summer. Like you said, it's tough going from high school to college because everyone is so much bigger, faster, and stronger. It does take a lot of getting used to and it's even another step once we get into Big Ten play. He's done a really nice job of adjusting to it. He works hard in practice; I think that helps out a lot. He's just taking advantage of whatever time he gets; I think he's doing a nice job of it."
On how his comfort has developed on the court:
"It's coming along. I have been getting in the gym and doing extra things and working on my game. I am trying to slow down out there and make the right play, and it is really paying off. I'm just trying to stay calm out there and not force anything or rush anything."
On whether or not playing time has been a motivation for him to put in more work:
"Yes, definitely. Coming from high school to college is a major change. Sitting on the bench kind of made me hungry and made me want to get in the gym and work on my game and do whatever I have to do to get on the court, whether it is defend, rebound, block shots."
On how it was getting back from the time he was not able to play:
"It was a really good learning experience for me, not playing as much and just focusing on the game, watching the game from the bench and looking at the little things that can help me out. It was just a learning process that I went through as a young player and I think I'm more mature from it."
On what his biggest priority is going into a game:
"The biggest thing is definitely defending and rebounding and trying not to let my man score along with being in help side and helping my teammates out. I know I have to help out on the glass when I can and bring a lot of energy and play as hard as I possibly can for as long as I'm in."
On difference between college and high school offensive expectations:
"That's another part of it, just accepting my role on the team, doing the little things. Whatever it takes to get on the floor. That's what I have to do and that's what I'm going to do, because I want to be out there."