Although No. 11 Indiana has a big test looming on its schedule, coach Mike Woodson will not be caught looking past the game that precedes it to conclude the Hoosier Classic.
Indiana will host Southwestern Athletic Conference foe Jackson State in the tournament finale on Friday in Bloomington, Ind., five days before top-ranked North Carolina comes to town to face the Hoosiers (5-0).
Indiana stayed perfect on the young campaign Wednesday by pulling away in the second half for an 87-68 victory over Little Rock.
It did so without star forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who was out for precautionary reasons and dressed resplendently in a dapper suit on the home bench during the win.
Woodson was not interested in Tar Heel talk in his postgame press conference when asked about Jackson-Davis’ availability with the game a week away.
“I’m not worried about North Carolina,” Woodson said. “We’ve got Jackson State on Friday. We’ll evaluate him. He’s beat up a little physically, nothing major. We’ll get him ready, hopefully, for Jackson State.”
Jackson-Davis is averaging 20.8 points per game on 75.6 percent shooting from the field. He also is pulling down 8.8 rebounds in 26.3 minutes per contest.
In the absence of Jackson-Davis, freshman Malik Reneau stepped in and scored 10 points against Little Rock.
Little Rock coach Darrell Walker had a word of advice for teams preparing to face the SWAC school.
“I would tell people you better be ready (for Jackson State),” Walker said after his squad rallied and held on for a 94-91 victory in their first game in the Hoosier Classic on Sunday. “You better quit thinking this is going to be an easy game because this is SWAC team.”
Led by first-year coach Mo Williams, Jackson State comes in 0-4 after dropping a 78-68 decision at Michigan on Wednesday night.
But that win wasn’t easy for the Wolverines, and things have changed in the SWAC.
The conference struck a four-year deal with the Pac 12 that will send some of the big-name schools from the West in an easterly direction. Already this season, the SWAC’s Grambling, Texas Southern and Prairie View have all scored home victories over Colorado, Arizona State and Washington State, respectively.
The agreement to play a SWAC-Pac 12 Legacy Series over these four years represents newfound credibility to the SWAC and creates potential pitfalls for the Power 5 conference.
That’s fine with Williams, whose group still will take the tournament travels on the road for a good payday and a likely loss.
“We don’t get the respect we deserve,” Williams said. “Through the years, SWAC teams have always played these type games on the road. That’s tough.
“I want to see how we respond on the road against these teams. Hopefully, we’ll be better for it.”
Guard Gabe Watson collected a team-high 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists in the loss in Ann Arbor, Mich. Trace Young and 13 points and 10 boards.
–Field Level Media