It takes a lot to wind up the mild-mannered Mike Woodson. However, the officiating on Saturday in East Lansing pushed him to a new tipping point in the Hoosiers 76-61 loss to Michigan State.
The game included 45 fouls called, 55 foul shots that were handed out, and many tense moments. At multiple points, players on both teams had disputes. Scuffles ensued after many hard fouls between the two physical teams.
“I just think that it was two teams playing extremely hard getting chippy,” said Trayce Jackson-Davis.
“When someone hits us, we’re gonna hit them back because that’s how it goes. We’re not soft, they’re not soft, so we just go toe-to-toe with them.”
The pushing point was when Xavier Johnson went up for a layup and was met with brutal contact. However, no foul was rewarded. Instead, Johnson was called for a foul after fighting through a screen. Then the unimaginable happened.
The peaceful Woodson seemed to have smoke coming out of his nose and ears. He gave the ref an earful before the official decided that he had enough.
“This is the first time I’ve gotten a technical, and I said I was gonna go the season without getting one. But sometimes things change,” Woodson said jokingly before getting serious.
“No, I got to be a little more calmer, and maybe they’ll be a little bit more calmer, and a little more competitive.”
Woodson would not be calmed down, however. As A.J Hoggard clapped his hands in the face of the Hoosiers, attempting to taunt them, it drove the Indiana head coach mad. He pushed Tamar Bates out of the way, after trying to stop him from getting another technical, and beelined towards the officials.
But, this time Hoggard was given his second technical of the game and booted out. Bates would knock two of the few Indiana free throws of the afternoon.
The Hoosiers were able to get to the line 27 times. However, they were only able to hit 16 of their free throws for a 59.3 percent margin. After a rare clear path foul, Parker Stewart, who shoots a near 70 percent from the line, missed both of his free throws.
The Spartans, on the other hand, were able to one-up the Hoosiers. They would get to the line 28 times. But, they were able to convert their free throws at a higher rate and capitalize on the free points. They missed just three free throws and converted on 89.3 percent from the line.
“Free throws, we didn’t make free throws. If you just make your free throws, you’re in the ball game,” said Woodson.
The shooting struggles transferred to beyond the arc and everywhere else. The Hoosiers went 20-for-59 from the field and 5-of-21 from deep. Looking for answers, the team went down to the post but the star players of Indiana didn’t deliver.
Jackson-Davis scored 17 points and grabbed five rebounds, but for the third-straight game, struggled to make a true impact. He shot just 5-of-13. Race Thompson was more efficient with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting and 14 rebounds for a double-double.
The only other player to score in double figures was Bates. The freshman had one of his best games in a Hoosier uniform. He scored 13 points and converted on half of his attempts. However, outside of the trio, the team only scored 21 points on 6-of-28 shooting.
“I just got to get them comfortable, man, and, feeling good about themselves to make them,” said Woodson on the poor shooting.
“I mean some of those shots were good shots. Northwestern was the same way. I mean, you get wide-open looks, and we’re just not making them.”
The Hoosiers never had a chance to get situated in the game because of the harsh calling of fouls. IU had four players with three or more fouls, three of which were starters.
The biggest loss was Johnson. The playmaker and aggressive defender was forced to the bench after picking up two early fouls. He ended the game with seven points, four assists, four turnovers, and four fouls.
“They had us in foul trouble early, where I had to go to the bench early. And, you know, it kind of takes some of the pressure that we like to apply away because guys are scared to touch guys, and in fear that they might get the third and fourth foul.”
It is the third-straight loss for the Hoosiers, and the next two matchups don’t get any easier. Still, Indiana has plenty of opportunities to shake off the brutal loss.
First, they get a hungry No. 14 Wisconsin team. The Badgers are fresh off a home loss to Rutgers and will be looking to avenge the defeat. The Hoosiers blew a 17-point halftime lead in their last game against the Badgers, but this time they will be home with the crowd giving them that extra juice.
Then, it is a road trip to Columbus to take on No. 16 Ohio State. The Hoosiers smacked the Buckeyes 67-51 in Bloomington in their first matchup. The rest of the schedule, depending on the outcomes, could boost Indiana’s chances at the NCAA Tournament.
“We can still control our own destiny,” said Woodson. “I mean, I feel good about that, but I got to go back and regroup. Get them ready for Wisconsin.”
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