No. 11 Indiana focused on the task at hand: Jackson State

Indiana head coach Mike Woodson speaks to an umpire during the second half of the Indiana vs. Little Rock basketball game at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Wednesday, November 23, 2022. Iu Lb Bb 2h Woodson 3
Credit: Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK

Despite a big Test scheduled for No. 11 Indiana, Coach Mike Woodson can’t be caught looking beyond the previous game to complete the Hoosier Classic.

Indiana hosts Southwestern Athletic Conference opponents Jackson State in Friday’s tournament finals in Bloomington, Indiana, five days before leaders North Carolina come to town to take on the Hoosiers (5-0).

Indiana remained perfect on Wednesday’s fledgling campaign by edging away in the second half for an 87-68 win over Little Rock.

Star striker Trayce Jackson-Davis, who was absent as a precaution and sat splendidly in a neat suit on the home bench during the win.

Woodson was not interested in Tar Heel talks in his post-game press conference when asked about Jackson-Davis’ availability for the game in a week.

“I’m not worried about North Carolina,” Woodson said. “We have Jackson State on Friday. We will rate him. He’s a bit physical, nothing major. Hopefully we’ll set him up for Jackson State.”

Jackson-Davis is averaging 20.8 points per game on 75.6 percent of shots from the field. He also pulls 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 some advice for teams preparing for SWAC school.

“I would tell people you better be ready (for Jackson State),” Walker said after his side rallied and claimed a 94-91 win in their first game at Sunday’s Hoosier Classic. “You better stop thinking this is going to be an easy game because that’s the SWAC team.”

Led by first-year coach Mo Williams, Jackson State comes into the game 4-0 after dropping a 78-68 decision in Michigan on Wednesday night.

But that win wasn’t easy for the Wolverines, and things have changed at SWAC.

The conference struck a four-year deal with the Pac 12, which will send some of the big-name schools eastbound from the West. Earlier this season, SWAC’s Grambling, Texas Southern and Prairie View all had home wins over Colorado, Arizona State and Washington State respectively.

The agreement to play a SWAC-Pac 12 Legacy series over these four years represents a newfound credibility for SWAC and creates potential pitfalls for the Power 5 conference.

That’s good for Williams, whose group will still take the tournament travel for a good payday and a probable loss.

“We’re not getting the respect we deserve,” Williams said. “Over the years, SWAC teams have always played these types of games on the road. That is hard.

“I want to see how we react against these teams away from home. Hopefully that will make things better for us.”

Guard Gabe Watson amassed 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