ALBANY, N.Y. – Indiana guard Jalen Hood-Schifino is not only productive in his own right, but his mere presence on the offensive side of the floor provides a 1-2 disruptive punch to opposing defenses when they already have to account for Trayce Jackson-Davis.
So when Hood-Schifino picks up two first-half fouls, as he did in Friday’s NCAA Tournament game against Kent State, it often spells trouble for the Hoosiers.
It also puts Indiana coach Mike Woodson in a pickle. The classic question of whether you bring back a player in the first half with two fouls was one Woodson had to face down.
With 2:10 left in the first half, he decided to go for it.
It paid off in a big way for Indiana. The Hoosiers immediately went on a 6-0 run, and the eight-point halftime lead enjoyed as a result gave Indiana the cushion it needed in the second half to earn a 71-60 victory over the Golden Flashes.
“I’m always thinking ahead. It’s a long game. You’ve still got another half. He picks up three, you’re kicking yourself,” Woodson explained. “It is a judgment call. I threw him back in because we were struggling to get the ball moved, and I thought we had some empty possessions offensively that I thought he could come back in and jump start us a bit, which he did.”
Hood-Schifino didn’t score during the 6-0 run, but Kent State’s packed-in defense suddenly had to come out of its shell, and Indiana had room to roam. Jackson-Davis scored four in the run to go along with a Trey Galloway bucket.
“I think it’s great. In tournament play, you have to play your guys. Jalen is a floor general, our main point guard and we needed him on the floor. He’s smart and mature enough to know he can’t foul and jeopardize the team,” Jackson-Davis said.
Hood-Schifino appreciated the faith Woodson had in him to play with two fouls.
“If you look at the analytics when I’m on the floor, obviously we do better as a team. Coach Woodson wanted me on the court to make plays and do what I do,” Hood-Schifino said.
Woodson was obviously happy the decision worked out.
“You’re rolling the dice. It worked out for us,” Woodson said.
Kent State played tough throughout, but its finishing touch at the rim was lacking.
Jackson-Davis had a lot to do with that. He had an Indiana NCAA Tournament record five blocks, but the Golden Flashes also missed several open looks at the rim.
“We picked a bad night to have a bad night. I mean, the big (Jackson-Davis) dominated tonight. So props to him,” Kent State guard Jalen Sullinger said.
Kent State coach Rob Senderoff thought it was a mix of Indiana’s length and an off night from his scorers.
“There certainly were times when their length impacted shots at the rim, and there were also some times where I felt like we just missed shots that we would normally make. A combination of both,” Senderoff said.
Kent State wasn’t sure its catalyst, point guard Sincere Carry, would be able to play against Indiana. Carry suffered a thigh injury during the Golden Flashes’ shootaround Saturday.
“He took a knee to the thigh and went down. I don’t know if it impacted him or not. Looking at the stat sheet, I’d say it probably did based upon that,” Senderoff said.
Carry led Kent State with 15 points, but he only had two assists and had three turnovers. He was below his season average in all categories and above in turnovers.
“He played 39 minutes. I think I took him out with 57 seconds to go. He would have had to have his leg cut off for him to not have played tonight,” Senderoff said.
Indiana fans have become accustomed to Race Thompson wearing a headband, but Friday guard Miller Kopp decided to wear one, too.
It was a new look for Kopp, and you could tell if you saw the headband up close. He had it on upside down.
“I just think of myself as a fashionable guy,” Kopp said.
“Really?” Woodson retorted.
“I haven’t worn one in five years of college, so I thought why not for the NCAA Tournament? That’s it,” Kopp said.
“I think you should keep it,” Jackson-Davis said.
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