Indiana Daily Student

Indiana men’s basketball prepared for first game of Mike Woodson era against Eastern Michigan

<p>The crowd cheers during Hoosier Hysteria on Oct. 21, 2017, in Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall. Indiana men&#x27;s basketball opens the 2021-22 season against Eastern Michigan University on Nov. 9, 2021, at Assembly Hall.</p>

The crowd cheers during Hoosier Hysteria on Oct. 21, 2017, in Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall. Indiana men's basketball opens the 2021-22 season against Eastern Michigan University on Nov. 9, 2021, at Assembly Hall.

More than seven months after he was hired, Mike Woodson will patrol the sideline at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall for the first time as head coach at 6 p.m. Tuesday as Indiana men’s basketball takes on Eastern Michigan University.

Woodson, who is the fifth-leading scorer in Indiana basketball history, will be the first IU graduate to begin a season as head coach since Lou Watson in 1965. He’s excited to walk onto the floor and see the fans, he said at a press conference Monday, but his focus will be getting the team to play at a high level and win. 

“That's my only focus,” Woodson said. “I think when I walk out on the floor and I see the fans, that's going to be nice, but it's all about trying to get these guys to play at a high level.” 

The Hoosiers will look to improve off a 12-15 season in which they lost their last six games down the stretch. In the preseason AP Poll, they were the second-highest vote getters outside the top 25, likely thanks to the slew of transfer and freshman players Woodson has at his disposal who have yet to play a game for the Hoosiers, three of which will be in the starting lineup Tuesday.

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Woodson said Monday the team will likely play the same starting lineup it did in its scrimmage against BC Mega in the Bahamas this preseason: senior guard Xavier Johnson, graduate student Parker Stewart, senior forwards Miller Kopp and Race Thompson and preseason All-American junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis.

Jackson-Davis considered entering his name into the NBA Draft and leaving Indiana this past offseason, but the star forward returned to follow up on his sophomore campaign where he averaged 19.1 points and nine rebounds. 

Woodson has also said this offseason he wants Jackson-Davis to take more outside jump shots, and Jackson-Davis responded Monday he’s going to take what the defense gives him. 

“If they leave me open from 17, 18 feet I’m going to let it go,” Jackson-Davis said. “Basically just in the rhythm of the game I’m just going to look for opportunities to score and help my team.”

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Jackson-Davis and Woodson both mentioned the depth of this Hoosiers roster, in particular senior guard Rob Phinisee leading their second unit off the bench. Phinisee said the competition level in practice has been high between the team’s point guards and the entire team.

Phinisee said he’s been aggressive in practice and scoring the ball more than normal at the direction of Woodson.

“He just always tells me to be more assertive,” Phinisee said. 

Woodson said freshman guard Tamar Bates and senior center Michael Durr are working their way back from injuries, and he’d have a better idea of where they’re at after practice Monday, but once they’re back he could see the rotation being nine or 10 players deep. 

“I love to build a team where you can go as deep as 10 because then you don't burn guys out, and about time you get to the Big Ten everybody's fresh and feeling good about themselves,” Woodson said. 

Indiana will face an Eastern Michigan team which finished 6-12 last season and 3-11 in the Mid-American Conference last season. The team is also led by a new head coach Stan Heath. Woodson and Heath are both their respective programs’ 30th head coach and graduates of the schools they are coaching.

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Indiana will look to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2015-16 season, but right now the team is focused on performing in front of the home crowd Tuesday.

“Coach Woodson’s big thing is one game at a time, so all our focus right now is on Eastern Michigan,” Phinisee said. “Everyone’s just anxious to play, everyone’s excited to get out there in front of the fans and just have a good time. The energy in the building I know is going to be electric tomorrow.”

Follow reporters Kamil Gut (@GutKamil) and Tristan Jackson (@Trist_Jackson), and columnist Da’Qwan Dockery (@ddockery35) for updates throughout the game and the rest of the Indiana men’s basketball season.

Location: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: WIUX 99.1 FM, IU Radio Network

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