Connect with us


A fast start for Indiana basketball went by the wayside as an aggressive Mackenzie Mgbako sat with early fouls: ‘Should have brought him back a lot sooner’



Indiana basketball
Mackenzie Mgbako got off to a scorching hot start but the game shifted for Indiana basketball as Mike Woodson sat him with two early fouls. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Mackenzie Mgbako is in the middle of his best stretch of basketball in an Indiana basketball uniform and on Tuesday against No. 2 Purdue, it looked like he may be on the verge of another career-game.

Mgbako started the game off with a made 3 on the left wing, then a slashing layup on the next possession and then an offensive rebound putback a few possessions later. He scored the first seven points for Indiana — all in the first three minutes of the game.

His aggressiveness was the exact tone Indiana basketball needed to set to open up with. But, it was then two quick fouls in the next 1:30 that took Mgbako out of the game and, in turn, halted any Indiana run.

Mgbako exited at the 15:30 mark with Indiana down 10-7. He would not return until the 3:33 mark, down 41-25.

Indiana basketball would enter the half down 51-29 — with very little impact by anyone on the offensive end of the floor. Mgbako’s seven points were tied for a team-high, something he scored in just three minutes.

“I probably should have played not (Kel’el) Ware, but Mac (Mackenzie Mgbako) a little more even with the two fouls, but I elected not to do that,” Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson said following the 87-66 loss. ” … You know, that’s hindsight. I hate coaching that way. Or thinking back to what I should have done. But at the end of the day, you know, they played extremely well the first half. I thought we came out with big-time energy the second half to cut it to nine, but when you dig a hole like that, you know, against a pretty good team, it’s hard to dig your way out.”

Mgbako wasn’t the only one who struggled with foul calls in the first half, however. As Woodson mentioned, Kel’el Ware — Indiana’s 7-foot center who matched up with Purdue’s Zach Edey — picked up his second foul at the 13:40 mark. He would sit the remainder of the half.

Gabe Cupps, Xavier Johnson and CJ Gunn all also had two fouls in the first half. At the under-12 media timeout at the 9:47 mark, the foul difference was 7-1 in favor of Purdue.

It was 11-5 at the end of the first half. Purdue was 14-of-16 from the foul line while Indiana was 1-of-2.

“I mean, I think the first half, it’s we get some dumb fouls and unnecessary fouling and stuff,” Indiana senior guard Trey Galloway said postgame. “That’s the difference between playing hard and like not smart, and I think we had some fouls and we had foul trouble and it got away from us a little bit.”

Without Mgbako in the game, there was very little ability to get into the lane and finish at the rim or draw fouls.

Sitting with two fouls is not uncommon for Indiana players under Mike Woodson. This season IU ranks 234th in two-foul participation. It ranked 108th last season and during his first year, Indiana ranked 341st.

“Again, it’s a long game,” Woodson continued. “But we fell back so quickly, you know, I figured I brought him back I think around the two- or three-minute mark right around the half, and when I think back to it, I probably should have brought him back a lot sooner, but I didn’t.”

Mgbako finished with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting and 2-of-4 from three. He played 25 minutes — including 18 in the second half — and didn’t pick up another foul outside of his first two.

While there was a lack of toughness, energy and pride from Indiana for the majority of that first half, you can look at that 12-minute segment when Mgbako went out and think, what if?

Indiana came out firing in the second half, outscoring Purdue by 10 in the first three minutes to cut it to 11 and then eventually cutting the Purdue lead to nine twice at the 14:36 and 12:50 marks. But, all of that energy was exerted just to get the game within striking distance.

Indiana would then be outscored by 12 over the remaining 12:50 of the game.

For the game, Indiana made just two less field goals than Purdue and even hit one more three. But, it was an 18-point advantage on free throws from the Boilermakers that tilted the scale.

Purdue was 22-of-27 from the line while Indiana was 4-of-9.

“We didn’t really handle it great,” Galloway said of the physicality. “I mean, that’s the reason there was I think 16 free throws to — I’m not sure what we had in the first half. But like I said, we’ve got to be more smart and know that they are going post a lot. But we can’t have silly fouls. And just know that it’s going to be a war, and it was. But we’re competing.

“The biggest thing is just playing physical all the time because I can’t call every foul. So if we can be smart and not foul like we don’t need to, but be physical, that’s the biggest thing.”

Indiana falls to 12-6 (4-3) on the season with a road matchup against a top-15 Wisconsin Badgers team on Friday.

Make sure to follow Hoosier Illustrated, part of the Full Ride Network, on Twitter @Indiana_FRN, Facebook and YouTube to stay up to date on all of the news, updates and coverage of Indiana University athletics. You can also listen to the Talking’ Bout the Hoosiers podcast on Spotify.

Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.