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Postgame Reaction: Indiana reacts to win over Kent State



Indiana defeated Kent State in the Round of 64 on Friday night 71-60.

The Hoosiers advance to the Round of 32 and will play Miami (Fla.) on Sunday night at 8:40 pm ET on TNT.

Below is the full transcript from head coach Mike Woodson and players Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson and Miller Kopp.

MIKE WOODSON: These three seniors up here were pretty damn good tonight. We played a tough team in Kent State. To hold that team to 60 points, our defense was pretty damn good, and these three guys had a lot to do with it.

Q. Race, I imagine this is kind of an obvious question, but you’ve had to navigate some injuries this season, some ups and downs. You’ve talked about — just what does a night like tonight feel for you, 20 and 9, and really having long stretches out there where they couldn’t slow you down?

RACE THOMPSON: Really, I’m just thankful for my teammates always keeping me locked in. I’ve been banged up a lot this season, and if I can’t practice, they always tell me it’s going to be all right, just stick with it.

I just give credit to my teammates and coaches for keeping me confident, keeping me locked in even when my body isn’t feeling great. So yeah.

Q. Trayce, Sullinger hit a couple threes to make it an 8 point game and you scored six straight for you guys. What was your mentality when the lead was starting to dwindle a little bit and you had to go out and get those shots?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Coach Woodson, he’s always trying to put me in position to score. I finally got a little bit of a groove and had a big play, an energy play. Whenever that happens, my teammates try to get me the ball and they put me in great positions.

I knew Miller threw me a great pass, we got offensive rebounds and tips. I just try do whatever to help my team win because I know they feed off my energy. So it was big, and then after that, I feel like everything was kind of smooth from there on out.

Q. Miller, there’s been, no pun intended, a lot of madness the last two days. How much do you guys kind of pay attention to that? Do these upsets kind of help you guys zero in on this game and say we can’t get comfortable?

MILLER KOPP: Our preparation stays the same. In every game — like I said before, we’ve learned from our losses in the season and conference play. So those are enough to wake us up and keep us locked in.

Of course we watch all the games. We’re hoop junkies. So we see all the games and upsets and stuff. But really it’s just about our preparation and doing the same stuff.

Q. Race, Kent State plays a style that’s going to test your toughness a little bit. How much did your start — you made 4 of the first 6 shots for the team — kind of get you in that mode of toughness and kind of also make you relax a little bit and be able to play?

RACE THOMPSON: Starting out like that, it just kind of settles you in personally. You’re feeling good about yourselves, and that carries over to both sides of the ball on defense. Again, I think it just gets our team going as well.

So getting easy buckets like that kind of sparks our offense, sparks our defense. So I think it’s good to start like that.

Q. They shot less than 32 percent. From your perspective, what was the key to holding them down?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: We had a great scouting report. I think we followed it beautifully. We kind of knew their tendencies and the plays they were going to run.

We were in the get out, and we challenged almost every three-pointer they shot. They hit some tough shots, and sometimes that’s going to happen, especially March. But overall I thought our defensiveness and our connectedness as a group was really good tonight.

Q. Trayce, I noticed you limping a little bit coming out of the tunnel there off the court. Is anything bothering you, or is that just a by-product of playing a physical game like you did tonight?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: No, it was just a physical game. Kind of got a little hip pointer in the first two minutes of the game, but it’s just something you’ve got to play with. It’s not very much bothering me. I feel like I was fine out there.

Q. For all three of you, obviously Kent State was built up as a good team. Was there an element of relief tonight getting out of playing Big Ten opponents for the first time in three months or so? How much were you looking forward to that?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Absolutely. Big Ten’s a growing league, but at the same time, Kent State is a great basketball team, and they play really physical like a Big Ten team. So still credit to them because they’re a great team. They won their conference tournament, so they’re winners, they know how to win.

But at the end of the day, it was us against them, and someone’s got to go home. We kind of shut them down, and that’s what we had to do.

Q. Size played a role here tonight, too. Talk to me about how much your length really affected their shots and really made them take some uncomfortable looks.

MIKE WOODSON: We knew going in that we were a little bit bigger than Kent State. So I thought the game plan offensively was to go inside. I mean, that’s where we’ve been pretty good all season.

Race got off to such a great start. We were able to milk him some. And Trayce had his usual game.

I just thought it was a total team effort tonight against this team because this team could really score the basketball, and the defense set the tone, I thought.

Q. Trayce, I’m going to ask you about Race. Obviously you guys have been through a lot together. How have you seen him navigate a season when there have been some ups and downs? He’s had to sit and watch a little bit. What does a night like this mean for you as his teammate?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: It’s not only huge for me, but it’s huge for our whole team because we’ve got so many weapons, and I think sometimes people forget that. But anyone can go off on any given night.

Especially when you get into this tournament, everyone’s got to be clicking. Miller’s hitting shots. Race was doing really, really well, hitting shots and doing everything. Our team, we’re not selfish. We’ll find guys and get whoever’s hot the ball.

That’s what happened tonight. We were all clicking, and we really fed off him at the beginning of the game.

Q. Miller, when did you decide to go with the headband? And I noticed it’s upside down right now, too. When did you decide to go with that?

MILLER KOPP: I just think of myself as a fashionable guy.


MILLER KOPP: No, I haven’t worn one in five years of college, so I thought why not for the NCAA Tournament? That’s it.

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I think you should keep it.

THE MODERATOR: With that, gentlemen, thank you.

Questions for the Coach.

Q. Mike, I’ll stop hammering the Race question, but for you, how have you seen him as a sixth year guy, an experienced guy, but also a guy who’s maybe had to defer to Trayce a little bit more, has had the injuries and had to watch more than he would have liked, how have you seen him navigate this season, and what do you think a night like him means to him?

MIKE WOODSON: Well, tonight should mean a great deal to him because last season you could have easily said he could have been our MVP based on how he played. Unfortunately, he’s had some injuries this season that has kind of put him behind.

To see him come out tonight and play a game like he did is special. I mean, it could not have happened to a better person because he’s a really good young man. So I was happy for him, and we needed all of it.

Q. Kind of a similar question I asked Miller. How much are you watching the games during the day seeing all upsets? Are you kind of nudging your guys like, look, you can’t get comfortable because anything can happen in March Madness.

MIKE WOODSON: I think our guys know. They watch. I watch games, but my focus is on who we’re playing and my team, our team. That’s where my focus is.

I mean, you can’t worry about other teams. You’ve got to worry about what’s in front of you, what you’re facing. Kent State was the team that we were facing tonight, and that’s where my focus was, how we were going to come out and perform.

Now we have Miami, who’s a well coached team, who’s had a helluva season. We got them on Sunday. So we’ve got to go back and start to work and prepare for them.

Q. Coach, I hate to say like Trayce had a slow start, but it seemed like his offense got going in the second half. How important is it for him to — how important is his ability to affect the game in so many ways even when clearly they seem to be sort of focusing on stopping him offensively?

MIKE WOODSON: Again, we’re not trying to hide how we play. He’s been the focal point of our offense, and he’s kind of anchored our defense by rebounding and blocking shots for us.

You know, he missed — his first two shots around the bucket was point blank that he just missed. Or he probably would have got off to a better start. I thought he hung in there, and he just kind of let the game come to him because they were basically trying to keep the ball out of his hands. And when he caught it, they came on the bounce.

Things just started to open up a little bit more once we opened the floor up and got out and got some easy buckets. And then he brought it home for us down the stretch because I thought he made about three or four plays down the stretch to put the game out of reach.

Q. They shot less than 32 percent. You obviously played for Coach Knight. Defense was his calling card. How much of what you do and how you approach things is built off of what Coach Knight taught you?

MIKE WOODSON: It’s got a lot to do with it. He made it very clear when we played for him, and all the years that I’ve watched him coach, that defense wins championships. What better person to know that? He won three.

I’ve seen it done at the highest level in the NBA, when we were at the Pistons, when we won it that year. So I know defense wins championships. I know if you commit yourself and you rebound the ball along with the defensive end, you’ll put yourself in position to be in every game and have an opportunity to win.

We knew coming in tonight we had to defend this team because they could score the ball. I thought for the most part we were solid all the way through, and we’re going to need that the rest of the way.

Q. Mike, at the 2:10 mark in the first half, you brought Jalen back with two fouls, and the team immediately goes on a 6-0 run. It’s always a judgment call whether you bring somebody back or not. What went through your mind to do that, and what was part of your decision-making at that point?

MIKE WOODSON: When I look at it like that, he had two, and I’m always thinking ahead. You know, it’s a long game. You’ve still got another half. He picks up three, then you’re kicking yourself. After we made the 6-0 run, I pulled him right before the half and got him ready for the second half.

But 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 maybe he could come back in and jump start us a little bit, which he did.

Again, from a coaching standpoint, you’re kind of rolling the dice. It worked out for us.

Follow Hoosier Illustrated on Twitter @Indiana_FRN to stay up to date on all of the news, updates and coverage of University of Indiana athletics. 


Mike Woodson ‘always looking to better’ Indiana basketball with final available scholarship



The Indiana basketball program has one available scholarship for next season and Mike Woodson is 'always looking to better' the roster. (Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times-USA TODAY NETWORK)

As Mike Woodson and the Indiana basketball program approach the first segment of summer workouts, its roster is still not full.

Currently, the Hoosiers have one open scholarship for the upcoming season.

On Wednesday, Woodson made it clear — in order to compete at the top of the Big Ten and around the country, he’s ‘always looking to better’ Indiana basketball.

“We’re always looking,” Woodson said of his final scholarship spot. “Based on a lot of the players tonight that might pull out (of the NBA draft), there might be a player that falls through the cracks. I’m watching it closely and I’m always looking to better our team and if we can pick up someone, based on who falls through the cracks, then we will.”

The NBA Draft withdrawal deadline was May 31 at 11:59 pm and while there were some big names announcing their intentions on returning to college, Woodson isn’t going to go for just anybody.

With six new players coming in next season as of now, including three transfers, chemistry, role and fit are incredibly important.

“I mean I got really seven new players and I gotta figure it out in terms of how we gonna play, who can do what,” Woodson said. “So I’m kinda anxious to see this next week. A lot of the guys are coming back this weekend and getting them in the gym and see who can do what.”

The role that Indiana needs to fill is on the perimeter. The Hoosiers are lacking the consistent knockdown shooting it needs in order to raise their ceiling this year. As of now, a lot is being put on the untapped potential of the roster … mainly the young pieces.

Indiana has five-star newcomers in Mackenzie Mgbako and Kel’el Ware. It also has core pieces returning in Xavier Johnson, Trey Galloway and Malik Reneau.

But, Reneau, Mgbako and Ware have combined to start just seven games at the college level.

The talent level is there, as is the versatility — something Indiana hasn’t had from top to bottom on its roster since Woodson took the program over.

When it came down to assembling the roster that is currently constructed, while the Indiana basketball staff had full control of the players incoming, there will be a taste of what Xavier Johnson wanted as well.

“Yeah, he asked me who I was interested in and I told him and we got a couple of the guys that I actually liked,” Johnson said. “We built a solid, solid team coming in.

“I would say from my watch, I think we have a pretty — a pretty unique, unique team. We’ll be more athletic than last year.”

So, as Woodson and the rest of the Indiana basketball staff look at its final scholarship spot, it’s one that is 100 percent open for use, but not one that will just be tossed around unless the specific skillset arises.

SEE ALSO: ‘It’s going to be my job to bridge the gap’: Mike Woodson’s vision for Indiana basketball is coming to life

Make sure to follow Hoosier Illustrated on Twitter @Indiana_FRN and YouTube to stay up to date on all of the news, updates and coverage of Indiana University athletics. 

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Indiana basketball senior guard Xavier Johnson gives update on his health: ‘I’m 100 (percent)’



Dec 10, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Indiana Hoosiers guard Xavier Johnson (0) reacts after a three point score against the Arizona Wildcats during the second half at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

Besides the additions of Oregon transfer center Kel’el Ware and the commitment of 2023 five-star forward Mackenzie Mgbako, the biggest offseason win for Indiana basketball was the return of senior guard Xavier Johnson.

Last season, Johnson played and started in just 11 games before he suffered a broken foot on Dec. 17 after playing only nine minutes against Kanas. He would go on to miss the reminder of the season.

Towards the end of last season however, there were rumblings that Johnson and Indiana would seek a medical hardship waiver, which they opted to do, with the senior guard running out of chances to realistically get back into the rotation and contribute.

Going into the offseason, the potential return of Xavier Johnson quickly became one of the bigger storylines for the Indiana basketball program and on April 26th, it was announced that Johnson’s medical hardship waiver was approved by the NCAA. 

Mike Woodson and Indiana basketball had their starting point guard back.

“It’s been a long process, honestly,” said Xavier Johnson when speaking to the media on Wednesday night. “I had to see it all through, talked to my coach (Woodson) and my family. The best option was to come back to school just for the benefit of my health. I would say I thought I was gonna come back in February, late February, but I think it was best for the team just to keep competing (last year) without me and I’ll just be there to support.”

During the process of the medical hardship waiver application, there is not much that a college athlete can do but just wait and see what the NCAA decides based on the facts.

Waiting is exactly what Xavier Johnson did.

“I really just had to wait, honestly, I mean there’s nothing right to the process, but waiting,” Johnson added.

As a senior and the elite competitor that Xavier Johnson is, it certainly was hard for him to have to sit on the sidelines and watch his teammates at Indiana play without him for the second half of last season. When Johnson went down, the keys were given to freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino as the primary ball handler for the Hoosiers, who used that opportunity to play his way into a potential lottery pick in the NBA Draft.

Even though there was a chance that Xavier Johnson could have returned late last year, the best thing for Johnson in the long term was to sit out and have a better chance at coming back this season and playing a full senior campaign.

When Johnson got the word that his wavier was approved by the NCAA, you can say the wait was well worth it.

“It was a long process of getting my waiver, but once I got it, that weight was off my shoulders.” said Johnson.

“Coach (Woodson) called me and asked me if I wanted to transfer. I was like ‘what you mean do I want to transfer? Did I not get my waiver?’ He was like ‘yeah you got your waiver. Do you want to come back and play for me?’ I was like ‘yeah!’ (laughter).”

Besides Johnson, there might not be a happier and more excited person on this earth to know that his starting point guard, his senior leader, is returning to help captain the 2023-24 Indiana Hoosiers than Mike Woodson.

The coach-player relationship that Mike Woodson and Xavier Johnson have built these past few seasons is truly special. Woodson has a special connection with his point guards and really understands the value of having a great one like Johnson.

And as far as Xavier Johnson’s health heading into the summer portion of the Indiana offseason?

“I’m 100 (percent),” Johnson simply and confidently said.

SEE ALSO: ‘I think we are getting into more of what coach Woodson wants’: Former IU basketball player Christian Watford discusses Hoosiers offseason

Make sure to follow Hoosier Illustrated on Twitter @Indiana_FRN and YouTube to stay up to date on all of the news, updates and coverage of Indiana University athletics. 

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Indiana basketball: Kel’el Ware among thirty-five athletes to participate in USA U19 Men’s National Team Training Camp



Indiana’s Kel’el Ware Among Thirty-Five Athletes to Participate in USA U19 Men’s National Team Training Camp - 5/31/2023 12:00:00 PM - Photo Credit: Indiana Men's Basketball

As announced per an Indiana basketball release, sophomore center Kel’el Ware was among thirty-five athletes selected to participate in USA U19 Men’s National Team Training Camp.

In April, Ware announced he was transferring to Indiana after spending one season at Oregon. Ware averaged 6.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in one season at Oregon.

Below is the full release.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado – USA Basketball today announced the 35 athletes expected to participate in the 2023 USA U19 Men’s National Team Training Camp at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Camp begins June 11 with the 12-member team to be announced before departing for the 2023 FIBA U19 Men’s World Cup Championship, scheduled for June 24-July 2 in Debrecen, Hungary.

Included in that list is IU sophomore center Kel’el Ware who is joining the Hoosiers after spending his freshman season at Oregon.  He represented USA Basketball winning a gold medal at the 2022 FIBA U18 Americas Championship in Tijuana, Mexico.  In six games, he averaged 15.7 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 67.2% from the field in 19.4 minutes per game.  He also had 11 blocked shots.

He played for the 2022 USA Nike Hoop Summit Team that defeated the World Select Team 102-80 in the 23rd Nike Hoop Summit and came off the bench to score 11 points on four-of-five shooting from the field and also grabbed five rebounds.

At Oregon, the North Little Rock, Arkansas native played 35 games and started four as a freshman for the Ducks.  He averaged 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in 15.8 minutes of action per game and led the team in blocked shots with 45.  His best game of the year was an 18-point, nine-board effort against eventual national champion, UConn.  He also had nine rebounds against Michigan State.

Athletes attending training camp were selected by the USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team Committee.  Athletes eligible for this team must be U.S. citizens, born on or after January 1, 2004.  Nearly half of the athletes have prior USA Basketball experience. Ten invitees have won a gold medal as a member of a USA Basketball junior national team.

Supporting as court coaches during trials will be Jonas Hayes (Georgia State University), Kevin Kruger (UNLV), TJ Otzelberger (Iowa State University) and Micah Shrewsberry (Notre Dame).

The United States will square off with Lebanon, Madagascar and Slovenia in pool play.

The U.S. will face off against Lebanon and Madagascar for the first time at a 2023 FIBA Men’s U19 World Cup. The U.S. own a 2-0 record against Slovenia at the U19 World Cup.

The United States has won the competition eight times, including three of the last four competitions—in 2015, 2019 and 2021.

SEE ALSO: Kel’el Ware ready to make big impact for Indiana basketball: ‘(I’m ready) to prove everybody wrong’

Make sure to follow Hoosier Illustrated on Twitter @Indiana_FRN and YouTube to stay up to date on all of the news, updates and coverage of Indiana University athletics. 

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