New coach Mike Woodson leads Indiana vs. dangerous NIU

Sports

After nearly letting a 21-point lead slip in its opening game, Indiana will look to bring more intensity for 40 minutes on Friday night when it hosts Northern Illinois.

NIU started well on Tuesday with an upset win in Seattle over Pac-12 program Washington. It was nearly a banner night for the Mid-American Conference with the Huskies and others.

The Hoosiers (1-0) held off MAC program Eastern Michigan 68-62 to win Mike Woodson’s coaching debut. But it wasn’t easy.

Eastern Michigan cut Indiana’s 21-point second-half lead to one point, 59-58, on a basket in the lane by Noah Farrakhan with 2:47 left before the Hoosiers regrouped and pulled away late.

“We have got to go back and break this film down and talk about how we built the lead and how we can extend the lead going forward, because I didn’t think we handled that part of it very well,” Woodson said.

Indiana preseason All-American junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis was the focal point of the offense with 21 points and 14 rebounds, but Indiana wasn’t able to get much going from the perimeter. The Hoosiers shot just 4 of 24 from 3-point range. Shooting must improve for Woodson’s four-out motion offense to be more effective.

“We’ve still got work to do,” said point guard Xavier Johnson, who finished with 14 points and three assists in his Indiana debut. “I ain’t going to lie. Our last practice on Sunday, our last scrimmage, that little set up, we shot the same percentage, 4-for-24. Coach said you’ve got to get in the gym. And that’s what we’re going to do, keep grinding and get back in the gym.”

Woodson won’t be taking NIU lightly. Not after the test from Eastern Michigan and another MAC program, Central Michigan, going toe-to-toe with Missouri.

Northern Illinois (1-0) opened with the 71-64 upset at Washington in its season opener, making it a successful coaching debut for Rashon Burno.

Trendon Hankerson sank six 3-pointers and scored 28 points in the win. As a team, UNI shot 52.2 percent (12 of 23) from 3-point range while holding Washington to just 26.7 percent shooting from the field.

Burno, a former assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida and Bobby Hurley at Arizona State, is trying to instill belief in an NIU team that finished 3-16 last season.

“Coming here and beating a really good Washington team with size, athleticism, no one gave us a shot,” Burno said. “But I tell my guys it’s just the people that is in the circle, people in the locker room are the only ones that need to believe. And then these guys showed fortitude for 40 minutes.”

–Field Level Media

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