Indiana basketball coach Mike Woodson on UConn loss: 'We are not tough enough'
NEW YORK — coach didn't have to watch any film to know what his team's biggest shortcoming was in a 77-57 loss to UConn in the opening game of the Empire Classic.
"We are not tough enough," Woodson said after the game. "Not yet, not tough enough."
Woodson was eager to see how his young team would perform on the big stage against the defending national champs.
The Hoosiers (3-1) flew to New York on Friday and were greeted at the team hotel by Isiah Thomas, one of the program's all-time greats. They held a practice Saturday and arrived at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon to a warm welcome from the large number of IU fans in attendance.
Connecticut coach Dan Hurley described the first 10 minutes of the game as a "rock fight" between the teams.
The Huskies eventually pulled away in the second half while IU faced mounting fall trouble — Malik Reneau fouled out with 7:04 to go and Xavier Johnson only played 13 minutes — and while some glaring concerns on offense emerged.
The Hoosiers lived in the paint through the first three games, but were held to 22 points on Sunday and didn't have any second chance points on just four offensive rebounds (UConn had a 44-22 overall rebounding advantage).
They also couldn't get out in transition with just six fast breakpoints on the night.
"I was so anxious to get to the game to see where we were as a ball club," Woodson said. "They kind of put us in our place."
The game didn't become a blowout until Reneau fouled out. Indiana cut a double-digit UConn lead to seven points twice in the second half. Woodson pointed to a possession in the second half when IU had the ball was trailing 50-43 and turned it over. The Huskies responded with a 3-point play and never looked back.
"They are not 20 points better than us," Indiana guard Trey Galloway said. "It's one possession at a time and one possession can really hurt you."
Michael Niziolek is the Indiana beat reporter for The Bloomington Herald-Times. You can follow him on Twitter and read all his coverage.