Saturday’s showdown between No. 17 Indiana and No. 5 Purdue means a rematch of one of the best individual matchups in the country.
Trayce Jackson-Davis and Zach Edey both had big games during the first meeting of these rivals this season. Edey is the favorite for national and Big Ten Player of the Year, and Jackson-Davis may be second.
They’ll go at it again on Saturday at Mackey Arena.
“It’s competition. I love it,” IU head coach Mike Woodson said. “That’s kind of, as a coach, what I live for, watching so much talent in college basketball. There were a lot of people that were tuned into that Purdue-Indiana game here at Indiana, you can rest assured of that, just to see the matchup. They didn’t fail anybody who was watching because both of them played extremely well, and I can’t help but think it’s going to be the same way come Saturday.”
During that first meeting in Bloomington on February 4, Edey put up huge numbers in defeat. He scored 33 points on 15 of 19 shooting, and he added 18 rebounds and three blocks. Jackson-Davis didn’t quite meet those numbers, with a 9 of 19 line for 25 points, plus seven rebounds and five blocks. But TJD got the last laugh that day, as Indiana pulled out a 79-74 win over the, at the time, top-ranked Boilermakers.
Jackson-Davis outscored Edey in the first half, 18 to 15. But he racked up eight points in the first four minutes of the second half, and that sparked Purdue’s comeback in the game. Woodson noted the difficulty of limiting someone like Edey, no matter how good the gameplan is.
“He is just a load. I haven’t seen very many teams stop him this season,” Woodson said. “Watching him on film, he is going to demand the ball, and they’re going to go to him a lot. Our bigs are just going to have to battle as much as they can, and we’ve got to get them some help as much as we can and not let the rest of the supporting pieces get away from us.”
Jackson-Davis is averaging 20.5 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 2.9 blocks per game. Edey is at 22.1 points, 12.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 2.4 blocks per game on the season.
In Big Ten play, Jackson-Davis’ numbers are better across the board. He’s putting up 21.9 points, 12.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 3.1 blocks per game in conference action. Meanwhile, Edey is averaging 22.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 2.7 blocks per game.
The Purdue forward’s 7-foot-4 stature makes him a difficult matchup as is, but he’s become quite savvy inside and developed a lot of basketball skill to match the height.
“Zach, he’s a great player,” Jackson-Davis said. “He’s really hard to defend, especially if he catches it super low on the block. I think the biggest thing for me is trying to push him out. I felt like when we pushed him out, and we got our double-team there, that’s when we had success against him.”
Jackson-Davis has been carrying a heavy load for the Hoosiers. Since January 1, he’s averaging 37.2 minutes per game. In that same span, Edey is playing 31.7 minutes per game.
Edey has played 37 minutes or more just once in that span, and twice all season — the other time was in an overtime game. Meanwhile, IU’s game at Michigan State saw Jackson-Davis play fewer than 37 minutes for the first time in six games.
Woodson just hasn’t had a lot of windows available to give Jackson-Davis a lengthy breather, as IU’s been locked in a lot of close games, and the senior is his most reliable player. And given the tough matchup ahead on Saturday, it could be more of the same.
IU will need Jackson-Davis on the court as much as possible to have any real chance in this game, because of his impact on both ends. Edey is a tough assignment for anyone, but IU won’t want to tempt fate and have anyone other than Jackson-Davis on him for an extended period.
“It’s hard when he’s out there because he’s huge. He’s a defensive focal point,” Jackson-Davis said. “But just having that motor running like he does and just being able to go over both shoulders at 7-4 is a really tough cover. Props to him, because he’s done a great job with his body coming into this year.”
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