There has been one surefire way for Indiana to dominate its opponents in November — control the paint and glass. That’s exactly what Indiana did as the Hoosiers stayed perfect on the 2019-20 campaign.
Freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis had 19 points and 14 rebounds for his fourth double-double in the last six games to lead Indiana past South Dakota State, 64-50 on Saturday afternoon.
Junior forward Justin Smith added 18 points and eight rebounds as the Hoosiers completed a November sweep and improved to 7-0 on the season.
Jackson-Davis is nearly averaging a double-double on the season with 15.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game on the young season.
His head coach sees an elite athlete that is getting to balls that others simply cannot.
“He’s a spring off the boards in terms of being able to go get the ball,” Archie Miller said after the game. “He’s getting balls that other guys can’t get. So that’s, obviously, a gift that he brings to the table. But he continues to do that for us, which is important.”
Smith is tied with Joey Brunk for second on the team with 5.1 rebounds per game, and he grabbed five on the offensive end alone on Saturday.
Overall the Hoosiers held a 45-29 advantage on the glass against SDSU, which follows a season long trend of hefty rebounding margins.
Thus far IU is pulling down 12 more rebounds per contest than its opponents, which puts the Hoosiers in the top ten nationally.
“Rebounding the ball is a huge deal for this team,” Miller said.
Having reliable rebounders on the interior will be crucial for Indiana as the schedule gets more difficult in December in terms of both getting and limiting second chance opportunities.
How well IU rebounds against bigger, more athletic teams remains to be seen, but at least in the case of Jackson-Davis, both his coach and teammates see raw ability that will continue to make a big impact.
Senior guard Devonte Green attributes a lot of Jackson-Davis’s success at a young age to his mentality when he takes the court.
“I think it’s just mentality, keeping that aggressive mentality on the boards and around the paint,” Green said. “Also I mean, he’s such a good athlete that it’s, he has that advantage of getting boards over guys.”
When asked whether Jackson-Davis has improved since the summer when it comes to rebounding the basketball, Green said no.
“I won’t say much of an improvement,” Green said. “He has always been a good rebounder. I wouldn’t say it was much of an improvement, but that’s what he does.”
Translation — expect a lot more of this.
Combined, Jackson-Davis and Smith had 14 of IU’s 16 offensive rebounds against the Jackrabbits.
Getting Smith to be a more consistent and aggressive rebounder was a point emphasis coming into the season for Miller, and the third year head coach was pleased on this night.
“Justin was good on the offensive glass with his effort.”
Finishing in the paint is another area in which Smith has shown improvement this year. Part of that improvement is due to the work he put in over the summer trying to find ways to finish over smaller defenders.
With his ability to guard perimeter oriented players, Smith has the ability to create mismatches when IU has the ball.
“If the guy who is guarding me is a smaller defender then I feel that I can use my strength to kind of get, use my body to get that quick hook shot over them. So it’s definitely something I worked on over the summer and I’ll continue to utilize during the season,” Smith said.
Smith is IU’s second leading scorer (behind Jackson-Davis) with 14.3 points per game. That’s more than six points per game better than his production last year, and the Illinois native is getting it done with offensive efficiency.
After shooting 49.6% from the field overall and 21.9% from three-point range last season, Smith has bumped those measures up to 57.9% and 33.3% this season.
Next we’ll get to find out how much staying power these early performances by Jackson-Davis and Smith have.
Of course no one is more aware than Miller that from here on out the Hoosiers will be facing bigger, more talented and more athletic teams than what they’ve seen thus far.
That all starts on Tuesday when IU hosts Florida State in connection with the Big Ten / ACC Challenge.
“From this point forward things get a lot more difficult for us and it starts on Tuesday, and our preparation for Florida State will begin now, and it should be a great opportunity to play against a terrific ACC team, Miller said.
“Depth and size at the highest level.”
The Hoosiers appear to have a forward duo ready to take on that challenge.
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