Both of Indiana’s seniors have had big games in the last week.
Guard Devonte Green thrilled the home crowd with a seven three-pointer fueled 27 point outburst off the bench on Thursday night against Iowa.
Three days later, forward De’Ron Davis scored a career high 18 points against Michigan as he tied the Indiana single game field goal percentage record with a 9-for-9 shooting performance.
Are the Hoosier elder statesmen about to lead IU on a run to close out their careers, or are the enigmatic seniors just doing what they’ve done so many times before?
Truth be told, Green and Davis’ time at IU is best defined by such moments rather than any measure of consistency.
And now the pair has just a few more moments left to redefine their legacies.
The buzz surrounding Green hit high gear before his sophomore season when he totaled 22 points, seven assists, and six rebounds in an exhibition contest against Marian.
Green nearly had as many turnovers (5) as points (10) in the first two regular season games of that sophomore campaign, and the buzz died down considerably. Perhaps it was just an exhibition game fluke?
And then in a way that it seems like only Green can, the 6-foot-3 guard burst onto the national scene. Green made four first half three-pointers against Seton Hall, and even managed to steal the ball with one hand, while holding his own shoe in the other.
"Devonte Green picks Carrington's pocket! WITH A SHOE IN HIS HAND!" – Gus Johnson pic.twitter.com/jxkjDPwpbC
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) November 16, 2017
Green would only score two second half points in that game against Seton Hall until he added a meaningless layup in the final seconds. The questions on that night remain today. Why is he so inconsistent? Why doesn’t he tie his shoes tighter?
Davis has never had the flare for the dramatic quite like his senior running mate, but there have been moments throughout his career that left you believing big things were coming.
There was his 12 points in 18 minute performance against Wisconsin as a true freshman, and a 7-of-7 performance from the field against Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament that same season.
Davis was averaging 11.5 points per game as a sophomore through the first 10 games before his body started to break down. Davis played a critical role in helping IU stay close to No. 1 Duke during that stretch with 17 points against the Blue Devils.
He would average less than 6 points per contest over the next five games before a torn Achilles ended his second season.
The 6-foot-10 Davis was never 100 percent during his junior season but did manage to sporadically hit double figures on five occasions including a memorable 12 point effort at Michigan State that included the game clinching free throws.
And then after not scoring more than six points in any game during this 2019-20 season, seemingly out of nowhere Davis has his record tying game at Michigan.
Davis said on Monday night that he is 100 percent healthy right now, and his head coach sees a player who has been adding value in more ways than just scoring down the stretch.
“De’Ron was good on Sunday (at Michigan), but I thought he played really well against Iowa as well,” head coach Archie Miller said on Monday night on his radio show. “I think he’s been doing a pretty good job here for our team especially defensively.”
The ebbs and flows of Green’s career have been much more dramatic.
There was a 20 point game at Ohio State during his sophomore season immediately after playing just four minutes and going scoreless against Purdue. There was a 19 point game against Minnesota immediately followed by 3, 18, and 4 point performances.
After a 15 point performance to open his junior campaign, Green would score six or less over IU’s next six games before a 19-point effort on six three-pointers against Central Arkansas.
The roller coaster ride continued, and then something seemed to click, finally, at the very end of Green’s junior season.
The Long Island product scored 15.4 points per game over the last seven contests, including a 26 point outburst against Ohio State at the Big Ten Tournament. Green was in double figures in each game, and shot better than 50 percent from three point range in the final seven contests of the 2018-19 season.
“I think I just relaxed and played the basketball that I know how to play,” Green told me at the Big Ten’s media day of his impressive close to the season.
Relaxing. Confidence. The mental side of the game has always played a role in Green’s inconsistency, and he hasn’t been shy about sharing that fact.
The erratic play has followed Green to his senior season, with extremes that have been difficult to process. He scored 30 points against Florida State and then followed that with 32 points over his next four games combined.
An 0-of-6 and particularly uninspiring night against Northwestern saw Green get relegated to a reserve role for the next game against Ohio State, and he of course responded with a 19 point day to lead the team.
Most recently, Green produced that seemingly out-of-nowhere 27 point night against Iowa — a game that he both preceded and followed with three point efforts.
Some of Green’s biggest games have been Indiana’s biggest wins, and Miller knows that to some extent, as his senior guard goes, so goes his team.
“Devonte is a huge part of our big wins,” Miller said. “He really is. And he’s going to be a huge part of the big wins that continue to come. He’s the one guy on our team that everyone knows when he gets it going is a difference maker for us.”
With just six games remaining in the regular season, now the key will be for Green to play at a high level for a prolonged stretch like he did last year to close out the season.
“We gotta get Devonte maybe being a little bit more consistent,” Miller said. “He’s got a couple more (big games) in his back pocket.”
While more consistent play would help change the perception fans have of Green and Davis’ Indiana careers, it might also help the pair avoid the label of being the first IU senior class in nearly 50 years to have never played in an NCAA Tournament.
Both players are well aware of their potential unfavorable place in the history of the program. But as of now the story is yet to be written.
Their head coach hopes that they see things not for how they might be perceived from the outside, but instead as an opportunity.
In Miller’s estimation, if Green and Davis can produce a strong finish it could have a lasting impact in their own lives.
Green is a career 39 percent three-point shooter and Davis has converted at a 55 percent rate from the field over his time at IU. Both have the talent to make one last run.
But they have to want it.
“The hope for a coach is, as much as you want it for them they want it for themselves, Miller said.
“You look at those guys and you think if they could just realize breakthrough moments, playing long into March, they’ll remember that a lot longer than any of these individual games. That will be the best thing that they had in their experience here.”
The clock is ticking down to the final seconds on the careers of seniors Devonte Green and De’Ron Davis.
And perhaps the only thing that is reasonable to expect at this point — is the unexpected.
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