Trayce Jackson-Davis played Batman in the 85-49 win over Northern Illinois on Friday. Race Thompson played Robin.
Together the duo has quickly become one of the most feared frontcourts in the Big Ten and have provided an elite interior defense for the Hoosiers. The two combined for eight blocks but it was Jackson-Davis doing the brunt of the work.
The Greenwood, Ind. native flew, soared, and leaped to deny defenders seven times. Including a violent meeting at the rim when a bold Keshawn Williams attempted to poster the IU big man. Jackson-Davis shook his head at Williams indicating that Williams should not step foot inside the paint again.
The IU record for blocks in a game is 10. It was set by Steve Downing against Michigan in 1971. Jackson-Davis ended the half with six and seemed to have a shot at breaking the record until he was benched with the game out of reach.
His seven blocks are good enough for the fourth-most in program history. It was also the same number of field goals that Northern Illinois had with under twelve minutes left in the game.
“Race and Trayce have a lot to do with that,” Head coach Mike Woodson said of Indiana’s strong interior defense on the night. “They’re just being active and we’re gonna need that.”
On the offensive end, Thompson was overshadowed by his teammate, per usual, but had a solid game nonetheless. He provided 12 points and 10 rebounds. For the redshirt senior, it was his fourth career double-double and his seventh double-figure rebound game. Thompson has reached double-digit rebounds in both games this season.
The Plymouth, Minn. native has consistently shown improvement in his career. Thompson’s sophomore season he only averaged 3.9 points per game. He broke out last season as gained a starting role. His points per game average increased to 8.9.
He has also worked on his three-point shot and nailed one for the Hoosiers first from long range of the game.
On the other hand, the consensus preseason All-American showcased his dominance by scoring 19 points and grabbing seven boards in 26 minutes of play. Whatever Jackson-Davis wanted, he got. From his signature left hand hook shot in the lane to a beautiful spin move in the post while using his strength to convert the traditional three-point play.
The 2020 first-team All-Big Ten forward has always been a dominant scorer but when he declared his intentions of returning, head coach Mike Woodson urged him to lock-in and take his game to the next level.
“I mean, he’s improved a lot. He really has,” Woodson said. “And a lot of it is when you’re coaching young players, they think that they play hard. And I’ve always thought this, there’s always another level that a player can get to. And from a coaching standpoint that’s what we’re trying to push these guys to continue to play at a high level and play harder.”
And to start the season, Jackson-Davis has done just that. He worked on his conditioning all summer so that he can make those hustle plays. It was on display as he bolted from the weak side multiple times and jumped above the rim for his blocks.
He followed it up by helping Rob Phinisee suffocate a defender with a trap near the sideline while up 21-points. The pressure eventually led to a steal and layup by Xavier Johnson.
“It’s like he’s always that kind of guy that wants to prove that, prove to people that he’s the player that he is,” said forward Jordan Geronimo after the game.
“We all know the kind of player he is. He’s always out there working and working hard. And it shows on the court.
His intensity is just another way that he leads by example. It is also why he was named a captain for the team along with his front-court partner, Thompson.
“He’s our leader, too. Him and Race are our captains. He knows what to do. If he brings it every day we’re all going to bring it,” Trey Galloway said of the big man.
“And I think that’s one thing he’s focused this year is really bringing it every day in practice not just the games but in practice too. I think that’s helped him out a lot and it showed tonight.”