This was one the Hoosiers had to have.
Indiana’s Monday night game against Maryland was one of the last games on the schedule against an opponent not ranked in the current Top 25.
And yet, in what many would consider a must-win game, Archie Miller’s team came out lifeless in the first half, unable to get anything going offensively. It was another slow start for this Hoosiers team, and when standout guard Armaan Franklin went down with an ankle injury, it seemed Indiana was in big trouble.
Then Trayce Jackson-Davis showed up.
Jackson-Davis, Indiana’s unquestioned go-to guy, brought new life to the team. He played with a purpose, manhandling Maryland’s athletic frontcourt in the second half, and snagging seemingly every rebound as he led the Hoosiers to a 63-55 victory at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
The star-sophomore finished with 22 points (9-of-18 from the field, 4-of-6 from the line) and 15 rebounds, absolutely taking over the second half after looking timid in the first. Jackson-Davis had just five points on 2-of-9 shooting before the break.
“Just keep shooting the ball, keep attacking the basket,” Jackson-Davis said about his second-half mentality. “After I saw a few drop…It really help me get into a rhythm.”
Once he got ready, Jackson-Davis was determined to let nothing stop him.
Late in the second half, in the middle of his best stretch of play, Jackson-Davis appeared to bang his knee. Miller sent Trey Galloway to the scorer’s table to check in for Jackson-Davis, clearly in pain. His response?
“I said ‘I’m good, don’t take me out,’” Jackson-Davis revealed postgame.
Jackson-Davis was flanked by his frontcourt running mate Race Thompson, who kept the Hoosiers in the game in the first half. Thompson seemed to be the only Hoosier to show up early, scoring nine of the team’s first 21 points.
Thompson also continued his rebounding prowess, grabbing 11 rebounds, including four on the offensive end. The Hoosiers dominated the glass, winning the rebound battle 43-33. That margin stood at just 20-19 in IU’s favor at halftime.
“The rebounding was huge,” Miller said. “When Trayce and Race rebound like that, offensively and defensively, we are a much better team.
Even Jerome Hunter, who has been far from a dominant rebounder this season, chipped in three rebounds and guarded down a position as a small forward with Armaan Franklin out with a rolled ankle. Despite some poor fouls on perimeter shooters and at times questionable shots, Hunter crashed the glass and fed the post as the Hoosiers out-scored Maryland in the paint, 36-24.
For Indiana, Jackson-Davis’ dominance and confidence is a welcome sight. He’s someone that hasn’t always forced the issue despite his immense talent. He often leaves fans scratching their heads. How can someone that big and that athletic at times struggle so much from close range?
Miller said that at times Jackson-Davis thinks too much and is concerned about double-teams. But his star doesn’t let a bad half become a bad game.
“At halftime, he responded, he looked at me and said ‘I’m ready to go.’ He has the ability to respond, because he cares a lot,” Miller said.
In the second half, Jackson-Davis showed why he is this Indiana team’s engine and why he will likely hear his name called on NBA draft night next year. It was a dazzling display of everything you want in a big man: running the floor with a high motor, using touch around the rim, gobbling up rebounds like they were slices of Pizza X.
Jackson-Davis is not a perfect player. He can go halves and even full games in which it seems as if he is just going through the motions relative to his potential. But when he revs that engine and flips the switch, it is awfully hard to keep him from completely taking over a game.
And in a must-win matchup Monday night, Maryland found that out the hard way.
“He has the ability to respond, because he cares a lot,” Miller said.
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