WASHINGTON, D.C. — In March, everyone is forced to grow up. For the freshmen, growing up is especially important.
Playing in their first college postseason basketball game, the men’s basketball freshmen weren’t fazed at all.
Freshman forward De’Ron Davis and guards Devonte Green and Curtis Jones combined for 31 points off the bench and played a large role in IU’s 95-73 victory against Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday night.
“We bring a lot to the table as a class and a lot to this team,” Green said. “I’ve definitely grown. It’s been a long year. I’ve learned a lot over the whole season.”
Davis set the tone for the freshmen against the Hawkeyes. The 6-foot-10 forward checked in with 15:08 to play in the first half. Ninety-nine seconds later he was 3-of-3 from the field with a steal and seven points.
Davis attributed his success to being aggressive from the start and playing low to the ground, per IU Coach Tom Crean’s suggestion.
“Me and coach Crean had countless talks about me being low,” Davis said. “That obviously works for me. Just being active on the defensive end. Defense really works for us. Being active on the defensive end leads to easy buckets on the offensive end.”
He didn’t miss a shot the entire night, going 7-of-7 from the field and scoring a career-high 15 in 14 minutes of play. Davis has shown glimpses of how effective he can be when staying out of foul trouble, and the freshman did tonight by only picking up three against Iowa.
Green and Jones logged big minutes Thursday night for IU off the bench because of early foul trouble from junior guard Josh Newkirk.
Newkirk picked up two fouls in the first 3:30 and sat for the remainder of the half. The freshman guard duo effectively ran the offense alongside junior guards Robert Johnson and James Blackmon Jr. while they were on the floor.
Green finished with 10 points and five rebounds while Jones added six points, but the biggest takeaway from their play is the two combined for just one turnover.
Jones has had an up-and-down year, from the first game of the season against Kansas when his 15 points led the Hoosiers past the Jayhawks to the last game of the season when he didn’t see the court against Ohio State.
There was a stretch in the Big Ten season when he didn’t score a point in four consecutive games, and Crean said Jones has earned his playing time and felt bad for not getting him in against the Buckeyes in the season finale.
“I thought Curtis went in and did a very good job,” Crean said. “I’m not surprised. He’s worked extremely hard. Again, he’s a great example of our program, what happens year after year. The young guys continue to get better and better. He’s a part of that, as is Devonte and De’Ron.”
Because the freshmen have played a full season of college basketball, they know their role and what they need to do in order for IU to succeed. Sophomore center Thomas Bryant said he feels like this team doesn’t skip a beat when the young guys are on the floor and knows that they can be counted on .
“Those freshmen came in and helped us a lot,” Bryant said. “Just knocking down shots, playing defense, whatever it was, they went out there and did it. It’s real good when you have other guys that can come in or have been in and can just count on them to go out there and execute for you.”
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