The formula for IU men’s basketball's offensive success seems to be a simple one: get the ball inside — preferably to freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis — and allow the bigs to go to work.
Coming out of the half against Nebraska on Saturday night, the Hoosiers showed a concerted effort of getting touches to their forwards, sparking a 16-2 run that barely got them over the finish line as IU defeated the Cornhuskers 82-74.
As Jackson-Davis and junior center Joey Brunk continually got touches in the opening minutes of the second half, IU quickly turned a five-point lead into 19.
“In the second half, I thought our big guys did a great job of commanding the ball,” IU head coach Archie Miller said.
While Brunk continued a strong run of performances with 16 points, Jackson-Davis for the first time in almost two weeks looked like the confident player who dominated earlier in the year as he recorded his sixth double-double of the season with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
During the first 10 minutes of the second half, Jackson-Davis adapted to the pressure Nebraska sent to the low-post. IU’s opponents have started to zero in on the freshman and send double teams whenever he catches the ball, and Jackson-Davis has struggled to adjust and produce at the level the Hoosiers need.
“It's tough, especially as a freshman, when you get scouted and it shows on the court,” senior guard Devonte Green said during Friday’s press conference. “I guess during real-time, I just tell him, ‘Don't force anything that's not there,’ and like, 'It will come to you.'”
Against Ohio State and Rutgers, the former McDonald’s All-American looked lost in the face of the double-teams, crippling IU’s offense.
Against the Cornhuskers, Jackson-Davis had a much better feel for the traps awaiting him than he has in the past. Jackson-Davis showed composure in the face of Nebraska’s pressure, spinning out of double teams and finishing around the basket.
Jackson-Davis’ poise also allowed him to be a facilitator for IU — something we hadn’t seen much this season — as he found open teammates on the perimeter, allowing IU to shoot more than 30% from three for only the second time in Big Ten play.
Jackson-Davis figuring out how to deal with the double-teams opponents have thrown at him recently will be important for the Hoosiers' success as they try keep pace with the top of the conference.
“Played as well as we probably have offensively on the road in a while,” Miller said. “Can’t put a price on a game in this league if you’re able to win it away from home.”
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