WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis scored his first field goal less than three minutes into the game against Purdue on Thursday. His second basket didn't come until over 37 minutes later.
Coming into the game, Jackson-Davis led IU in overall points, rebounds, blocks, field goal percentage, free throws attempted and free throws made. On most nights, he’s IU’s best and most reliable player. But in the 57-49 road loss to Purdue, Jackson-Davis and the rest of IU’s frontcourt struggled throughout.
“At some point in time, do you really think it’s that easy, to throw it inside on them?” IU head coach Archie Miller asked.
Jackson-Davis was double-teamed early and often when he tried to establish himself offensively. He missed five shots, and some didn’t come close to the rim due to Purdue forcing him to take mostly contested attempts. Purdue swarmed him each time he touched the ball in the post.
“They trapped the post every single time he’d catch the ball,” Miller said. “They’re physical around the basket when you do catch the ball. Everything around the basket, even our uncontested ones, were rushed. They made it hard on us.”
Purdue sophomore forward Trevion Williams was a primary factor in the defensive play against Jackson-Davis and the rest of IU’s frontcourt. Junior center Joey Brunk and junior forward Justin Smith combined to shoot 4-16 from the field.
Smith settled for jump shots because Purdue didn’t allow him to find driving lanes, while Brunk couldn’t capitalize on post up opportunities.
“I thought those guys defended really well in particular in the paint, made it very, very difficult for us around the rim,” Miller said. “Post doubles continued to sort of take our big guys out of the game.”
The guard’s inability to score also played a part in the frontcourt struggles. Sophomore guard Rob Phinisee and senior guard Devonte Green hit shots, but toward the end of the second half.
Green was 3-15 from the field and was the only IU player to score in double-digits, with his 11 points. When the guards weren’t making jump shots, it gave the post players less space to operate.
Phinisee and sophomore forward Race Thompson tried to bring IU back, but Purdue did enough late to hold on.
“The guards, we have to do a better job of getting open,” Phinisee said. “Once we get open it’s easier to break it down since they’re trapping.”
Outside of the wins against Nebraska and Minnesota, IU’s frontcourt hasn’t found success often away from the confines of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The game against Purdue on Thursday was just another example of how IU’s offense can look when its interior fails to live up to how it performs in Bloomington.