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Friday, April 19
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Trayce Jackson-Davis bounces back with career night against Minnesota

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In his postgame press conference after IU men’s basketball lost to Michigan on Sunday, head coach Archie Miller said he needed his star freshman forward at his best on the road. Trayce Jackson-Davis leads IU in points, rebounds, free throws made, free throws attempted and blocks. 

Yet at the Crisler Center on Sunday he only took three shots and scored five points. Michigan’s defense took him out of the game, and IU’s offense notably lacked dynamic. 

It’s a big task to ask a freshman to carry the team as the season grows late and the NCAA Tournament is in reach. But that’s exactly what Jackson-Davis did Wednesday night. 

“Like I told him after we got done with Michigan, you can’t be the best player on every given night, and on any given night you don’t feel like traveling with us,” Miller said. “You’re gonna have to travel with us to Minnesota.” 

Jackson-Davis had the best game of his IU career against Minnesota. The freshman forward scored 27 points with 16 rebounds, both career highs. 

“I had six quick ones and then I really just let the game come to me,” Jackson-Davis said after the win over Minnesota on Wednesday. “Really just energized, my teammates really hyped me up. In practice, put a big emphasis on pounding the ball inside and I think we did that really well.” 

And his success came on the road in an arena where IU has notoriously struggled. IU’s offense was far from perfect, but Jackson-Davis lifted IU past that to its best road win of the season. The fifth Quadrant 1 win is another step closer to the NCAA Tournament. 

Jackson-Davis overcame the difficulties his teammates had rebounding, accounting for 41% of IU’s rebounds. Jackson-Davis defended star Minnesota sophomore forward Daniel Oturu, holding him to 5-15 shooting. 

Jackson-Davis had IU’s first six points to keep the team afloat during the only stretch of the game when Minnesota made shots at a high rate. Miller said his focus was to get Jackson-Davis going early to get him past his struggles against Michigan. 

“He’s so important to our team,” Miller said. “He responded with a great performance.” 

In the second half, Jackson-Davis was even better. He threw down a posterizing dunk and carried his team back from a deficit to control the game. Of his 27 points, 17 came in the second half. 

Miller’s game plan created a slower pace and more half-court sets. By taking away the transition game, IU set up more plays for Jackson-Davis. 

“Being able to control it more and get him more touches was big,” Miller said. “But he had to do his part too.”

When Jackson-Davis’ teammates can’t feed him the ball, there’s no go-to guy. But when he takes over the game, Jackson-Davis shows how much he affects his team’s success. After a quiet game against Michigan, IU’s best player was just that against Minnesota. His team needed him to be. 

Now Jackson-Davis leads all Big Ten freshmen in points per game and free throws made.  He’s second overall in the conference in field goal percentage, has the most blocks among Big Ten freshmen and the second most rebounds. 

Take those numbers, add the eight double-doubles and the four Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards, and it's quite clear why he’s at the top of any Big Ten Freshman of the Year conversations. 

Yet Miller still doesn’t think he’s getting the necessary attention. 

“He doesn’t get enough credit nationally,” Miller said. “He’s been a bright spot for us all season. I think he’s the freshman of the year in the league. He’s my guy.”

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