Freshman forward Jordan Geronimo had been down on himself the last few weeks. He hadn’t scored in four games. So sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis said the team emphasized getting his confidence back up in practice.
In just 10 minutes of play against No. 4 Iowa on Thursday, Geronimo scored seven points, grabbed a rebound and dished out an assist. But his most important contribution was guarding Luke Garza — the 2020 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Player of the Year.
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“He came in after practice these few days and was really amped up and ready to play,” Jackson-Davis said. “He did a really, really good job guarding one of the best players in the country.”
Geronimo’s confidence and effort on the defensive end helped lead IU to an 81-69 upset over No. 4 Iowa.
Since IU’s game against Michigan State was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns within the Spartans’ program, the team had an entire week off the prepare. That gave Geronimo even more time to work on his confidence.
“It’s tough in this league to bounce back,” IU head coach Archie Miller said. “It became apparent that if we don’t draw a line in the sand for ourselves and start to expect a little bit better from certain guys, not in the game but what we’re doing every day, we’re not going to be able to get to where we want to.”
Hoosier forwards Jackson-Davis and junior Race Thompson got into foul trouble early in the game. It presented a problem — who was going to guard the 6-foot 9-inch All-American? The answer was Geronimo.
He pestered Garza on the defensive end of the floor, making him work for shots that are typically easy for the center. Geronimo helped hold Garza to shooting just 10-22 from the field. And he did it all in only his 10th game as a Hoosier.
“I thought Jordan Geronimo, best game he’s played as an Indiana player,” Miller said. “I mean his contribution tonight was awesome in terms of how he brought energy and how physical he was.”
Not only was Geronimo locked in on defense, but he was explosive on the offensive end of the floor, too. His defense translated to offense.
Geronimo drove to the rim for a layup to tie the game at 55 at the 7:55 mark. It was a play that helped the Hoosiers toward a signature win — something they were unable to do in their loss to Purdue last week.
Three minutes later, the Hawkeyes switched up to man defense, so they set a ball screen on Garza to drag him away from Geronimo. Sophomore guard Armaan Franklin recognized the open Geronimo and dished it to the freshman for a huge dunk to put IU up 62-55.
“I think it just goes to show when your attitude is right, you’re preparing the right way, you won’t get in the game and worry a whole lot. You’ll just do what you do,” Miller said.
Since the Hoosiers struggled to hit free throws again — shooting just 21-35 from the line against Iowa — it came down to their defense to pull away.
That’s what they did. Geronimo helped IU hold Iowa to an 11-minute field goal scoring drought in the second half. During that time, the Hoosiers outscored the Hawkeyes 29-10.
“Maybe it was the luck of the draw that we weren’t able to play a game this weekend,” Miller said. “But it gave us some extra time to address some things, work on some things, and I thought that showed tonight. We played hard. We had a lot of guys contribute from a defensive standpoint.”
And in just 10 minutes, Geronimo was able to establish himself as a huge contributor.