Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: Indiana men’s basketball’s bench steps up after Jackson-Davis starts slow

<p>IU men&#x27;s basketball coach Mike Woodson paces the court Dec. 4, 2021, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. IU beat Nebraska 68-55  Saturday in its first Big Ten matchup of the season.</p>

IU men's basketball coach Mike Woodson paces the court Dec. 4, 2021, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. IU beat Nebraska 68-55 Saturday in its first Big Ten matchup of the season.

Teams may have finally figured out how to guard junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis.

Nebraska did a wonderful job containing the All-American, leaving him with 14 points, lower than his 21-point average on the season. It was scary to see Jackson-Davis being held to only 4 points in the first half, knowing he is the leading performer for Indiana’s early success this season.

Indiana cannot solely depend on him to produce scoring opportunities because like it or not, teams will know how to shut him down completely and force someone else to step up to the plate. 

Indiana’s starting lineup was struggling with focus and aggressiveness as it created 11 turnovers in the first half, most of them from traveling violations. The starting backcourt for Indiana was antsy with the ball, shooting 0-of-9 from the field in the first half. 

With his NBA background, head coach Mike Woodson can switch up lineups to find a hot hand to produce off the bench. 

When Woodson called on Indiana’s bench, it started to show its abilities to get the offense going. Woodson’s decision to switch the line was understandable and ended up paying off with sophomore guard Anthony Leal hitting a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer to start a 17-4 run before the final timeout call of the first half. The Hoosiers entered the half with a 26-22 lead.

Freshman guard Tamar Bates rose to the occasion as the main spark for Indiana coming off the bench. Bates poured in 13 points, shooting 4-of-9 from the field and 3-of-7 beyond the arc, which all came in 24 minutes of gameplay. 

While the starting unit got off to a slow start, it came alive in the second half. 

Senior forward Race Thompson, who has been one of the most hard-working players for the Hoosiers this season, was a dominating presence in the game Saturday, scoring 11 both points and pulling down rebounds to close out the Cornhuskers. 

More and more every game, Thompson has done nothing but carry his weight, showing why he should be known as one of the best big men in the conference. If he can carry on with his aggressive momentum, he will be a force to be reckoned with come tourney time and a good option if Jackson-Davis has a slow scoring night. 

Senior guard Xavier Johnson, again, dealt with foul trouble in the first seven minutes, causing the Hoosiers to trail 14-4 against the Cornhuskers. 

Johnson has to do a better job of settling down on the defensive end of the floor to help Indiana win basketball games. He would be such a dominant defender if he knew how to relax and move his feet without fouling, taking pressure off Jackson-Davis down low. 

Despite the amount of mistakes made in the first half of the game, I was impressed with how the Hoosiers closed out Nebraska to keep the home team afloat. 

What I will say is the offensive intensity shown by the starting five against Syracuse University was not the same against Nebraska. You cannot expect to win a game with your starting line producing nothing to the offense — March Madness contender teams will pick them apart.

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