Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: Jackson-Davis struggles to create offensively in Indiana’s loss to No. 18 Illinois

<p>Sophomore guard Khristian Lander drives down court during the game against Illinois on Feb. 5, 2022, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Lander had 2 points in two minutes of playing time against Illinois.</p>

Sophomore guard Khristian Lander drives down court during the game against Illinois on Feb. 5, 2022, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Lander had 2 points in two minutes of playing time against Illinois.

It was a wonderful day to witness blockbuster basketball filled with high-level teams and competition. Indiana men’s basketball was set for another Big Ten conference matchup against No. 18 Illinois, looking to further its chances to make it to the NCAA March Madness tournament for the first time since 2016. 

This matchup was highly anticipated for Indiana, with Hoosier fans filling almost every seat in  Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall to see Indiana knock off another ranked team. The excitement and energy looked a lot like the turnout against Purdue, but without the outcome of a winning celebration. 

The momentum of Indiana men’s basketball started with early transition baskets, with senior guard Xavier Johnson effectively using on-ball screens to his advantage to create opportunities for himself and teammates. Johnson’s production was unmatched, but Illinois hung around and only trailed by two at halftime. 

However, Indiana’s defense was starting to become stout, as junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis caught two early fouls that would leave him scoreless. He played only four minutes in the second half and 23 minutes overall. Indiana was able to weather the storm without Jackson-Davis, instead relying on the help of senior center Michael Durr containing the huge body of Illinois’s junior center Kofi Cockburn. 

Related: [Indiana men’s basketball surrenders to No. 18 Illinois’ interior presence, firepower]

Durr held Cockburn to only five points in the first half, and Cockburn ended the first half shooting 2 for 7 from the field. The presence of Durr made up for Jackson-Davis’ absence until Durr started to have foul trouble of his own. 

Illinois started out with a renewed energy in the second half, attacking Indiana with limitless shooting from senior guard Trent Frazier, who led Illinois with 23 points to seal the deal. Cockburn approached the second half with a different gear, ending with 17 points and eight rebounds, ultimately showing why he is the best big man in the conference. 

Indiana’s bench struggled tremendously, while senior forward Race Thompson had to wear his “hard-hat,” doing everything he could to keep Indiana afloat. Thompson led Indiana with 13 points, six rebounds and two blocks. 

Jackson-Davis struggled to get anything going against Cockburn, making his weaknesses clear going into the postseason. Similarly to his performance against Purdue, Jackson-Davis was non-existent against Cockburn, which is what has become constant a problem for him going against bigger opponents. 

For Jackson-Davis to become more of a threat in his position, he has to constantly improve on putting his right hand to work a little more. There were times where Jackson-Davis could have used his right hand to confuse Cockburn, but Jackson-Davis shied away from it being unpredictable with every move he made. 

Related: [Second-half cold spell dooms Indiana men’s basketball at home against No. 18 Illinois]

Indiana’s production was effective in the first half, but the team still has moments where they cannot finish basketball games. To be an AP Top 25 college basketball team, you have to be able to do the small things on the floor to win basketball games and carry the same intensity throughout all 40 minutes. 

No matter how much success Indiana is having this season, it will all come down to Jackson-Davis performing better on his inside game and the bench to step up to further advance into NCAA March Madness conversation. 

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