Indiana men’s basketball took down the University of Wyoming 66-58 in its First Four matchup Tuesday night at UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio. With the win, Indiana moves on to face Saint Mary’s College in the Round of 64 Thursday night in Portland, Oregon.
After six straight years of missing the NCAA Tournament, Indiana won its first NCAA Tournament game under first-year head coach Mike Woodson. Woodson said Wyoming did a great job and pushed his team, but he said his team responded.
“Great effort on everybody's part,” Woodson said. “Our defense was really the key when we were struggling offensively to make shots. We just kept grinding.”
Junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis dominated, and his 29 points tied the Indiana record for most points in an NCAA Tournament debut. He finished 10-16 from the field, pulled down nine rebounds and blocked a shot.
Jackson-Davis anchored Indiana’s defense, which forced 19 turnovers and held Wyoming to shooting just 43% from the field. He scored 20 of Indiana’s 46 points in the paint, where it went to counteract its poor 3-point shooting. Indiana finished just 2-13 from 3-point range.
Hoosier fans traveled well to Dayton and created a home-like atmosphere for Indiana. Jackson-Davis said the environment was surreal and that he was glad to play in front of the home fans one more time.
“This environment, even just for the First Four game, it was a surreal environment,” Jackson-Davis said. “I've always dreamed about playing in this tournament and finally being able to live out that dream and just performing at the highest level. I'm truly grateful.”
While Jackson-Davis starred, sophomore Jordan Geronimo served as his right-hand man and scored a career-high 15 points off the bench, including three put-back dunks. When senior forward Race Thompson — who shot just 2-9 from the field — picked up his third foul in the second half, Geronimo came in and energized the Hoosiers.
Geronimo pulled down seven rebounds as well, including three of Indiana’s 15 on the offensive glass. Wyoming coach Jeff Linder gave Indiana credit for its effort on the boards and pointed to those extra possessions, as well as the 19 turnovers his team gave up, as game changers.
Geronimo and Jackson-Davis combined for 26 of Indiana’s 36 second-half points, and the Hoosiers outscored the Cowboys by 7 points when Geronimo was on the floor. Geronimo returned Tuesday night after missing Indiana’s last game in the Big Ten Tournament with a leg injury.
“Even throughout the Big Ten Tournament, I think Geronimo has been a key to our run. So I wasn't surprised at all,” Jackson-Davis said. “I'm happy for him because he's performing at a really, really high level for us, and without him, we probably would have lost that game.”
The key to Indiana’s defense was taking out Wyoming’s key scorers, senior guard Hunter Maldonado and sophomore forward Graham Ike, which it did especially well in the first half. While Maldonado scored 8 points in the first half on 4-8 shooting, Indiana forced him to turn the ball over seven times in the first half and 10 times total.
Ike came alive in the second half after struggling in the first half, shooting 6-8 from the field after the halftime break following a 3-point effort in the first half. Ike and Maldonado scored 14 and 13 points in the second half, respectively, but they tacked on five more turnovers in the second half.
“I tried to force it a little more than I probably should have, especially knowing that if I did slow down, we were basically scoring almost every time,” Maldonado said.
The duo finished with 38 of Wyoming’s 58 points, but they also accounted for 15 of the team’s 19 turnovers. Outside of Maldonado and Ike, Wyoming shot just 5-16 from the field and didn’t account for a single assist.
Indiana will have less than two days to prepare for its next matchup against Saint Mary’s in the round of 64. After finishing its game against Wyoming at around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, its game against Saint Mary’s is set for a 7:20 p.m. tip off on Thursday night.
Saint Mary’s finished with 25-7 to earn a No. 5 seed, and it lost in the West Coast Conference Tournament final to No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga after beating it earlier in the season. Woodson said Indiana game-planned ahead of time for Saint Mary’s in case his team won and feels like it’s ready to go.
“Can't run from it,” Woodson said. “Saint Mary's is a great program. They've had a hell of a year. And we've got to go down and break this game tape tonight and learn from it and then get ready for Saint Mary's.”