Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: Indiana men’s basketball is deeply flawed, but it does have Trayce Jackson-Davis

<p>Indiana men&#x27;s basketball junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis drives to the basket Dec. 12, 2021, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers defeated Xavier 81-79 in Cincinnati on Friday.</p>

Indiana men's basketball junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis drives to the basket Dec. 12, 2021, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers defeated Xavier 81-79 in Cincinnati on Friday.

CINCINNATI — Warning: in-depth college basketball analysis incoming. Casual fans, you may want to sit this one out. 

All gone? Good. Here we go. 

This Trayce Jackson-Davis guy is pretty good at basketball, huh?  

Indiana men’s basketball’s star senior forward logged 30 points and six rebounds in an 81-79 victory against Xavier University on Friday night, propelling the Hoosiers to 3-0 after their first true test of the season. 

This was one of the messier games you’ll watch all season, complete with two technical fouls and multiple instances of players diving to the court for loose balls. Amid the chaos and confusion, it was the Hoosiers’ upperclassmen who made the difference. 

Indiana started sloppier than a piping-hot bowl of Skyline chili — fouls, missed layups, turnovers, a bizarre yet crucial sprinkling of cinnamon for some reason — appearing completely lost in its first road matchup.  

With a talented roster, an experienced head coach in Sean Miller and a student section that nearly rivaled Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall with spite and overall pastiness, Xavier had plenty of wind at its back. 

That showed in the first half, during which the Hoosier offense looked totally discombobulated at times while the Musketeers shot 50% from beyond the arc. Indiana only trailed by two at halftime with a 40-38 score but offered fewer signs of optimism than it did questions. 

Was the Hoosiers’ hot start to the season nothing but a mirage? Were their freshmen completely unprepared for a road test? Was I going to have to pay $20 for a hot dog and some Dippin’ Dots because I was too directionally challenged to find the media food before tip-off? 

The Hoosiers steadily began providing answers in the second half thanks to a dunk by graduate student forward Race Thompson and a layup by Johnson. Still, any momentum Indiana built was short-lived. The Musketeers continued to find open shots and made scoring a brutally difficult task for the Hoosiers.  

Except for Johnson and Jackson-Davis, that is. 

With 12 minutes left in the game, Jackson-Davis drained a tough hook shot to bring his scoring total to 23 and put the Hoosiers up 57-53. Behind me, a Xavier fan let out an exasperated, “God damn it.” 

This happened at least once more throughout the evening. 

When it seemed Xavier had nullified all of Indiana’s scoring threats, Jackson-Davis would bully his way into the paint for an acrobatic layup. Otherwise, Johnson would glide through the lane and do the same.  

The frustration in the arena was palpable, be it with the referees or painful missed shots. With just over two minutes left and Indiana leading 78-72, chants of “Let’s go Hoosiers,” started raining down. Those chants were instantly met with an avalanche of boos from the home crowd. It felt like the Cintas Center could split in half at any moment.  

All that angst and vitriol between supporters of a red team and a blue team? It was as if Thanksgiving dinner came a week early.  

When Indiana freshman forward Malik Reneau disrupted a Xavier inbounds pass with two seconds remaining to secure victory for the Hoosiers, the tension mercifully broke. 

A fraction of the arena erupted in joy while the remainder began quietly shuffling out. The mustachioed Xavier Musketeer hung his head while his companion, a Lovecraftian horror of a mascot known as the Blue Blob, sauntered off the court, no doubt beginning its journey to the darkest corners of my nightmares later tonight.  

Left standing elated on the hardwood were Jackson-Davis and Johnson, the latter still holding the tipped inbound pass in a vice grip. The seasoned veterans had weathered all the fouls, momentum swings and dives to the hardwood, combining for 65% of their team’s points along the way. 

Sometimes, that blend of experience and composure is what it takes to overcome life’s hardest obstacles. 

Just trust me. I am 22, after all. 

Follow reporters Evan Gerike (@EvanGerike) and Emma Pawlitz (@emmapawlitz) and columnist Bradley Hohulin (@BradleyHohulin) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season.

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