Senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis entered No. 18 Indiana men’s basketball’s game with a multitude of program records within reach.
But one record that’s plagued him finally came to an end: An 0-6 career record against Rutgers.
On his way to 2,000 career points, 1,035 career rebounds and his 44th career double-double, all of which moved him up the program ranks, Jackson-Davis helped Indiana finally get over its Rutgers troubles, winning 66-60.
“(Rutgers is) a tough team and credit to them,” Jackson-Davis said after the game. “They will always bring it. The RAC is always the toughest place to play in that I've personally played in. They have a lot of pieces around them and just finally getting over that hump and like Coach (Mike) Woodson said, getting the monkey off your back, it's big for us.”
Jackson-Davis had a characteristically strong performance, scoring 20 points with 18 rebounds and six assists. His numbers moved him to sixth in program history in scoring, third in rebounding and fourth in double-doubles.
“This young man has done a lot since he's been here wearing this uniform,” Woodson said. “I couldn't be prouder of a player. He's a phenomenal player, beautiful to watch.”
The difference between Indiana’s early season 63-48 loss to Rutgers on Dec. 3 and Tuesday night’s victory came from Indiana’s role players.
With a narrow lead late in regulation, junior forward Trey Galloway fought through a scrum to tip back an offensive rebound, making the basket and a free throw to help Indiana close out the victory.
Despite scoring just 4 points, Galloway, who was scoreless in 31 minutes last game, was one of six Hoosiers to improve their scoring performance, including freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino, who didn’t play the last game with a back injury.
Senior forward Miller Kopp had his second-highest scoring performance of the season with 18 points, 3 points fewer than his 21 against Rutgers on Dec. 3. Kopp hit four 3-pointers, but both Jackson-Davis and Woodson were especially complimentary of his defensive effort.
“He was really, really locked in on the defensive end,” Jackson-Davis said. “When you're playing like that on both sides of the ball, a player like him, he really impacts the game at a high level.”
Although Indiana pushed its lead to double-digits four separate times throughout the night, Rutgers kept battling back to keep the game close, including tying the game immediately out of halftime. Indiana struggled to put the game away until Galloway’s layup, going eight minutes without a field goal, but it maintained the lead through free throws.
Indiana’s defense softened up as the first half wound down. Rutgers made three 3-pointers in under two minutes right before the half expired, paring down a 12-point lead to just 3 points. The Hoosiers, hindered by two turnovers during that time, struggled to create on offense.
Hood-Schifino tried to expand the lead at the break with a buzzer-beating 3-point attempt that rolled around the rim and out.
“We couldn't really get nothing going down the stretch from an offensive standpoint in terms of moving,” Woodson said. “We became stagnant, and somehow I've got to help us when we get in that rut. But our defense was solid, and we just kept grinding and grinding and we got stops when we needed.”
The Hoosiers have now won seven of their last eight games to improve their Big Ten record to 8-5, tied with Rutgers for second in the conference.
“They just believe now, and that's a big part of winning,” Woodson said. “When we lost those three in a row, we were all searching. Me being the head of the snake as the coach, I'm searching and I know what the hell was going on, what we weren't doing. Now we're back doing those things. That's what makes winning fun.”
Indiana’s next game is at 6 p.m. Saturday against Michigan at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.