Behind a strong first half from senior forward Race Thompson and a resounding second half from senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, No. 4-seeded Indiana men’s basketball cruised to a 71-60 win over Kent State University on Friday at MVP Arena in Albany, New York.
“We knew going in that we were a little bit bigger than Kent State,” Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said in a postgame press conference. “The game plan offensively was to go inside. That’s where we’ve been pretty good all season.”
Thompson finished the night with 20 points, including 13 in the first half, while Jackson-Davis picked up the slack in the second half with several highlight-reel plays. He finished the night with 24 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and five blocks.
Indiana minimized mistakes throughout the night, turning the ball over just seven times, and shot 47% from the field. Kent State shot 32% from the floor.
“We challenged almost every 3-pointer they shot,” Jackson-Davis said. “They hit some tough shots, and sometimes that’s going to happen, especially in March. But overall I thought our defensiveness and our connectedness as a group was really good tonight.”
In the first 20 minutes, Indiana had just one jam preventing it from a rather clean half. Indiana’s defense was stout, holding Kent State to just 26% shooting from the field, but its rebounding was subpar.
The Hoosiers struggled to box out a smaller Golden Flashes team, allowing 10 offensive rebounds that turned into 9 second-chance points. For a majority of the half, the Golden Flashes' second chances were the only thing keeping them close to the Hoosiers until a late Indiana 6-0 run left the halftime score 35-27. The second half rebounding wasn’t perfect, as Indiana allowed nine offensive boards, but it limited Kent State to just 4 second-chance points.
“I know defense wins championships,” Woodson said. “I know if you commit yourself and you rebound the ball along the defensive end, you’ll put yourself in position to be in every game and have an opportunity to win.”
Outside of offensive rebounding troubles, Indiana turned in a sterling performance. Despite freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino spending seven minutes on the bench with foul trouble, Indiana held off a quick, guard-centric offense by keeping its own offense up-tempo.
The Hoosiers used pace to their advantage, scoring 16 fast break points.
Indiana will advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, taking on the University of Miami at 8:40 p.m. on Sunday at MVP Arena.
Follow reporters Evan Gerike (@EvanGerike) and Emma Pawlitz (@emmapawlitz), columnist Bradley Hohulin (@BradleyHohulin) and photographer Alex Paul (.@alexpaulphoto) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season.