After No. 14 Indiana saw its comeback bid fall just short at Northwestern on Wednesday, the Hoosiers will try to bounce back on Saturday when they face Illinois in Bloomington, Ind.
In the 64-62 loss to the Wildcats at Evanston, Ill., Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis logged 23 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and two blocked shots. In Big Ten games, he is averaging 21.9 points, a conference-best 13.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists and a league-high 3.2 blocked shots.
Now, Jackson-Davis turns his sights to Illinois. He dominated the Fighting Illini on Jan. 19 in Champaign, Ill., putting up a season-high 35 points plus nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks as Indiana cruised to an 80-65 win.
His all-around brilliance reminds Hoosiers coach Mike Woodson of former NBA All-Stars he coached.
“We put him in position to handle the ball,” Woodson said earlier this week. “I did this in the pros with guys like Al Horford, Josh Smith, Melo (Carmelo Anthony) that could rebound the ball and initiate your break offensively.
“That gives you early strikes that way. He’s really been good in that area.”
It’s hard to think of an area where Jackson-Davis hasn’t been really good. Not only is he productive in four categories, but he also is efficient, making 57.1 percent of his field-goal attempts.
Jackson-Davis also is durable, logging a team-high 33.6 minutes per game despite dealing with a nagging back injury. He gets his numbers while battling double teams and the occasional triple team.
“He’s learning how to do things on the floor,” Woodson said. “I’ve seen it with players over my career, man, in terms of they start at once place, then all of a sudden the light goes off and they end in a much better place for your ballclub. That’s where he is right now.”
Indiana (18-8, 9-6) enters the weekend in a three-way for third in the conference with Maryland and Iowa. It’s only a game behind second place Northwestern.
Meanwhile, Illinois (17-8, 8-6) continued its hard-to-explain, up-and-down season with a 93-81 loss Tuesday night at Penn State. Jalen Pickett racked up 41 points on just 20 shot attempts, hitting 5 of 9 3-point attempts as the Nittany Lions torched the Illini for 12 of 28 from beyond the arc.
“They are a team that leads the free world in threes,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said postgame of Penn State. “You can’t do what we’ve done. We just didn’t play hard. We had no bite tonight. You’re not going to win on the road when you do that.”
The defeat was the Illini’s second in three games after a 7-1 stretch.
The outcome wasted a pretty good offensive performance by the Illini, who put five players in double figures and shot 47.5 percent from the field. They also earned a 32-30 edge on the boards and committed only eight turnovers, but they guarded so poorly that none of it mattered.
Terrence Shannon Jr. leads four Illinois players in extra digits at 17 points per game, while Matthew Mayer chips in 11.7. Dain Dainja hits for 10.2 points and 6.0 rebound per contest, and Jayden Epps nets 10 points per outing.
Shannon pumped in 26 in last month’s loss to Indiana, but the rest of Illinois’ starting lineup merely matched that total.
–Field Level Media