ALBANY, N.Y. – Friday night turned into Saturday morning before Indiana punched its ticket to the round of 32 here in upstate New York, thanks to a 71-60 win against Kent State. Trayce Jackson-Davis’ 24 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and five assists led the way.
Here are three reasons No. 4 seed IU moved on:
Buy on bully ball
Big Ten teams have exploited the Hoosiers’ (23-11) propensity for playing two out-and-out big men at times this season, whether it be Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson, or some combination of Malik Reneau and Jordan Geronimo off the bench.
Kent State is not in the Big Ten.
The No. 13-seeded Golden Flashes tried creative doubles against Jackson-Davis, unsurprising given his quality. But their lack of sturdy secondary post defenders left Thompson to feast in the first half. He scored 13 in the first 20 minutes Friday night, excelling in the space afforded him by Jackson-Davis’ gravitational pull.
Kent State (28-7) couldn’t help but adjust, which opened things back up for Indiana’s All-American forward. Some tough finishing and four free throws gave him 10 at the break. As is his custom, Jackson-Davis added seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks for the trouble.
Despite some backcourt foul trouble, the Hoosiers held Sincere Carry and Malique Jacobs to a combined 5-of-17 from the floor in the first half. Kent State grabbed too many offensive rebounds but IU limited turnovers against a team known for forcing them. The higher-seeded team was good value for its 35-27 halftime lead.
Race’s banner night
This hasn’t always been the easiest season for Thompson.
Indiana’s sixth-year forward has dealt with multiple injuries. He’s lived in Jackson-Davis’ ever-growing shadow, Thompson’s role diminishing as Jackson-Davis grew into the Hoosiers’ all-everything, do-everything MVP.
No one stood taller Friday night than the Minneapolis native. He finished tough around the rim. He scrapped for rebounds against a scrappy rebounding team. He ate up the opportunities afforded him by Kent State’s insistence Jackson-Davis would not win the game.
When he came back for a sixth year in college, this will have been the kind of game Thompson described as a major reason why. He was outstanding Friday (and Saturday, considering when the game ended). He finished with a team-high 20 points, as well as nine rebounds.
Trayce turns it on
Kent State found a handful of good punches in the second half. After Indiana pushed the lead to double digits, timely 3s and a few more turnovers than the Hoosiers gave away in the first half let the Golden Flashes gear up and get back in the game.
Every time, IU had an answer. Damn near every time, the answer wore No. 23.
Kent State threw everything it could think of at Jackson-Davis, trying to take the Hoosiers’ All-American forward out of the game. That opened windows for teammates, multiple other Indiana players scoring in double figures against a defense that was Kent State’s calling card.
But eventually, the Golden Flashes ran out of ideas. Jackson-Davis turned it on and turned out the lights on Kent State’s upset hopes with a series of impressive post moves, slick transition baskets and loud slam dunks. Kent State managed to keep the door open, if only just, for much of the second half.
When the time came, it was the best player on the floor — maybe the best player left in the tournament — who slammed it shut, sending the Hoosiers to the round of 32.
Follow IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.
Indiana 71, Kent St. 60
KENT ST. (28-7): Davis 4-9 0-0 10, Thomas 2-10 1-1 6, Hornbeak 0-2 0-0 0, Carry 5-18 4-4 15, Jacobs 3-11 1-3 8, Sullinger 3-9 0-0 8, Payton 5-10 0-0 10, Gillespie 0-0 2-2 2, Odusipe 0-0 1-2 1, Rollins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-69 9-12 60.
INDIANA (23-11): Jackson-Davis 10-17 4-5 24, Kopp 4-9 2-3 13, Thompson 8-11 2-3 20, Galloway 1-3 0-0 2, Hood-Schifino 4-11 0-0 8, Bates 0-6 0-0 0, Reneau 2-4 0-0 4, Geronimo 0-1 0-0 0, Banks 0-0 0-0 0, Leal 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-62 8-11 71.
Halftime—Indiana 35-27. 3-Point Goals_Kent St. 7-21 (Davis 2-4, Sullinger 2-4, Jacobs 1-2, Thomas 1-5, Carry 1-6), Indiana 5-15 (Kopp 3-6, Thompson 2-3, Galloway 0-1, Hood-Schifino 0-2, Bates 0-3). Rebounds_Kent St. 36 (Jacobs 9), Indiana 39 (Jackson-Davis 11). Assists_Kent St. 11 (Jacobs 7), Indiana 14 (Jackson-Davis 5). Total Fouls_Kent St. 12, Indiana 13.