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Trayce Jackson-Davis shines while defense gets ‘shredded’ in ugly Indiana victory

What was supposed to be one of the easier conference games of the season for Indiana ended up becoming a serious dogfight with Nebraska at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall Friday night.

Trayce Jackson Davis goes inside against Nebraska. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

Sloppy defense, turnovers and stagnant offense were just a few of the underlying themes to a 96-90 overtime win for the Hoosiers. The win bumps Indiana up to 10-1 on the season and evens its Big Ten record at 1-1, but it was anything but easy.

It’s inevitable that no Big Ten matchup is an easy game, but Nebraska has been nothing close to impressive for the season. With Friday’s loss, the Cornhuskers are 4-6 and own the lowest KenPom ranking in the Big Ten at No. 149.

Nebraska did not look like a 4-6 team Friday. Indiana as a whole struggled mightily against the Cornhuskers, shooting 5-for-25 from the 3-point line, 71.1 percent from the free-throw line and committed nine second-half turnovers (15 total). Defensively, it was a really rough outing too.

The low point of the defensive effort came in Nebraska’s final possession of regulation. Indiana had a defensive breakdown, allowing Nebraska’s Dachon Burke to hit a deep three while being fouled and down four with a second left, Burke hit the free throw to tie the game and send it to overtime.

“We can’t guard the ball,” Indiana head coach Archie Miller said. “And those guys really exposed us to start the game. In our two Big Ten games here in December, our defense has gotten shredded.”

The defense was ugly, the mistakes were plentiful, but freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis’ superb performance overshadowed the game’s negatives.

Jackson-Davis was held to just three points in a very inactive first half, but throughout the second half and overtime, the freshman asserted himself for a career night. The post player led the team with a career-high 25 points and 15 rebounds.

“In the first half I didn’t really try to put an emphasis on running the floor very hard, and I thought I could beat my man down the floor,” Jackson-Davis said. “In the second half, I tried to run past him and get as deep as I could and try to leg whip over him. And I got a few easy buckets on that, and when you see a shot go in, it gives you the confidence to knock down other ones.”

Jackson-Davis also chipped in three blocks and two assists. This was the freshman’s fifth double-double in 11 games of the season.

The offense was flowing through the freshman and he picked apart Nebraska’s defense in an efficient manner. He hit nine of his 12 field goal attempts and six of his rebounds came on the offensive end, allowing plenty of second-chance opportunities for Indiana.

When the Hoosiers played small-ball and Jackson-Davis was allowed to move freely within the offense, he was unstoppable against the Cornhuskers. The second half adjustment of featuring Jackson-Davis at the center position and Justin Smith at the power forward spot made all the difference.

Jackson-Davis got the looks he needed to wake up a dormant offense and take over the game. Nebraska shifting focus to Jackson-Davis due to his success also gave Smith a chance to find his rhythm offensively. Smith finished tied for the team’s second highest scoring output with 16.

“I’d say that we have mismatches down there,” Smith said on him and Jackson-Davis in the post together. “If a bigger guy is on either one of us, we can use our quickness. If a smaller guy is on us, we can use our strength.”

Indiana walks away from the Nebraska win with plenty of time to fix its mistakes and make adjustments as the team will have over a week of rest until its next matchup, a neutral-site game against Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic.

One thing that won’t be changing in that time frame though is the importance and value of Trayce Jackson-Davis.

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