An effort out of urgency transformed into a desperately needed win for Indiana men’s basketball on Wednesday night.
The Hoosiers set aside their previous abysmal road struggles to beat Minnesota 68-56 and improve their record to 17-9 and 7-8 in the Big Ten.
The win is monumental for Indiana, and that may be an understatement.
Previously, the Hoosiers have shown no signs of life when playing true road games. Before Wednesday, Indiana was 1-6 in road games with the only road win coming at Nebraska, who is in second-to-last place in the Big Ten with a 2-12 conference record.
Not only that, not only did Indiana not win on the road, the team typically got embarrassed doing so, with the average road loss coming by 15.5 points. Picking up another true road win does wonders in boosting confidence while also strengthening the team’s NCAA Tournament resume.
Not only did the win show they can compete on the road, but the Hoosiers were slumping prior to Wednesday, losing five of their past six games before the Minnesota matchup.
The win came from much improved effort and hustle on the floor as a team, but also Indiana freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis absolutely taking over.
Jackson-Davis was a monster, scoring a career-high 27 points on 11-for-15 shooting from the field while corralling 16 rebounds. Any time Indiana needed an answer on offense, Jackson-Davis was there to get the job done.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) February 20, 2020
The Hoosiers made it a priority to get Jackson-Davis the ball too, giving it to him early and often by feeding the post and letting the freshman score the first Indiana points. This set the tone for his and the team’s entire offense.
This strategy came as a direct reflection from when Indiana got destroyed at Michigan last Sunday by 24 and Jackson-Davis only got three shot attempts.
It’s pretty obvious after Wednesday’s game and the Michigan result that when Indiana runs its offense through Jackson-Davis good things happen and when it doesn’t, the team is in trouble.
Other than Jackson-Davis, six other Hoosiers scored with a balanced array of who put up points. Senior Devonte Green had the second-most on the night with 11, but it was sophomore Race Thompson who stole the show.
The sophomore forward balled out in his homecoming game as the Minnesota native finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. The numbers don’t pop off the stat sheet, but without Thompson’s effort Indiana might not get the job done Wednesday.
Thompson has been proving his worth plenty over the past couple of games, but he provided the necessary glue that Indiana needed to win, especially in timely situations.
As a unit, Indiana was stout defensively too. Fifty-six is the lowest point total that IU has held a Big Ten opponent to all season. The 56 points is also 15 points lower than Minnesota’s season average of nearly 71.
The Golden Gophers shot just 34 percent from the field and only scored 25 points in the second half.
Jackson-Davis held star Minnesota sophomore center Daniel Oturu to just 11 points, which played a big role in Minnesota’s underwhelming offensive game.
Once again, the importance of the win and display of a true team effort cannot be understated for Indiana’s season outlook.
After looking dead in the water just three days ago, Indiana has turned things around once again and found some real momentum away from Assembly Hall.
Moreover, this win is monumental for position in the Big Ten and eventually the Big Ten Tournament.
Obviously, there’s plenty of time for shifting before mid-March when the conference tournament will take place, but as of now Indiana is the No. 10 spot in the Big Ten standings. If Indiana were to keep this spot or improve it, the team would avoid having to play on Wednesday in the conference tourney with a first-round bye.
Obviously, as Indiana has shown all season, performances, good or bad, have no direct impact on how this Hoosiers team plays in the next game, and on Sunday Indiana will have their hands full again.
Indiana will host No. 9 Penn State, for a gigantic tilt and potential huge resume boost if Indiana can turn in a good performance. Penn State got the best of IU when at University Park, beating Indiana 64-49.
It’ll take an effort a lot like Wednesday’s to make it a winning streak after their game with the Nittany Lions. More grit, hustle and Trayce Jackson-Davis is the formula for Indiana success down the stretch of the season.