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Photo courtesy of Eden Snower (Hoosier Network)
Photo courtesy of Eden Snower (Hoosier Network)

Trayce Jackson-Davis, Zach Edey provide classic duel between best bigs in the country

No. 1 Purdue came into Bloomington with the National Player of the Year favorite in Zach Edey, but Trayce Jackson Davis had something to say about that.

In last season's matchup between Indiana and Purdue, Trayce Jackson-Davis and Zach Edey were afterthoughts when the two bigs battled inside Assembly Hall.

As a junior, Jackson-Davis struggled against Edey and found himself in early foul trouble, playing only 12 minutes and scoring only four points IU's win over Purdue.

No more impressive was Edey, as a sophomore he tallied just 12 points in 25 minutes, mostly with Jackson-Davis off the court.

Saturday's matchup proved to be a different story but with the same ending. No. 1 Purdue left Bloomington with its second loss of the season as No. 21 Indiana won 79-74 in another thriller.

The main event once again, was about the men in the middle. Both Jackson-Davis and Edey have parlayed career years into successful records for both their squads and have had no problem setting the standard for star power in the Big Ten.

Coming into Saturday, Edey remained the favorite to be named National Player of the Year in college basketball and that story didn't change much after Purdue's loss.

At 7-foot-4, seeing Edey dominate the paint comes as a surprise to no one, but seeing him work against Jackson-Davis with success, showed you how special he is. Edey finished with an astounding 33 points, 18 rebounds (including 10 offensive) and three blocks.

Indiana head coach Mike Woodson didn't mince words when talking about Edey's dominant second half.

"We didn't have a lot of answers for big Edey in the second half, I mean he kinda had his way," Woodson said. "I thought we battled him for the most part."

The Hoosiers did a nice job of limiting Edey in the first half. It was apparent from the start that Indiana wasn't going to let Edey go one-on-one in post. They implemented several strategies in terms of how they double-teamed him to keep him quiet. These strategies included a standard double team once he caught the ball, a late double or triple team, and beginning to pray if the double never came and he was able to get to his post move.

The second half seemed like a lot of hoping Edey would not take advantage of single coverage, but he most certainly did. With Purdue down 15 at halftime, the objective for its offense in the second half centered around having Edey touch it every time down the floor and he was dominant because of it.

It didn't matter who was between Edey and the basket, almost every possession resulted in him scoring with his patented baby hook, or grabbing an offensive rebounding and dunking it back in. 

As for pre-season All-American Jackson-Davis, he'll tell you that all he wanted on Saturday was a win. He got his win and made a statement with his own play to boot.

Jackson-Davis put on a clinic in the first half and let it be known that there are in fact two players in the Big Ten that should be in the national conversation for player of the year. Jackson-Davis finished with a team-high 25 points, seven rebounds and five highlight-level blocked shots.

His athleticism, when used in the pick and roll, is nearly unguardable and he proved that yet again in the first half with multiple plays leading to his high-flying antics at the rim. Dunk after dunk left the crowd overjoyed as they all performed his signature "raise the roof" celebration with two hands in the air after each of his jams.

Trayce Jackson-Davis gears up for a dunk during Indiana’s win over top-ranked Purdue on Feb. 4. (HN photo/Eden Snower)

Afterward, Jackson-Davis complimented the crowd and atmosphere of Assembly Hall and how it helped Indiana get off to a hot start.

"They [the crowd] were our sixth man honestly, we fed off that especially in the first half," Jackson-Davis said. "That was the most electric crowd I've been a part of since I've been here."

While the fans tried to do their part, it was Jackson-Davis and Edey who set the tone for both their teams in a matchup of two storied rivals and an old-fashioned brawl between two dominant big men.

Both supplied the college basketball world with jaw-dropping statlines and a mutual respect for each other as competitors. Even they know that Saturday was the first of two matchups this season between the best big men in the country and two of the best players college basketball has to offer.

Edey and Jackson-Davis will face off again, later this month on Feb. 25 from Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana where both teams should be highly ranked yet again.

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