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<p>Trayce Jackson-Davis dunks over Kent State's Cli'ron Hornbeak. (HN photo/Cam Schultz)</p>
Trayce Jackson-Davis dunks over Kent State's Cli'ron Hornbeak. (HN photo/Cam Schultz)

Trayce Jackson-Davis' second-half splurge steers Indiana past Kent State

The Hoosiers avoided an upset to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament

ALBANY, N.Y. — Indiana led for the majority of the contest. But midway through the second half, a 14-point IU lead was cut to eight thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers from Kent State’s Jalen Sullinger.

Despite the Hoosiers controlling the entire game, their star was having a down game. Trayce Jackson-Davis was 4-for-11 and had only 12 points when Sullinger made his second 3 with 9:16 left. On the ensuing possession, Jalen Hood-Schifino threaded a bounce pass to a rolling Jackson-Davis, who skied for a left-handed slam.

From that point on, Jackson-Davis was the show.

Indiana’s senior went on a 6-2 run on his own to cushion the lead again. The fourth-seeded Hoosiers closed the game effortlessly, winning 71-60 over the 13th-seeded Kent State Golden Eagles. Jackson-Davis made his final six field goals, as five were dunks. 

“I finally got a little bit of a groove and had a big play, an energy play,” Jackson-Davis said of the run he went on. “Whenever that happens, my teammates try to get me the ball and they put me in great positions.”

The Greenwood, Indiana, native has done a lot in his Indiana career. He's third all-time in points for IU. He’s scored the most points ever in a game in Assembly Hall. He’s the all-time leading rebounder and shot-blocker. He has one of three triple-doubles ever recorded in a men's cream and crimson uniform.

Now, Jackson-Davis has reached the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in his career. Jackson-Davis logged 24 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, five blocks and a steal Friday. He led the Hoosiers in all five major statistical categories.

“We're not trying to hide how we play,” Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said. “[Jackson-Davis]’s been the focal point of our offense, and he's kind of anchored our defense by rebounding and blocking shots for us.”

While the Hoosiers advancing is most important, there may still be individual accolades on the table for Jackson-Davis. Most of the acclaimed National Player of the Year awards have not been voted on. The frontrunner for these awards has been Purdue's Zach Edey. The Boilermakers fell to No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday, even with 21 points and 15 rebounds by Edey. 

The Purdue loss could open a window for Jackson-Davis to steal some of the trophies from Edey. If Jackson-Davis continues to perform as IU makes a run, voters could alter their mindset.

Indiana held the lead long before Jackson-Davis erupted. That was due to the help of its other seniors, Race Thompson and Miller Kopp. Thompson tied his season-high with 20 points, and Kopp added 13 points while nailing three 3s for the Hoosiers.

“It's huge for our whole team because we've got so many weapons, and I think sometimes people forget that,” Jackson-Davis said. “But anyone can go off on any given night. Especially when you get into this tournament, everyone's got to be clicking…Our team, we're not selfish. We'll find guys and get whoever's hot the ball.”

Thompson, in the 129th game of his IU career, scored 10 points in the first eight minutes of the game. The sixth-year senior has had a shaky, injury-filled season, but he came through when the Hoosiers needed it Friday night.

“Starting out like that, it just kind of settles you in personally,” Thompson said. “You're feeling good about yourself, and that carries over to both sides of the ball on defense. I think it just gets our team going as well.”

With the victory, Indiana has won games in consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time since 2006 and 2007. The senior class of Jackson-Davis, Thompson and Kopp guided IU out of a five-year NCAA Tournament drought.

The Hoosiers will face No. 5 Miami in the second round from MVP Arena in Albany. The game is slated to tip off at 8:40 p.m. EST on Sunday. Miami enters the showdown at 26-7 after defeating Drake 63-56 on Friday. 

Indiana is looking to advance to its first Sweet 16 since 2016, and another dominant performance from Jackson-Davis and company could lead the Hoosiers there.

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