ALBANY, N.Y. — Only in March Madness can a team’s biggest win of the season thus far come in Albany, New York, against a MAC opponent, starting at 10:36 PM ET, in front of a thinning-out crowd.
On Friday night, that exactly how Indiana survived and advanced.
Thanks to suffocating defense and a “buddy ball” masterclass from Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson, Indiana (23-11) toppled Kent St. (28-7), 71-60. Jackson-Davis had 24 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, five blocks, and several highlight plays. Thompson had 20 points and nine board of his own. Kent St. shot a meager 32% from the field.
Exactly one year ago, the No. 12 seed Hoosiers exited the NCAA Tournament after a blowout loss to St. Mary’s. Late on Friday night, the now-No. 4 seed Indiana Hoosiers took on the No. 13 Kent State Golden Flashes, searching for redemption.
The Hoosiers and Golden Flashes exchanged blows for the first couple of minutes, including three Jackson-Davis blocks, a Thompson triple, and an and-one slam. Thompson got off to a hot start scoring ten points in eight minutes with three assists.
Tamar Bates and Malik Reneau were the first to come off the bench for Indiana. The Hoosiers’ unsteady shot selection limited them offensively, as they were 13-for-29 from the field. Indiana had a strong defensive presence, but some untimely defensive slips kept the Golden Flashes in the game. Two fouls on Jalen Hood-Schifino didn’t help, either.
Kent St. drew within 29-27 after a layup by star guard Sincere Carry. An immediate 6-0 response by IU played a huge role in the eventual Hoosier victory. Jackson-Davis sealed the first half by sinking two free throws to push the lead to seven, IU’s largest of the half. He went into halftime with ten points, seven rebounds, and four assists.
The Hoosiers led 35-27 after the first 20 minutes. Woodson was less than optimistic headed into the locker room and noted his disappointment in the Hoosiers’ performance.
The Hoosiers came out firing at the start of the second. IU extended their lead to 14 points with the help of Jackson-Davis’ paint effort and a corner three from the headband-toting Miller Kopp.
On the other side of the ball, the persistent Hoosier defensive pressure began to overwhelm Kent State, forcing turnovers and rushed shots. Jackson-Davis made his presence felt in the paint, tallying five blocks. IU outscored Kent State 17-10 over the first five minutes of the second half.
Thompson continued to shine as he tallied his 20th point midway through the half. Kopp helped out, shooting 2-2 from three in the second with a floater and-one for another three points.
Kent State slowly made inroads, sinking two perimeter threes to shrink IU’s lead to 10. Unfortunately for the Golden Flashes, Jackson-Davis was not satisfied with the Indiana lead. He contributed a massive poster slam to light up the crowd followed by two other highlight-reel baskets.
With five minutes remaining, Indiana led by 10 points. Kent State was fighting against themselves late as they continued to miss “chippy’s” near the rim. Jackson-Davis put an exclamation point on the Hoosiers’ victory with two monstrous late-game slams. He had five dunks in the game’s last nine minutes.
The Hoosiers’ walked away with a healthy roster and a hearty win under their belt. They face the No. 5 seed Miami Hurricanes Sunday, at 8:40p ET on TNT.
Featured Image: CBS Sports