For a long, anxious moment during Monday’s game, Trayce Jackson-Davis appeared hobbled.
The sophomore forward was skipping on his left leg to the free throw line, refusing to put weight on his right. He bent all the way down, in pain. Once he hit his free throws, walking away from the line a bit gimpy, IU coach Archie Miller started motioning to him.
Miller wanted to take him out. Jackson-Davis, engrossed in beating Maryland, uttered the opposite.
“I’m good. Don’t take me out.”
As he did in a 63-55 win over the Terrapins, Jackson-Davis was able to dig deep and flip a switch. Moments after his coach tried to pull him, the 6-foot-9 forward was just past the midcourt line, hopping up and down to a sparse crowd’s delight.
It was a quick, sudden switch, almost as drastic as his performance in the first half as opposed to the second. In the first half, the Hoosiers trailing 27-21, Jackson-Davis was just 2-of-9 from the field, unable to convert shots a couple of feet from the rim.
But in the second half, Jackson-Davis scored 17 of his 22 points, connecting on 7-of-9 from the field. He was utterly dominant when the Hoosiers (7-4, 2-2 Big Ten) needed their big man to be, helping them even their conference record before a road swing.
Miller believes Jackson-Davis thinks too much sometimes, as he was talking early in the game about the Terrapins’ double-teams. At halftime, though, he seemed to drop the worry.
“He responded,” Miller said. “He looked at me and said ‘I’m ready to go.’ He has the ability to respond, because he cares a lot.”
Miller would like to avoid these slow starts, obviously. But in a game the Hoosiers needed, Jackson-Davis gave his team the second half they needed, especially with his sophomore classmate, Armaan Franklin, out with an ankle injury less than seven minutes into the game.
It wasn’t just a one-man effort, though. While the Hoosiers were 37-percent shooters from the floor, they were able to hold Maryland (6-5, 1-4) to just 38.5 percent shooting, as well. IU also won the rebounding battle, 43-33, which was a massive win for a team that’s struggled in that department.
Jackson-Davis had 15 boards, and Race Thompson produced 13 points and 11 rebounds. Not only did he do important work on the glass, but Thompson was vital in defending Maryland’s small-ball lineup. Aside from Aaron Wiggins, who scored 22 points, the Terrapins only had one other double-figures scorer, Hakim Hart, with 10 points.
“The rebounding was huge,” Miller said. “When Trayce and Race rebound like that, offensively and defensively, we are a much better team.”
IU’s offensive attack, though, was dysfunctional much of the first half, which wasn’t helped by the fact that Franklin went out with 13:07 left. Without their best outside shooter, the Hoosiers missed all nine of their 3-point shots in the half.
Maryland wasn’t much better at 10-of-26 from the floor, but the Terrapins were able to hit 4-of-13 from beyond the arc, which helped them take a 27-21 advantage into the break.
Things were looking pretty bleak as the second half started, with the Hoosiers falling behind 37-27 five minutes in. But shots finally started to go in, as Rob Phinisee and Al Durham both hit 3-pointers to close the deficit to 37-35. Durham finished with 13 points.
“When you go 0-for-9 from 3 in the first half, it’s frustrating … they let it play a role defensively,” Miller said. “That didn’t happen as much tonight.”
IU held the line defensively, and Jackson-Davis was supercharged. He scored 12 straight points for the Hoosiers during one stretch in the second half.
A 13-2 run was actually started by a Jerome Hunter 3, and Jackson-Davis followed that with a steal, taking it the length of the floor for a one-handed flush, roaring, as IU took a 47-43 advantage.
Meanwhile, the Terrapins were on a slump of 1-of-10 shooting from the floor.
“Really just my shots weren’t falling in the first half,” Jackson-Davis said. “But at halftime, coach just put an emphasis on you just gotta keep attacking the basket. Those shots are going to start falling. We’re making them every day in practice.
“Just never losing confidence. Just keep shooting the ball and keep going at them, because, eventually, they are going to wear down, and eventually we are going to get that rhythm.”
Jackson-Davis did get that rhythm, and he refused to let it go.
Even as he was grimacing in pain at the free throw line, he refused to let a knee injury sideline him.
“I saw there were four to six minutes left, I don’t know, there was still a lot of time left in the game,” Jackson-Davis said. “I just knew at this point in the game, I could not come out.
“Getting hurt even made me more focused and upped my level of play.”
While Jackson-Davis’ play was encouraging, Miller did have less positive news about Franklin. He said the sophomore guard rolled his ankle and he could be doubtful for IU’s next two games.
IU hits the road for contests at Wisconsin and Nebraska next.
“Guys are going to have to step up when their number is called,” Miller said.