BLOOMINGTON — Indiana sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis carried the Hoosiers through a rugged stretch, posting three straight double-doubles against Maryland, Wisconsin and Nebraska to earn co-Big Ten Player of the Week honors.
Now, Jackson-Davis is geared up for another challenge, breaking IU’s recent hex against rival Purdue.
The Hoosiers (8-5, 3-3 Big Ten) will be seeking their first win against the Boilermakers (8-5, 3-3) since Feb. 20, 2016, when they host Purdue on Thursday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall (7 p.m., FS1).
For Jackson-Davis, a Greenwood native, the string of seven straight losses against Purdue is personal, even if he just participated in the last two games. He said he doesn’t want IU’s freshman class — which includes Indiana high school standouts Anthony Leal, Trey Galloway, Khristian Lander and New Jersey native Jordan Geronimo — to go through the pain of losing the rivalry game.
“Last year it meant a lot to me and my teammates,” Jackson-Davis said. “But this year, I think it’s even more. Coaches talked about we’ve got to change the culture. That’s a big emphasis, and I think all of our guys — especially the new guys coming in, too, Trey, Anthony, Khristian, all of them — they don’t know what it’s like to lose to them, so they don’t want to continue that tradition at all.
“The only way to do that is beat them. They’ve had our number the past few years, but we’ve got to change the course and change history.”
For the second straight season, the 6-foot-9, 245-pound Jackson-Davis has been the focal point of IU’s offense, posting five double-doubles while leading the Hoosiers in scoring (20.1 points per game), rebounding (9.3 rebounds per game) and blocked shots (25). He’s taken on double teams and triple teams and zone defenses designed to stop his inside game.
In IU’s 84-78 win over Nebraska on Thursday night, the Cornhuskers sold out taking Jackson-Davis away, but he demanded the ball late, scoring eight of IU’s final 13 points to finish with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
“I handled the double pretty well,” Jackson-Davis said. “I thought they were going to switch up their gameplan midway through the second half. That’s not what they did. They just kept denying me the ball, so just proud of my teammates for making big plays, honestly, and made big shots.”
Jackson-Davis has shown an improved right hand finishing around the basket, but his perimeter game, something he said he worked on during the summer, hasn’t materialized yet. Some of that has been due to the season-long back injury to center Joey Brunk, which has forced Jackson-Davis inside at the center spot for the entire season rather than sliding over to the power forward spot. Jackson-Davis has yet to attempt a 3-pointer this season or for his career.
“With Joey being out, it’s a big emphasis,” Jackson-Davis said. “I think I’ve tried to handle his load, with Race (Thompson) and Jerome (Hunter) and Jordan playing more of the four, especially with the experience I have with Joey and the experience of playing a little bit more of the five.
“I think I’ve done a pretty good job. Sometimes I have little spurts where I’m on the perimeter and make a move or doing something of that nature, but at the same time I’m really focused on doing whatever the coach needs me to do. So, right now, coach wants me to play the five, and if I need to play the five, I’ll play the five.”
Jackson-Davis continues to absorb plenty of contact this season as well. He entered the week leading Division I in both free throws made (79) and attempted (111). Due in part to Brunk’s injury, Jackson-Davis also leads the Big Ten in minutes played (34.5), up from 29.3 as a freshman.
“He’s done an unbelievable job for us under some circumstances where he’s had to handle a load,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “It’s unexpected and at the same time very difficult. He leads the Big Ten in minutes as a frontcourt player which is unheard of, and we’ve given some up with him being on the floor for that amount of time, and he’s probably losing some burst and some explosiveness throughout the course of games. But at the same time, he handles it.”
Jackson-Davis said he’s visiting the training room daily to keep his body fresh.
“This year, through 11 games, I think I’m more banged up than I was at the end of last year,” Jackson-Davis said. “It’s a grind, but at the same time I’m trying to do everything in my power for our team to win and coach to keep me in the game.”
Jackson-Davis will face another physical challenge matching up against 6-10, 265-pound Purdue center Trevion Williams. The Boilermakers also can bring 7-4 center Zach Edey off the bench or play both Edey and Williams across the frontline.
“Purdue, they’ve watched a lot of film on me, their scouting report,” Jackson-Davis said. “I know they are going to double me from the very jump to the end of the game, so (I’m) really just picking and choosing my opportunities to attack them.”
Miller said sophomore guard Armaan Franklin, IU’s second-leading scorer at 12.7 points per game, is still dealing with an ankle sprain and is questionable for the Purdue game. Franklin suffered the injury Jan. 4 against Maryland. “He’s continuing to do as much as he possibly can,” Miller said. “He’s about nine, 10 days away from his sprain. It’s a legitimate sprain that’s really limited him. He did a little shooting yesterday. He did a little running and moving, moreso than he did a week ago, and we’re going to have to basically see, game-time decision on how he feels. If he can’t go, he can’t go, but he’s definitely not 100%.” …. Miller also said grad transfer guard Parker Stewart is on campus but is a week or two away from starting to practice with the team. “He had to go through a quarantine situation, couldn’t really be around a whole lot until he was through that, and once he’s through that now he will be in our testing program, and he can start to get a little bit more acclimated,” Miller said. “But he’s got a lot of work to do in terms of getting acclimated with the team, getting acclimated with the doctors, COVID protocols, physical exams, so he’s not anywhere near joining us for practice or anything like that.” … As for other injury updates, Miller said on his radio show Rob Phinisee tweaked his knee against Nebraska and is questionable for Purdue, while Brunk is expected to return to the team this week to start rehab. “It’s an eight-week process,” Miller said. “I don’t know if he’ll be able to help us this season.”