BLOOMINGTON – The Indiana men’s basketball team sprung a surprise on the 17,222 faithful at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Sunday.
Race Thompson, who injured his knee Jan. 5 at Iowa, returned to action for the Hoosiers. A nice development for Indiana, but that wasn’t the biggest surprise of the day.
That was reserved for the second half. Down two with 13 minutes to go against Michigan State, Indiana scored 10 straight points to take the lead for good en route to an 82-69 victory.
It was the players Indiana relied on to fuel the run who provided pleasant tidings for the Hoosiers.
Tamar Bates, Malik Reneau and Trey Galloway accounted for all 10 of those points. In fact, with Indiana up 59-51 after the surge, Trayce Jackson-Davis hadn’t made a second-half field goal.
The fact the Hoosiers could rely on others to push themselves over the line was quite welcome.
“These last three games, everyone has played a major role in us winning. It’s not just Trayce. He’s driving the car, but the supporting cast has pitched in and done their job as well,” Indiana coach Mike Woodson said.
Not that Jackson-Davis didn’t make his presence felt. Indiana’s All-American asserted his will, too, as he finished with 31 points, 15 rebounds, five blocks and four assists in yet another monster performance.
“The improvement he’s made from last year to take the pressure and handle it so well — our backs were against the wall earlier in the Big Ten season, and he stayed composed. He has hurting, he was battling through that and now he’s kind of healthy. It’s showing,” Galloway said.
Michigan State made just four of its final 14 shots in the second half. Indiana bucked a trend as Joey Hauser led the Spartans with 22 points. Up until Sunday’s game, Michigan State hadn’t lost when Hauser scored 12 or more.
As for Thompson? He came off the bench and played four minutes.
The Hoosiers (13-6, 4-4 Big Ten) started slow on both ends. Indiana missed 10 of its first 13 shots while Hauser was seemingly never going to miss. The Spartans forward made five of his first six shots. Meanwhile, Indiana scoring standouts Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino combined to start 0-for-8 from the field.
The Spartans controlled the first 12 minutes but never led by more than nine despite shooting near 50%.
Michigan State led 25-16 with 7:43 left when the Hoosiers found their feet. A Reneau hook shot kick-started a 10-0 Indiana run. Four different Hoosiers scored during the surge, but the revival of Jackson-Davis was most meaningful.
The All-American closed the first half by scoring nine of his 13 first-half points in the final 7:43, including resounding dunks over the top of Hauser and Jaxon Kohler.
Michigan State (13-7, 5-4) also went into an offensive funk, failing to score on nine of its last 13 possessions, while Indiana scored on nine of its final 14 trips to take a 37-32 halftime lead.
Michigan State put its fate in the hands of its guards in the second half. Jaden Akins scored a quick seven points and Tyson Walker contributed four. The Spartans made seven of their first nine second-half shot attempts to take a 51-49 lead.
After that, the Hoosiers shut down the Spartans. Five of Michigan State’s next six possessions were empty, and Indiana pounced.
Bates, whose 10-month-old daughter Leilani won the halftime baby crawl race, hit a 3-pointer to put Indiana in front. Reneau followed with a pair of free throws, and then Bates hit the target again from long range.
“She got the dub. First competition ever and she’s undefeated,” said Bates of his daughter. “With the way Trayce is playing, we had to stay ready to shoot or drive. More so, we had to be ready on the defensive end. With their playing three guards, our three guards had to make up for everything they bring on both sides of the floor.”
Galloway and Kopp followed with buckets as Indiana surged to a 59-51 advantage it never relinquished.
From that point, Jackson-Davis did his thing. The Indiana center scored 16 of his 18 second-half points after the Hoosiers’ 10-0 run. He also tied Jeff Newton as Indiana’s all-time leader in blocked shots.
Jackson-Davis played with a swagger that hasn’t been quite as evident in previous games.
“In the second half, we spaced the floor, and it allowed me to go one-on-one. I feel like there’s not a person in the country that can honestly guard me. It is what it is when we hit shots and we’re clicking. We’re tough to beat,” Jackson-Davis said.
Indiana, winners of three in a row after having lost three in a row prior to that, next plays at Big Ten basement dweller Minnesota on Wednesday.