No. 18 Indiana knocked off the top two teams in the Big Ten standings to move into a second-place tie. The Hoosiers will look to continue their climb when they visit resurgent Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday.
Indiana upset top-ranked Purdue 79-74 on Feb. 4, then took down No. 24 Rutgers 66-60 on Tuesday.
The Hoosiers (17-7, 8-5 Big Ten) have won seven of their last eight and are now tied with the Wolverines (14-10, 8-5) and two others behind the first-place Boilermakers.
Trayce Jackson-Davis is coming off another big outing. The national Player of the Year candidate piled up 20 points, 18 rebounds and six assists against the Scarlet Knights, making up for a 13-point effort in a Dec. 3 loss at Rutgers.
“They doubled him at Rutgers. We just didn’t make plays around him,” coach Mike Woodson said. “We threw the ball all over the gym. We didn’t rebound well. There was a lot of things you can point to. But (Tuesday), I thought we were just solid and offensively, we made shots when we had to make them, and that was the difference in the ballgame.”
Jackson-Davis is averaging 19.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He has carried Indiana back into contention after a 1-4 start in the conference.
“I think the biggest thing for us was just confidence. When you lose three in a row, you’re kind of down on yourself,” Jackson-Davis said. “But coach Woody always said, you’ve got to find a middle ground, and so that’s what we did. And so when you win one game it can string to two to three, and then you win seven out of your last eight. And so that’s with us, and we’ve just got to be consistent.”
The Wolverines have played themselves back into the NCAA Tournament picture with three consecutive victories. They followed up wins over Northwestern and Ohio State by pummeling Nebraska 93-72 on Wednesday.
Freshman guard Jett Howard attributes the winning streak to improved defensive effort.
“I think we always had it in us, we just didn’t buy into the details,” he said. “We just thought we could roll in there and beat teams without really sitting there respecting them, not cheating the game. I feel like once we decided to buy in on the defensive end, good results happen.”
The results on the offensive end against the Cornhuskers were also quite impressive. They shot 57.6 percent overall and made 14 of 26 3-point tries. Howard knocked down six 3-pointers while leading six Wolverines in double figures with 22 points. Hunter Dickinson contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds.
“It was great to see offensively we made plays,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “We were playing unselfish. Our defense generated a lot of our offense, starting with our second unit.”
This is the first of two regular-season meetings between Indiana and Michigan. They’ll square off in Bloomington on March 5, just prior to the conference tournament.
–Field Level Media