BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Trayce Jackson-Davis quickly caught and surpassed his coach on Indiana’s career scoring list. It took the senior more time to help the No. 14 Hoosiers surpass Illinois.
Jackson-Davis finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks and added yet another milestone to his expansive list, while Jalen Hood-Schifino made the go-ahead free throws with 30.7 seconds left to finally give Indiana the lead and a 71-68 victory.
“It’s an accomplishment,” Jackson-Davis said. “I’m just glad we found a way to get that one. They were without one of their best players and those dudes showed a lot of heart. So just finding a way down the stretch and getting stops, that was big for us.”
Jackson-Davis and the Hoosiers (19-8, 10-6 Big Ten) have won nine of their last 11 and 15 in a row on their home court. And thanks to the last of Hood-Schifino’s 13 points and Jackson-Davis’ final basket – a breakaway dunk in the waning seconds – Indiana had just enough to erase a nine-point deficit over the final 12 1/2 minutes.
Illinois guard Jayden Epps could have tied it with 16.7 seconds left but missed the first of two free throws. RJ Melendez could have forced overtime with a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it was off the mark.
And while Jackson-Davis could have celebrated after finishing the game with 2,081 points – 20 more than Hoosiers coach Mike Woodson scored during his college career – it was the second-year coach who seemed most appreciative of the feat.
“I’ve been sitting in that spot for a long time, and for him to surpass it, man, it’s special,” Woodson said. “But he can’t stop there. It’s just points. He’s still staring at two things, a Big Ten title and a national title, and that’s where I’m trying to get him.”
The latest win should help Indiana’s case. At halftime, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee announced it had projected Indiana as the overall No. 13 seed.
Matthew Mayer and the Fighting Illini (17-9, 8-7) certainly had other plans – even with their top scorer, Terrence Shannon, in the concussion protocol. Mayer scored 16 of his 24 points and made all four of his 3-pointers in the first half. Epps added 12 points.
Illinois led from the moment it took a 25-23 lead midway through the first half until Hood-Schifino’s free throws in the game’s final minute. The Illini were up 48-39 with 12:41 to play when Miller Kopp made a 3-pointer, Jackson-Davis answered with back-to-back baskets and a three-point play and eventually tied the score at 56 on a layup with 6:27 to go.
“It was a great college basketball game,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “I thought we did a great job on Trayce and he still had 26 points. I know what Mike is feeling when you’ve got one of the best players in the country, if not the best player in country.”
Illinois: Underwood’s team has won more road games than any other Big Ten school during the past four seasons. This year, though, the calculation has been simple. If they give up fewer than 70 points in league play, they win. If they give up 70 or more, they lose. It barely happened again Saturday.
Indiana: The Hoosiers have been unbeatable at home this season and weren’t about to let their longshot chance of winning a conference crown slip away here. If Indiana replicates its second-half performance next week on the road, it could meet those lofty preseason expectations.
Even though Indiana’s rally came up short at Northwestern on Wednesday, the Hoosiers shouldn’t lose much – if any ground – in the rankings after sweeping Illinois this season.
Jackson-Davis, the first Indiana player to top 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, told Stadium’s Jeff Goodman that he will leave school after this season.
Illinois: Begins a two-game homestand Monday against Minnesota.
Indiana: Faces a crucial contest Tuesday at Michigan State in the Spartans’ first home game since the fatal campus shooting.