Confidence and pride returned to Indiana men’s basketball in an 80-65 win over Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, Illinois — Senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis was unstoppable in Thursday’s Indiana vs. Illinois men’s basketball match.

When the Illini tried, Jackson-Davis drove right through them. If anyone got in his way, junior forward Jordan Geronimo was there to help with his own baskets.

Jackson-Davis and Geronimo played with renewed work ethic and confidence in Indiana’s 80-65 win over Illinois. A one-man wrecking crew for the Hoosiers, Jackson-Davis racked up a career-best 35 points in the Big Ten, and the Hoosiers’ renewed pride shone in their biggest moments.

“Every time you win games, everyone feels better,” head coach Mike Woodson said after the game. “To go out on the street and beat a good, well-trained team that has just won four straight times says a lot about the character of our ball club.”

16:35, first half: Geronimo is wide open when he gets junior guard Trey Galloway’s pass over the 3-point line and doesn’t hesitate to pull up and shoot. The shot is clean and Indiana takes their first lead of the game.

Far from being a 3-point shooter, Geronimo enters the game 3v15 for the season. But Geronimo has been playing like a different man since struggling on the floor in Indiana’s three losses earlier in the year. After Illinois started the game with 4 straight points to force an Indiana timeout, Geronimo’s three-pointer influenced a 12-0 Hoosiers reaction.

“He’s playing really, really big for us,” Jackson-Davis said. “He could have closed it, especially after the first two games where he was thrown into the fire. He didn’t do it, he took the manager’s criticism, worked hard and showed us what kind of player he can be.”

Middle of the first half: Freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino hits a step through floaters, squashing chances of a long Illinois run. Geronimo pulls up for a jump just inside the arc and follows his shot for a rebound. It is unnecessary as the shot falls into it.

For much of the first half, Hood-Schifino and Geronimo were everywhere, providing spark and offense en route to 23 combined first-half points: 10 for Hood-Schifino, 13 for Geronimo. Her rush was the jolt Indiana needed.

“[Geronimo]is playing like he was playing at the end of last season,” Woodson said. “He moves, he tidies things up, he cuts when he needs to cut … Trayce rewards him with the passes.”

1:15, first half: Jackson-Davis keeps pushing his defender back towards the basket. He is the stronger player and has few problems when working his way under the basket. A quick spin and he’s past his defender, the basketball kissing the glass before falling into the net.

In the first half, Geronimo and Jackson-Davis combined to make each of their shots, a perfect 12-on-12 start. The Hoosiers picked up just three 3-pointers in the first half, thanks largely to the performance of the forwards, who led Indiana to a 30-16 point lead at the break and ended the night on a 54-32 differential.

“I can just play a lot with Trayce and have a lot more time on the floor,” said Geronimo. “I’ve been able to read what he’s doing and get used to his game so I know where I need to be.”

15:48 Second Half: Jackson-Davis takes 24 minutes to miss a shot, but his confidence doesn’t waver. On his next shot attempt, he flies through the alley to dunk home, a feat he didn’t have to attempt in the first half but had ample opportunity to attempt in the second.

After receiving plenty of support in the first half, Jackson-Davis was able to shine on his own in the second half. He had 22 of Indiana’s 37 points in the second half and seemed comfortable with it. He ended the night with a rebound just before a double-double, adding five assists and three blocks.

“I just take what the defense gives me, honestly,” Jackson-Davis said. “Then it’s just a matter of playing the right game.”

Even more evidence that Jackson-Davis did it all: the forward was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer late in the shot clock late in the game. He made all three free throws and is still looking for his first career triple.

0:05, Second Half: The Hoosiers dribble the ball around the court to time the shot clock. They’ve already picked up one away win and placed them 3-4 in Big Ten play after three losses earlier in the year.

“I’ve been told that there’s always something special about winning on the road in the Big Ten,” Woodson said. “It’s not easy to win on the road in the Big Ten. We just need to confirm what we did tonight.”

Follow reporter Evan Gerike (@EvanGerike) and Emma Pawlitz (@emmapawlitz) and columnist Bradley Hohulin (@BradleyHohulin) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season.

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