BLOOMINGTON – Jordan Geronimo’s physical ability was never a question. The sturdy 6-6 forward is light enough on the toe to protect the perimeter and impresses with a two-meter wingspan under the basket. His shots throughout his career at IU have been small but efficient. In his first two seasons of college, he shot over 50% each time.
He has been in a sustained slump this year, struggling to find his place in a rotation that is rapidly changing due to injuries to Xavier Johnson and Race Thompson. Geronimo was uncomfortable, thinking too much and out of place. From November 30 to January 11, he shot 37% from the floor and averaged 3.3 points in just under 12 minutes per game.
In the starting line-up in the 63:45 win against Wisconsin on Saturday, Geronimo played freely. He was relaxed and clear-headed, unconcerned about the consequences of mistakes or misses. He tumbled onto the boards, ran across the floor and provided energy to a Hoosiers team that was in desperate need of a spark, both in a game in which they scored 21 points in the first half and in a freefall season , which began on Saturday.
His last line was 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting, 11 rebounds with five on the offensive end and one block. The Hoosiers were plus-17 with him on the floor in the kind of performance he needs to replicate for Indiana to play at a high level with two injured starters.
“I thought he played into himself so much tonight that it wasn’t even funny,” said coach Mike Woodson. “He did a lot of good things defensively. He threw the ball back.”
Insider:IU not only delivered a win it took, but the performance it took against Wisconsin
Doyle:With a halftime boost from an unexpected source, this was a day that needed IU basketball.
Geronimo added: “I just play without worrying about being substituted or I’ll miss a shot and not take it with me in the next game. I only have a short memory. Play hard, play physical and make the right play. So I know I have these possessions that I don’t play well on. I’m just like, ‘Hey, next possession, let’s do it, you know what I mean, let’s move on.'”
After a string of lackluster results, Woodson singled out the junior and challenged him to step up. Geronimo realized he could do more within his control. He started watching more movies and tried to get better prepared for each game.
It led to a breakthrough even as IU struggled through a cold first-half Saturday, shooting 10-to-33 from the field before things heated up after the break. Geronimo’s performance was consistent and most importantly reproducible in all 29 minutes he spent on the ground.
He hasn’t attempted any shots from beyond the arc, where he shoots 20% of the season. His points came from near the basket, from putbacks and rush plays. He drove over taller players for rebounds and defended well.
In a second-half sequence, he cleaned up a defensive end miss, ran the break in the opposite direction, missed on the edge, got his own board and finished. A feed from Trayce Jackson-Davis led to a one on the next possession, causing a roar from both the Gathering Hall and Geronimo himself.
“Having games like this helps me because going forward I have more confidence in my ability and have the impact on the floor and help my teammates get a W,” he said.
Geronimo stood on the floor after the game, his stats booming through the speakers as fans exited the building. As the PA announcer read out the numbers, Geronimo glanced at the scoreboard, which now reflected the Hoosiers’ downtime in Wisconsin.
It was an audible and visual reminder of what he had done. And crucially, both to his mental state and to Indiana’s ability to stay afloat in the Big Ten, a renewed validation of what he can accomplish on any given day.