Indiana advanced to the second round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament with a 71-60 victory against Kent State on Friday at MVP Arena in Albany, New York.
Here are five takeaways from the win against the Golden Flashes:
Indiana handles Kent State’s pressure
Kent State’s defensive pressure and ability to force turnovers were the focus of attention for Indiana heading into Friday’s NCAA Tournament game against the Golden Flashes.
Rob Senderoff’s team was in the tournament primarily because of its defense and ability to force turnovers, which was Kent State’s greatest strength.
With the No. 1 player at point guard and limited ball-handling on the roster, many wondered how the Hoosiers would handle the pressure of running backs like Malique Jacobs and Sincere Carry.
After 40 minutes in Albany, it’s fair to say Indiana passed the test. The Hoosiers turned the ball over just seven times on Friday, leading to just eight points for the Golden Flashes.
Kent State also never got into transition, scoring just three points on fastbreak in IU’s 11-point victory.
Race Thompson shows up in a key spot
Offensive consistency hasn’t always been there for Race Thompson in his sixth season in Bloomington.
The 6-foot-8 Thompson has struggled all season from the perimeter and his 2-point and 3-point shooting percentages are down from last season.
But Thompson set the tone early offensively for the Hoosiers en route to a 20-point night. The Minnesota native scored 13 points in the first half and made two 3-pointers against the Golden Flashes.
On a night where Jalen Hood-Schifino wasn’t Indiana’s secondary option behind Trayce Jackson-Davis, Thompson filled that role and then some.
Thompson was an efficient 8-for-11 from the field and added nine rebounds in 29 minutes. The Hoosiers had a team-high +19 with him on the floor.
“I’m just thankful to my teammates for always keeping me shut down,” Thompson said after the game. “They beat me a lot this season, and if I can’t practice, they always tell me everything will be fine, just stick with it. I give credit to my teammates and coaches for keeping me confident, keeping me locked in even when my body doesn’t feel great.”
Indiana’s defense blocks Kent State
Defense first has been Mike Woodson’s mantra since he took over as Indiana’s coach in the spring of 2021.
The Hoosiers had the Big Ten’s best defense in Woodson’s first season, but regressed in his second year with the offense leading the way for much of the season.
On Friday, however, Indiana had one of its best defensive performances when it mattered.
The Hoosiers allowed Kent State to shoot just 22-for-69 from the field and held the Golden Flashes to 0.94 points per possession. Kent State’s shooting percentage (31.9) was the lowest by an IU opponent in 33 games.
“We knew coming into tonight that we had to defend this team because they could score the ball,” Woodson said after the win. “I thought we were solid for the most part until the end, and we’ll need that until the end.”
Another dominant effort from Trayce Jackson-Davis
It was a slower-than-usual start for Trayce Jackson-Davis in Friday’s win, but the first-team All-American was dominant down the stretch.
Jackson-Davis made 14 of his game-high 24 points in the second half.
His final stats? 24 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, five blocks and a steal in 35 minutes.
Kent State tried to make it difficult for Jackson-Davis to catch the ball in his spots and threw him different looks, but it didn’t matter. The elder IU did not want to be rejected.
“You know, he missed — his first two shots around the bucket were from close range that he just missed,” Woodson explained. “Otherwise, he probably would have gotten off to a better start. I thought he held on, and he just let the play come to him because they were basically trying to keep the ball out of his hands.”
Indiana advanced past the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016
NCAA Tournament success in Bloomington has been elusive in recent seasons.
The Hoosiers reached the NCAA tournament last season as a top-four seed, but were shut out in the round of 16 in a 29-point rout by Saint Mary’s.
Indiana’s goals were much higher this season as the players openly embraced the challenge of being the Big Ten favorite with a chance to advance in March.
Friday’s win was Indiana’s first NCAA Tournament Round of 16 appearance since 2016. The win also puts Indiana in position to reach a goal that hasn’t been reached since 2016: a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.
The Hoosiers will now face ACC co-champion Miami (FL) on Sunday at 8:40 PM ET for a chance to advance to next week’s regional in Kansas City.
Noted for: 2023 NCAA Tournament Kent State Golden Flashes Race Thompson Trayce Jackson-Davis