Trayce Jackson-Davis has three names, but Brad Underwood used only one during his pre-game Zoom. “Trayce” needs no introduction. You know who he is.
An hour later and 167.7 miles east-by-southeast, new Hoosiers coach Mike Woodson conferred the same respect on “Kofi.”
This feels like a fight where the top billing, Godzilla versus King Kong, might not determine the outcome. It oughta be entertaining. But you get the feeling that it’ll be someone else who puts his team on top.
Against Purdue, that other person was Rob Phinisee. Trayce needed only 12 minutes to collect four fouls. It worked out okay for the Hoosiers, because Trevion Williams was ineffective in his 15 of the #BoilerBigs 40 minutes, and Zach Edey got only six shots in his 25.
How did Indiana hold Purdue’s Power Duo to 10 FGA? It’s something to worry about.
The Hoosiers committed THREE total turnovers in that game, and Trayce had two of them. Phinisee came off the bench (as usual) for twenty points, four rebounds and four steals in 26 minutes. That’s a lot of steals. Purdue had none. It’s the product of different defensive philosophies. Woodson’s Hoosiers are doing something more akin to Underwood’s Pokes (and early Illini teams), less pack-line-ish.
But Phinsee won’t pick any pockets tomorrow. Plantar Fasciitis will keep him on the bench.
If you looked at early Hoosier results and thought meh, consider three factors.
- A new coach/style
- Many newcomers playing significant minutes
- Trey Galloway’s broken wrist
Galloway broke his wrist in mid-November. Indiana missed his irritating peppiness for almost two months. He’ll be a pain.
What about Khristian Lander, the heralded super-recruit who arrived in Bloomington and then …
He’s played nine games, starting none. He missed eight straight with a leg injury. Indiana fans still believe in him. They think he’ll be the determining force in Saturday’s contretemps. He’s a turnover machine, and he fouls a lot. We’ll see how that works out.
Xavier Johnson, Parker Stewart and Miller Kopp are the new blood. The Transfer Portal was good to Indiana is how Underwood phrased it. Johnson and Stewart started at Pitt. Stewart left to play for his dad at UT-Martin. His dad died. He left Martin.
Johnson arrived at Pitt after Stewart’s lone season, and stayed for three years. Now running the offense in Bloomington, he’s tallied 95 assists for the Hoosiers (and 48 turnovers). Compare Trent Frazier’s 72 (39) and top-ranked Auburn’s Wendell Green’s 110 (47).
The Frazier/Johnson match-up should be as fun to watch as the Bigs Battle, especially for Illini fans.
Stewart is the shooting guard, and he converts 45% from the arc. But he’s attempted only 87 of them. Alfonso Plummer has attempted 160. Frazier’s launched 130. Jacob Grandison 95.
Indiana has attempted 390 3FGs on the year, and their opponents 481. The Illini are up to 537.
Miller Kopp is just as boring for Indiana as he was for Northwestern. Statistically speaking, he does almost nothing but not take away opportunities from his teammates, which is something. Not touted as a defensive stopper, and a proven disappointment as a rebounder, this is the guy you want on the floor to get RJ Melendez some highlight reel.
CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE
Covering an early game in (the other) Bloomington poses some obstacles to an Illini media pool still digging out from a foot of snow.
Sure, one could drive over on Friday evening, once the day’s pre-game availabilities have been edited, transcribed, uploaded. If one survived the snow drifts and howling winds while wending the hollers, one could get a room at The Graduate for just $499. Or Hyatt Place for just $439!
Thing is, Hoosiers basketball remains insanely popular in those hollers. Cityfolk like it too! And rather than get up early and drive, these folks have chosen to drive and drink. They’ll be boozing maskless in downtown Hoosierville ten hours before tip-off. The ones who get to bed before midnight will start again before the game.
So, much to Joey’s consternation, we’ll all get up at 5:30 am, lose an hour crossing the border, and hope that Indiana’s DOT plowed the tiny roads, too.
Illini Report will not have an assigned photography spot at The Skjodt. In fact, among Illini media, only WCIA gets a spot on the floor. COVID and big donors have eaten into floor space.
Instead, Illini Report will enjoy something it hasn’t done since the Indiana blowout of 2019 — watching a basketball game. (Illini Report got so depressed during that game, that it had to walk to the very top of the real Assembly Hall’s bowl to watch Archie Miller — remember him? — rip Andres Feliz’s heart out.)
Illini Report will provide postgame coverage from both media rooms at The Skjodt. Being all fancy about basketball, IU has two of them. The opponent’s room is actually an administrative office for IU softball, and it’s never set up until after the game. No A/V equipment, though. Just chairs.
But because the Illini media pool is so butch, and travels well, IU Athletics Communications made an 11th hour decision, on Friday afternoon, to move our postgame to Suite 1820 of The Skjodt.
If we can find that vending machine, we will communicate Brad’s thoughts about the big win.
Or so we can hope.
This game has, since the schedule came out, seemed like the linchpin of Illinois’s quest for a ’22 championship. A win at Bloomington would define the season.
People who forgot how good this IU team is, perhaps because their coach got fired, need only recall the UI-IU contests of the past three years.
We’ve always known that these particular Hoosiers are dangerous. We knew it when Illinois barely beat them last year, and we knew it when Illinois barely beat them the year before that.
See you bright and early.