BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Indiana Hoosiers coach Archie Miller wanted Trayce Jackson-Davis to be more aggressive offensively and defensively.
He responded just the way Miller had hoped.
The highly-touted freshman scored a season-high 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds, blocked three shots and made 14 of 15 free throws Tuesday, leading the Hoosiers past North Alabama 91-65.
“I’ve been telling him this since 10th grade — he’s going to get fouled a lot,” Miller said. “He’s left-handed, kind of awkward, can draw fouls in different ways and he’s always done that. Fourteen of 15 from the line, that’s big.”
Actually, it was crucial.
A year ago, Indiana shot 65.5% from the line. On Tuesday, the Hoosiers were 37 of 45 from — largely because of Jackson-Davis and his revamped motion.
“Coach and I really just put an emphasis on not starting it down low and putting it up,” Jackson-Davis said, describing the form. “It’s worked pretty well for me.”
Unbeaten Indiana (3-0) certainly won’t complain.
And Jackson-Davis got plenty of help, too. Rob Phinisee finished with 13 points and six assists and redshirt freshman Jerome Hunter scored a season-high 12 points.
But the second-year Division I program sure didn’t make it easy on the Hoosiers.
Jamari Blackmon made his first four 3-pointers and North Alabama stayed close throughout the first half despite committing 10 turnovers, drawing 17 fouls and having five shots blocked.
Indiana finally broke away with a 10-1 run late in the first half to take a 41-31 lead and was still clinging to a 50-43 edge 2½ minutes into the second half.
Jackson-Davis answered with eight straight points to start a 15-2 spurt and the Lions (1-2) never recovered.
Blackmon scored 19 points while C.J. Brim and Christian Agnew each had 11 to lead North Alabama.
“I think our guys struggled a little bit with the physicality down low and unfortunately shots weren’t going down,” coach Tony Pujol said. “I think what we struggled with was defending without fouling. When you send a team to the line 45 times, it’s pretty hard to win that game.”
North Alabama: A trip to Assembly Hall could have been intimidating and overwhelming. Instead, the Lions went toe to toe with the Hoosiers until the turnovers and mounting fouls finally took a heavy toll. The future looks bright for this young team, which had no seniors in the starting lineup.
Indiana: The Hoosiers remained poised as North Alabama refused to go away, then quietly put the game away with free throws and defense. Miller is one win away from his first 4-0 start since coming to Bloomington three years ago.
North Alabama: The Lions were called for 32 fouls, including a technical for flopping, and wound up with 22 turnovers. … Midway through the second half, North Alabama had as many turnovers as rebounds (19). … Two players fouled out and two more finished with four fouls. … The Lions started 7 of 10 on 3s but went 0 for 4 from beyond the arc in the second half.
Indiana: Al Durham scored 11 points and Damezi Anderson had 10. … Justin Smith had three points and two rebounds in 19½ minutes. … Jackson-Davis also drew eight fouls. … Indiana’s bench outscored North Alabama 46-23.
Fans inside Assembly Hall cheered loudly as the Hoosiers started pulling away in the second half, saving their loudest applause for Jackson-Davis’ spectacular alley-oop dunk from Anderson.
The second loudest roar came when Evansville’s victory over No. 1 Kentucky was posted on the scoreboard. Indiana and Kentucky haven’t played since 2016 but the rivalry lives on as evidenced by the students started chanting “Ev-ans-ville.”
After facing its second power-five opponent this season, North Alabama welcomes Samford on Saturday to start a nine-game stretch that includes no power-conference teams.
The Hoosiers host Troy on Saturday for the first of four games in the Indiana Challenge.