Trayce Jackson-Davis guides Indiana to NCAA Tournament First Four win over Wyoming

DAYTON, Ohio – The Indiana men's basketball team got its midnight flight to Portland.

Behind an outstanding night from Trayce Jackson-Davis, No. 12 seed Indiana secured a 66-58 win against Wyoming in the First Four on Tuesday night, sending the Hoosiers to the round of 64. They will face Saint Mary's in Portland, Oregon, on Thursday evening.

Here are three reasons why the Hoosiers won:

Jackson-Davis guides IU through a nervous start

For large chunks of the first half, you were reminded these Hoosiers (21-13) hadn’t played a minute in the NCAA Tournament in any of their careers.

IU moved too fast on offense, shorting shots and forcing drives. A lot of the Hoosiers’ mistakes felt like small margins — layups caroming off the rim, second chances being wasted, turnovers not leading to runouts — but they added up. Despite forcing 13 Wyoming turnovers, Indiana lead by just five at the break.

But they did so thanks to that excellent defense, and thanks to the excellent Jackson-Davis, for whom the Cowboys had no good answer.

The Indiana Hoosiers bench reacts to play in the second half against the Wyoming Cowboys during the First Four.
The Indiana Hoosiers bench reacts to play in the second half against the Wyoming Cowboys during the First Four.

Stud forward Graham Ike could not attack him on offense, missing five of his six first-half shots before going to the bench with two fouls. Hunter Thompson, the player Wyoming more often tasked with guarding Jackson-Davis at the other end, fared worse. He picked up three fouls in the opening 20 minutes and hardly slowed IU’s all-conference big man down.

At the break, IU led 30-25 largely thanks to Jackson-Davis’ 14 points. He stabilized his team when it was needed most.

He finished with a game-high 29 points.

Jordan Geronimo rising

After he exited Saturday’s Big Ten tournament semifinal loss to Iowa with an apparent non-contact knee injury, there was some question whether Jordan Geronimo would even be available Tuesday.

He was more than available. He changed the game.

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NCAA tournament 2022: Jordan Geronimo of Indiana is playing above the rim

Rising for putback dunks, snagging rebounds, hitting corner 3s and at one point quite literally taking the ball out of Hunter Maldonado’s hands — Geronimo impacted the game all over the box score Tuesday.

The Hoosiers needed it. Foul trouble mucked up rotations elsewhere, alternately impacting Race Thompson, Trey Galloway and others. Wyoming’s big bodies gave Mike Woodson’s team matchup issues. His bench ran hot and cold, as it often has this season.

But Geronimo only knew one temperature. He finished with 15 points and seven rebounds, his best game either statistically or impactfully in some time.

Maldonado good, but not good enough

Wyoming's stud playmaker was as advertised at times Tuesday, backing down defenders and leveraging favorable matchups on his way to a team-high 21 points.

He was also far too mistake-prone, never quite working out the shifting defensive looks Woodson threw his way. IU's coach used a half-dozen different players to guard Maldonado, speeding him up, slowing him down and forcing him into a season-high 10 turnovers.

That prompted wider issues with giveaways for the Cowboys, who never quite found an offensive rhythm because of it. They led for fewer than 4½ minutes as a result, Indiana pulling away late through Jackson-Davis and the free-throw line.

Follow IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana beats Wyoming in March Madness First Four game