ALBANY, N.Y. -- Race Thompson was the fuel in Indiana’s engine to help the Hoosiers keep tenacious Kent State in the rearview mirror during their NCAA Tournament first-round game late Friday.
Trayce Jackson-Davis provided the turbo finishing touch to leave the Golden Flashes in the dust.
A dominant performance from Indiana’s front court helped the Hoosiers advance to the second round for the first time since 2016 as Indiana earned a 71-60 victory over the Golden Flashes at MVP Arena.
Thompson matched his season high with 20 points to go with nine rebounds.
“I’m just thankful for my teammates keeping me locked in. I’ve been banged up a lot this season, and I can’t practice. They always tell me it’s going to be all right, just stick with it,” Thompson said.
Jackson-Davis scored 24 points and had 11 rebounds, five assists and five blocks.
“I just try to do whatever to help my team win because I know they feed off my energy,” Jackson-Davis said.
Miller Kopp added 13 points for Indiana. It was a good night for the Hoosiers’ seniors.
“The three seniors were pretty damn good tonight. We played a tough team in Kent State. To hold that team to 60 points, our defense was pretty damn good, and those three guys had a lot to do with it,” Indiana coach Mike Woodson said.
Sincere Carry led Kent State (28-7) with 15 points.
Thompson made his presence felt from the beginning as the Hoosiers and Golden Flashes matched each other’s intensity in a good first half.
Thompson made four of Indiana’s first six field goals. Jackson-Davis drew defenders to create space for Thompson on the weak side of the rim. Thompson then made a wide-open 3-pointer to stake Indiana (23-11) to an early 15-9 lead. Thompson scored 10 of the points.
“Starting out like that, it just kind of settles you in personally. You’re feeling good about yourselves, and that carries over to both sides of the ball on defense,” Thompson said.
Kent State didn’t flinch. First, the Golden Flashes got Indiana’s guards in foul trouble. Jalen Hood-Schifino exited at the 8:06 mark with two fouls. His absence compromised the Hoosiers' offense as the Golden Flashes didn’t have to respect Indiana’s outside shooting.
The Golden Flashes’ mastery of the offensive glass also helped them stay in range. Kent State had 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, leading to nine second-chance points. A Carry bucket with 2:35 left before halftime cut Indiana’s lead to two.
However, Hood-Schifino re-entered with 2:10 left before halftime, and it provided the Hoosiers with the impetus to close strong. With Kent State unable to collapse on Jackson-Davis, the Hoosiers had room to roam, and they scored the final six points of the half to take a 35-27 halftime lead.
Thompson kept it up in the second half. Thompson scored seven more points, all in the first 6:19 of the second half, to go with five more rebounds. A putback dunk by Thompson gave Indiana a 52-37 lead with 13:41 left.
The Golden Flashes, however, wouldn’t fold. When Jalen Sullinger made a pair of threes in succession to cut Indiana’s lead to 56-48 with 9:16 left, it was still a game.
Until Jackson-Davis had his say.
The Indiana center took over. He scored Indiana’s next three buckets and went on to score 12 points in the final nine minutes. Four of his field goals came on dunks. Kent State faded and didn’t score in the final 2:33.
“Coach Woodson, he’s always trying to put me in a position to score. I finally got a little bit of a groove and had a big play, an energy play. Whenever that happens, my teammates try to get me the ball, and they put me in great positions,” Jackson-Davis said.
Jackson-Davis’ late surge helped Indiana score 46 points in the paint. Indiana also had just seven turnovers against an opportunistic Kent State defense.
The Hoosiers will face Miami at 8:40 p.m. on Sunday. The Hurricanes rallied with a game-ending 16-1 surge to knock off Drake 63-56 in the first game of the evening session in Albany.
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