BLOOMINGTON – Through its first seven games, Indiana faced teams with less than physically imposing frontlines.
But facing a Florida State team with 7-foot center Dominic Olejniczak and 6-9 power forward Malik Osborne on Tuesday, the Hoosiers realized they were going to be in for a grind in their Big Ten-ACC Challenge matchup with the Seminoles.
Freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis and junior forward Justin Smith answered that challenge during an 80-64 win over FSU at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The 6-9 Jackson-Davis had 15 points and eight rebounds in 34 minutes, while Smith had 14 points and five rebounds in 35 minutes.
Together, Jackson-Davis and Smith combined to draw 13 fouls and go 15-of-23 from the free-throw line. Indiana was plus-14 in the 34 minutes Jackson-Davis played and plus-9 in Smith’s 35 minutes on the floor.
“People have been saying, like, we have been facing littler teams, how are they going to do against the big dogs?,” Jackson-Davis said. “Well, you witnessed it, so I would just say that we just got to play hard and just do our thing.”
Hoosiers coach Archie Miller in particular praised the leadership of Smith, who helped keep IU composed through some shaky second-half stretches.
“He played the best college game of his career regardless of any numbers that he had,” Smith said. “I don't even know what he had. I just thought he was a real calming force for us. I thought he was a calming guy in huddles and timeouts. And he was a leader tonight out there and that was great to see as well.”
DAMEZI'S BIG SHOT
Miller was happy to see sophomore guard Damezi Anderson come up with a big 3-pointer late in the game, which extended IU’s lead to 72-58 with 3:35 left.
The 6-7 Anderson played 20 minutes against the Seminoles, helping the Hoosiers match up at times against FSU’s bigger guards.
“He's a good shooter, and he's really shooting the ball well for us every day in practice,” Miller said. “It was good for him to stick that last one, to be able to knock that last one down. That was a big shot for our team in general because he can shoot the ball for us. So he's another added guy out there that I think helps stretch the floor a little bit.”
PHINISEE STILL AILING
Indiana sophomore point guard Rob Phinisee missed his third straight game and was in street clothes in a walking boot before the game against the Seminoles.
Miller said the new injury was the result of Phinisee turning his ankle Monday in practice. Phinisee has also been dealing with ankle and abdominal injuries.
“A little bit of bad luck for him,” Miller said. “Probably maybe could have got in there tonight, definitely would have probably been ready to move in to maybe this weekend or next week. This ankle is going to slow him down just a little bit.
“But good spirits otherwise and he's looked good so, hopefully, now he's just got to get through this ankle and get him back and whenever it is we get him back, obviously, we become a little bit better in my opinion.”
It wasn’t a happy homecoming for Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, who made his first trip back to Assembly Hall since coaching as an assistant at Kentucky from 1974-86.
Hamilton was whistled for a technical foul in the second half after the Seminoles called for a five-second violation.
“I got a technical because I gave a gesture,” Hamilton said. “I thought it was pretty quick. I’d like to earn my technical. I didn’t get my money’s worth on that one. At least I need to say something or do something, but I didn’t get a chance to earn that one.”
Hamilton was complementary of Indiana following the game.
“There’s no doubt that this is the best team we’ve played up till this point,” said Hamilton, whose FSU team has knocked off Florida, Tennessee and Purdue. “I think they are definitely a Top 25 ranked team. I think they are going to be a NCAA tournament team, and I think the fans can be very proud and happy that they are showing signs of coming back to the Hoosier style of ball they’ve been accustomed to over the years.”