Indiana needed a spark Tuesday night in its first NCAA Tournament game since 2016, and Jordan Geronimo lit the fire.
Geronimo came off the bench with dunks, a 3-pointer, his typical strong defense and a career-high 15 points to help Indiana overcome a difficult shooting night. The Hoosiers (21-13) took control in the middle of the second half and held on for a 66-58 victory over Wyoming in the second game on the opening night of the First Four at UD Arena.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Indiana star Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “He’s an energy guy, and I’m so happy for him because he’s performed at a really, really high level for us. And without him we probably would have lost that game.”
Geronimo blocked a shot by ripping it a way from a Wyoming player and went to the other end made a 3-pointer, his eighth of the season, for a 43-37 lead with 12:39 left. Soon afterward he spun to the rim for a 47-39 lead and the Hoosiers were in control.
“It’s a big stage for everybody, it’s a big stage for me,” Indiana coach Mike Woodson said. “But sometimes in tournament play you find a guy that steps up for you. And he was the guy tonight.”
Here are three takeaways from Indiana’s victory in a battle of No. 12 seeds:
1. UD Arena was like a home game for Indiana: Not surprisingly the sellout crowd was decidedly in Indiana’s favor. They were deafening on dunks, especially a late one by Jackson-Davis. And they let the officials have it with loud boos a couple times.
“Playing in front of our fans and it being almost like a home game one more I thought it was awesome,” Jackson-Davis said. “And then just being on this national stage, I thought it was really cool.”
2. Defense is always the key: Both teams were cold early and the score was tied at 13 going into the final six minutes of the first half. Then both teams started to score and Indiana led 30-25 at the half.
But Indiana led the entire second half. When Wyoming had chances to cut into the lead, tie the score or take the lead, the Hoosiers made defensive stops.
“We’ve been great defensively all year,” Woodson said. “Early on we couldn’t find offense and they couldn’t either. I told the guys in the huddle it’s going to be a grind, one of those ugly games. But we’ve just got to stay the course.”
3. Getting Geronimo healthy mattered: Geronimo injured an ankle Friday in the Big Ten Tournament and has been undergoing treatment. It wasn’t known until the team arrived in Dayton that he would be able to play. He played over 19 minutes, which is seven minutes over his average. He didn’t move like a player who was injured.
“I give thanks to our team trainer, Tim Garl,” Geronimo said. “He helped me through plenty of treatment sessions just getting my ankle right. And my teammates kept me confident.”
STAR OF THE GAME
Jackson-Davis was difficult for the Cowboys to handle in the post. He scored 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting and 9-of-11 shooting at the free-throw line. He also had nine rebounds and only one turnover.
STAT OF THE GAME
Wyoming (25-9) committed 19 turnovers, and the Cowboys average only 11.1. Their best players were most the responsible for giving Indiana the opportunities to score 17 points off turnovers. Hunter Maldonado committed 10 turnovers to offset most of his 21 points. And Graham Ike, who battled foul trouble guarding Jackson-Davis, committed five turnovers and scored 17 points.
Indiana advances to play No. 5 Saint Mary’s at 7:20 p.m. Thursday in Portland, Oregon.