Heavyweight Bout: Ike vs. Jackson-Davis
DAYTON, Ohio -- Each time Graham Ike meets with the media postgame, he brings the stat sheet along with him. As he thoughtfully answers questions, he often refers to the white sheet of paper next to him.
He shakes his head. He smiles.
He lists off numbers like a math teacher.
So, it should come as no surprise that just minutes -- literally -- after the Cowboys heard their name called on Selection Sunday, the 6-foot-9 freshman forward went right to his cell phone. Wyoming was matched against Indiana in the First Four game in Dayton, Ohio.
As hundreds of fans gathered inside the Gateway Center in Laramie to celebrate Wyoming's 16th NCAA Tournament appearance, Ike was busy scouting.
He wanted to know who his counterpart would be Tuesday night.
"He's a lefty and he's averaging 18 (points) and nine (rebounds)," Ike said of the Hoosiers forward Trayce Jackson-Davis. "It should be a great matchup. I'm really looking forward to that one."
Turns out, Indiana's big man has done his homework, too.
"He's a great player," he said during Indiana's media availability Tuesday evening in Dayton. "He's a lefty, likes to back down and go to the basket."
Jackson-Davis, the fourth-leading scorer in the Big Ten Conference, is indeed netting more than 18 points per night. Ike was a tad generous in the rebounding category. The sophomore snags 8.2 of those.
Four times this season Jackson-Davis has eclipsed the 30-point mark, most recently last Saturday in the conference tournament when he poured in 31 points on 15-of-21 shooting in an 80-77 setback against the eventual champions, Iowa.
In November, he finished with a season-high 43. He hit 18-of-24 shots to help sink Marshall, 90-79.
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Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said Tuesday Jackson-Davis has allowed himself to be coached. That's one of the reasons he has become one of the most dominant big men in the country.
And Woodson would know a little something about that.
He coached in the NBA for 25 seasons and played for 11.
"I told him in front of his parents that I'm not an easy coach -- I'm going to challenge you and push you," Woodson said. "And if you allow me to do that, I think you will grow as a player. He's done that. He's allowed me to actually coach and push him. I know there's days he walks out of that gym pissed at me, but, hey, at the end of the day, it's just coaching, man.
"As long as he knows that I love him and I'm in his corner, that means more to me than anything."
Ike, who nets 19.6 an outing, has scored more than 30 points twice this season. He has hit the 20-point mark 15 times. The Aurora, Colo., product played in just 12 games last year, recovering from a torn ACL he sustained during his final season at Overland High School.
He showed glimpses of what could be inside empty arenas around the Mountain West.
This season was the real grind.
What has his head coach learned about him? Not nearly as much as Ike has learned about himself.
"There's no other player in the country that's been doubled as much as he has," Jeff Linder said Tuesday. "I mean, usually, he's getting doubled every time down the floor. His usage rate is probably higher than any post player in the history of college basketball. As a team, right now, we're probably, I think, 400 possessions ahead of Purdue in terms of playing through the post and passing out of the post.
"So, this year, for him to see every single type of double team and coverage, those possessions are invaluable. He's had some growing pains."
For instance, Ike was getting to the free-throw line more than eight times per game. That number has dropped to 3.2 over the Cowboys previous five games. Ike has also struggled from the field down the stretch, sinking just 28 of his last 74.
"Naturally, as the season goes on -- especially when you get to the middle of February and early March -- you don't get as many fouls called," Linder said. "You have to learn how to adjust. I think that's the biggest thing for him is just learning how to adjust with the way that the game's being called, with how the other team is playing you and just the flow of the season, which none of those guys had really felt."
Tuesday night's meeting in Dayton has all the makings of a battle of the bigs.
Ike, for one, said he's ready for that challenge.
"I'm definitely looking forward to a great player of his caliber," he said. "You always dream of playing people like that at this level."
The Pokes and Hoosiers will tipoff at 7:10 p.m. MT inside UD Arena and the game will be televised on TruTv.