The No. 12 Indiana Hoosiers travels 130 miles east to face Xavier as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games on Friday in Cincinnati.
The Hoosiers (2-0) and Musketeers (3-0) are undefeated entering their contest, part of an annual eight-game series played between teams from the Big Ten and Big East conferences.
Indiana posted a dominant 101-49 win over visiting Bethune-Cookman on Nov. 10, as Trayce Jackson-Davis had 21 points and six rebounds and Miller Kopp added 12.
The Musketeers defeated visiting Fairfield 78-65 on Tuesday behind senior forward Zach Freemantle, who posted just the fifth triple-double in school history with 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. Freemantle had never handed out more than four assists in a game in his career.
“I just had a night where I couldn’t really make any shots,” Freemantle said, “so I might as well give it to someone who can.”
“Triple-doubles are hard,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had a player get a triple-double. I think that shows Zach’s versatility, his talent. What I loved about his game (Tuesday night) is he got off to a bad start…but he put that behind him and kept playing.”
Freemantle had the opportunity in part because Xavier played Fairfield without preseason first-team all-Big East pick Colby Jones, who sat out after suffering an ankle injury in Monday’s practice. Miller doesn’t know whether Jones, who averages 13.5 points, 7.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game, will be able to go against the Hoosiers.
“The good news is X-rays were negative,” Miller said. “I know Colby’s hopeful he can play. We’re certainly not going to put him at risk.”
Jones averaged 13.5 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds in Xavier’s opening romps against Morgan State and Montana. If he can’t go against the Hoosiers, then it will test one of Indiana coach Mike Woodson’s theories.
“In the short period that I’ve been in college as a coach, I truly believe you’ve got to have good point-guard play and perimeter play to win at a high level,” Woodson said. “Watching great teams last season and the teams that seem to win every year at a high level, they’ve got good perimeter players and good guards out front.”
Indiana is favored to win the Big Ten and go a long way in the NCAA Tournament – provided its backcourt of Xavier Johnson and Jalen Hood-Schifino can be efficient and consistently knock down 3-pointers.
So far, Johnson has averaged 5.5 points, 4.5 assists and 2.0 turnovers in 19.5 minutes per game while Hood-Schifino has posted 7.5 points, 6.0 assists and 3.0 turnovers in 27.5 minutes per game. Hood-Schifino has gone 0 for 5 from 3-point range, but the Hoosiers are hitting 40 percent as a group – a far cry from last year’s .333 conversation rate.
“‘X’ has come into his own,” Woodson said. “I thought he proved that at the end of last season. Jalen is still learning, but I think he’s ahead of schedule in terms of how he has performed for us.”
Jackson-Davis, named to the Wooden Preseason Top 50 watch list Tuesday, paces the Hoosiers with 18.0 points and 6.5 rebounds in 22.0 minutes per game. He’ll face off with former Iowa big man and current Xavier forward Jack Nunge, who’s averaging a team-high 18.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 24.7 minutes per night.
–Field Level Media