Underwood reacts to Trayce Jackson-Davis’ 35 points in win over Illinois men’s basketball


James Hoeck

Head coach Brad Underwood yells at the referee during the Illini’s game against Indiana on Thursday. Underwood gives praise to Trayce Jackson-Davis’s performance against the Illini on Thursday that resulted in Indiana’s victory.

By Carson Gourdie, Sports Video Editor

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood’s press conference after a home loss to Indiana

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood defended his defensive approach with Indiana’s big — who scored 35 points — and said his team was gassed after several weeks of consistent games and practice.

Illinois was gassed – and they were outclassed. 

The Illini were no match for the Hoosiers last night, as they couldn’t find an answer for superstar Trayce Jackson-Davis, who dropped 35 points on 15-19 shooting. The Illini, consistently missing layups and free throws, couldn’t keep up against the preseason Big Ten favorites. 

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood met with the media after the game, and he defended his defensive approach, discussed the loaded schedule and offered new information about senior wing Matthew Mayer. 

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Underwood tips his hat to Indiana – with some caveats 

“They were really good. They looked like a team that had five days off and prepared for us.

We look like a team who would be 19 straight days without a day off. And you can’t miss 14 free throws. You can’t miss 13 layups.”


Underwood repeatedly mentioned that his team has either practiced or played in 19 straight days and inferred that it was one of the reasons the team underperformed. Prior to this game, Illinois had won four straight games and had great ball movement. But last night, the team looked out of sync and were physically and mentally exhausted. They missed easy shots that allowed the game to get away. 

Underwood said the team will have two days off now before prepping for a railing Ohio State squad. 

Underwood doesn’t think Jackson-Davis’ 35-point performance was the reason they lost

“We tried it. And it didn’t matter tonight, guys. I’m just telling you it was an off night and literally, we were fatigued. And physically we were worse than sick. So that doesn’t help either.

His 35 (points) didn’t beat us. He wouldn’t beat us by himself. He had five assists. Okay, those are what hurt you. Okay, I mean, and we didn’t give them three (point attempts). I mean, it’s no different than we played (Indiana) last year.”


Ok, Underwood gave a fair point that his team limited the three-point attempts and that fatigue may have played a factor in today’s loss. But the idea that Jackson-Davis’ 35 points didn’t beat Illinois? 

C’mon, man.

It’s not like Jackson-Davis scored 35 points on an inefficient 13-29 shooting night. He scored 35 points on 15-19 shooting. His baskets came with ease at times, and Jackson-Davis could’ve scored 50 points if he truly needed to. 

What’s Illinois going to do to slow down Jackson-Davis in Bloomington? What’s Illinois going to do when they have to face Zach Edey of Purdue in March? The Illini may have found their Achilles heel tonight, and Dain Dainja may not have the juice to stop it. 

Even when they knocked off Michigan State, Illinois was torched in the paint for much of the game. 

Underwood praises program’s rivalry with Indiana

“This is what college basketball is about. 

Illinois vs Indiana. (Kansas vs Kansas State). Oklahoma vs Oklahoma State. You go right down the list; every school has a (rival). This just happens to be one that has the most outstanding high school basketball, youth basketball in the country in those two states, so people grow up with it.

And I have tremendous appreciation for that. And obviously at two historic programs that have had a lot of success on hardwoods.”


Illinois fans have embraced this rivalry with passion and have good memories of the 2013 upset and the back-and-forth affair between Lou Henson and Bobby Knight in the 1980s and 1990s. However, do Indiana fans really consider Illinois a big rival? I think Purdue tops their list.  

Regardless, Indiana is a blue blood. Campus and the Champaign-Urbana community backed the house, giving the game an electric pregame atmosphere. While the Illini performed poorly tonight, the result didn’t give you a pit in your stomach like it did against Penn State or Missouri. 

Matthew Mayer had his worst game yet, and they missed too many free throws and layups. However, this game shows that Illinois is more like a second-tier Big Ten team. Indiana and Purdue are simply in a different class when they play clean, and I’m not sure Illinois has the tools to slow down their bigs.



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