Davis becoming low-post threat IU needs

At one point midway through Wednesday’s second half, Duke’s Marvin Bagley appeared exhausted.

The toll of nine games in 20 days was likely catching up with the freshman star. The same could likely be said for the electric atmosphere inside Assembly Hall, the kind of rocking, hostile venue he had yet to see.

Through it all, Bagley had to deal with a bully. De’Ron Davis wasn’t going to let him off easy.

The score of NBA scouts in attendance Wednesday night came to see Bagley and his Duke teammates. They also saw the potential in Davis, Indiana’s sophomore center.

It was far from a perfect night for Davis, whose inability to hit free throws at winning time hurt IU’s chances to hold on late. Otherwise, it was an important night for Davis, who took a big step toward becoming the low-post presence these Hoosiers need.

“Being able to play through De’Ron in the second half, one-on-one in the post, he’s tough to deal with, with that type of spacing,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “He delivered for us. He really played well.”

Davis played only five first-half minutes after picking up two fouls before the first media timeout. He finished with 16 points in 18 total minutes, falling one shy of matching his career high.

The Colorado native played like a veteran, with heady, fluid moves in the post. When Davis was open, his teammates fed him.

In the paint, he did not disappoint.

“He’s a big weapon for us,” senior guard Robert Johnson said. “That’s something we’ll continue to do. Whenever we feel he has an advantage inside he has to get the ball. That’s something we’ll continue to do.”

Bagley and teammate Wendell Carter Jr. couldn’t handle Davis down low. The IU big man forced Carter into his own foul trouble, eventually fouling him out with four minutes left.

“I just need to keep being aggressive,” Davis said. “It’s not just on me. We have a lot of 3-point threats on our team and that opens the paint up for me. Rob constantly tells me one, two, dribbles, if no one’s coming, I can go to work. And then, that second dribble, if you see someone diving down on me, kick it out, it’s a 3.

“So I think overall as a team, with our 3-point threats it opens up the paint for me a lot. And I think that’s what got me so open in the post.”

It also led to opportunities at the line. There, Davis wasn’t as impactful.

He went 4-for-9 on the night, missing four of six during a two-minute span late in regulation that allowed the Blue Devils to build their advantage beyond two possessions — and out of reach for the Hoosiers.

A 75 percent free-throw shooter as a freshman, Davis has made only 16 of his 33 attempts (48 percent) so far this year.

“He has got to continue to work at the foul line, because I think he’s a much better shooter than that,” Miller said.

Davis acknowledged as much.

“Although we didn’t match bucket for bucket, we were getting fouled,” he said. “We knock down our free throws, we’re right there. And that plays a big part on me.”

Figure that out — and keep him out of foul trouble — and the Hoosiers might have something special with Davis around the rim.

“Having De’Ron as a presence in the second half was a real benefit,” Miller said.