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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, December 02, 2017 1:00 am

Hoosiers need Davis to hit his free throws

Pete DiPrimio | For The Journal Gazette

Indiana at Michigan

When: 12:30 p.m. today

Where: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Mich.

TV: CBS

Radio: 1250 AM

Indiana center DeRon Davis knows. Of course he does. He can't continue to be a free-throw shooting liability.

Too much depends on it.

Coach Archie Miller and the Hoosiers know. They see it every day. Davis is an inside difference maker of the highest order.

Fix the free throws, maintain the dominant play, stay out of foul trouble and good times will come.

“He's a big weapon for us,” guard Robert Johnson said. “Whenever we feel he has an inside advantage, he has to get the ball.”

The 6-foot-10, 249-pound Davis got the ball often in the second half of Wednesday's 91-81 loss to top-ranked Duke. He finished with 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting, plus five rebounds in 18 minutes against one of the nation's top frontcourts. He fouled out Wendell Carter. Duke superstar Marvin Bagley couldn't stop him.

“I just need to keep being aggressive,” Davis said.

Miller said: “Being able to play through DeRon in the post, he's tough to deal with. Having DeRon as a presence in the second half was a real benefit.”

Benefits could continue today when the Hoosiers (4-3) visit Michigan (6-2) in a Big Ten opener.

Free throws are a key. Davis shoots 48.5 percent from the line. Last year, it was 75.6 percent.

Against Duke, he was 4 for 9 from the line, including 0 for 4 down the stretch.

“We started to get fouled more and that's on us to hit our free throws,” he said. “We knock them down, we're right there. That plays a big part on me.”

Davis will draw fouls. If he can't convert, Miller said, it's like a turnover.

“He has to continue to work at the foul line,” he said, “because he's a much better shooter than that.”

Overall, the Hoosiers enter Big Ten play seeking to build on their Duke effort.

“We did a lot of good things,” Johnson said. “I think it gave us an identity and a standard that we need to play that hard and that intense every night.

“If we get better from here, day by day, drill by drill in practice, we'll be right where we want to be by the end of the season.”

Ultimately, Miller said, it's about winning.

Doing it at Michigan would be a good start.

“We need to make winning plays at the end of games,” Miller said. “You have to find a way to step up as individuals. As a team, you have to expect to make them.

“At Michigan, it's got to be the same approach we had (against Duke). We're going into a hostile environment against a good team, and we've got to be ready to battle.”

The Wolverines are coming off an 86-71 loss at North Carolina as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. They are led by 6-6 guard Charles Mathews (16.1 points, 4.9 rebounds) and 6-11 forward Moritz Wagner (15.9, 8.6).

“Every night we're going to play a really good team,” Miller said. “It's not going to go away. We have to keep getting better.”