My Two Cents: It's Nice to See De'Ron Davis Have a Fleeting Senior Moment

Tom Brew

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It's rare when you see a perfect day from such an imperfect player, but that's what happened on Sunday when Indiana's De'Ron Davis had himself a moment.

A senior moment.

Davis, the Hoosiers' 6-foot-10 senior forward from Park Hill, Colo., was supposed to be Indiana's next great big man when he signed with the Tom Crean and Indiana in 2016. Scoring 18 points — like he did on Sunday — was supposed to be a common occurrence. Going 9-for-9 from the field, and tying a school record in the process? Sure, we thought that would be possible a time or two during his career path.

That hasn't happened, of course, for a variety of reasons. If you had to pick one word to sum up Davis' career in Bloomington, disappointing probably works best. None of the individual goals we set for Davis — an all-conference performer that people had to game-plan for and a future NBA player — have been met.

None of the team goals either, for that matter. So that's why it was nice to see him do some big things Sunday, even in a blowout loss to Michigan. His 18 points were a career-high, as was his perfect 9-for-9 shooting night, which had only been done once before, by Will Sheehey against Purdue back in 2013.

It's been quite a four years for De'Ron Davis. It also hasn't been at all what he thought it would be. And you can't tell the story in 2020 without going back to 2016.

Four years seems like an eternity ago

In 2016, Tom Crean's Hoosiers won the Big Ten by two games over Michigan State. The Hoosiers were 15-3 in the league, 25-7 in the regular season and had won ALL 17 home games at Assembly Hall. It was Crean's second league title in four years.

The Hoosiers, led by senior point guard Yogi Ferrell and a great supporting cast, won two NCAA Tournament games that year, beating Kentucky 73-67 in the second round, which felt crazy good. (Doesn't it always, beating Kentucky?) 

The Hoosiers lost their regional semifinal game to top-seed North Carolina, falling 101-86. Davis was part of a five-recruiting class that included current teammate Devonte Green, and three others who have been long gone, Curtis Jones, junior college transfer Freddie McSwain and Grant Gelon.

Davis arrived with high expectations. That 2016-17 team his freshman year had three future NBA front court players on it, Thomas Bryant, Juwan Morgan and OG Anunoby. Davis played in all 34 games, averaging 14 minutes as a freshman, and showed a ton of promise. He scored in double figures six times, and had his first perfect game in a Big Ten Tournament win over Iowa, where he was 7-for-7 from the field and scored 15 points.

Despite all that talent, the Hoosiers underachieved that year, finished 18-15 overall and just 7-11 in the Big Ten. Crean was fired, and Archie Miller was hired. That 2016 NCAA win over Kentucky remains Indiana's last tournament victory. Davis and Green are on the verge of being the first Indiana class since 1972 to not make a single NCAA Tournament.

Davis' sophomore year turned into a disaster. He had a new coach, Archie Miller, and had to learn a new system, and then he tore his Achilles' tendon in early January and was lost for the season. He was averaging 10 points a game when he got hurt, and had been showing nice promise.

Since that injury, though, he hasn't been the same player. He still has offensive skill, but he's been a huge defensive liability for two years. His lack of quickness leaves him in bad positions often, and he's always in foul trouble. He's also not quick enough to guard many of the Big Ten's talented big men on the perimeter, so finding minutes for him this season has been hard. 

That's why Sunday's 18 points came out of the blue. He's had two points or less in 16 games this year. Sunday was the first time he had even scored in double figures all year. But he showed a bit of good stuff in the win against Iowa on Thursday and he earned his minutes on Sunday. 

"My guys were finding me and my shots were falling,'' Davis said afterward. "My work from all year has been paying off. It felt good. "I started the season healthy, and I’m going to finish the season healthy.

"I’m just going to continue to take care of my body, continue to do what I’m doing, and seize on my opportunity every time I get out on the court.”

Indiana coach Archie Miller was complimentary of Davis on his radio show Monday night. He's proven he can shoot — and score — in practice. 

“He was effective not only in different portions of the game, but from start to finish,'' Miller said. "When he's playing like that, he commands some attention. He played 19 minutes and  made all nine of his shots, which is good. He was definitely the most effective player on our team.

"When you watch De'Ron shoot the ball in our shooting drills or within our practices, he has a good chance of making it. He has a good release, good touch, and from 15, 16, 17-feet, he's comfortable.''

Davis is hoping for a few more nice moments while his Indiana career winds down. He likes his teammates, and has enjoyed his time in Bloomington. And even though he enjoyed his offensive outburst on Sunday, he also knows that it came in a loss and his team is in a slump right now.

The Hoosiers, 16-9 overall and 6-8 in the Big Ten, still have things to figure out, even this late in February. 

"We've got to stay together and stay tight and just handle business,'' Davis said. "Every team goes through their ups and downs, and we're going through ours. We just have to continue to play hard each and every day.''

Davis talked a lot about Indiana's defensive failures in the 89-65 loss, where Michigan shot nearly 60 percent from the field.

"We have to get back to the drawing board on our help-side defense. We can't run in and get back out to the ball,'' Davis said. "And we have to be more consistent.

We have to put together more stops in a row.  I feel like our offense was getting to the basket, but we just have to put together more stops. We can't trade baskets. We have to get more stops in a row."I think it's just that second half, coming out. We were down seven at half and got that first bucket, but then they came out on a little run. We've got to stop those runs.

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