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IU's Sheehey goes where no Hoosier has gone before

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Online: For more on Indiana athletics, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio.

Record performance highlights Purdue victory

Sunday, February 17, 2013 - 8:57 am

BLOOMINGTON -- Will Sheehey smirked.

Then he lied.

Or did he?

Or was it the other way around -- first the lie, then the smirk?

And what's the difference between a lie and a joke?

In truth, if truth could be found in the story over the competitive shooting battles between Sheehey, Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford, did it matter?

“I win them all,” Sheehey said.

With a smirk.

Sheehey has gone where no Hoosier has gone before. Not Calbert Cheaney, the greatest scorer in Big Ten history. Not Steve Alford, perhaps Indiana's best-ever shooter. Not Don Schlundt, who held the IU career scoring record for nearly two generations.

Not bad for a sixth man.

Sheehey was a school-record 9-for-9 from the field against Purdue. He scored a career-high 22 points in Saturday's 83-55 victory. It wasn't a total surprise considering he averages 51.3 percent from the field and 10.1 points, but major credit should go to the after-practice shooting sessions he has with Hulls and Christian.

“We play different type of (shooting) games,” Sheehey said. “We see who can make the most in a row, and things like that.”

And the winner is?

“I win them all,” he said.

With a smirk.

Sheehey sat next to Watford in the post-game glow of the Assembly Hall media room. Watford was asked about who wins these battles the public doesn't see.

Watford leaned back. He smiled. The pause was telling.

“Yeah, he wins them all,” Watford said.

Regardless of the truth, Sheehey was an off-the-bench force of nature against Purdue. He hit three-pointers and layups and mid-range jumpers. He was in -- if you believe basketball cliché -- the zone.

“The guys who stay in zones the longest are the best players,” he said. “There's a zone. You see a couple of shots go through the hoop, you get confidence.”

Sheehey does not lack for confidence. It is part of his game, his charm, his edge.

For instance, he was asked about teammate Victor Oladipo and his injured ankle. The team policy is to say nothing about injuries. Sheehey followed -- in a manner of speaking.

“Victor is fantastic,” he said. “I've never seen him better.”

As for the impact of losing Oladipo against Purdue …

“I got excited,” Sheehey said. “I got to play a little bit more.”

Sheehey scored six points in 11 first-half minutes. In the second half, as Oladipo's replacement, he scored 16.

“I try to stay aggressive regardless of what the situation is,” he said. “That's the way I am as a player. Some guys are different. The more minutes I get, the more opportunities I get, the more I'll try to stay aggressive. That's how it should be for everyone.”

It's not, of course. Sheehey is not like everyone. He's the 6-7 son of a former college player (Mike Sheehey, Syracuse and St. Bonaventure) and the nephew of a former pro player (Tom Sheehey, Boston Celtics, Spanish pro league).

His previous career high of 21 points was set against Butler last season. He knew he was close to a new high just as he knew a record was in reach. Coach Tom Crean has a knack for knowing such things courtesy of athletic media relations director J.D. Campbell.

“(Crean) is good about that,” Sheehey said. “He wants us to excel and do things here that have never been done before.”

Given IU's storied history, that's hard to do. Sheehey, Crean said, was more than capable of doing it.

“That's why I consider him a starter,” Crean said. “There's no doubt about it.

“He does so many things defensively. He's so locked into helping his teammates. He could run our walk-throughs. That's how locked in he is. He's got edge and personality. He has completely bought in that he's a starting-quality guy off the bench. He epitomizes student of the game. He's really maturing.

“He was all over the place. He guards so many people and that activity carries over to his offense.

“I'm glad he got (the record). It's something he'll always have. He played outstanding.”

Outstanding doesn't mean perfect. Sheehey's 2-for-5 free throw shooting bugged him.

“I missed three free throws, but besides that, it felt good. My teammates found me. I thought I played pretty good defense. Playing defense, the offense will come.”

No smirk required.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com.