BLOOMINGTON – Jonny Marlin has no illusions of basketball grandeur. He is not Yogi Ferrell or Steve Alford or any of the great Indiana guards from the past.
He is a transfer walk-on who embraces the shadows beyond the spotlight.
So let Ferrell shoot or Stanford Robinson drive or Evan Gordon score. Marlin will do the little things in limited minutes and love it.
And if opportunity comes tonight at No. 3 Michigan State, all the better.
“I try to bring something to the table, whether it's diving for a loose ball or taking a charge or making the extra pass,” the former IPFW guard says. “It doesn't matter. I just want our team to win.”
The 5-10 Marlin is coming off a career-high eight minutes in last Saturday's Northwestern loss -- all in the second half with the game on the line. He's played in three of the last four games. For the season he's scored four points and grabbed two rebounds. He has one assist, two turnovers and countless floor burns.
“I'm not cued into minutes,” he says. “I just want our team to win. If that has me playing zero minutes, I'm fine with that. As long as it gives us a chance to win.”
Marlin was a starter in his one year at IPFW, averaging 4.3 points and 3.5 assists. He shot 35.6 percent from three-point range, 87.5 percent from the line.
But he wanted more -- and not in terms of playing time. So he transferred to Indiana recognizing that playing opportunities would be limited.
“It's a different role, but I know that when I switched schools. I was prepared for it.”
Marlin has taken only three shots all season, and missed them all. He is 4-for-4 on free throws. He's played a total of 35 minutes in 12 games.
“I'll shoot,” he says, “but at the same time, if I'm open and Yogi's open, I'd much rather have him shoot.
“If I'm in a situation where it's open, by all means I'll take it. But by no means am I out there hunting shots. I just want the best shot on each possession.”
What do coaches want from Marlin?
“Take care of the ball,” associate head coach Tim Buckley says. “Make open shots because he does have the ability to shoot.
“He has to do a terrific job defensively. He has to have great intent defensively where he has to keep guys who might be quicker and stronger out of the lane, and not let them get in areas they can score. He's done a good job of that in the short periods of time that he's played.”
While Marlin doesn't have a green shooting light, he does have the OK to take open shots.
“It's more a situation that when he catches the ball, he's got to be ready to shoot,” Buckley said. “He has to be looking at the rim. At times he's trying to distribute and handle the ball, but he has to be ready to shoot. He is very capable.”
IU (12-6) seeks to bounce back from Saturday's 54-47 home loss to Northwestern. That means playing with greater offensive efficiency and player leadership.
“It's not like anything is going to miraculously change,” coach Tom Crean said, “nor does it need to. We just need to continue to improve and understand how we play best.
“Most of the mistakes we made the other day were self inflicted. Mistakes of going under screens, mistakes of shots, of not reversing the ball more than one time. The big one was not taking one more dribble at the basket and letting the contact influence the play rather than getting all the way to the basket.”
Michigan State (17-1, 6-0) figures to deliver plenty of contact tonight, just as it did in its 73-56 win at Assembly Hall earlier this month.
“We didn't follow the game plan,” Crean said about that loss. “We weren't strong enough with the ball at times. We gave them 13 points off of turnovers.”
Defense has fueled the Spartans'10-game winning streak, coach Tom Izzo said.
“We got a lot better defensively than we were in December.”
Izzo said senior forward Adreian Payne is doubtful for tonight. The 6-9 senior has missed three straight games with a sprained right foot. Izzo added that it's more likely Payne would play Saturday against Michigan, but that it might be up to two more weeks.
Payne averages 16.2 points and 7.7 rebounds. He shoots 52.4 percent from the field, 43.9 percent from three-point range. He had four points and five rebounds in the first meeting with Indiana.
Despite a series of injuries, guard Gary Harris leads Michigan State with a 17.9 scoring average. He also averages 4.7 rebounds. He had 26 points against the Hoosiers in the first game.
“He's a special player,” Izzo said. “It's just a matter of getting him healthy and back into the shape he was in.”
Point guard Keith Appling averages 16.1 points and 3.7 rebounds. He has 82 assists against 36 turnovers, a big reason why Crean said Appling is one of the most consistent point guards in the country. The Spartans get a big boost off the bench from guard Kenny Kaminski, who is shooting 58.6 percent from three-point range.
“We let Gary Harris get far too comfortable and loose,” Crean said. “He did a phenomenal job and he's player better than he was then.
“There's no question we could have played a lot better. Hopefully we'll learn from that.”