Indiana Notes: Robert Johnson is Hoosiers’ ‘Iron Man’
There is a reason that first-year Indiana University men’s basketball coach Archie Miller recently referred to Hoosier guard Robert Johnson as his program’s “Iron Man.”
The senior has competed in over 3,400 minutes and 120 games in his career, but he is showing of late that his energy tank isn’t nearly empty.
“Rob is really ready to play,” Miller said following the Hoosiers’ most recent game. “He’s a great leader (and) wants to do well. He wants our team to do well. He’s about all of the right things.”
Indiana (12-10, 5-5 Big Ten) will try to “do well” at Ohio State (18-5, 9-1) Tuesday at 7 p.m. (ESPN2).
Johnson is doing a number of the “right things” for Miller as of late; some of those do show up in a box score, while others don’t. But make no mistake; Johnson’s efforts and leadership are being appreciated regardless of tangible measurement.
“To me,” Miller continued, “Rob is an Iron Man for us. He is just a senior who has been doing things the right way. I think he just wants to finish as strong as he can.”
From an offensive perspective, Johnson is producing better over the last five games than he has – on average – all season.
He has connected on 44 percent of his 3-pointers during that span, which is significantly better than his season average of 34 percent, and he is scoring over 15 points and grabbing over six rebounds per game, both of which top his season numbers.
In Indiana’s initial 17 games, Johnson sank a couple of 3-pointers in just seven of those, but he’s now done so in five consecutive outings.
As good as Johnson has been offensively, he has worked that hard at the defensive end, as well.
Miller has relied so heavily upon him that he has played Johnson at least 35 minutes in six of the Hoosiers’ last eight games.
“Rob answered the bell today,” Miller said following the Indiana game with Purdue Sunday.
The frustrating career of Indiana forward Collin Hartman seemingly never ceases, as he missed his seventh game of this season on Sunday due to injury.
Number eight will come Tuesday in Columbus.
“I think Collin will be out for an extended period of time,” Miller said.
Hartman landed “awkwardly” in practice Saturday and Miller explained that he “got nervous.”
“We’ll leave it as a lower-leg injury,” Miller said. “That is probably going to take him some time (to heal) here.”
“Hopefully, not more than a couple weeks.”
Hartman blew out his knee in September of 2016 and missed all of last season, while he has also battled ankle and groin injuries this season. However, when he plays, Indiana is significantly better at both ends of the court.
With Hartman and starting center De’Ron Davis out (he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury earlier this month); the small Hoosiers will get even smaller and have less depth moving forward.
“We’ll need to move (forward Juwan Morgan) back maybe to the small forward position,” Miller said of his personnel adjustments.
Miller can utilize 6-foot-6 senior Freddie McSwain and 6-foot-7 Justin Smith along the baseline, both of whom have had moments of effectiveness this season; through they are challenged due to their size.
McSwain did a nice job of driving the ball against the behemoth Boilermakers Sunday and finished with eight points, which was his third most productive outing of the season.
“Freddie did a really good job,” Miller said. “He played strong. Obviously, I thought he battled. I thought he really competed.”
NO REST FOR THE WEARY (OR ANYONE ELSE, FOR THAT MATTER)
Tuesday’s game is the second in an eight-day, four-game stretch for the Hoosiers, which will limit Miller’s time to teach and the players ability to rest or get healthy.
“It’s about recovery,” Miller said. “We have a quick turnaround (for Ohio State). We also have Saturday (against Michigan State) and Monday (at Rutgers).”
Indiana’s lack of depth results in Miller having to play guys a lot of minutes, which won’t benefit them as this week and season progress.
Against Purdue, Miller played five guys at least 28 minutes (four at least 34) and only got 31 total minutes from his bench.
“Our court rotation is really slim when you take a guy out,” Miller said. “I thought the guys did a really good job. They logged heavy minutes, but I thought we had a good group out there.
“They had good chemistry for the most part.”
It is a positive that Johnson has improved as this season has worn on, because Indiana’s other guards haven’t.
Freshman Al Durham and sophomore Devonte Green have had their games regress over the past month-plus, and Miller said that those two, plus fifth-year senior Josh Newkirk, need to step up their games over the next month.
“We’re 22 games in,” Miller said, “we’ve been riding it 22 games. We just keep trying to make them better and get guys to play their best ball at the right time.
“February is when you want to start to find guys in a rhythm.”
Durham has seen his scoring average plunge from 8.0 to open the month of December to 4.6 to close this month.
In the Hoosiers’ first two games of the season, Durham totaled 22 points, but he hasn’t scored that many points (he has just 20) in his team’s past 10 games combined.
In the case of Green, his numbers have been extremely poor in comparison to last season.
After shooting 44 percent overall as a freshman, the sophomore’s accuracy has dropped to 32 percent this season, which includes a fall-off from 43 percent from 3-point range to 26 percent.
“It’s been an issue all year,” Miller continued, “just (getting) consistent play. We’ve got to find more guys playing their best at the right time of the year.”
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