Tipoff: Ohio State at Indiana, 4 p.m., Sunday
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BLOOMINGTON – Did Iowa forward Aaron White diss on Indiana freshman Stanford Robinson, or are we just trying to stir drama?
Hey, in the aftermath of a rare Hoosier victory and a not so rare Hoosier upset (yes, even in this up-and-down season, ranked teams go down in Assembly Hall), why not push the controversy button?
So after Robinson scored a career-high 17 points off the bench, after he went 5-for-6 from the field while adding a career-high three assists, he got White's attention.
Granted, White was unhappy after Iowa held IU leading scorers Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh to a combined 12 points, scored 86 points and still lost by seven, mostly because Robinson and Will Sheehey (30 points) had career nights and the Hawkeyes never came close to stopping them.
So White offered this:
“We let some X-factor guys go off like Sheehey and Robinson. It's disappointing.”
Robinson was happy to disappoint. He hasn't quite mastered this shooting-from-the-arc thing (he's 3-for-13 from three-point range for the season), but he's a beast on getting to the rim.
Iowa and its play-little defense was just what Robinson needed to break out of scoring slump. In four of his previous five games he'd gone scoreless twice, and totaled 12 points. The exception was an 11-point game against Penn State. He'd been bumped out of the starting lineup for Austin Etherington, who had seven points against Iowa.
No matter. Coach Tom Crean pushes a play-on-demand message. Robinson has delivered before (see his season averages of 6.3 points and 2.5 rebounds), which is why he had started seven straight games. He's scored in double figures six times and grabbed as many as eight rebounds. Fifteen times he's made at least half his shots. He's a 6-4 high-motor guy who fits Crean's recruiting emphasis on long, athletic players who excel in full-speed play.
On Thursday night, he excelled. IU busted out of the half-court grind other teams had imposed because Iowa wanted to run as much, if not more, than the Hoosiers did.
“We finally said, let's play our game,” Robinson said. “It's the way Coach Crean has wanted us to play since Day One. Good things happen when we run.
“We have a lot of athletes. A lot of peole who can run and jump high and do a lot of things.”
Robinson led a 42-point bench contribution that also included Evan Gordon (12 points, four rebounds), Jeremy Hollowell (seven points, four rebounds) and, to lesser extents, Devin Davis (four points) and Hanner Perea (two points).
“Coach always says you never know when your time is going to come,” Robinson said. “Everybody on the bench was ready to go. Everybody wants to win.”
Which is exactly what Crean wanted.
“We felt it was going to be a very important night for guys like Stanford, Evan and Hollowell, and lo and behold, they did it,” Crean said. “We knew we were going to need those three to come off the bench and play well. They went above and beyond that. Hopefully we can build off that.”
Building continues Sunday against No. 22 Ohio State, which was upset by Penn State on Thursday.
In an ideal world, the Hoosiers (16-12, 9-7) will play fast on Sunday, although the Buckeyes (22-7, 9-7) are unlikely to allow it. They allow a Big Ten-best 61.9 points overall, 58.4 in conference action.
“When we get the opportunity to run,” Crean said, “we think we're pretty good at that. We've always tried to be built on that.
“There was never a time that anybody here was trying to play a deliberate style. We're not trying to play at a slow pace. We just want to make good decisions. Sometimes with youth we've had to slow it down to get those decisions to improve so we have good possessions.”
Fast or not on Sunday, good possessions are a Hoosier priority.