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COLUMN: Zach McRoberts is More Than a “Glue Guy”

Zach McRoberts surveys the floor looking for a passing option. (Josh Eastern)

Robert Johnson looks up at the shoot clock to see his window of opportunity decaying at a scary pace. With 15,000 watching in fear of a late collapse in a pivotal conference game, Johnson dribbles towards the key. The shot clock hits “06” and the game clock reads “12:08.”

In that exact moment, with Indiana down 53 to 50, Johnson’s pursuit of the basket is halted by not one, not two, but three Maryland defenders. Johnson in a place of no return and with two feet squarely planted inches behind the free throw line, looks to his left for some little ray of hope.

What he found, was a game changer.

Johnson lofted a pass into the left corner just inches in front of the Indiana bench. His intended target grabs the oblate spheroid with grace. He then proceeds to send that spheroid, which many know as a basketball, into motion towards the circular Plexiglas in front of him with a form that one could only describe as “textbook.” After releasing the basketball, he doesn’t look at it. Rather, he runs from it before it ever reaches the rim, running to the other end of the court to play defense.

Seconds later, the crowd erupts into a frenzy that hadn’t been heard all game.

Zach McRoberts hit a three that shifted the momentum of the game at a crucial time. He changed the game, and yet, he never even looked at. In one of the biggest moments of the game, McRoberts acted like a trained basketball robot, running to get back on defense before the basketball even approached the rim.

This is Zach McRoberts. Zach McRoberts is more than a “Glue Guy.” Zach McRoberts is a straight “X-factor.”

In Indiana’s 71 to 68 victory over Maryland, McRoberts did more than just knock down that one three. In fact, he seemingly did everything.

In the five games prior to this matchup against Maryland, McRoberts took a lofty total of three shots and scored two points. He did that while still seemingly remaining one of the most important basketball players on the court at all times.

What makes McRoberts such a difference maker are the activities that are generally known as the “little things.” The issue with that sentiment is the fact that those activities are the opposite of little. Against Maryland, McRoberts’ unrelenting hustle provided Indiana the spark it needed to pickup a crucial conference win at home.

The reason McRoberts’ activities are often labeled as “little things” is because rarely do they get personified in the stat sheet. Unfortunately for McRoberts, there is no stat for every ball he saved from soaring out of bounds. There is no stat for every deflection he had. There is no stat for every time he provided help defense. There isn’t even a stat for his great defensive stop while playing defense without one of his shoes (there should be).

What the box score can tell us is that McRoberts did have three steals. It can also tell us that McRoberts’ matchup for the night, Kevin Huerter, did have five turnovers. It can also tell us that Indiana as a whole forced 18 turnovers on the night, thanks in part to the defensive efforts of McRoberts.

“I know guys hate getting guarded by Zach,” Juwan Morgan said. “And that kind of takes them out of their zone, takes them out of their game. And every stop he gets, even if it’s just a little deflection that goes out of bounds and they get the ball back, that’s enough for us to get in their head.”

This is what McRoberts has done all season for Indiana, and every game it only seems to amplify in importance. McRoberts’ role on the floor for Indiana arguably makes him one of the best walk-ons in the country.

At the same time, McRoberts is an offensive liability, but not for the reasons one may normally think. Offensively, the issue for McRoberts is that he is too selfless.

McRoberts seven points can’t be a fluke for Indiana moving forward. He needs to feel confident in his own ability to score the basketball. When McRoberts becomes too selfless, it allows defenses to forget about him. His crucial three in the second half represents the value he can bring if he allows his confidence to take advantage of that defensive disrespect.

After a year at Vermont of shooting 35.3-percent from three-point range, and two years at Indiana of shooting 36-percent, there is no reason to expect hesitance shooting the ball moving forward.

McRoberts’ three in the second half served as just a moment among many in which McRoberts provided a much needed spark for the Hoosiers. It was a moment that represented it all. A moment in which McRoberts was too defensively focused to appreciate and a moment special for fans not to.

Eddie Cotton

I am a senior from Long Island, New York. I’m currently studying Marketing in the Kelley School of Business along with Journalism in The Media School at Indiana University. I’m was previously the Co-Sports Director of WIUX (Indiana University’s Student Radio Station) and I am a broadcaster for BTN Student U. I am an individual that tends to thrive with bringing personality to sports coverage. I want to tell stories and help others tell their own. I want to provide a unique perspective. Most importantly, I want to entertain. The Hoosier Network is the ideal place to do that. Follow me on twitter @EdwardKoton15 Email me at ekoton@umail.iu.edu. Please, pretty please, venmo me at @EdwardKoton

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