The story of Rob Phinisee at Indiana has taken countless turns. From starting in 29 games as a true freshman and hitting a ridiculous game winning shot against Butler in the Crossroads Classic, to entering the transfer portal and finding himself coming off the bench as a senior, it has never been a smooth ride for the point guard.
On Sunday in Indiana’s 73-60 win over Minnesota, we saw a large amount of growth from the Lafayette, Indiana native. Not only did Phinisee shoot the ball 10 times, but nine of those were from beyond the arc.
Coming into the Minnesota game, Phinisee had been shooting 27 percent on 3-pointers. On Sunday, he made four (44 percent).
When the shots don’t fall it can be very easy to lose confidence, something Phinisee has struggled with in the past few seasons. But for a guy whose shooting percentages have dropped every year since his freshman year, it must feel like he’s on top of the world after making four Sunday.
“He’s a senior. So I expect him to lead…I don’t have too many players like Rob,” head coach Mike Woodson said.
That leadership has evolved this season. From someone who appears hesitant to shoot and make a mistake to someone who pushes his teammates and never backs down or passes up an open shot, no matter how many in a row he’s missed or how low his percentages are. That’s who Rob Phinisee is.
“He can’t live in the past. I’m just trying to break that past and say, ‘Hey man, here's the ball, it’s OK to go lead. It’s OK to be good,” Woodson said.
It’s OK to be good and Indiana needs Rob Phinisee to be good. When a team like Minnesota packs the paint and forces you to play through your guards — something more teams will likely do — you have to be reliable and consistent. Phinisee, Xavier Johnson and Parker Stewart were reliable Sunday.
Rob Phinisee: 13 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds
Xavier Johnson: 14 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds
Parker Stewart: 12 points, 0 assists and 3 rebounds
Most importantly, the three combined for just two turnovers.
In order for Indiana to take the next step, this has to be consistent. It also needs to be done on the road, where Indiana has not won this season.
So what is the next step?
Look, the defense is there. It has been this whole season. It’s one of the best in the Big Ten, but after the brutal Penn State loss, the offense looks a lot better. They’ve started bringing Stewart off of screens and curls as well as using pin-down screens and movement to get Trayce Jackson-Davis isolated on the block.
You have to be multi-dimensional to win in college basketball. That process has started for IU.
When the guards open the floor up and Jackson-Davis has more options it makes such a difference.