This is the Will Sheehey we’ve come to expect – the off-the-bench difference maker, the sweet-shooting catalyst who can turn what has recently been an unproductive bench into a basketball force of nature.
The Hoosier dude who disappeared – offensively, at least – against Minnesota and Wisconsin is gone.
Indiana is, by far, better for it. That’s a very good thing going into Sunday’s smack down against Michigan State in a battle for Big Ten supremacy.
But first, though, let’s look at Sheehey.
In Wednesday night’s throttling of way-over-matched Penn State, Sheehey thrived. He had 12 points, two rebounds, two assists and a steal in 24 minutes. He went 3-for-3 from three-point range, which was a very big deal to Penn State coach Patrick Chambers, whose defensive strategy was predicated on Sheehey NOT doing that.
“Usually he’s a good middle-range jump shooter,” Chambers said. “(Indiana) has a lot of talent and you can’t take away everything. You have to pick your poison. Sheehey hit some threes to open everything up.”
Sheehey had been 0-for-4 from three-point range in his previous three games. In fact, he’d scored a total of 14 points in his last four games, and failed to score at all against Minnesota and Wisconsin, going a combined 0-for-7 from the field.
Did that weigh heavily on his mind?
Not a chance, he said.
“I never think about that. As long as I’m playing hard on the defensive end, it’s fine. If you ever see me not playing hard on the defensive end, that’s when you know something is wrong. That will never happen.”
For most of the season Sheehey has been a consistent offensive factor, which is reflected in his 10.4-point scoring average. He has scored in double figures 11 times this season, with a high of 19 (against Ball State and North Carolina).
He plays with confidence, relentlessness and an edgy aggression his teammates appreciate.
“It’s big for our team (when he plays like this),” Victor Oladipo said. “Ever since he came here he’s made an impact. It impacts winning when he comes off the bench like that. It impacts both ends of the floor. Hopefully he continues doing it.”
Sheehey has every intention of doing just that.
“The offense will come,” he said. “The ball finds movement. The ball finds activity. If I keep moving, these guys will find me. I’m not worried about it.”
Neither is coach Tom Crean.
“That’s who Will is. That’s what he brings. That’s his game -- his energy and passion. He was very good defensively. He was good on Sunday against Northwestern. Not a box score good, but it was a very strong game for him.”
For the record, Sheehey had six points and four rebounds in 19 minutes against Northwestern.
“He’s one of our best players,” Crean said. “He’s an excellent shooter. He reads the game well. That showed in the way he played (Wednesday night).”
The Hoosiers are 17-2 overall and 5-1 in the Big Ten.That puts them a half-game behind No.13 Michigan State, which means they'll play for conference supremacy.
That will be a nationally televised (courtesy of CBS) showdown that will pit Crean against his former boss, Spartans coach Tom Izzo. We'll talk more about that in the coming days, but for now consider IU's five-game stretch over the next two weeks -- Michigan State, at Purdue, No. 2 Michigan, at Illinois, at No. 14 Ohio State.
That is absolutely brutal.
But then, that's life in the Big Ten.
In a previous post I had a question if anyone knew what old TV show the line, "submitted for your approval" came from. A reader nailed it -- it was the Twilight Zone courtesy of Rod Serling's opening monologue.