With each game this season we'll put the spotlight on an Indiana player that we believe is someone to keep an eye on for that particular game.
For tonight's game against Nicholls State, we'll take another look at freshman forward Noah Vonleh.
There are times when Noah Vonleh has looked unstoppable this season. He looks un-guardable. You get the feeling that if he demanded the ball in the post and his teammates were able to get him open in scoring position that Vonleh could name his statistics. There certainly would be little doubt that he could average a double-double this season. But in recent games he had stretches where he will disappear, too. Vonleh is our player to watch tonight because we want to know if the real Vonleh played for IU the first five games or it's the one that IU fans have seen over the last six games. They are two very different players.
Consider these statistics. In the first five games, Vonleh scored 77 points and pulled down 59 rebounds. In the last six games, he has had 59 points and 47 rebounds. Still good numbers but not Vonleh-like numbers. Not one-and-done numbers for sure. The thing that Vonleh did well in the first five games was he looked like he wanted the ball. He demanded it. And his teammates obliged. We haven't seen that look in Vonleh's eyes as much lately. The most telling statistic there is simply shot attempts. In the first five games, Vonleh attempted 10, 12, 7, 10 and 11 shots. That's an average of 10 shot attempts per game. If you're taking 10 shots and you're hitting 50-60 percent you're going to light up the scoreboard most nights. But the difference in his last six games is staggering. In those six games, THE MOST attempts Vonleh has was six. Four of the games he has had five. In the sixth, the debacle against Connecticut where he was handcuffed with foul trouble, Vonleh only attempted one shot. But think about it: Six games and 27 shots. That's a huge difference from 10 shots per game to four. No wonder his scoring is down. No wonder he has had back-to-back games where he hasn't scored in double figures.
If Vonleh hopes to be a force in the Big Ten the lightbulb needs to go back on tonight. He has two games to get the momentum back in the right direction before IU opens conference play at Illinois on New Year's Eve. If Vonleh plays like he did in the first five games, I think most Indiana fans still like IU's chances in conference. But if it's more like the last six games, it only makes Indiana's road that much more difficult.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch