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.
This is the time of the year when teams need leadership the most. On a team that only has a pair of scholarship seniors in Sheehey and transfer Evan Gordon, IU will be relying heavily on the 6-7 forward from Stuart, Fla. as the freshmen continue to gain the experience necessary to compete at a high level in conference play.
Sheehey has had an up and down season. In a four-game stretch that included games with Evansville, Syracuse, North Florida and Oakland, Sheehey scored a total of 18 points. In that stretch he was 7-of-27 from the field including 0-of-4 from 3-point range. He averaged 24.5 minutes of playing time during those four games, too. But then a 22-point effort against Notre Dame seemed to ignite the senior and he closed the non-conference season with a total of three games where he scored 51 points. In that stretch, he was 19-of-32 from the field and clearly was the veteran leader that Indiana was looking for. Then came the conference opener Tuesday night at Illinois, and Sheehey's production slipped again. He scored nine points in 33 minutes and shot 3-of-10 from the field. With the Hoosiers needing someone to step up from the perimeter, Sheehey managed to just hit 1-of-5 shots from beyond the 3-point line. He had five rebounds, two assists and two turnovers.
The reality is that IU has little margin for error. Yogi Ferrell has been solid most games this season and Noah Vonleh, for the most part, has been consistent, too. But that's where the consistency has ended. With players like Troy Williams, Jeremy Hollowell and Sheehey in particular, Indiana simply needs to get a more consistent effort in all phases, especially in scoring the ball. The Hoosiers need Sheehey to be a guy that averages 12-16 points every game and can hit a few shots from the perimeter as well as drive it to the basket and create. With the No. 5 team in the nation in Assembly Hall today, IU needs solid production from a player like Sheehey.
It won't be easy for Sheehey. Last year in two games against the Spartans, Sheehey scored a total of 10 points. He had eight points the first time the teams met in Assembly Hall in 23 minutes off the bench. In the game in East Lansing, though, he was limited to two points on 1-of-5 shooting in 21 minutes. In that game he had four fouls as well. As a junior, he only played against Michigan State once. The first time, in the Big Ten opener, he was just beginning rehab from an injury when he stepped on a ball in practice. The second time, in the game at Assembly Hall, he was held to four points. So that's a total of 14 points in his three games against the Spartans. Indiana could use a 14-point effort in Saturday's game alone.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch