IU Insider Blog: Etherington shines in win

He only scored five points in 17 minutes off the bench Saturday afternoon but Austin Etherington's 3-pointer from the left corner late in the game was clearly the biggest shot of his IU career.

It was just one game.

In fact, it was just one shot.

But Austin Etherington was a significant contributor for Indiana basketball Saturday afternoon against Penn State.

This is a guy who had played a total of 3 minutes in the first two Big Ten games. And all three were in the opener against Illinois. Etherington didn't get in the game last week against Michigan State.

This is a player who coming into the game was 2-for-9 from 3-point range this season. He had made both of those on Dec. 7 against North Florida.

This is a player who was 5-for-20 in his career from 3-point range coming into the game.

And yet this is the same redshirt sophomore Etherington who hit Indiana's biggest shot of at least the Big Ten season and maybe the entire season with 1:22 to play in the game Saturday against Penn State.

Etherington, the 22.2 percent 3-point shooter this season, took a swing pass from Will Sheehey in the left corner. He made a shot fake in front of the 3-point line, then reset his feet and got just behind the 3-point line when he launched the shot.

Indiana trailed 72-70 at the time and needed something big.

Etherington provided it when he made the 3-pointer to give IU the lead. The Hoosiers would never trail again. Penn State cut it to one on a couple of other occasions but Etherington had provided the momentum with that shot.

Why is it such a big deal? It is big because it has been a long road back from an injury for the for the former Indiana All-Star from Hamilton Heights.

A year ago, he played seven games before suffering a left knee injury against Central Connecticut State that cost him the season.

Instead of coming back for his junior season, he was granted a medical redshirt and is playing his sophomore year of eligibility.

Known as a really good outside shooter, Etherington has just never been able to take the next step at IU. Some have questioned whether he would ever be able to take that next step.

The first step though has to be to gain some confidence. Hitting a shot like he hit Saturday against Penn State could be that first baby step. Shooters need confidence. Being 3-for-10 on the season from 3-point range instead of 2-for-9 may not seem like a huge jump but it is just that. Take that to 4-for-11 or 5-for-12 and all of a sudden that shooters feeling could come back.

Etherington was a significant contributor beyond just his big three on Saturday. He played 17 minutes, which by the way is a career high. He had five points, two rebounds, tied a career best with two assists and set a new career best with two steals. He hit 1-of-2 shots from the field and hit his only 3-point attempt. He made both of his free throws.

Baby steps but still steps. And before a player starts running he has to begin by walking.

Could Saturday's big shot catapult Etherington's season to another place? Absolutely. Could he got back to play just a handful of minutes and not contribute? That's accurate, too.

The point is that for game Etherington was a contributor and that contribution was a big reason that Indiana came home from Happy Valley with a 1-2 Big Ten record.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch

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