Stanford Robinson made his second-straight start of the season Saturday afternoon in Indiana's 56-46 victory against Illinois. With Robinson alongside Yogi Ferrell in the backcourt and Will Sheehey back in the lineup after sitting out Tuesday's game against Michigan State with an ankle injury, Saturday marked the fifth different starting lineup for the Hoosiers this season. But with Robinson's consistent play lately during the Big Ten schedule, Robinson may be here to stay.
The freshman guard finished with 10 points, including six in the first 11 minutes of the game, to go along with five rebounds and just one turnover. Robinson logged 29 minutes, the most he's played in a single game this season.
Earlier this season, Robinson played 19 minutes against Illinois in IU's 83-80 loss on New Year's Eve, but he scored just one point and missed all three of his shots from the field. Illinois head coach John Groce said after Saturday's game that though Ferrell led the Hoosiers' offensive attack against the Fighting Illini, Robinson was a pivotal piece in the victory.
"The improvements he's made from game one against us to game two in just a month was very noticeable today," Groce said. "I thought he defended well, and I thought he made big plays for them late. We let him get to the rim too easy, but he made the plays. I think he's really getting better very, very quickly."
IU head coach Tom Crean said after the game that Robinson needs to become a more reliable shooter around the rim, though, for him to be as effective a player as he can be, especially in the starting role he's now taken on.
"Shots around the basket, Stan probably gets as many as any, and he's not hitting a great percentage of those yet, and when he does, I think you're going to see his numbers go up even that much more," Crean said.
Robinson, on the other hand, said he saw the biggest way he could impact the Hoosiers was on the defensive end.
"I honestly think my role is just to lock up, play defense," he said. "I take pride in guarding my man, and I feel like when I bring energy on the court, the team, they follow along. We all ride up on that defensive edge. When we get that defensive edge, it's kind of hard for us to lose."
Robinson misses dunk in closing seconds
After the Hoosiers had essentially sealed victory while holding a double-digit lead in the final minute of action Saturday afternoon, the Fighting Illini continued to try and foul IU, holding onto the slim chances they still had of pulling off a comeback victory.
Ferrell, though, stole the ball from Tracy Abrams and passed it up the court to a streaking Robinson to keep the ball away from Illinois to avoid a foul, and alone close to the basket, Robinson went up for a one-handed dunk.
Except he missed. Robinson didn't get enough height on his jump and jammed the ball into the side of the rim with his right hand.
Robinson didn't address his mistake after the game, but Crean brought it up and said that he wasn't upset his freshman guard didn't go up with two hands or lay it in.
Crean said he was just happy to see Robinson confident working and navigating with his right hand after spending the last several months becoming more skilled going in both directions.
"I feel bad for him on that dunk. I told him the reason I wasn't mad at him, he tried to do it with his right hand, where you talk about him a month ago, he didn't know his right hand was attached to his body to be honest with you," Crean said. "He's getting better. He's getting more confidence."
IU defense stifles Illinois
Saturday's win wasn't quite the high-scoring affair of New Year's Eve when IU and Illinois settled in overtime, as the Hoosiers fell 83-80 in their first Big Ten game of the season.
Since, though, Illinois has struggled on offense, scoring just 57.6 points per game in the team's last five games before Saturday – all losses. Illinois now ranks 11th in the conference in scoring for the season, averaging 67.5 points per game.
In IU's revenge victory, the Hoosiers held the Fighting Illini offense to a low mark of just 46 points, the fewest points scored by an IU Big Ten opponent in the Crean era.
The last time IU gave up 46 points or less to a Big Ten foe came nearly six years ago on Jan. 23, 2008 with then-head coach Kelvin Sampson at the helm. IU defeated Iowa at home 65-43. The Hawkeyes scored just 17 points in the second half.