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.
Here is a given tonight for Indiana against Northwestern: Noah Vonleh not only has to bring his A game, but he needs to play smart and stay out of foul trouble. IU's worst fears were realized last Saturday at Purdue when Vonleh first picked up his second foul with 13 minutes to play in the first half but then, when inserted back into the game, picked up his third pretty quickly. He was called for his fourth early in the second half. He never picked up his fifth but the foul trouble caused him to be much less aggressive than normal. Indiana fans are still waiting to see Vonleh have a break out game. Yes, he's had some big games among his 10 double-doubles this season. But one statistic that completely floors me every time I think about it is the fact that Vonleh has yet to have a game in his college career where he has scored more than 20 points. It's a testament to the fact that the NBA truly does draft on potential when all of the mock drafts have Vonleh being drafted high if he comes out next season despite the fact he has never scored 20 points in a game in his first 25 college games.
Even more than scoring the points though, Vonleh has to take the ball to the basket hard and become the difficult match up that everyone thinks he should be. He has a big body inside and he needs to take advantage of it more. Knock down a 3-pointer or two when they leave you wide open, but make a living taking the ball to the basket and being aggressive. Because of the foul trouble, Vonleh was limited to a Big Ten-low 24 minutes against the Boilermakers. He needs to play 30 minutes or more right now especially with Hanner Mosquera-Perea out indefinitely serving a suspension. If Vonleh goes out right now, Tom Crean has been looking to play small rather than try to respond with one of his undersized big men. Vonleh needs to attack the basket against Northwestern and take more than 10 shots. With his high percentage of shooting, it will normally lead to good things. Now, one thing that is also interesting is that if you look at Vonleh's last 19 games he has only had one game where he took more than 10 shots. But that was Jan. 18 when Northwestern came to town. IU was a dismal 25 percent of the floor in that game and Vonleh wasn't much better. He was 5-of-15 from the floor including 2-of-4 from 3-point range. He did have 17 points and 12 rebounds but the 10 missed shots were very uncharacteristic of the player who shoots well over 50 percent of the field on the year.
One thing we'll find out in this one is what Vonleh learned from watching film and seeing how he'll be able to stay on the floor and not in foul trouble. The fourth one he picked up was really a phantom whistle so Vonleh has to have a little luck in all of this, too. But he needs to figure out how to play within himself when he picks up an early foul or two.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch