Give Troy Williams a little credit.
I'll be the first to admit I haven't cut him a great deal of slack this season. Wildly athletic? Absolutely. But there have been times this season where I have just clearly not been able to understand the amount of playing time he has received.
I've never been able to understand how this freshman forward who averages less than 7 points per game has started every game this season and averaged nearly 21 minutes per game.
He seems to have had more games this season where he has disappeared than those where he has made a huge impact.
Going into Saturday night's game at Northwestern, Williams had only scored in double figures one time in 12 Big Ten games. And that was a night at Minnesota where he scored IU's first nine points and looked like he might put up monumental numbers. Instead, he finished with 11 points.
But sprinkled in there along the way were also games where Williams scored two against Wisconsin and Purdue, one against Michigan and zero the first time Indiana and Northwestern had played at Assembly Hall.
All of that served as a backdrop to his effort in Saturday night's 61-56 Indiana victory at Northwestern.
What made Williams successful Saturday night is that he played within himself. For the most part he didn't stray outside of his comfort zone.
Yes, he attempted two more 3-point shots, clearly not Williams' strong suit. How bad is it? Williams is 3-for-25 from distance this season. In Big Ten play he is 1-for-12. His only made 3-pointer came in that flurry of points to start the Minnesota game.
So that's clearly an area where Williams needs work in the offseason.
But let's focus on the things Williams did well Saturday night.
He was active, aggressive and seemed to let the game come to him a little bit. I know that's a huge sports cliché but it's also an accurate description of Williams' play. Too many times this season, it has seemed like the game was flying at 100 miles per hour for Williams and the IU freshman was playing it at about 75 mph.
That's when we have seen all of the careless turnovers. In the last three games alone coming in, Williams had turned it over seven times.
Saturday night: Williams didn't turn it over once in 23 minutes of game time. That's a huge statistic. He didn't try to dribble it as much in the open floor, wasn't looking for the breakaway SportsCenter jam or as Tom Crean put it referring to IU as a team "the home run pass.''
This isn't to say he didn't have some dazzling plays. In a span of just under 2 minutes late in the first half, Williams had three dunks. The first was pretty straight forward. The second was a follow jam where he got up really high and threw it down. The third came off a dish by Yogi Ferrell where Williams was coming in from the left side and dunked from along the baseline.
In the second half, he opened play by taking a pass off the inbounds play and scoring inside, getting fouled and hitting the free throw. Later, he was part of a pair of plays with fellow freshman Noah Vonleh that proved to be huge in the game. Both were predicated on Williams' nose for the ball and ability to drive to the basket.
The first one he drove the lane and at the last second flipped it inside to Vonleh who finished around the bucket for a shot that put IU up 54-46 with 4:43 remaining.
Later, at the 1:59 mark it was a similar play but Vonleh hit Williams who again came from the left side and this time hit a big reverse layup in traffic. That extended the lead from 54-50 to 56-50.
Williams finished with 12 points. That was his Big Ten career high by one and just the second time he has scored in double figures in the last 16 games.
It was a night and day performance compared to his zero point output in 17 minutes of play the first time Indiana and Northwestern squared off.
Now, he has the opportunity to avenge another of his less than memorable games when the Hoosiers face Wisconsin. In the first game he had two points in just 8 minutes of play.
But once again, Williams is showing why he deserves extended minutes. If he can play like he did Saturday against Northwestern on a consistent basis moving forward it could give the Hoosiers one more consistent player they can count on.
And I will continue to give Williams his proper due.