IU needs the good Blackmon Jr. today

The last two games for James Blackmon Jr. tell a tale about the IU freshman scorer. He had 25 and made five 3's against Northwestern, and then was 2-of-12 and scored six points against Maryland. For IU to be successful against Wichita State, Blackmon needs to be a part of the offense.

The final chapter of James Blackmon Jr.’s freshman season at Indiana will play out over the next few days in the NCAA Tournament.

Blackmon has had a solid freshman season. He has averaged 15.8 points per game and 5.3 rebounds. He has had some superlative performances including 10 games where he has scored 20 points or more. The most recent was in the Big Ten Tournament against Northwestern when he scored 25 and made five 3-pointers against the Wildcats.

The problem with Blackmon, however, has been consistency of late.

The last five games are a perfect example.

In three of those games, Blackmon scored a total of 56 points for an average of 18.6 points per game. He made 20-of-43 shots from the field including 9-of-24 3-pointers. He was active and confident and looked like the player that Indiana fans have come to enjoy his freshman season.

But in the other two games, he has been the polar opposite. In those two games, he scored a total of 12 points for an average of 6.0 per game. He was 3-of-22 from the field in those two games and 2-for-11 from 3-point range.

So in other words when it has come to Blackmon in recent games, it has been hit or miss.

All of which leads us today’s game in the NCAA Tournament with Wichita State and a very simple question with regards to the freshman guard from Marion, Ind.

Which Blackmon will show up today for the Hoosiers?

One good thing for the Hoosiers in trying to answer that question is that the freshman guard remains very confident. Even in games where he has slumped at times this season, he hasn’t hesitated to shoot the ball.

A good example was the second Big Ten Tournament game against Maryland. The night before he had made 8-of-15 shots against Northwestern and 5-of-10 from 3-point. The next day against the Terps he was 2-of-12 and 1-of-5 from 3-point range.

But with IU trailing by two points at 62-60 in that game and Blackmon out in front on a fast break opportunity he didn’t hesitate to pull up and launch a 3-point attempt that could have given IU the lead.

Instead it missed and IU went on to lose the game 75-69. But when asked about it after the game, Blackmon said he would still take that shot again.

“I’m confident and I know I can make that shot,’’ he said. “Sometimes I need to do a better job with my follow through or whatever the case may be, but I know I can make that shot. If I had to do it all over again, I’d shoot it again.’’

When Blackmon is a big part of the offense, the numbers will show that Indiana in turn will follow suit.

Since Big Ten play began on New Year’s Eve at Nebraska, Blackmon has had five games where he hasn’t scored in double figures. IU is 0-5 in those games. When Blackmon has scored in double figures in that span, IU is 10-4.

The key today for Blackmon will be getting his shots in rhythm. When he does that he has been really good this season.

“The key is for our offense to work hard, make that extra pass and get shots where we can step into them and knock them down,’’ Blackmon said. “When that happens we can be really good. I think we have a lot of confidence as a team going into this tournament and we’re all really looking forward to playing Wichita State.

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