Ahead of Friday night's Sweet 16 game vs. North Carolina, sophomore guard Robert Johnson remains questionable after reinjuring his left ankle during the first half of last Saturday's win over Kentucky.
"Robert is iffy," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "We're just going to have to see."
Johnson finished with 7 points and 6 assists in Indiana's NCAA Tournament opening round win over Chattanooga on March 17, his first game action since Feb. 20 when he first sustained the ankle sprain. In the interim, he missed four straight games.
He re-aggravated the injury after awkwardly planting his foot on a layup attempt with 5:17 to go in the first half against Kentucky. After being subbed out and replaced on the floor by forward Ryan Burton, Johnson headed back to the locker room. Though he returned to Indiana's bench, he did not re-enter the game.
"A little bit of pain shot up in there, but it was anywhere near as bad as the first time," Johnson said after IU's win over Kentucky. "I'm pretty sure I'll be back."
Even with that optimism, Crean less confident than Johnson that the sophomore guard will play.
Freshman forward Juwan Morgan is also dealing with a recurring injury, having been bothered by his shoulder. Morgan reinjured his shoulder after getting fouled by Kentucky freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe on a rebound attempt with 12:10 remaining in the game. Like Johnson, Morgan also headed back to the locker room and returned to the bench but not the game. He emerged from the locker room with his shoulder in a sling.
"Juwan is getting better," Crean said. "He had some stitches to his head today in practice. That poor guy."
The status of both players is something to keep an eye on going forward.
"We're just going to have to wait and see how it goes," Crean said. "We've been dealing with different injuries, as you know, and it's very hard to predict the timeline of it. We just leave in it the hands of doctors and the rehabilitation part of it, and whatever happens, we'll adjust to it."
Bryant looking to avoid foul trouble
After the ball has tipped in each of Indiana's last two NCAA Tournament games, freshman center Thomas Bryant's stay on the court has been rather brief.
In wins over Chattanooga and Kentucky, Bryant has picked up his second personal foul in 3 minutes and 11 seconds or less into the game. Against Chattanooga, he did not return until the 6:47 mark of the first half. In the much closer contest against Kentucky, he returned roughly a minute earlier at the 7:45 mark.
Indiana can't afford to be without Bryant for long stretches like that heading into Friday night's game, when Bryant will likely be matched up with UNC forward Brice Johnson. Johnson averages 16.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, posting 20 double-doubles so far this season.
“The more we talk about don’t foul, the easier it is to foul,” Crean said. “This is going to be a very big personnel game for us.”
Even with the foul trouble in those games, Bryant managed to score a team-high 19 points in 24 minutes in the win over Kentucky - 17 of which came in the second half. He scored 9 of his 13 in the second half against Chattanooga, managing 17 minutes.
On Tuesday, Bryant was aware of things he could to differently to avoid early foul calls and stay on the court longer.
“Honestly just mostly moving better, lateral quickness,” Bryant said. “Just being in spots faster, talking more out there and trying to get in a position where the ref doesn’t have to make those iffy calls.”