J.T. Cocherell, Peegs.com

'Looking forward for Robert to break out'

Robert Johnson is in what might be best described as a basketball "funk." Indiana may need him to break out of it tonight if it hopes to come away with a road victory.

It's not been fun to watch Robert Johnson over the last four Hoosier contests. Since setting a new career high in Indiana's triple overtime win at home over Penn State, the 6-foot-3 junior has struggled with both his shot and his decision making with the basketball.

In the four game stretch Johnson is 9-for-39 (23.1%) from the field. If you go back even to that Penn State game, he's just 4-for-25 (16.0%) on 3-point shooting. It's not just the shooting. Johnson has averaged 3.2 turnovers a game over that stretch.

Indiana fans have to hope he hit rock bottom in Minneapolis last Wednesday when he went scoreless, missing all six of his shots from the floor with three turnovers in 26 minutes.

"There was a stretch last year where Nick Zeisloft, who was a tremendous shooter, went through a couple of games where he wasn't shooting at the level that he had been and then he broke out of it," Indiana assistant Rob Judson pointed out yesterday. "So we're looking forward for Robert to break out of that and get us some buckets."

That shooting funk was remarkably similar. Zeisloft began his four game slump at the start of Big Ten play last season. He hit rock bottom in a home win over Ohio State when he went scoreless, missing eight shots from the field. In his four game funk he had the samet 4-for-25 shooting from 3-point distance that Johnson is at coming into tonight's contest.

Zeisloft broke out of it on the road at Minnesota. In that January 30 game, he turned around an early nine-point deficit by knocking down four straight 3-pointers in just 2:14 of playing time. The Hoosiers went on to a 70-63 win.

"Shooters will go through those periods, just like hitters in baseball," Judson said.

Judson said associate head coach Tim Buckley has been working with Johnson's form.

"He's made a little adjustment but nothing that would be out of the ordinary," Judson said. "Rob has been positive. He gets out there every day and works on his form."

Over the first nine conference games Johnson was among the league leaders with a 51.0 percent shooting mark on 3-pointers. 

"I’m not going to let him lose his confidence," said head coach Tom Crean after the Minnesota loss. "I don’t know how to answer that other than I’m not going to let him. And I’ve got a staff of guys that won’t let him, and he’s got a team full of guys that won’t let him. We want to keep simplifying the game for him."

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