Robert Johnson came roaring back.
The Indiana junior guard scored a game-high 26 points, one shy of his career high, to lead the Hoosiers to a 96-92 Big Ten win at Ohio State on Saturday afternoon.
Johnson shot 10-for-17 from the field, including 5-for-8 from the arc.
In his previous eight games, Johnson shot 17 percent (7-for-42) from the arc.
“I think my teammates did a good job of finding me, getting me involved early and I just wanted to come out aggressive an attack,” Johnson said.
“I think I was just in the flow of things, offensively and defensively. I think I had the right mindset today, from start to finish, and that helped me make shots.”
Johnson also had six assists, six rebounds, two steals and zero turnovers in 36 minutes, making a case for this as his best game at IU.
Johnson played all 20 minutes in the second half, as did Josh Newkirk.
“None of us were really worried about his shot at all,” backcourt mate James Blackmon Jr. said. “Today I feel like we were all in movement. He was in movement, and he was just in a flow and it made it easier for everyone.”
It’s the most points Johnson has scored in a regulation game. His career-high 27 points came in IU’s 110-102 triple-overtime win against Penn State on Feb. 1.
Indiana is 17-14 and 7-11 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers open Big Ten Tournament play on either Wednesday on Thursday, depending on the outcome of Sunday games.
On Saturday at Ohio State (17-14, 7-11), Johnson scored five consecutive points to start a 10-0 run that broke a 64-64 tie and gave the Hoosiers a 74-64 lead with 6:51 to play.
When Ohio State got within 76-69, Johnson again scored on a layup and a 3-pointer to push IU back in front 81-69 with 4:44 to play.
In between those two scores, Johnson had textbook defense on a Marc Loving dribble attempt, forcing Loving to travel in the lane with 5:34 to play. After that, Johnson followed with his 3 and IU led 81-69.
Johnson scored 15 points in a first half that saw Indiana take an 18-point lead, tie its season high for points in a first half with 54 and score the most points in a game Ohio State has allowed in Value City Arena since the building opened in 1998.
Johnson followed that with key scores after Ohio State managed to go up one with 11:37 to play.
Johnson entered the game averaging 12.8 points per game, but he had reached double figures just once in IU’s past six games, getting 19 points in a 96-90 overtime loss at Iowa on Feb. 21.
“You could say that he was due, and you’d be right. It’s just an anomaly that he has not played as well with his shooting,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “It’s heartbreaking sometimes when he’s not making shots.
“Outside of James Blackmon, Rob — and Josh would be in this group too — those three work so much extra on their shooting, almost to the point of, ‘just relax,’ right?
“But Rob was down. First step was good. Defense got everything going in that sense. Really happy for him because that’s the kind of player that he is. It’s unfortunate that’s not always seen when he’s missing some shots.
“He’s a humble guy. He’s a team guy. It was absolutely fun to watch him play today.”
IU’s guards combined for 60 of Indiana’s 96 points.
Johnson scored 26, Blackmon Jr. had 22 and Newkirk scored 18.
“We're a get-well card for guys,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “You're struggling? Play Ohio State and get out of your slump.”