J.T. Cocherell, Peegs.com

Season Synopsis: Robert Johnson

We begin our season synopsis series with a look at the Indiana junior class beginning with veteran starting guard Robert Johnson. There were some big moments for Johnson this year but a late shooting slump has to be motivating his work ethic this offseason.

Finally healthy after a sophomore year plagued late by injuries, much was expected from Robert Johnson this season. Both from a scoring and playmaking standpoint, especially the latter given the loss of Yogi Ferrell from the conference championship team of 2015-16.

For a long time Johnson did deliver pretty well in scoring. He was in double figures 22 of the first  24 games of the season. At that point he had established himself as the third go to scoring option on the team, behind only fellow junior James Blackmon Jr. and sophomore  center Thomas Bryant.

That last 10 games were another matter. He scored in double figures just three times as he looked often out of sync in games.

But as the chart below indicates, Johnson did ratchet up his scoring nearly five points a game this season while holding his overall field goal rate constant. His 3-point shooting rate ook a bit of a hit, due to that late slump and maybe due to not be on the receiving end of those nice dishes from Ferrell.

Here is a look at his junior season averages as compared to his first two years in Bloomington.

Mike Pegram, Peegs.com

Johnson's assists were down and his turnovers were  up. That has to be the biggest area of concern when reflecting on the season.

It's not that he was looked up as the primary answer for absorbing Ferrell's departure, but he was one of main guys you considered in that "group effort." Simply put he made too many mistakes with the ball. His left hand dribbling still needs a lot of work and his decision making seemed to be off when his shot wouldn't go down.

In his defense, Johnson was rehabbing much of the offseason after leg surgery in the early spring. That's a lot of valuable time he could have used to work on his handling skills.

Best game(s): His best game was probably the 96-92 win at Ohio State to end the regular season. He had 26 points on 10-for-17 shooting including 5-for-8 from beyond the arc. Better yet he had six assists without a turnover in 36 minutes. That was just one point shy of his career high 27 when he played 50 minutes in the 3-OT home win over Penn State.

Best attributes: Johnson has always had a nice combination of shooting and driving skills and might be the best guard in several years at Indiana in successfully using a shot fake.

For the most part he's a hard-nosed defender, just hasn't developed into the big stopper many thought he might grow into this time a year ago.

Biggest areas of needed improvement: Decision making with the ball.We mentioned his left hand issue and he should spend as much time as possible working on that left hand dribble this offseason.

One other thing is he has to get tougher when things aren't going his way. There were many games the last month or so where he seemed to be in a mental funk where poor shooting seemed to impact other parts of his game.

Numbers worth knowing: Johnson averaged 22.5 points in late road games at Iowa and Ohio State but in the nine of the other 11 games to finish the season, he averaged just 6.2 points and was 22-for-82 (26.8 percent) from the floor.

Notable quote: After Big Ten tourney loss to Wisconsin: "I think we were just an up and down team for a lot of the year and I think that falls back on some of the leadership. I think we just didn't do a good job of leading early on and just now starting to play our best basketball. I think we just waited too late to make a consistent effort."

Comments: For the first 2/3 of the season, Johnson was a reliable, consistent scorer. What happened on that front in most of the games over the last month, that's hard to say. At times it looked like he had completely lost his basketball rhythm and timing. His struggle to develop as a playmaker wouldn't have been that big of a deal had he stayed consistent with his scoring.

Being one of the better defenders with three years of starting experience, Johnson should adapt well to changes coming under new coach Archie Miller.

With a full offseason to work on his weaknesses added to the simple fact he'll be a senior next fall, Johnson can become a true team leader in 2017-18. It may be a year later than it could have happened, but there's no reason he can't go out on a big note. 


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