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COLUMN: Robert Johnson showed many forms of leadership


Senior guard Robert Johnson hangs his head after the Ohio State game Tuesday evening in Value City Arena. Ohio State defeated IU, 71-56. Bobby Goddin Buy Photos

The best type of leader is one who leads by example and makes everyone around them better.

Senior guard Robert Johnson showed he's that type of leader in IU's 84-82 victory over Iowa.

In what was the most unnecessarily fun game of the season, Johnson scored a career-high 29 points and tied an IU program record with nine made 3-pointers.

Even though Johnson had an individual career performance, it wasn't the most important facet that he brought to the table Saturday afternoon.

After battling back from a 13-point deficit, the Hoosiers found themselves up by 13 points of their own, but failed to pull away when they gained control of the game.

Enter Johnson, who kept the Hoosiers on track time after time when it seemed like IU would endure yet another late-game collapse. Iowa forward Tyler Cook led the Hawkeye charge within the final minutes, and he was getting anything he wanted in the post with three different Hoosier forwards in foul trouble.

The difference between Iowa finishing the comeback and taking a win out of the IU's grasp was tight halfcourt defense and Johnson.

Although Johnson seemed to turn everything he touched into gold from behind the three-point line, his leadership overshadowed everything he did by himself.

It was how he was helping his teammates on both ends of the floor, on and off the ball, that was the difference-maker.

With sophomore, junior and senior forwards Justin Smith, Juwan Morgan and Freddie McSwain all in foul trouble in the second half, IU's guard play provided a huge boost with quick ball movement on offense and tight pressure on defense.

Sophomore guard Devonte Green had another great performance and so did Smith, even through foul trouble. Morgan was reliable at different times per usual, but it all started with Johnson, who set the tone for the rest of his team.

Johnson was playing with high energy and was extremely vocal on both ends of the floor. This is a normal part of Johnson's game that hasn't been highlighted much this season, and has also been overshadowed by Morgan's play throughout the year.

Johnson's style of leadership would be ignored no more. It was more evident through his performance because all eyes were on him every time he knocked down a three-point jumper.

His energy transmitted through the rest of the Hoosiers on the floor. Johnson was the one who led IU's early charge at the end of the first half and into the second one. It was Johnson who answered Cook on nearly every ensuing possession. Every time IU needed a crucial bucket, guess who was there to answer.

Robert Johnson.

Every time the Hoosiers swung the ball around the three-point line, there were at least two Hawkeyes keeping an eye on Johnson, which freed Morgan or McSwain down low, and was the reason why McSwain scored the game-winning basket.

Green found McSwain down low, which was open because all eyes were on Johnson to take the shot for IU. It was smart of Iowa to make the Hoosiers beat them with another player besides Johnson, but the Hoosier senior guard was the reason his team was able to find a good look and win the game.

He's hit some rough patches this season, but Johnson has been spectacular as of late. Even though before IU's win over Iowa he's hasn't been scoring at a high level, he's still finding ways to make a difference with ball distribution and vision.

If the Hoosiers are going to make a postseason run in the Big Ten Tournament, they're going to need big performances by both Johnson and Morgan with the help of other pieces similar to Saturday. Green and Smith provided pop and scoring in the frontcourt and backcourt, and it has made a recipe for success.

As for Johnson, he showed once again why he's so valuable to this roster. Even on a career day, he found other ways to help his team play better and win.


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