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Rob Phinisee and Devonte Green settle into new roles for IU men’s basketball


Freshman guard Rob Phinisee guards the ball against junior University of Southern Indiana guard Kourtlandt Martin on Nov. 1 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. IU plays No. 24 Marquette on Wednesday night. Anna Tiplick

The equation to being a successful point guard appears simple on paper.

A good assist-to-turnover ratio, along with some scoring, as well as assorted rebounds and steals sprinkled in makes for a successful concoction on the basketball court.

Freshman Rob Phinisee and junior Devonte Green are set to be the prime alchemists for IU this season, looking to use their passing and decision-making to create the perfect potion on the court.

Phinisee has displayed safe ball-handling skills during his first two games in Bloomington, posting a combined six assists and one turnover in wins against Chicago State and Montana State. His careful but effective style of play on offense has also translated to scoring points, as he scored 12 in the blowout win against the Bobcats, including three three-pointers.

Freshman guard Rob Phinisee scores against Montana State on Nov. 9 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Phinisee scored 12 out of IU's 80 points. IU won against Montana State, 80-35. Anna Tiplick

The chance to demonstrate his maturity running the IU offense only presented itself to Phinisee due to a thigh injury that sidelined Green for IU’s first few games.

Phinisee has made the most of his job in the starting lineup, and many teammates and coaches have complimented his maturity as a freshman.

“Rob has been doing a nice job,” Miller said. “We have confidence in him. I think he has confidence in himself. His teammates have confidence in him. It’s a great opportunity for him on Wednesday to continue to build on it.”

In comparison, Green is the archetypal Jekyll to Phinisee as Hyde. Green has seven turnovers in just under 50 minutes of court time this season, coming off the bench in both of IU’s games while Phinisee has started. 

His shooting has remained erratic, as he’s gone a combined 5-15 shooting field goals to start the season.

His 0-3 shooting night against Montana State, which featured two missed three-pointers and three turnovers, elicited memories for IU fans of his hot-and-cold performances from a season ago.

“He’s a little rusty. He has to pick up his decision-making,” Miller said. “It really comes down with a defensive mindset for him and to be in concentration mode.”

Miller’s up-tempo style of transition offense, as well as the need for the Hoosiers to run plays in their half court sets, means a premium is placed on taking care of the ball. Phinisee has done so thus far, while Green has not, against subpar opponents to start the season.

“If there’s a consistency there and we’re able to get out in transition, then it’s the next step,” Miller said. “How unselfish are you? Are you going to just absolutely run the floor extremely hard? Are you going to hit the first open man? Are you going to be willing to make the extra pass?”

With Green labeled by Miller as a “game-time decision” against Marquette, the opening is there for Phinisee to further his grip on the starting role.

“I’m not really used to a freshman coming in and being that tough mentally,” senior forward Evan Fitzner said. “Physically, I think he can definitely hold his own. If he can continue that, it’s going to help us a lot.” 

Green’s assets in his role as a bench player have complemented Phinisee’s skills, according to freshman guard Romeo Langford.

“Devonte, he’s a real good scorer as well as a passer,” Langford said. “But I felt like scoring is his main thing.”

Green has shown many moments in his first two seasons that he can be a difference maker when IU's offense starts to struggle. On the other hand, Green has also been a liability when it comes to turning the ball over. If Green can stay healthy, his skills can contribute to IU’s depth at guard. 

That is, if Green is able to stay in control.

"Just letting Devonte play without the ball for a little bit, when they’re both in the game at the same time, opens the court up even more for guys like me,” Langford said.

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