Freshman guard Rob Phinisee began talking about IU’s final play of regulation in the Hoosiers’ 76-70 overtime loss to No. 21 Iowa on Friday night.
Tied at 63 after Iowa junior guard Jordan Bohannon rained in a step-back 3-pointer, IU Coach Archie Miller elected not to call a timeout, and the Hoosiers went isolation for freshman guard Romeo Langford.
“Really just isolation for Romeo and let him play his game and get to the — just try to get a bucket to win,” Phinisee said.
Phinisee never said it directly, but it was clear what he meant.
Getting to the paint. Langford needed to drive to the basket.
That’s the strength of Langford’s game as he ranks toward the top of the NCAA in field goal percentage at the rim.
But when Langford had the ball as the clock trickled down in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, with a much slower 6-foot-11, 245-pound forward on him, he opted for a step-back 3-pointer. The shot barely hit the rim, time expired and the Hoosiers met their fate in overtime as Bohannon continued to splash in contested threes.
That’s why Phinisee had to stop himself postgame, because he quickly remembered his teammate not getting to the paint and settling for the outside shot. Even Miller said it wasn’t the look he was hoping for.
“I was hopeful that maybe off of a slip he’d be able to get his shoulder by the guy and obviously get to the basket," Miller said. "He didn’t have it, so he obviously took the last shot and we went to overtime.”
It’s been a shot that has become a familiar sight for Hoosier fans, and a popular decision by Langford as of late.
Flashback to IU's Feb. 2 game against Michigan State, and the situation was almost too similar. Langford had the ball, the game tied, and he went for the step-back 3-pointer to win, which banged off the glass, not touching the rim. The only difference was IU went on to win that game in overtime.
Two games after that, IU found itself in a tight battle at home against Ohio State Feb. 10. Down 54-52 with 12 seconds left. The team was desperately trying to keep momentum from the victory in East Lansing, Michigan, Langford went for the win and shot a 3-pointer. This time, the shot was a lot closer as it spun around the rim and out, but the result remained the same.
As the star of the team, coaches and players want the ball in Langford's hands down the stretch. The 3-pointer Friday night might have been due to the fact that Langford had been called for multiple charges when he would attack the rim, so he was hesitant of a similar call and creating a crucial turnover.
To Phinisee’s point, they want Langford to play his game. In the closing moments of games, as a 26-percent 3-point shooter this season, Langford’s at his best when he gets to the paint.
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