Final Grades: Breaking Down Rob Phinisee's 2020-21 Season at Indiana

Indiana junior point guard Rob Phinisee took a step back this past season, but the new Hoosiers coaching staff is still excited about his future.
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Rob Phinisee lost it this year, and he struggled through a massive shooting slump where he simply had no faith in his ability to knock down jumpers.

For the junior guard from Lafayette, it turned out to be the worst of his three seasons so far as the Hoosiers struggled to a 12-15 season and had coach Archie Miller fired in the process. He did have some big moments, like the 18-point game that fueled the upset of No. 4 Iowa in Iowa City, and his game-winner in overtime over Penn State, but mostly it was a struggle.

Here's a breakdown of his season, what I liked and didn't like, his best game and future prospects and – of course – his final grade.

There's also a terrific video chat with Hilltop30 Scholarship Fund winner Haley Jordan, so check that out as well:

Rob Phinisee by the numbers

  • Games played: 27 of 27
  • Games started: 24 of 27
  • Average minutes: 27.1 (fifth on team)
  • Points per game: 7.1 (fifth on team)
  • Rebounds per game: 2.3
  • Assists per game: 2.9 (first on team)
  • Steals per game: 0.81 (third on team)
  • Field goal percentage: 34.7 (69-for-199)
  • 3-point percentage: 26.0 (25-for-96)
  • Free throw percentage: 63.8 (30-for-47)

What I liked

Unlike many of his teammates, Rob Phinisee's best games this season came during victories, and that says a lot about his value to the Hoosiers. More than anyone in the starting lineup, how he played often determined the difference between winning and losing. 

Here's a good example. Prior to the Hoosiers' ugly six-game losing streak to end the season, Phinisee had scored in double figures seven times. In those games, Indiana was 6-1. 

Another huge plus to his season was his ability to lead and keep a young team together through a weird COVID season. He took those four freshmen under his wing and showed them the ropes, despite never-before-seen protocols and quarantines. The quality of the kid far exceeded the quality of his game this season.

What I didn't like

For two years, we knew all about "Big Shot Rob,'' a confident point guard who was never afraid to take a shot, and was always sure it was going in. But this year, that confidence disappeared, and the struggles just kept compounding on him.

It was a shooting year for Phinisee. The junior from Lafayette shot only 34.7 percent from the field, just 26 percent from three-point range and a very disappointing 63.8 percent from the free throw line that included some big misses. All three numbers were career lows, and it was clear that a lack of confidence had everything to do with it. He had no faith in his ability to knock down shots, and it showed.

It's hard to ignore the fact that Indiana's season-ending six-game losing streak started with 0-for-6 and 0-for-7 shooting games from Phinisee. And there were eight of 27 games this season where he made one field goal or less. You just can't have that from a starting guard who's playing 27 minutes a game.

Best game

Indiana's best win all season was the 81-69 shocker at No. 4 Iowa, and Phinisee was a big reason why. He scored 18 points that night, and made 4-of-7 three-pointers. That was huge, because Indiana was dealing with foul trouble all night and someone had to take over. It was Phinisee.

He scored eight points in the first five minutes to get the Hoosiers rolling, and then, when things were getting out of hand midway through the second half and the Hoosiers were down by seven, Phinisee hit a three-pointer to start the Hoosiers' rally. Another three with 2:48 to go capped a 26-8 run by the Hoosiers that was, by far, the best stretch of basketball that Indiana played all year. Phinisee was a big reason why.

Future prospects

When Dane Fife arrived back home at Indiana after 10 years as a well-respected coach at Michigan State, the first player he mentioned was Phinisee. Fife raves about how good Phinisee is defensively, and how difficult he was to deal with during his first two years at Indiana. This year was an outlier, Fife said, and he knows how important Phinisee is to this team.

Fife is taking it on himself to make Phinisee a key player again, and Rob will absolutely benefit from this coaching change. With all the new additions to this roster, look for him to play off the ball a little more, too. 

You're hearing it here first. Add 10 percentage points to all three of those shooting statistics next year. A 43/36/73 season wouldn't surprise me one bit. 

Final grade: C-plus

I have to admit that there might be a bit of a bias in this grade, because he's such a good kid. This C-plus grade certainly could have been worse. It was a rough season for Rob, and even he knows it. That confidence issue wore him down, and he talked about it often at the end of the season.

He wasn't himself this year, so I won't be as harsh as I could be. But I'm also looking forward to a bounce-back season for him.

Previous 'Final Grades' stories

  • TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis was Indiana's leading scorer and rebounder this year, and there was no question he was the Hoosiers' best player. Here's his grade. CLICK HERE
  • ARMAAN FRANKLIN: Sophomore guard Armaan Franklin made great year-over-year strides and emerged as Indiana's best perimeter threat on both sides of the floor. CLICK HERE
  • RACE THOMPSON: Redshirt junior Race Thompson fought through injuries at the end of the season and battled in the post all year during his fine season. CLICK HERE
  • AL DURHAM: Senior guard Al Durham was up and down, but he conclude his career as one of 53 Hoosiers to score 1,000 points all-time. CLICK HERE 
  • NEXT UP: Indiana junior guard Rob Phinisee.
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