Tamar Bates finally had a breakout game.
The sophomore guard has shown short flashes of brilliance in his spells off the bench during several games over his first season-and-change in Bloomington. But he’d yet to have a real signature performance. The type where he was the best player on the court, and one of the biggest reasons Indiana men’s basketball won a game.
But quickly after checking in around six minutes into IU’s game against Jackson State on Friday afternoon, it was clear he was on another level. Within three minutes of action, he matched his career high of three assists. Bates later eclipsed that and multiple other marks, as Indiana dismantled the Tigers, 90-51.
IU head coach Mike Woodson wasn’t surprised by Bates’ performance.
“When we started this journey with this team five months ago, he was probably one of our best players playing. Tonight, he kind of put it all together,” Woodson said. “Made shots. I thought he defended well. And he just did a lot of good things in the 22-23 minutes that he played.”
Bates notched one more assist in the second half to set a new career mark at four. He racked up 22 points — his previous high was 13. He had 12 points at halftime.
He got there by shooting 8 for 11 from the field, 4 for 6 on 3-pointers, and 2 for 2 on free throws. That’s the most field goals and the most threes Bates has ever hit as a Hoosier.
Bates’ confidence seemed to grow with every shot that went through the net. He tied his career-high in field goal attempts, and set a new high in 3-point attempts. The only other time he’d attempted 11 field goals in a game was IU’s overtime loss at Ohio State last year, when he was thrust into bigger minutes due to foul trouble and injuries. He was far less successful.
He’s part of a bench that’s often talked about as a weapon for this IU team. Little by little, several players in that unit have broken out in their own ways and proven their worth. Once Bates and the bench unit checked in for IU on Friday, the Hoosiers quickly went on a big run.
“We just understand that we’re just as important as the first five or whoever is on the floor. We just come in with the mentality of executing whatever the game calls for,” Bates said of IU’s bench. “We weren’t getting too many stops, so we knew we needed to heat up the defensive end so we could turn that into offense.”
Bates has had a transformative year — to say the least — and that’s been on full display, even after the game Friday. He’s often shared publicly about his daughter and how he’s changed through fatherhood. And after the game, Bates held his daughter in his lap during the postgame press conference. He was grateful his family was in attendance for his big performance.
Xavier Johnson said he’s seen personal growth from Bates since he first arrived in Bloomington, and that Bates flipped a switch in the offseason.
“This summer, he had a different attitude. He grew up a lot. He matured,” Johnson said. “He came in, told guys, ‘We’re going to be the hunted, so we’ve got to come out and still be the hunter still and be ready to play, be humble to play.'”
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