BLOOMINGTON-While Hoosier fans have been getting increasingly anxious to see winning basketball again in Assembly Hall, there may be a few people even more restless over the past two seasons of unfruitful results.
Those people are the players, who are tired of losing and are ready for a breakout season themselves.
Put junior guard Roderick Wilmont at the top of that list. Wilmont has been in Bloomington for four years and has seen the Hoosiers ranked as high as third in the nation and seen the lows of missing the NCAA Tournament – twice.
"Since I've been here we haven't won anything and this is the year to do it," said Wilmont. "We want people to remember this team as one of the greatest teams to play at Indiana. People have told me that they've been around this program for 50 or 60 years and never seen a team this talented. We know we have the talent, but we have to put that together and get it done on the court."
The hardest part for Wilmont may have been the time when he first walked into the Indiana program. He was redshirted the season following Indiana's trip to the Final Four and watched the likes of Tom Coverdale and A.J. Moye play with all the admiration the fans could dish out – a level Wilmont has been trying to reach since he finally got to don the Cream and Crimson.
"When I was recruited it was the year they made it to the Final Four and it was crazy around here," said Wilmont. "I remember A.J. Moye showing me his pictures and videos. I want to have that same feeling that they had before I leave. But we know that's only going to come by working as hard as those guys did."
Wilmont and all the Hoosiers learned a valuable lesson last season when the Hoosiers finished with a 15-14 record and were still kept out of the tournament.
"You have to get as many wins as you can if you want to be in the tournament, especially early," said Wilmont. "We know we have Kentucky coming up and we need the big games, too, for our tournament resume. But we're worrying about each team one at a time and so once we get to the tournament anything can happen."
An early test with No. 1 Duke and a close matchup with No. 15 and rival Kentucky are part of an easier schedule than the Hoosiers faced last season when they went on a six-game slide in nonconference play. But for the Hoosiers, those types of games will be lessons to utilize this season.
"We learned against Duke that we can beat any team in the country if we just play our game," said Wilmont. "We got down early and we had to use our energy to get back into the game, but once we did we got comfortable and we were right there with them. That was a good experience for us, especially early because it was like a tournament game and we haven't seen many of those."
One difference for the Hoosiers this season has been a more balanced offensive attack that has produced four scorers averaging double figures five games into the season, including Wilmont's 11.0 per outing.
"We're playing well right now as a team," said Wilmont. "We can go inside/out and we're looking for Marco (Killingsworth) in the post every time and that opens up our guards on the perimeter. It's easy basketball for us right now.
"Last year we were always worried if Bracey (Wright) was going to be hot tonight, who would be our second-leading scorer or how are we going to score? Now, any night someone could lead us in scoring but we know we can score in our offense and we have that big guy who can dominate the game and make it easier for everyone."
Indiana's next challenge will be in-state foe Indiana State, which has taken two of the last three matchups in the series. Not counting the exhibition season when Indiana played two in-state teams, the Hoosiers will face four schools from Indiana in Indiana State, Butler, Ball State and Purdue.
"I'm not from Indiana but I know how back home when Miami plays Florida State, that's a big game regardless," said Wilmont. "That's how it is here because those teams want to knock us off because we're supposed to be the big name school in Indiana. They want to beat us bad, that's why it's going to be a big game (Tuesday)."
Wilmont knows how important a game like this could be for a team like Indiana State, but the Hoosiers are going to prepare for this game just like the five before it and the rest after it.
"When you play those types of teams that are good within their own conference you have to be ready," said Wilmont. "Like Eastern Michigan over the weekend. They were a good team. Those teams are going to bring a lot of energy and we need to bring even more, especially on the road. We just have to be ready mentally."
Wilmont Wants Return To Winning Ways
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