Hoosier MVP…Roderick Wilmont provided the lift Indiana needed in each half to emerge victorious against the Illini. It wasn't just the 17 points and nine rebounds that Wilmont tallied, but the timing of his contributions. After Indiana had missed eight of its first nine shots from the field and committed seven turnovers to fall behind 14-3 in the game's first 8 ½ minutes, it was a Wilmont 3-pointer that ended the drought. After Illinois had opened a 19-9 minutes later, Wilmont contributed three rebounds, an assist, a steal and a pair of fastbreak baskets during an 18-0 run that gave IU an eight-point lead. It was more of the same in the second half, as Wilmont came off the bench 30 seconds into the half after Ben Allen picked up his third foul and had a block, a rebound and a 3-pointer in his first minute on the floor. Wilmont's energy and effort also rubbed off on the IU crowd as well as his teammates, which was every bit as important as the numbers he put up on the stat sheet.
On the Rebound…In the matter of six days, Indiana went from a team that appeared to be the league's worst rebounding team to the best. Illinois entered the game with a Big Ten-best +7.7 rebounding margin, but Indiana out-rebounded the Illini 39-31, including a 12-8 edge on the offensive glass. That helped the Hoosiers to a 13-6 edge in second-chance points. In the Hoosiers' first three league games they had been out-done on the offensive glass by a combined 41-22.
The reasons for the improvement, quite honestly, appeared to boil down to little more than effort. While the Hoosiers started a bigger lineup with Ben Allen playing alongside Marco Killingsworth at the opening tip, Allen played only nine minutes and didn't have a rebound. Instead, Indiana got a huge effort from Killingsworth on the glass, and big lift from wings Rod Wilmont and Robert Vaden. After totaling just 12 rebounds in IU's first three Big Ten games Killingsworth equaled that total against the Illini. It marked his first double-digit rebounding game since an 11-rebound effort against Kentucky. Wilmont (9) and Vaden (6) also played big parts in IU's improved efforts on the glass.
What I Found Most Concerning… Indiana seemingly had Illinois on the ropes midway through the second half with a 15-point lead, but allowed the Illini to erase the lead in four minutes. Indiana went 1-for-5 during the four-minute stretch and committed four turnovers as IU's 53-38 lead dwindled to a 56-54 margin with 4:11 on the clock. Give Indiana credit for slowing the Illini's momentum and emerging victorious, but it needs to be able to put teams away when given the chance. One of the things IU failed to do during the Illini rally was pound the ball inside to Killingsworth. It was his 16 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half that enabled IU to open up its double digit lead, but during the Illini run Killingsworth attempted zero shots and made his way to the free-throw only once, and that came as a result of an offensive rebound.
What I Found Most Surprising… Robert Vaden's struggles offensively. The 6-5 sophomore was due to have an off-game after his recent run of success, but he could get nothing going against the Illini. Often matched up against bigger players such as James Augustine, Brian Randle and Warren Carter, Vaden was generally unable to beat them off the dribble. While he did contribute six rebounds and a team-high four assists to the Hoosiers' cause, Vaden was 1-of-9 from the floor, 0-of-6 from behind the 3-point arc, and committed a team-high five turnovers. In the same breath, it was equally surprising – and likely rewarding to Mike Davis – that Indiana was able to get a win over a top-10 team in spite of Vaden's struggles. Davis said afterwards that if he'd known Vaden would only score three points, he would have predicted the Hoosiers would lose by 10.
What I Found Most Impressive…Indiana's ability to make life difficult for Dee Brown. Mike Davis said afterwards that he didn't want to give anyone on the IU roster too much credit for "shutting down" Brown, because the Illini's leading scorer can't really be shut down by one person in his mind. That might be, but Indiana did an excellent job of switching out on him on screens and never giving him a wide open look from the perimeter. Indiana wanted to keep Brown from being able to catch and shoot, instead hoping to make him put the ball on the floor and create off the dribble. Brown did create opportunities for the Illini big men with 11 assists, but Indiana set out with a mission of keeping arguably the Big Ten's best player from beating them. It was mission accomplished.
Marco Killingsworth on how good Indiana's team is:
"I think we're a top 10 ball club. It's just a matter of time before people strat recognizing that."
Killingsworth on whether he expected to get the ball as much as he did in the second half:
"The ball is coming to me every time – first half, second half, whenever. My guys started looking for me, I was taking time like I normally do, and stuff started going in."
Killingsworth on how D.J. White's absence changes Indiana's style:
"It's the same thing. With DJ, it's better because I can float out and shoot more, but now since he's not, I have to get on the block more and get it and try to score."
Marshall Strickland on Indiana's win over No. 5 Illinois
"It's good. It's good for our confidence. We feel we can play with anybody. We came into this game expecting to win. We wanted to protect our homecourt like we did last year. Games like this can help us go on the road and battle.
Strickland on the fans rushing the court after the win:
"The last time they stormed the court was the Michigan State home game (last year), but that was probably more of an upset. Tonight, I think we were probably favored – at least in my mind we were. It was a surprise. We didn't expect that. We were as happy as they were that we won, but it wasn't like we were an unranked team beating the No. 1 team."
Strickland on the job Indiana did on Dee Brown:
"We did a great job. We got up on him and kind of took him out of his rhythm early. That's what we wanted to do. We wanted him to have to dribble to his shot and try to get into the paint. He's a jump shooter and if you give him open space, he can live out there making 3s."
Random Thoughts…He's only attempted 18 3-point shots in his college career, but Ben Allen is already looking like one of the best shooting big men to come through the Big Ten Conference in some time. Allen made both of his 3-point attempts against the Illini, and is now shooting 72.2 percent from behind the arc. Foul trouble and a few defensive lapses limited him to only nine minutes, but Mike Davis talked after the game about how he was going to "stay on" Allen in an effort to get better production and presumably more minutes out of the big man in the weeks to come…in one season, Rod Wilmont has gone from the "Rifleman" to one of the most productive sixth-men in the Big Ten Conference. Wilmont is averaging 11.8 points and 5.0 rebounds since league play opened and is shooting 53 percent from the floor. A career 34 percent shooter entering the season, Wilmont is now shooting 49.5 percent overall from the floor and 41 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
Upon Further Review…Illinois
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