West Lafayette, Ind. – After a sluggish first half, Indiana got a second chance in the second half and made the most of it.
After shooting just 27 percent in the opening half, Indiana bounced back to shoot 71 percent in the game's final 20 minutes and cruised to a 70-59 win over Purdue Wednesday at Mackey Arena. It marked the first road win in Big Ten play for the Hoosiers, who had lost their first six league road contests.
The win was the third straight for Indiana (16-10/8-7), which closes out the regular season on Saturday at Michigan. Purdue, meanwhile, dropped its third straight and slipped to 9-17 overall and 3-12 in the Big Ten.
"What a great victory for us," IU Coach Mike Davis said. "At half I went in and said, ‘Wow, guys, this is the worst we can play.' We shot 29 percent from the field, played casually, didn't cut hard and didn't do anything we worked on in practice."
Indiana was just 9-of-31 in the opening half, including 3-of-15 from behind the 3-point arc. Other than Marco Killingsworth's 4-of-7 effort from the floor in the opening half, the rest of the team was a combined 5-of-24, including a 1-of-9 effort from Robert Vaden. Purdue led by as many as six early on and held a two-point lead, 27-25, at intermission.
The second half, though, was a different story. Indiana made 15-of-21 shots, including 6-of-8 from behind the 3-point arc, to take control of the contest and get a much needed win in its quest to earn an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Indiana's postseason hopes looked bleak after it had dropped five in a row earlier this month, but suddenly the Hoosiers have won three in a row and now have a chance to earn a first-round bye in next weekend's Big Ten Tournament with a win Saturday at Michigan.
"I though the guys did a great job in the second half," Davis said. "Defensively, we played hard. We made the extra pass, we played quick. It was just a great second half and a great win for our team. It's a big win for Indiana's basketball program."
Despite Indiana's hot-shooting second half, the game wasn't decided until the final minutes. With Indiana leading by three, 54-51, with under four minutes to go, Marshall Strickland hit a huge 3-pointer to extend the lead to six. A Matt Kiefer putback cut the lead to four, but Earl Calloway answered with a layup and Robert Vaden connected on a 3-pointer with 1:44 remaining to open the margin to nine, and Purdue would get no closer than seven the rest of the way.
Strickland, who was celebrating his 22nd birthday, finished with a game-high 16 points, including 3-of-3 from behind the 3-point arc.
"That three (Strickland) made in the second half was a big-time shot," Davis said. "He came off the screen, ran to the spot and ran the play well."
Strickland was one of four Hoosiers in double figures. Vaden was just 4-of-14 from the field, but finished with 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Earl Calloway added 11 as well, while Marco Killingsworth finished with 10.
Calloway scored all 11 of his points in the decisive second half, finishing 3-of-4 from the field while handing out three assists.
"In the first half, (Calloway) was driving the ball all over the court and that's not what we do," Davis said. "If you watch us every day, you know we like to push the basketball as quick as possible. He was going back and forth and back and forth. It was really confusing our guys.
"I told him, ‘Earl, let's push the basketball up the court, look for Marco inside and look for our wing players. I thought in the second half we made really good adjustments and our guys really executed."
Purdue was led by Gary Ware and Matt Kiefer who scored 16 and 13 points, respectively. No other Boilermaker finished in double figures.
The win gave Indiana a must-have road win to add to its NCAA Tournament resume, and it can all but wrap up an NCAA at-large bid on Sunday when it travels to Crisler Arena to face Michigan. Mike Davis has never lost to Tommy Amaker's Wolverines, going 8-0 during his IU tenure.
"I feel good about where we are," Davis said. "I feel good about our team. Tonight we could have easily folded and we could have folded earlier in the year. But we fought hard, the guys stayed with it and we started to move the basketball very well. We came out and executed what we talked about at the half."
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