Indianapolis – Roderick Wilmont once again proved to be Mike Davis' ace in the hole. The junior guard came off the bench to spark the Hoosiers and take Davis' crew into the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
After Indiana (18-10, 9-7 Big Ten) suffered through over nine minutes of scoreless basketball Wilmont scored Indiana's last five points of the first half to keep the game close going into the locker room. His jumper in the paint and three-point basket were the Hoosiers' only field goals in a 13-minute stretch that allowed Wisconsin (19-11, 9-7) to come back from being down 10-2 to taking a halftime lead, 19-15.
"Coach (Davis) just told me to go out there and be aggressive and take open shots," said Wilmont. "Marco (Killingsworth) did a great job of looking for me when he got double-teamed. We moved the ball well and when I had the shot I took it."
In his seventh straight game coming off the bench Wilmont scored 11 crucial points on 4-of-8 shooting including 3-of-5 shooting from behind the 3-point arc. The win over Wisconsin marked the seventh time Wilmont has scored in double digits off the bench this season, giving Indiana a 6-1 mark in those games.
"Halftime wasn't as bad as people would think," said Wilmont. "Coach Davis just let us know we've been in this situation plenty of times. We knew what we were doing wrong. We have a lot of upperclassmen on this team and we knew what we had to come out and do."
Wilmont's most significant shot came in the second half with less than eight minutes to play. The Hoosiers led by as many as nine points in the closing period, but the Badgers battled back and took the lead on a Ray Nixon rebound and dunk.
On the play, Wilmont was out of position and missed the box out on Nixon, letting him free for the dunk. But he made up for it on the next play knocking down his second three of the game.
"That was kind of crucial," said Wilmont. "It was on my back, but that stuff happens when you play hard. You get out of place sometimes. I came back down and showed him I'm not going to go down like that and hit that three.
"I was just feeding off the energy of the game. I know what shots I can hit and which ones I can't. They were sagging off of me because they knew I was looking in the post to Marco. I can hit that shot. I just jumped up and shot it. We needed that one."
Double-digit scoring aside, Wilmont's largest contribution to the Indiana win may have been on the defensive side of the ball. After sitting out most of the first half in foul trouble, Alando Tucker terrorized the Hoosiers in the second half. His 14 points in the first 12 minutes of the second half kept the Badgers within striking distance and he was beginning to wear down Killingsworth and Robert Vaden. Wilmont switched onto Tucker, the first-team All-Big Ten player scored just two free throws in the final eight minutes as the Badgers scored just 12 points in that stretch.
"We had to make an adjustment and bring a different guy to Tucker," said assistant head coach Donnie Marsh. "We took Vaden off of him and put Rod on him because we knew he would have a little more energy at that point.
"(Tucker is) a tough matchup. We needed to do a better job of limiting him to one shot and take the other guys away then we thought we could win the game."
Tucker finished the game with 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting and picked up eight rebounds, including four offensive. He was nine points shy of the 29 he hung on the Hoosiers in the first matchup, his highest production during the Big Ten season.
"Coach Marsh gave us a great gameplan for Tucker," said Wilmont. "Tucker is one of the best players in this league and if he gets going, especially in the first half, it can become a long game for you. We tried to slow him down, we doubled him a lot this game, and we just had to make sure we were in the right spot on help side. Coach Marsh had us ready for him."
The win marked Indiana's fifth-straight and most likely secures a big to the NCAA tournament, somewhere few thought the Hoosiers would be just a month ago.
"We feel real good right now," said Wilmont. "We went through some tough times, but my mom says you always have to go through the tough times to get to the good times. We did that. We fought through it. We practiced hard. We're going out there and getting it done for Coach Davis."
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