Hoosier MVP…No one was more devastated after the Hoosiers' one-point loss to Ohio State than the man who took the game's final shot, Roderick Wilmont. Indiana's quest for its first berth in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game since 2001 came to an end when Wilmont's 8-foot leaner bounced harmlessly off the front of the rim, dropping IU from the tourney and Wilmont to his knees.
Despite the miss, Wilmont had a special weekend in Indianapolis. He averaged 13.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 29 minutes while shooting 45.5 percent from behind the 3-point arc. But his MVP effort wasn't simply about the numbers as it was his timing. In IU's 61-56 win over Wisconsin, he scored IU's final five points of the half to cut Wisconsin's lead to 19-15. Then, after Wisconsin had erased a nine-point IU lead in the second half to take a one-point lead, it was Wilmont's 3-pointer at the 7:19 mark that put IU back on top. Wilmont was even more important against Ohio State. He scored eight points in a one-minute span in the first half to single-handedly erase an 8-0 Ohio State lead. In the second half his driving layup at the 1:50 mark gave IU its first lead since early on, 51-50.
Pivotal Stretch…After going 7-of-22 in the first half of the Wisconsin game and turning the ball over nine times, Indiana was a different squad in the opening five minutes of the second half of that quarterfinal match-up. Indiana knocked down its first five shots of the half to turn a four-point deficit into a five-point lead, and it eventually equaled its entire first-half output in less than five minutes at the start of the second half.
While Wisconsin eventually chipped away at that lead and briefly recaptured the lead, the start of the second half was pivotal in giving Indiana the momentum it needed to pull out the win over Wisconsin. That, in turned, carried over to the match-up with Ohio State, a game that Indiana had a chance to win in the closing seconds. While the Hoosiers were disappointed to return to Bloomington after their semifinal loss, their performance in Indianapolis showed they are in fact a dangerous team once NCAA play opens next week.
What I Found Most Concerning… Robert Vaden's left ankle injury. The sophomore wing went down with three minutes remaining in the loss to Ohio State, and could put no weight on it while being helped to the IU locker room. Afterwards IU Coach Mike Davis said the injury was day-to-day and expected him to be ready by the time IU opens NCAA play this week, but whether or not he would be back to 100 percent seems questionable.
Assuming Vaden is ready to go by the end of next week, Indiana also needs to figure out some way to get Vaden going offensively. The team's second-leading scorer during the regular season, Vaden was only 4-of-18 from the floor during the Big Ten Tournament, including 2-of-10 from behind the 3-point arc. Even when Vaden struggles with his shot he still gives the team plenty in terms of assists, rebounds and defense, but IU is much more dangerous when he's shooting the ball with confidence from the perimeter.
What I Found Most Surprising… The development of Rod Wilmont. You could make a case that no player has developed more during Mike Davis' tenure than the junior guard. Originally an erratic perimeter shooter who was only capable of playing spot duty, Wilmont has emerged as a go-to player on the offensive end this season.
He's become a much more consistent 3-point shooter this season, which has opened up other options for him on the offensive end. Case in point was his baseline drive past Ohio State's Ron Lewis for the go-ahead layup late in the semifinal game. Suddenly, Wilmont is a player who can score from the perimeter, in transition, and off the dribble. He has also been valuable with his ability to rebound the basketball, to match-up with either shooting guards or small forwards defensively, and with the emotional lift when he enters the game.
While Indiana's coaching situation is an unknown for next season, if Wilmont can continue to develop at this rate, he looks like someone who is capable of being an All-Big Ten caliber player as a senior. That's a monumental jump from where he was when he first arrived at IU four years ago.
What I Found Most Impressive…Indiana shot 33.3 percent from the floor and 22.7 percent from behind the 3-point arc against Ohio State and still came within one basket of knocking off a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Indiana's shooting struggles wasn't impressive, but the fact Indiana managed to do enough in other areas to give itself a chance against a very good Ohio State team was reason to celebrate if you're an IU fan. Defensively Indiana continues to play at a much higher level than it was even a month ago, and that can go a long way toward keeping the team in games when the shots aren't falling for a stretch.
I'll contend that Saturday's performance against Ohio State gives credence to the thought IU could actually get out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Indiana looked like a team that had the wherewithal to string together a couple wins against good teams next week. I didn't think the same thing during IU's previous five victories. Wins over Purdue and Penn State came against lesser teams, and the wins at Michigan and against Wisconsin in Indy featured terrible offensive stretches on the Hoosiers' part. The win against Michigan State, meanwhile, came in front of a raucous IU crowd in Assembly Hall on Senior Day.
"(on defending Marco Killingsworth) It was a team effort. We all know (Marco) is a great player down in the post. In order to stop him, you need a total team effort. I got a lot of help from the other guys today. When (Indiana's) best player shoots 5-of-18, you have a great chance of winning the game." – Terence Dials.
"I thought our guys fought hard and showed a lot of courage by just sticking with it, especially when we were down by seven points. We made a run and got every look we wanted to down the stretch. The last two shots we missed were great looks. I am proud of our guys for just fighting hard and sticking with it. This is definitely something for us to take with us into next week in the (NCAA) Tournament."– Mike Davis.
"They came up with the big play. They made their plays and we missed ours." – IU Coach Mike Davis.
"It was a great game today. We gave it everything we had. Now we have to move on from today and get ready for next week. I think the level definitely stepped up during the second half. The importance of the game came out and it was a great game to be a part of." – Marshall Strickland.
Upon Further Review…Big Ten Tournament
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