Salt Lake City, Utah – Robert Vaden wasn't about to miss his shot to play in his first NCAA Tournament game. Now, after his late-game heroics against San Diego State, he and the Hoosiers have survived to play another day.
Originally listed as a gametime decision due to a sprained ankle, Vaden hit a game-deciding 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left to give Indiana a two-point lead and the Hoosiers held on for an 87-83 victory over San Diego State. Sixth-seeded Indiana (19-11) advances to the second where it will face third-seeded Gonzaga (28-3) Saturday at 8:10 p.m. EST.
Vaden's shot capped a second-half IU rally that saw the Hoosiers overcome a 10-point deficit against the Aztecs (24-9). Vaden's opportunity, though, didn't come until a costly San Diego State turnover gave the Hoosiers the ball with a chance for the win.
After Earl Calloway sliced his way through the San Diego State defense for a layup to cut San Diego State's lead to one, 83-82, with :41.5 left, Aztec guard Brandon Heath brought the ball up the floor against Marshall Strickland. As the clock wound down and Strickland bodied up on Heath, the Aztec guard lost control of the ball and it rolled into the backcourt.
Strickland would eventually tie up Heath and force a jump ball, and IU took over thanks to the possession arrow.
"I dribbled the ball off my foot," said Heath, who scored 15 points on 6-of-17 shooting. "I thought I couldn't touch it because if I touched it, it would be back court."
For the second time in five days, Indiana found itself down one in the closing seconds of a game, and for the second time IU Coach Mike Davis diagrammed a play to Marco Killingsworth. But this time the ball never made its way to the Hoosier center. Instead, Earl Calloway got the ball to Wilmont in the corner, who looked to Killingsworth in the post.
"We ran it to the corner, and then I tried to look for Marco but the driving lane opened up," Wilmont said. "I heard Vaden calling my name. I should have kind of given him a bounce pass but I threw it right at him."
Aztec forward Marcus Slaughter got his hand on the pass, but could do nothing more than tip it in the air.
"The ball was there," Slaughter said. "I don't know how it got there, but the ball came to me. It was high. I tried to tip it toward our court, and good teams get good rolls, and today they got the roll. I tipped it, and unfortunately it went right back to them, and he made a great shot."
Vaden elevated to corral the loose ball, and then went right back up for the eventual game-winner. It was the last of five 3-pointers for Vaden on the day, who finished with a team-high 18 points in 36 minutes of play.
"I was open," Vaden said. "I had been taking open shots throughout the course of the game. It was like any other shot. I was open and I knocked it down."
San Diego State had one final chance to either tie the game or take the lead, but Mohamed Abukar's length-of-the-floor in-bounds pass sailed over everyone and out of bounds. San Diego State Coach Steve Fisher said afterwards the play was originally designed to go to point guard Richie Williams who would push the ball up the court to try to get a shot before the buzzer. But after Indiana called a 30-second timeout, Fisher instead opted for a long pass in the direction of Slaughter.
After the Aztec turnover Indiana regained possession, and Wilmont knocked down a pair of free throws to secure the win.
"It's a hard, tough life lesson," said Fisher. "We've won some close games, and unfortunately for us tonight the shoe was on the other foot."
The win was Indiana's sixth in seven games, and it was one that IU Coach Mike Davis is convinced wouldn't have happened were it not for everything his team has endured in recent weeks.
"I think the last three weeks have really helped this basketball team to win a basketball game like that," Davis said. "We've been in the situation the last three weeks where if we lose, we're probably out of the (NCAA Tournament). For us to be in that situation really helped."
Vaden was far from the only hero. Earl Calloway contributed a career-high 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting, with most of his production coming by breaking down the Aztec guards off the dribble and finishing around the basket. Little-used Lewis Monroe also attacked the Aztecs off the dribble to score six points in 19 minutes.
"We weren't able to do a number of things, and they had too many lay-ups," said Abukar, who finished with a game-high 24 points. "That was probably one of the biggest reasons we lost."
Indiana also got 18 points from Marco Killingsworth, who was limited to 25 minutes due to foul trouble. With Indiana leading 35-26, Killingsworth picked up his second foul with 5:48 remaining in the first half and was on the bench for the remainder of the period. San Diego State responded with an 18-6 run to go up three, 44-41 at halftime. The Aztecs would eventually extend that margin to 10 in the second half before Indiana's rally.
Killingsworth would pick up his fourth foul with 8:32 remaining in the game, forcing Indiana to go a couple of minutes with a five-guard lineup that featured Calloway, Lewis Monroe, Wilmont, Vaden and A.J. Ratliff. That group, though, was able to finish off a 10-0 run midway through the second half that turned a 66-57 San Diego State lead into one-point IU lead, 67-66.
The IU coaching staff opted to go with that group of guards to try to slow down the Aztecs from the perimeter. San Diego State shot 62.1 percent in the first half, 56.4 percent for the game, and 55.6 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
"We wanted to do something where we could switch everything because their big guys were giving us problems, and the guards were giving us problems coming off screens," Davis said. "We weren't really working hard enough when the guy caught the basketball to get right on top of him."
That run put the Hoosiers in a position to pull out the game thanks to Vaden's last-minute heroics.
"Our guys showed a lot of courage tonight by just kept going and going and going," said Davis.
Ratliff 2-7 0-0 5, Vaden 5-12 3-3 18, Killingsworth 8-13 2-5 18, Strickland 4-9 0-0 9, Calloway 8-9 1-1 18, Wilmont 4-13 3-6 11, Suhr 0-0 0-0 0, Allen 1-2 0-0 2, Kline 0-1 0-0 0, Monroe 3-5 0-1 6. Totals 35-71 9-16 87.
SAN DIEGO STATE 83
Spain 3-4 2-2 8, Abukar 8-13 6-6 24, Slaughter 5-8 3-5 13, Heath 6-17 0-0 15, Williams 5-6 0-0 12, Sharper 4-6 3-4 11, Davis 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas 0-0 0-0 0, Camara 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 31-55 11-15 83.
Halftime Score: San Diego State 44, Indiana 41. 3-Pointers: Indiana 8-26 (Ratliff 1-4, Vaden 5-11, Strickland 1-4, Calloway 1-1, Wilmont 0-5, Allen 0-1), San Diego State 10-18 (Abukar 2-2, Heath 3-9, Williams 2-3, Sharper 3-4). Rebounds: Indiana 31 (Wilmont 6), San Diego State 36 (Slaughter 10). Assists: Indiana 14 (Calloway 3), San Diego State 15 (Williams 8). Turnovers: Indiana 9, San Diego State 16. Officials: Tom Lopes, Michael Stuart, George Washington. Attendance: 15,122.
Vaden's Heroics Sends IU Into Second Round
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