Rod to the rescue

Rod to the rescue

Wilmont knocks down record nine 3s, scores 31 points to lead Indiana past Northwestern

by Chris Korman, H-T sports writer

March 1, 2007

Indiana’s Rod Wilmont banks in a 3-pointer to end the first half Wednesday night in Evanston, Ill. Wilmont had a career-high 31 points in IU’s 69-65 win over Northwestern. Chris Howell | Herald-Times
From the March 1, 2007 Bloomington Herald-Times

EVANSTON, Ill. – On many possessions Wednesday night, Indiana’s guards stopped pretending to try to run the offense.

Most times, this would get them benched. This time, it got them the win.

The Hoosiers, faced with zone pressure all night, were content to shoot from 3-point range. And Rod Wilmont did it best. Set up by crafty passing from Armon Bassett, Wilmont hit a school-record nine 3-pointers to give Indiana a 69-65 win at Northwestern.

The Hoosiers’ second Big Ten road win of the year snapped a three-game losing streak at Welsh-Ryan Arena, where at least half the crowd was adorned in Indiana red Wednesday night.

The Hoosiers (19-9, 9-6) can clinch the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament with a home win Saturday against Penn State. Illinois is the only other team in the conference that can finish 10-6 and Indiana holds the tie-breaker.

“It’s a great win, first of all, but we have an opportunity to go get our tenth league win on Saturday and win our 20th game of the regular season,” Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said.

Wilmont has taken over both of the Hoosiers’ Big Ten road games. He had 25 points and 12 rebounds against Penn State earlier this year, a game in which he took a school-record 17 3-pointers.

Wilmont’s cocksure performance Wednesday came a game after one of his worst performances of the season at Michigan State, where he didn’t score a point.

The Wildcats made it a priority to guard him but didn’t have as athletic defenders and were burned by their morphing 1-3-1 zone and Bassett’s ability to handle it in the last 30 minutes of the game.

“It’s an unorthodox way to play,” Sampson said. “It’s the only game all year you play against a team that plays this way offensively and defensively. I think the key to playing against them offensively is you have to have good guard play.”

Against Northwestern, Indiana fought unorthodoxy with, well, a historic shooting night. The 16 offensive rebounds helped, too.

“Our offensive rebounding was outstanding, and that was a big part of the game play,” Sampson said, “to get missed shots.”

The Wildcats (13-16, 2-13), playing on their senior night, were always a play or two from knocking Indiana down, though, it seemed.

Wilmont’s ninth 3-pointer made it 58-50 with just under four minutes left in the game. On the next possession, he scooted along the baseline to rebound a shot and put it back.

Then Indiana broke the press nicely, with Wilmont pushing the ball up to White for a basket and foul.

The Hoosiers were up 11 points.

Three quick steals, three easy baskets and 62 seconds, they were only up five.

“I thought they were vulnerable right then,” Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said. “But we just couldn’t quite make it happen.”

The Wildcats did get within three points but Bassett hit a pair of free throws and Northwestern’s Craig Moore missed two 3s late.

Bassett had 10 points and nine assists in 36 minutes of running the point.

Earl Calloway, the player he has subbed for the last two weeks, finally returned from a shoulder injury but lasted only nine minutes. He appeared to be favoring the injured shoulder, dribbling mostly with his left hand to his left and taking extra care against screens. He turned the ball over twice, a stat made less condemning because Northwestern made 12 steals.

“Even though Earl Calloway was kind of a non-factor I was glad he got out there tonight,” Sampson said. “He probably played a little bit better for Northwestern than he did Indiana tonight. We need his presence.”

Indiana led 16-7 early in the first half before a series of pre-season mistakes allowed Northwester to get back into the game.

The Hoosiers lost Kevin Coble and he hit a 3-pointer and then Tim Doyle hit a hook shot over Wilmont.

Joey Shaw charged at the other to turn it over once, and then A.J. Ratliff rushed up court and tried to force a pass to Lance Stemler. It never reached him.

Indiana then allowed Craig More a clear path to the net for a score and failed to box out on the next possession in their end. Finally, Coble got lose along the baseline and hit a lay-in to tie it at 20.

But Wilmont hit three 3-pointers in the final 1:39 of the half, including a bank-shot before the buzzer, to give the Hoosiers a 32-28 lead.

“It’s an honor to come out and do something like that knowing all the great players that came through here,” Wilmont said of the record. “I had the privilege to go out there and coach Sampson gave me the chance to play my game tonight and it happened and it’s an honor.”