BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP)—Roderick Wilmont waited two years to make a difference for Indiana.
On Tuesday night, he delivered.
Wilmont scored all six of his points on back-to-back 3-pointers in the final minute against No. 21 Purdue, helping the Hoosiers fend off a second-half rally and beat the Boilermakers 63-58—their first win over a ranked team this season.
“You can’t tell Rod not to shoot it because he can shoot,” coach Mike Davis said with a chuckle. “It doesn’t look like it sometimes, but he can shoot the basketball.”
Wilmont needed just one minute to prove any critics wrong.
He entered the game averaging 3.6 points with just nine 3-pointers in 16 games. But Wilmont, a redshirt freshman, responded by hitting the game’s two biggest shots against the Hoosiers’ biggest rival.
The first 3 gave Indiana a 59-55 lead with 58 seconds left. The second sealed the win with 28 seconds to go and set off a celebration that sent Wilmont leaping into the arms of Pat Ewing Jr., whose father watched the game from behind the Hoosiers’ bench.
“Bracey (Wright) just had some good drives and I was wide open,” Wilmont said. “I knocked them down, just like I do in practice.”
Wilmont’s baskets ruined Purdue’s late charge helped the Hoosiers stay atop the Big Ten standings with their fifth straight win. The Boilermakers (14-5, 4-2) dropped out of a first-place tie with Indiana and No. 17 Wisconsin, which plays Wednesday night at Ohio State.
Purdue had too many problems to deal with.
A.J. Moye scored a team-high 15 points and gave the Hoosiers a burst of energy they desperately needed. George Leach provided an inside presence with 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks, and guard Donald Perry finished with six points and seven rebounds before leaving with about 10 minutes left after getting whacked in the head.
Perry’s departure put Wilmont in the lineup, and the Boilermakers also played the final 15 minutes without Kenneth Lowe, their top scorer and best defender who still finished with a team-high 13 points.
Lowe came out after hurting his left elbow trying to brace a fall on a driving layup. The injury occurred in the midst of a 7-0 Purdue run that helped the Boilermakers get close, but he writhed in pain before being helped to the bench and eventually into the locker room.
“They said he almost dislocated it and that he would be very sore,” coach Gene Keady said.
Even without Lowe, the Boilermakers played well.
The Big Ten’s No. 2 defense limited Indiana to 37.9 percent shooting and yielded just one 3-pointer in the first 19 minutes of the second half, giving it a chance to rally—until Wilmont’s consecutive 3-pointers.
“We tried to get more pressure on the ball,” Keady said. “It wasn’t a whole lot different, but I thought we got up on the ball better.”
Purdue also limited Wright, the conference’s No. 2 scorer, to 10 points— half his average although he contributed in other ways like finding Wilmont on a nifty swing pass for the second 3 and blocking Melvin Buckley’s shot with 13 seconds left to preserve the win.
But the Boilermakers’ defense got them back in the game and eventually allowed them to take a 45-43 lead when Austin Parkinson hit his third 3-pointer of the season with 10:36 to go.
From that point, the teams traded leads until Wright’s 19-footer that was changed from a 3-pointer to a 2-pointer. That gave Indiana a 56-55 lead. After Brett Buscher missed for Purdue, the Hoosiers went to Wilmont for the first 3.
Purdue answered with a 3-pointer from David Teague, a play Wilmont faulted himself for.
But he more than made up for it on the Hoosiers’ next possession, hitting the biggest basket of his career and handing Purdue its fourth straight loss at Assembly Hall.
“That was my fault,” Wilmont said of Teague’s shot. “Coach told us the whole time that if they drive, stay on Teague because he’s a spot-up shooter. But I came back and redeemed myself.”