BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP)—Mike Davis wasn’t even sure Marco Killingsworth could play Tuesday night. Fortunately for Indiana, Killingsworth’s back proved strong enough to carry the Hoosiers.
Killingsworth overcame pregame back spasms to dominate the middle in the second half, and Roderick Wilmont added 17 points as the 13th-ranked Hoosiers upset No. 7 Illinois 62-60.
“I didn’t even think he could go,” Davis said. “But he fought through it and played a great second half.”
The Fighting Illini (16-2, 2-2) had no answer for the Hoosiers’ tandem.
Wilmont provided the spark in the first half after Indiana fell into an early 11-point hole. Killingsworth scored 20 of his 23 points in the second half and added 12 rebounds, one assist and four blocks.
But Wilmont was every bit as impressive. He tied a season high with 17 points, matched his career-high with nine rebounds and sparked an 18-0 first-half run that gave Indiana the momentum it needed.
After the game, Hoosiers fans poured onto the court, setting off a celebration that even Killingsworth joined.
“I jumped right in there because I ain’t used to seeing that,” said Killingsworth, a fifth-year senior who transferred to Indiana from Auburn. “So I jumped in there with them.”
For Illinois, it was a rare bad night.
The Illini entered Tuesday with 55 wins in their last 57 regular-season games. They’d beaten Indiana five straight times and have now lost to only four Big Ten teams since Jan. 24, 2004—Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Indiana.
Shaun Pruitt led the Illini with a career-high 17 points. Brian Randle added 15 and James Augustine had 11. Dee Brown, Illinois’ top player, was limited to five points but had 11 assists before fouling out.
And Illinois has now lost two of its last three, while Indiana has won 11 straight conference games at home.
“Marco’s a good player and sooner or later he’s going to get some things,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. “In the first half we did a good job fighting him, but it’s tough. He’s just good.”
Killingsworth needed more than solid play to produce against Illinois, though.
He asked to be taken out just 59 seconds into the game, then struggled to get going when he returned. When he did post up, shots weren’t falling. And without their big man, the Hoosiers looked out of sync. Just eight minutes into the game, Indiana had committed seven turnovers and already trailed 14-3.
That’s when Wilmont provided the spark.
He hit two straight 3-pointers to get the Hoosiers righted, then used his energy to start an improbable 18-0 spurt that Indiana used to turn a 19-9 deficit into a 27-19 lead. Illinois went nearly 6 1/2 minutes without a point, and Brown’s 3-pointer at the end of the half managed to get the Illini within 28-24.
Killingsworth was 1-of-5 from the field, 1-of-3 from the free-throw line and had an ailing back that needed more than a rubdown.
“At halftime, I just prayed,” he said.
The Hoosiers relied on him more in the second half.
Davis directed his players to start exploiting the middle, especially after the Illini’s interior players started to get into foul trouble. This time, Killingsworth took advantage by hitting short shots, drawing repeated fouls and creating havoc in the middle for Illinois.
He looked like a completely different player.
“It seemed like the rim was that big,” Killingsworth said, extending his hands. “Stuff just started going in. I couldn’t believe some of the stuff that was going in.”
Illinois was surprised, too.
They tried switching matching up, switching defenders, forcing the ball out of Killingsworth’s hands. But nothing worked.
During a 15-6 run that gave Indiana a 55-40 lead with 8:23 left, Killingsworth scored 12 points.
“We focused on him a lot, but we’re going to have to do a better job than that from here on out,” Augustine said.
Illinois answered with 12 straight points and when Randle completed a three-point play with 4:52 left, the Illini were back within 55-52.
Three times, the Illini got as close as two. When Jamar Smith tipped in Dee Brown’s errant 3 with 4.5 seconds left, Indiana’s lead was cut to 61-60.
But Robert Vaden hit 1-of-2 free throws with 3.6 seconds left, Rich McBride’s halfcourt heave was off the mark and the Indiana fans streamed onto the court.
“Marco is a guy who is going to get his shot off against anyone,” Davis said. “He played great.”