BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP)—Indiana had to change the game plan Saturday. Its shooters were off, the 3-point shots came at a premium and its first-half defense struggled against Purdue.
No problem. The Hoosiers hung around long enough to let Robert Vaden and Roderick Wilmont spark two late scoring flurries as No. 13 Indiana outlasted instate rival Purdue 62-49.
“We have to keep fighting, trying to find ways to win the game,” Wilmont said. “As a team we know we can win games if we shoot in the 30s—if we play defense like we did in the second half.”
For the Hoosiers (12-3, 4-1 Big Ten) it was an uncharacteristically off night.
While Killingsworth did his usual dirty work inside, finishing with 18 points and 10 rebounds, his teammates struggled to get in sync.
One of the nation’s top shooting teams connected on a season-low 39.1 percent, hit only 8-of-19 3-pointers—three in the last 6 minutes—and spent most of the game trading jabs with the Boilermakers rather than pulling away from them.
Vaden and Wilmont finally got the Hoosiers going in the right direction. They each finished with 14 points.
“I think we had some open shots, some open looks, we just weren’t knocking them down,” Vaden said. “All we did was started hitting some open shots.”
The result looked better on paper than it did on the court. Indiana beat Purdue for the ninth time in 11 games, grabbed a share of the conference lead with Wisconsin and won its 12th straight Big Ten home game—extending its longest such streak since winning 31 straight between 1991-95.
Without four starters, it appeared Purdue (7-10, 1-5) would be overmatched. Not exactly. With Carl Landry, David Teague and Nate Minnoy out with season-ending injuries and Tarrance Crump serving a season-long suspension after facing a drunken driving charge, the Boilermakers still gave Indiana a scare.
Marcus White came off the bench to score 19 points, Matt Kiefer added seven points and 10 rebounds and Gary Ware had seven points.
But Purdue couldn’t overcome a season-low shooting percentage (34.0) or a season-low point total to end its road losing streak. The Boilermakers have lost 20 straight regular-season road games dating to February 2004.
“The 3 that Vaden hit, that was OK, but then we had a turnover and Wilmont hit another 3 and that broke our back,” said Matt Painter, who made his head coaching debut in the series. “That six points was more than actually six points in this kind of game.”
Purdue’s defense caused all kinds of problems for Indiana. They double-teamed Killingsworth, forcing the Hoosiers to find other options, and when they couldn’t, the game turned ugly.
After Purdue closed to 26-22 at halftime, it opened the second half on an 8-4 run that tied the game at 30 on White’s layup with 15:21 to go.
But that’s when Vaden, Wilmont and Killingsworth turned the game. Killingsworth and Wilmont combined for half of the Hoosiers’ points in a 13-2 run that gave Indiana a 43-32 lead midway through the second half.
Then, after Purdue ran off seven straight points, Vaden hit a 3-pointer in transition and Wilmont followed that with a 12-footer that put Indiana ahead 48-39
“Our offense is a little better when our defense is better,” Indiana coach Mike Davis said. “We got a chance to push it in transition and get some open shots. That was the difference late.”
After two Purdue free throws, Vaden and Wilmont countered with back-to-back 3s to make it 54-41 with 4:18 left, and the Boilermakers only got as close as eight the rest of the way.
“They had a better nose for the basketball, especially late in the game,” Painter said. “We played hard, but at times we didn’t play smart and on the road, that’s what you have to do.”