WHAT HAPPENED: Wisconsin was good enough playing its slow-down game to keep No. 2 Indiana from playing its uptempo style and pulled off the upset with a 64-59 win over the Hoosiers in front of 17,472 at Assembly Hall on Tuesday.
The Hoosiers fell to 15-2 overall, 3-1 in the Big Ten, and will likely slide back down in the polls on Monday after climbing up to No. 2 from No. 5 this week. The Badgers (13-4, 4-0) take sole possession of first place in the conference.
It was the Hoosiers’ 11th straight loss to Wisconsin in the series. However, it also snapped a six-game winning streak going back to Indiana’s loss to Butler on Dec. 15, and it was Indiana’s first loss at Assembly Hall since their 77-74 loss to Minnesota on Jan. 12, 2012. The Hoosiers had won 18 straight at home.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Wisconsin had four players in double figures. Senior forward Ryan Evans led the group with 13 points to go with eight rebounds, and also hit a critical off-balance, late-in-the-shot-clock jumper late in the game to stem an Indiana run.
Sophomore guard Traevon Jackson added 11 points, senior forward Mike Brusewitz and freshman forward Sam Dekker added 10 each. Ben Brust had nine, and he and Jackson combined to hold IU senior guard Jordan Hulls to 2-for-8 shooting, four points and three turnovers against three assists.
IU sophomore center Cody Zeller had perhaps his most dominant half as a collegian with 18 points on 8-for-8 shooting in the first half, but the Badgers held him to 1-for-7 shooting in the second half and he finished with 23 points as well as 10 rebounds. Senior forward Christian Watord had 11 points and junior guard Victor Oladipo had 10, but no one else scored in double figures. Hulls and Ferrell were a combined 4-for-16. The bench scored a total of two points after scoring just three against Minnesota.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Wisconsin played it’s brand of basketball and made sure the Hoosiers could not get out in transition at all.
Indiana tried to full-court press to try to hurry the pace and create turnovers. That didn’t help much, as the Badgers only gave it away eight times, which is actually below their Division I-best average. The Hoosiers therefore scored just seven points off turnovers and three points on fast-breaks.
So that left the Hoosiers in a half-court setting most of the time and it didn’t go well. They couldn’t get perimeter looks, couldn’t find space to drive, and couldn’t find anything in the mid-range either. Across the board it was their worst offensive performance. They made just 37.0 percent of their field goals (20-for-54) and 25.0 percent of their 3-point attempts (3-for-12). They were able to get it to Zeller in the post in the first-half, but in the second half, the Badgers made sure he was always facing double-teams and generally having lots of guys in his vicinity anytime Indiana even thought of giving him the ball. They almost totally snuffed out the pick-and-roll game, and the Hoosiers basically had no offensive recourse.
On the other end, the Badgers were able to beat Indiana off the dribble, get into the lane and also find drive and kick options. The Badgers didn’t have a great shooting night, but did hit seven 3-pointers and 45.1 percent of their field goals, which was plenty on a night when scoring — as it always is in Wisconsin games — was at a premium.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: The Hoosiers will assuredly fall in the polls and they’ve taken a costly loss at home in a league where it is very difficult to win on the road. Wisconsin now has a one-game advantage on the rest of the league, and even though the Badgers started slow, the rest of the teams in the conference certainly can’t be pleased to see that.
That being said, the Hoosiers can look at one partial bright side — they don’t have to play Wisconsin in Madison this year, and the only other team that will be so dedicated in their attempt to slow Indiana down will be Nebraska, a team that doesn’t have nearly the talent Wisconsin does. On some level, the Hoosiers may have provided a blueprint for how they can be defeated. It’s best to make them spend as much time in a half-court setting as possible. Conference play is by its nature significantly slower, so the Hoosiers were never going to be able to consistently run the way they did against North Carolina and other non-conference foes, and this gives teams even more of a reason to try to limit possessions. But no one is as dedicated to playing slow and as philosophically committed to that objective — in the way it recruits and the way it schemes for every single game — as the Badgers are, so it’s unlikely that any other team will be able to grind it out to this degree.
WHO SAID WHAT:
“First and foremost, we just didn’t make enough shots. Tonight when we weren’t making enough shots, especially ones taht were open, we also didn’t come down and stay as disciplined as we needed to be defensively. They beat us off the dribble a little bit , and the first half, our main problem was that we were holding our rotations too long and over-helping on defense, which is something you don’t need to do against Wisconsin. What Wisconsin does is they bait you with their drives and they beat you with their kicks, and we didn’t do a good job against that. When we over-helped they made shots. In the second half, they made some shots at the end of the shot clock that reminded me of the McDonald’s, Michael Jordan/Larry Bird H-O-R-S-E commercials. When you get momentum going, it’s amazing what can happen.”
“We were not consistent. We had guys that played too hurried and too rushed. We had guys that didn’t cut and move the way you need to cut and move. Sometimes you need to cut and move just to move the defense.”
“We missed a lot of shots,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “We missed 34 shots. A lot of things gotta go right for you if you missed 34 shots. … It’s gonna cut into your possessions. You gotta shoot the ball well against Wisconsin. That’s part of it. When teams play well against them, they shoot the ball well against them, and we didn’t.”
ON getting fewer looks in the second half
“They were clogging up the middle more. But it was the same thing. Shots not falling.”
“We didn’t really defend the dribble well. They were getting in the lane, and making tough shots and stuff like that.”