WHAT HAPPENED: For the second straight season, Indiana’s Big Ten Tournament ended at the hands of Wisconsin. Though the Hoosiers quickened the Badgers’ stalling pace somewhat, Wisconsin still outshot the Hoosiers and walled off the paint defensively in a 68-56 win at the United Center, extending their winning streak over Indiana to 12 games going back to 2007.
The Hoosiers fell behind by seven points with 11:16 to go after Wisconsin freshman forward Sam Dekker scored seven points on two possessions. He made a layup and drawing a foul on the fast break, then hit a 3-pointer when he missed the free throw and teammate Frank Kaminsky grabbed the offensive rebound. On the next possession, he went to the bucket for an easy layup. The Hoosiers went on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 50-49 with 9:45 remaining, but they were outscored 18-7 the rest of the way and went 3-for-15 from the field from that point forward.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Wisconsin senior forward Ryan Evans scored the most points he’s had since Dec. 22, scoring 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting with eight rebounds, four assists and four blocks.
Senior forward Jared Berggren had a much better defensive outing against IU star center Cody Zeller than he dhdi the first time around and went 4-for-4 from the field for 11 points and five rbounds. He also had three blocks and a steal and held Zeller to 4-for-10 shooting and was only called for two fouls.
Junior guard Ben Brust had 12 points, two assists and two steals. Freshman forward Sam Dekker had 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting, including the aforementioned five-point possession.
IU senior forward Christian Watford led the Hoosiers with 14 points and Zeller posted 13 points and 11 rebounds. Junior guard Victor Oladipo scored 10 points, but got those on 4-for-10 shooting. He had four steals and three assists, but also had four turnovers.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: As per usual, Wisconsin was Indiana’s antithesis and its Kryptonite, playing a style that is the diametric opposite of everything the Hoosiers want to do. They slowed the game down, milked the shot clock, relied on their defense and rebounding to carry them but also shot the ball better than usual.
The Badgers practically built a wall around the paint, and as physical as they played, they were only called for 13 fouls with none of their forwards committing more than two. They blocked 10 shots and challenged every inside shot the Hoosiers attempted, making sure nothing came easy. They gave the Hoosiers some space on the perimeter to shoot, but that didn’t matter all that much, as Indiana was 5-for-17 from beyond the arc. The Hoosiers failed to score 60 points for just the third time this season, with Wisconsin being responsible for two of those. They shot just 38.2 percent from the field (21-for-55) and failed to shoot at least 40 percent for just the fourth time this season. Wisconsin is responsible for two of those as well.
The Hoosiers caused their own problem with 13 turnovers. They caused 15 Wisconsin turnovers and turned those into 22 points, but that still wasn’t enough for Indiana to truly control the pace. Plus, Wisconsin was shooting the ball well enough to play a little faster anyway. They shot 25-for-49 from the field (51.0 percent) and were above 50 percent form the field in both halves. they were also 7-for-18 from the 3-point arc, getting 3′s not only from guards Ben Brust and George Marshall, but also Jared Berggren, Sam Dekker and Mike Brusewitz.
Wisconsin also won the rebounding battle 35-30. Though both teams got 11 offensive rebounds, that’s a net loss for Indiana because when Wisconsin gets an offensive rebound, that basically means the Hoosiers have to defend for 70 seconds instead of 35. The Hoosiers didn’t necessarily get pushed around in the paint, as big men Berggren and Brusewitz combined for just eight rebounds, but the long rebounds seemed to always fall in to the hands of the Badgers, giving them even more power to slow the game.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: The only people who know the answer to this question are on the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
The Hoosiers have probably earned enough to earn a No. 1 seed, and were helped by conference tournament losses by Georgetown and Duke, however, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest, which would mean regional semifinal and final games in Indianapolis, is not a lock for the Hoosiers. Indiana has a brilliant resume with a 27-6 mark and nine wins over RPI Top 50 teams and seven against the RPI Top 25, but Louisville also has nine wins against the RPI Top 50 and beating Syracuse in tonight’s Big East championship game could add a lot to the Cardinals resume, perhaps enough to give them the path through Indianapolis. That would mean IU would end up in either Washington D.C. or Arlington, Texas, as Gonzaga appears to be a lock for the West Region in Los Angeles.
Would it means to the Hoosiers in terms of NCAA Tournament momentum is a trickier question still. The Badgers play such an uncommon style and one that is so diametrically opposed to Indiana’s that it’s tough for the Hoosiers to even measure their quality of play against them. Indiana is 3-3 in its last six games, which doesn’t bode well, and Tom Crean said repeatedly that he felt the Hoosiers got away from certain things that were working for them. That is somewhat concerning going forward. Overall, the loss doesn’t appear that damaging and should be easy to shake off, but the Hoosiers have to hope that they don’t see another team in the tournament that plays similar to Wisconsin.
WHO SAID WHAT: Again, I yield the floor to the amazing people at ASAP Sports who transcribed the press conferences.
COACH CREAN: We made a couple of comebacks in this game, and we did an excellent job of that, and every time we made that ocmeback with what was working for us, we got a way from it.
We had some critical turnovers at key times. We had some critical second shots we gave up at key times. The biggest story for us is we’ve been defending the three the last six, seven games at an incredibly high level, and today we didn’t. We didn’t. And they got some kick‑out threes and things of that nature, but we got a way from what had been making us better. We started to over‑help again, and tried to cover for one another when there was no need to do it.
Those are the things we just can’t do. I mean, it’s possession by possession games. And there were times we got the pace going in a good way and there were other times we just have to bare down and play.
They are all correctible, because they are all things that we do‑‑ but they are areas that we just have to be very, very consistent with. But Wisconsin played well. They shot the ball very well. They made some open ones, and they also made some tough ones, there’s no doubt about that. And they answered the bell every time we made a comeback.
But the biggest disappointment is every time we had something working, like I said, we had to come back in and we didn’t stick with it enough.
Q. This was a goal but not the goal; despite the loss, how do you feel going into that event?
CODY ZELLER: Obviously we wanted to get this win today. We’ll learn from it. We’ll figure out what we did wrong. We’ll make the corrections and get ready for next week because that’s what’s most important.
Q. In the first game against Wisconsin, you had 18 points in the first half. What was different about the way they played you in this game?
CODY ZELLER: Nothing, nothing too big. You know, I always want to be aggressive. You know, they do a nice job inside of not fouling me, going into the lane a lot. They weren’t falling as well as they were.
Q. How frustrating was it, you made a couple charges at the end and they would respond right away. How frustrating is it to claw back in the game and see them gain more separation?
VICTOR OLADIPO: It was tough. Credit them, they did a gate job down the stretch, and you know, we had some key turnovers like Coach said that we have to look back and see what we did wrong and fix it and get ready for the NCAA Tournament.
Q. Victor, how comfortable are you that this team is playing its best basketball at the right time of year?
VICTOR OLADIPO: A little bit. Like Cody said, we really wanted to win this one. We are going to have to go back and watch the film and see what we did wrong, correct it, and get ready for the big tournament, because we want to be successful in that, as well.
Q. Christian, are you shocked with what Evans has done? Every time he’s played you guys he’s been a great player.
CHRISTIAN WATFORD: We made some tough shots and we tried to take the ball out of his hands and stuff like that. He made some tough shots, hats off to him.
Q. How much do you think other teams are going to look at Wisconsin, the way they played you guys, as a way to blueprint a way to game plan for your team?
CODY ZELLER: They have been trying to slow it down on us all year. We always want to speed up the pace, and you know, with our pressure, if we are getting after them on the defensive end, getting deflections, then that’s how we want to play. We didn’t do enough of that and enough to speed up the pace tonight, which is why we got beat.
Q. Did you feel like the problem on offense was stagnant ball movement? Looked like at times you were reversing the ball and then Wisconsin went after those charges and seemed like the ball slowed down a little bit.
CHRISTIAN WATFORD: We knew what we had to do. We knew we had to move the ball in order to be successful against Wisconsin. We just tried to force the ball in; it happens.
Q. This is 12 in a row for Wisconsin over Indiana. Is there any explanation for that? I know you had some lean years as you rebuilt the program, but they seemed to really give you guys problems.
COACH CREAN: They are a very good team, extremely well coached, disciplined, great staffs, inside‑outside scoring, great balance, and just an all‑around great team, they are an excellent team and have been for a long, long time. As long as he’s the coach there, they will be.
Q. The last time I saw you, you were turning your focus maybe a game a little bit, your first year at Indiana, you won your first conference game and you were struggling since then, all these years later, can you give me a sense of why you guys are where you are right now? You come in as a very high seed and you’re probably going to have a really good run in the Tournament; is there thing that you can point to over the years that’s brought you to this point?
COACH CREAN: Consistency of work habits; getting better team, constantly because the talent upgrade has been most importantly because the work ethic continues to get better.
Q. Same question I asked Victor. Are you comfortable that your team is playing its best basketball right now?
COACH CREAN: Well, I guess we just need to improve. Bottom line is there’s certain things we can get better at. That’s an all of tough question when you get beat today like this, but if you asked me the question yesterday, I probably would have had a different answer. But we didn’t play as well today, so it’s just a matter of going and looking at the film, making the corrections that we need to make and moving forward.
Q. How much stock do you put into winning a conference tournament when you’re trying to win a National Championship? I think in 2003, you guys didn’t win the USA tournament‑‑
COACH CREAN: That’s a hypothetical in the sense of 2003. My mind-set is you try to win every game and take the next one as it comes, and certainly we would have liked to have won it.
But it doesn’t undo what we have done to this point. It doesn’t undo any of that. We have had an excellent season. There’s room for growth, there’s no doubt about that. But we would have liked to have played better today, no question.
Q. You had an extended conversation with Coach Ryan, can you talk at all about‑‑
COACH CREAN: I told him he’s a great coach and always looked up to him and what he’s done in his program. I hope they go a long way in the NCAA Tournament and I hope his father starts feeling better.
Q. Bill Carmody got fired today from Northwestern. Like to know your thoughts on a fellow Big Ten coach.
COACH CREAN: First thing that came to my mind is when Rob Ryan lost his job with the Dallas Cowboys, he said he would be out of work about five minutes. I doubt Bill Carmody will say that, but that should be the case.
He’s a great basketball coach. He’s done a phenomenal job at that university, did a phenomenal job long before that. He should be one of the more higher‑demand coaches, and all anybody needs to look at is what Bruce Webber has done this year at Kansas State after leaving Illinois.
Bill Carmody should get the same opportunity at another league, there’s a lot of prestigious leagues out there and get an opportunity to coach in, and I would be shocked if he didn’t have great success. I don’t know him well personally but I know him enough to have great respect for him. When I see on film and going against him, I have incredible respect for him.
Q. Quick turnaround and different styles you’ve played over the past couple of days, how does that prep the team for the tournament?
COACH CREAN: I think it always helps, yeah. I think it’s a matter of understanding. But we didn’t do some of the things that we do on a consistent basis today, and that hurt us as much as anything. They played an outstanding game, but like I said at the beginning, you’ve got to understand what got you there, and we did a great job coming back and then we got away from that a little bit. But we can play better. We will play better. We have played better and we are going to go find out next week.
COACH RYAN: I just again can’t tell you how proud I am of the defensive effort on a very good offensive team. So every guy that went in there, was pretty much sticking to the rules and trying to force Indiana to make some tough shots. I thought our guys accomplished that, and then we had streaks where we were hitting them. Fortunately made enough free throws at the end to keep that separation.
Again, it’s nice to be able to play in a championship game. I know our guys are looking forward to that, so are we, and we’ll see what happens here in the next game.
Q. Ryan, you were struggling to the point at the free throw line where you were starting to take jumpshots. How did you keep looking forward and not allow that to affect your confidence and your overall game?
RYAN EVANS: This man here. He gave me the courage to go up here and try something new. I think it’s been effective to this point. I’m no longer shooting 40 percent. So I mean, it’s a good thing right now, and I’m going to stick with it for now.
Q. Mike and Jared, first, can you talk about Jared’s overall play, especially on the defensive end? And then Jared, you had not even looked to shoot a three‑pointer until the one that you had open from the wing; what made you take that one at that juncture?
MIKE BRUESEWITZ: Worked extremely hard, everybody talks about Cody Zeller and he’s a great player, he really is. He puts up numbers and there’s a reason he’ll probably be a lottery pick. But Berg (ph) did a great job, he set the tone early, knocked a couple balls away. Forced him into some tougher shots early, and just kind of made life miserable for him.
And when he knocked down that three, he shot it and I knew it was cash. I was excited when he shot it, because I was like, he needs to start knocking these down because he’s been doing that for the last three or four years, just finally come to fruition.
JARED BERGGREN: You think I wasn’t looking? I was looking, just biding my time. Just picking my spots. I mean, you know, it was open a couple times, my teammates told me, keep looking for it. Coach told me be aggressive, knock that down. I was just waiting for a good one, a great shot, not a good shot. You know, teammates caught me wide open and finally knocked them down. Felt good.
Q. Ryan, what’s the key to you guys being able to slow Indiana down?
RYAN EVANS: Defense. I mean, I think we played great defense. You know, that forces them to take better shots, or if they want to go and take bad shots and play fast, that’s on them. But I think it’s the defense, defensive side of the ball.
Q. Mike, there was a sequence in the game, I think Sam had the seven‑point run, but a sequence when you guys were beating them down the court and beating them on the fast break. What do you think people watching the game, watching you beat them in transition were thinking?
MIKE BRUESEWITZ: Hey, those boys are athletic. (Laughter) That’s all I got for ya. (Laughter)?
Q. Ryan, can you just talk about your overall day and how effective you were and how important you felt like that had to be for this team to get going early for you to be successful?
RYAN EVANS: I was just trying to start off inside, guys finding me. Trae making sure I get the ball.
Then, you know, really feeding off of kicking it out and guys like Mike and Sam coming in and hitting threes, and that’s a lot that we don’t talk about is guys like Frank and Sam coming in and stepping up, how big that is for us, guys off the bench. That’s needed if you want to win a championship in any tournament.
Q. Ryan, you blocked Oladipo’s shot three times today. How hard is it to stay in front and play defense on a guy as quick and athletic as he is?
RYAN EVANS: He’s a great player. Reminds me a lot of Russell Westbrook. I just have a lot of respect for him. I’ve seen him work his way up, up the ranks. They really start at the bottom as a team, and him as an individual, and he’s really worked his way up. I was just trying to stay in front of him the best I can, and you know, I was able to do that this game, not always, but this game I was successful at that.
Q. Mike, give you another hanging curve over the plate. Indiana is considered a team that can win a National Championship. You’ve beaten them twice. What do you think it says about this team‑‑
MIKE BRUESEWITZ: Just means we have a bunch of guys that want to play and play hard. Kind of how college basketball has gone this whole year. I think we have had numerous times a change in No.1, and I think it’s going to make for a great NCAA Tournament, because I don’t think a whole lot of 1‑seeds are going to be making the Final Four. If they do, it’s great, but it’s a wide open thing and anybody can beat anybody on any night. We have to make sure we bring our AGame otherwise we might be one of those teams.
Q. Jared and Mike, could you talk about the energy Ryan provided on the offensive end tonight and how important that was to staying in pace with Indiana throughout the game?
JARED BERGGREN: Yeah, he was huge for us. We were getting him a lot of touches inside and kind of running our offense through him a little bit. Same thing yesterday, too. Yesterday he had a lot of big plays where he was either scoring or finding teammates. He had a lot of assists.
Again with four assists today, that’s doing a good job of finding teammates and helping make plays for others, so it was a good job by him.
MIKE BRUESEWITZ: Ryan, yeah, he just stepped up, he’s been making plays and when he does that we are a much better team. And same thing with everybody, Sam, Trey has been playing better‑‑ we are playing our best basketball at the end of the season and that’s what you want to do.
Q. Mike, that prediction that there won’t be a lot of 1‑seeds, are you a practice bracketologist? Is that based on intensive study?
MIKE BRUESEWITZ: I’ll let you guys decide all that. I was just giving y’all a quote. (Laughter).
Q. Jared, do you have more confidence coming into this game knowing that you have this streak of 11 in a row?
JARED BERGGREN: We don’t really think about that. We just take it one game at a time. We wanted to come down here to try to win a championship. Indiana happened to be the next game, so we just take it one game at a time.
But I mean, you know, we knew that we were capable of having success against this team; if we stuck to our rules and played our style of basketball, we are were able to do that today to come up with a win.
Q. How has Ryan been able to continue to play with confidence?
COACH RYAN: Well, it was A, B Or C. A was the jumpshot, Hal Greer‑style. Hal Greer had a little jump. It wasn’t quite as accentuated, for the older people in the room, as Ryan’s is. Ryan’s is his game jumpshot. Hal had a little jumper, mini‑jumper.
B was Globetrotter, kick the ball in. Drop kick, you drop it down, you kick it up. And third was underhand. So it was A, B Or C. Ryan chose A. He’s okay with it. His numbers are up.
Q. Can you talk about Frank’s contribution, particularly in the first half?
COACH RYAN: Well, on the glass, I thought he did a pretty good job. Zeller is a very good player. I’m glad we had two bigs to be able to operate in there. I was glad we had two bigs yesterday. I’m sure we’ll be glad‑‑ we’ll need six tomorrow, no matter who we’re playing.
But he stayed within himself. He didn’t try to do things that he couldn’t. Good ball fakes. Took care of the ball. Got on the glass. Played D. That’s all we ask for. And if you can hit some shots while you’re doing all that, that’s a bonus.
Q. Just going back maybe to yesterday real quick, you guys came in at halftime yesterday‑‑ hitting shots, but I still got the impression Michigan was in a load of trouble. There was a lot of offense in this game and still got the same feeling that Indiana was in trouble. Help me get my head around your team. Why is it you are able to neutralize whatever they have been doing, the way you’ve been, regardless of your offensive putout?
COACH RYAN: Okay, but I’m not sure what you’re referring to‑‑
Q. I still got the impression you were in the flow regardless if you had points on the board or not‑‑ the contrast between the two days.
COACH RYAN: It’s still points per possession, and sometimes teams will shoot a little quicker and sometimes we’ll shoot a little quicker if we have an open look.
So much is made about pace and everything else, you know, I never heard one fan at the Palestra when Penn would hold the ball on Villanova in the 50s tees and 60s, there’s no shot clock, there’s no anything, I saw a lot of pass and cut, pass and cut‑‑ I’m sure if you get some footage on that, send it to me, because I don’t have any; pass and cut, move. And if a shot opened up right away, you take the shot. If it doesn’t, you work for the next one.
So the game wasn’t any different here today than any team I’ve coached. You take advantage of what you can. You try to take good opportunities every trip down. You try to limit another team’s good opportunities, and it’s that constant clash. And the game never changes. And my guys understand that.
I’ve never out‑coached anyone. I’ve never out‑maneuvered anyone, out‑strategized anyone. I’ve got to be careful going much further, Barry is here, but I get to coach and work with these guys and teach, and with the assistants. You know, as long as they keep listening, keep working, we’ll keep doing the things that we do, just try to do them better all the time. There aren’t any secrets.
Q. Could you talk about Mike’s play, he’s kind of a thorn in the side of India narcotics the stat line does not pop off the page, often doesn’t for him but he made all the hustle plays. What did you think when he made that steal, to me that kind of sealed it for your team.
COACH RYAN: He’s ‘Johnny On the Spot.’ He’s a guy that’s always opportunistic. He is so happy to be playing this year after what happened earlier. You give somebody a second lease on his basketball life, so to speak, and he’s not going to waste a minute of it.
It’s not like he doesn’t play like that before last year, but he’s just a guy, high energy, and he’s going to try to make good things happen without going outside of himself and hurting his teammates behind him defensively or offensively.
Q. I don’t know if you heard but Northwestern announced today that Bill Carmody is not going to come back. Your thoughts on that?
COACH RYAN: Well, first of all, I know administrators have a profession, the university officials have a profession, and coaches have a profession. So whatever decisions are made in that profession, I’m not going to get into.
I can tell you this: Bill has not forgotten anything about the game. He knows the game. His system is so tough to prepare for, and, you know, he did a lot of good things. I know he’s very well respected in the coaching field and I know he’s a guy that has done our profession a lot of good and he’s made us proud.
All I can say is I wish Bill the best of luck because I have a hell of a lot of respect for him. Whatever decisions are made are made by other people, but you won’t find a coach that won’t tell you that they respect Bill Carmody‑‑ that they don’t respect; they all do, top to bottom.
Q. What is it about your team that makes it so tough for opponents like Indiana to beat you seems like it’s been a consistent thing, especially when you get to the tournament.
COACH RYAN: When we scored those‑‑ we had 10‑points with about, what, two minutes to go yesterday; I don’t think anybody was preparing that kind of a question. You see what I’m getting at.
There are just things in this game where no matter how you try to explain them, they defy explanation or reason. And other things are because the coach is so obstinate he’s only going to accept certain things. So maybe it’s a combination of that.
And you have players that are willing to listen, willing to work and willing to buy in. So there are guys that know a lot more in this profession than I do that have their teams go out there sometimes and look like they have never played together before.
We have had moments where we looked like we never played together. You just have to play the percentages, you’ve got to keep driving, you’ve got to keep working it, and when you’re surrounded with good people, it sure makes it a lot easier. It’s never easy, just makes it easier.