Badgers 57, Hoosiers 50: Dominance of Indiana Continues


The big quote from Bo Ryan’s players after the Wisconsin Badgers’ 57-50 victory over the Indiana Hoosiers was a variation on one of basketball’s finest cliches: Any time you can go out and win a game despite shooting poorly, that’s a very good thing.

Sometimes, the cliches hold true. Wisconsin shot just 39.8% from the field and just 4-for-17 (23.5%) from three, good for just a 43.8% effective field goal percentage (or, 0.872 points per shot from the field). It was the seventh time the Badgers posted an effective field goal percentage below 45% on the season. One of those games was the Badgers’ ugly victory over Nebraska at home two weeks ago. The other five were Wisconsin’s five losses on the season.

So given the quality of the opponent the Badgers faced yesterday — top 20 in most predictive measures, #17 in the AP Poll, and a team that has already taken down both Kentucky and Ohio State — the fact that the Badgers were able to pull out Bo Ryan’s ninth straight win over Indiana speaks to how well the Badgers played in every other aspect of the game, both offensively and defensively.

Not every Badger shot poorly from the field. Mike Bruesewitz continues to make the most of his shots, scoring 10 points on 3-for-5 shooting and 4-for-4 at the free throw line. Ben Brust was the only competent Wisconsin shooter from deep, hitting 3-of-6 three-pointers and finishing with 13 points. But with Jordan Taylor only managing to go 5-for-14 and Ryan Evans 2-for-8, the Badgers had to find other ways to put points on the board. Considering options are limited — the ball does have to go through the basket at some point, after all — that leaves the free throw line.

The Badgers hit 15 of their 19 shots at the free throw line, with the majority coming from the aforementioned Bruesewitz performances as well as a surprising 8-for-8 from Ryan Evans, including two makes at 51-50 with just 1:04 to go. When the Badgers can get to the line this often — 19 shots is a decent number in a 54-possession game — they typically make them. After a slightly rough non-conference slate from the line, the Badgers have a 74.5% mark in conference play, best in the Big Ten.

And then there was the defense. Jared Berggren scored just four points, but his more important task was stopping one of the nation’s best big men in Cody Zeller, and stop him he did. Zeller only managed seven points on 2-of-7 shooting, and three of those five misses were rejections at the hand of Berggren. Christian Watford and Verdell Jones were able to notch 12 points each, but the Hoosiers didn’t get much from their role players — just 10 points out of the 87 combined minutes played by Victor Oladipo, Matt Roth, Tom Pritchard, Derek Elston and Will Sheehy.

The Badgers kept the Hoosiers off the offensive glass — just six offensive boards on 25 misses — and off the free throw line, where they shot just 10 times (eliciting claims of biased officiating from certain circles, most near Bloomington, IN). That’s what a team needs to do to make up for a 6% difference in field goal percentage. The Hoosiers ended with a 92.8 offensive efficiency, their worst margin of the year.

As a result, Wisconsin picked up arguably its best home win of the season (UNLV also remains in the discussion) and definitely its best win of the conference season. The win moves the Badgers to 6-3 in the Big Ten Conference and has finally created some separation. Wisconsin remains a half-game behind Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan but now enjoys a full-game lead on fifth-place Illinois and a game-and-a-half on sixth-place Purdue. This was a game the Badgers absolutely needed to have to legitimately compete for the Big Ten regular season title. Even without the shooters, the team played excellently in every other facet of the game to bring home the victory.