Give Wisconsin credit. They took away what Indiana does best. Its not that Indiana missed a bunch of three’s or blew fast-breaks in its Big 10 Quarterfinal loss, its that the Hoosiers were never given the chance to do either.
Give Indiana credit. Despite having its three-point and fast break offense taken away, the Hoosiers almost beat a team that will be a top-4 seed in the NCAA Tournament despite being blitzed by a Badger three-point avalanche.
On Friday afternoon at Bankers Life Coliseum, Wisconsin did what Wisconsin always does (minus Rob Wilson): they played under control for 40 minutes, at both ends. They played their normal bleed the clock offense and turned it over just 5 times. Don’t be fooled by the high score, the game was played at the Badgers tempo.
They weren’t great defensively, but again, they were in control. You rarely saw them chasing a red shirt. They played Cody Zeller 1-on-1 in the low post, which basically shutdown the Hoosiers long-range game. Bo Ryan was content having Jared Berggren play him without help, and while Zeller had 17 points the rest of the offense wasn’t the same.
Jordan Hulls matched Zeller with 17, but only attempted one three, that came late. Matt Roth hoisted one shot in 12 minutes. No double teams on Zeller, no transition offense, no 3-point tries. Normally, that is a recipe for disaster. Because they can play fast, because they can make threes Indiana is one of the best spurt teams in the country. Its how they’ve won 25 games, by overwhelming the opposition. They didn’t have that on Friday, but almost found a way to survive, and that’s quite encouraging.
Wisconsin made the Hoosiers play a 1-on-1 basketball. That’s why a team that has assisted on 52% of its made shots this season had just eight on 25 made shots (32%) Friday. In case you’re wondering, when Indiana lost to Wisconsin in Madison they had just 4 assists on 21 made baskets (19%) and scored just 50 points. That is where you see how much this team has improved throughout this season, they were forced to play the way Wisconsin wanted them to play, but this time they scored 21 more points.
In the past, the Indiana offense has been passive against good defensive teams, but they weren’t on Friday. They got the ball inside to Zeller who had Berrgren playing him the whole game. Not only did he score ten more points than he did against the Badgers in January, but his free throw attempts doubled as well. That goes for everyone. In Madison, Wisconsin committed just 10 fouls, leading to 10 Indiana free throw tries, but in Indianapolis, the Hoosiers drew 6 more fouls and went to the stripe 12 more times. They attacked Wisconsin’s defense, that’s encouraging.
Unfortunately, it goes down as a loss, the Hoosiers eighth of the season, but this one feels different than the first seven did. Those losses felt like steps back as opposed to Friday’s, which feels like a step forward. Bo Ryan and Wisconsin didn’t let Indiana play its game, but the Hoosiers still played a great offensive game, and if not for the most unlikely 30-point game in the Big 10 this season, they’d be playing Michigan State in the conference semis.