Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor continued his demolition of the Hoosier defense this season with a career-high 39 points Thursday night. His 17-consecutive point scoring binge in the second half sunk a motivated Indiana team and wowed everyone watching. Inside we take a look at the key events and storylines from the game.
With just under 12 minutes left in the game IU emerged from their huddle with momentum squarely in their corner thanks to an 11-5 scoring run that began when Wisconsin forward Jon Leuer
left with his third foul. Immediately upon the restart Leuer picked up his fourth foul and headed right back to the bench. Will Sheehey
then hit a free throw to cut the Wisconsin lead to 46-45, the closest the Hoosiers had been since the 14 minute mark of the first half. The Badgers were on the ropes.
That's when Jordan Taylor
came roaring off of them with a flurry of scoring punches not seen in some time. After scoring 17 points in the opening half, the Hoosiers had limited the Big Ten MVP candidate to just three points thus far in the second half. He would quickly make up for lost time by recording the Badgers next 17 points in stunning fashion. His scoring binge started with a running leaner that turned into an AND-1 basket. What followed that was a barrage of three pointers over IU's big men who were helpless to stop him on the perimeter. Taylor single-handedly outscored IU 17-4 over a four and a half minute stretch to take a 63-50 lead with just over six minutes remaining.
When It Was Over
continued a late surge with a tough lay-up that cut the lead to 71-65 with 47 seconds remaining. Wisconsin then inbounded the ball and Victor Oladipo
nearly came up with a steal. Instead, he was forced to foul the Big Ten's third-leading free throw shooter in Jon Leuer, who calmly knocked down two to extend the lead to 8 points and effectively kill the Hoosiers' hopes.
Despite a high volume of shots (6-16 from the field), Verdell Jones
was the Hoosiers most effective player on Thursday night. Maybe another Hoosier could have done better than Jones' team-high 18 points if they would have taken an equal number of attempts, but the fact remains they didn't. Jones was the Hoosiers only aggressor for large stretches of the game. Christian Watford
only attempted five shots and most of Hulls' 11 attempts came far too late to swing the game in IU's favor. With a team-high five rebounds, only one turnover, and a constant motor to attack the defense, Jones is the clear choice for Hoosier MVP in this one.
Why They Lost
It's not that often that you can clearly point to just one player and attribute the win to him, but if this game didn't provide the template for such a situation than one doesn't exist. More clearly put, Indiana lost because they once again had no answer for No. 11, Jordan Taylor, who has scored 67 points in two game against the Hoosiers this season. His career-high 39 points Thursday came thanks to a school-record seven three-pointers (he only missed one) and a 10-10 effort at the foul line. He played all but one minute of the game, carried the Badgers in the first half, and absolutely took over in the second half when it mattered. It was a virtuoso performance from the point guard reminding everyone to not make the Big Ten MVP race just a two man affair. This game came down to Taylor; the Badgers had him, the Hoosiers did not.
The Hoosiers only committed five turnovers, which is surprisingly efficient for them over the last three years. However, I was more surprised by the 22 minutes Oladipo logged. Given the troubles the Hoosiers were having with containing Taylor, it's a bit puzzling that Oladipo didn't log more minutes. He was an active rebounder and defender when he was in there and was 2-3 from the field while only picking up a single foul. Considering the job he did on Taylor during certain stretches of the game, it's curious that he didn't see a little more time tonight.
Most Promising Development
Indiana got to the foul line 26 times against the Badgers, a very positive development for a team that has been among the nation's worst at drawing fouls this season. It's even more encouraging that they took advantage of that strategy by knocking down 21 of those attempts. Hulls is now just one made free throw away from tying Pat Graham's 20-year old record for consecutive free throws made at 38.
Most Concerning Development
This game really shined a light on a major problem with this IU team right now—their lack of a lockdown on-the-ball defender. Oddly, enough it was Jeremiah Rivers
, who celebrated Senior Night tonight as the Hoosiers lone graduating player, that came closest to filling that role this season, but only in very brief flashes. Taylor's physical nature was far too much for Jones or Hulls, both of whom lack the strength and foot speed to keep up with the Big Ten's best. As we head into the final stretch thoughts are already turning to who will fill this role for the Hoosiers next year?
Indiana closes out the regular season in just about 36 hours from now in Champaign against an Illinois team desperate for a few more wins. A loss to the Hoosiers could go a long way in bursting their NCAA tournament bubble. These two didn't need any extra motivation as their rivalry has continued to boil over the past few years. Will a tired Indiana team have what it takes to steal a win against a motivated opponent? Not if the Illini play up to their talent, but that's been rare this season for Coach Bruce Weber's team.