Preview: No.10 Wisconsin at Indiana

After finishing its home slate undefeated for the third time in the last 80 years, No.10 Wisconsin looks to bottle some of that home magic with back-to-back road games to end the conference season, starting with last-place Indiana at Assembly Hall Thursday.

No.10 Wisconsin (22-6, 12-4 Big Ten) vs. Indiana (12-17, 3-13 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Thursday, March 3, at 8 p.m. Central

Arena – Assembly Hall (17,357)

Television - ESPN (Bob Wischusen & Stephen Bardo)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Indiana Leads 94-62 (IU leads 52-25 in Madison)

Last Meeting - Wisconsin won, 78-46, on Feb. 25, 2010 in Bloomington, Ind.

Wisconsin Probable Starters

11 Jordan Taylor (Junior Guard, 17.8 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (Freshman Guard, 5.8 ppg)

24 Tim Jarmusz (Senior Forward, 4.0 ppg)

30 Jon Leuer (Senior Forward, 19.3 ppg)

52 Keaton Nankivil (Senior Forward, 10.1 ppg)

Off the Bench

5 Ryan Evans (Sophomore Forward, 3.0 ppg)

31 Mike Bruesewitz (Sophomore Forward, 4.3 ppg)

33 Rob Wilson (Junior Guard, 1.7 ppg)

40 Jared Berggren (Sophomore Forward, 2.4 ppg)

Indiana Probable Starters

1 Jordan Hulls (Sophomore Guard, 11.2 ppg)

2 Christian Watford (Sophomore Forward, 16.5 ppg)

4 Victor Oladipo (Freshman Guard, 7.6 ppg)

5 Jeremiah Rivers (Senior Guard, 3.6 ppg)

12 Verdell Jones III (Junior Guard, 12.6 ppg)

Off the Bench

10 Will Sheehey (Freshman Guard, 5.0 ppg)

25 Tom Pritchard (Junior Forward, 2.6 ppg)

30 Matt Roth (Junior Guard, 3.0 ppg)

32 Derek Elston (Sophomore Forward, 5.3 ppg)

Last Time Out

The Badgers' big men did their damage, including a game-high 26 points from senior Jon Leuer, but the guards controlled the pace and the production to help Wisconsin finish off its third undefeated home season in 10 years with a 78-63 victory over Northwestern Sunday.

When the Wildcats – who got a team-high 19 points from Michael Thompson - cut the lead to nine in the second half, Taylor again penetrating in to the lane, kicked the ball out to a wide-open Keaton Nankivil (15 points), who buried the wide-open 3-pointer at the elbow to extend the lead back to 12.

But much like the way Wisconsin had buried the opposition at home all season, Northwestern (16-12, 6-11) got a big pick-me-up from its perimeter shooting, finished the game 11 of 21 from three (52.4 percent) and eventually cut the lead to five with eight minutes left.

"When you prepare for them, you talk about those kinds of runs," UW coach Bo Ryan. "I've seen them do that to other teams and the other team gets down, maybe a little disjointed. There are going to go through those streaks and be ready to not concede."

Leuer showed no quit in the second half, especially when he was matched up junior Davide Curletti (18 points). Seemingly able to drive, post and shoot at will, Leuer's 26 points were a combination of jumper, dunks, layups and converting from the free throw line, scoring 15 of his points in the second half and setting a season high in free throw makes (8) and attempts (11).

They were timely, too. After John Shurna (14 points) hit Northwestern's 11th 3-pointer, cutting the lead to three with 7:14 left, Leuer posted Curletti and beat him with a right-handed hook shot, extended the lead back to five.

"My teammates did a great job of finding me in the post and once they got it in there, I just wanted to make a strong move toward the basket," Leuer said. "For the most part, I felt I did a pretty good job of that."

After two missed Wildcats threes, Taylor hit a triple and saw Nankivil rebound his difficult lay in for a 3-point play, extending the lead to 66-57 with 4:13 left. The Wildcats cut the lead back to seven once more, but Taylor, who connected on a deep three the possession before, found Nankivil for another open look to give Wisconsin a 73-63 edge with 1:43 remaining.

Northwestern never got closer the rest of the way, as the Wildcats only scored four points in the last four minutes.

Last Meeting

In a game with six lead changes and three ties, far and away more competitive than onlookers predicted before tip-off, it was that Taylor confidence that helped him make key plays at key moments to help No.18 Wisconsin starve off Indiana, 69-60, Thursday night by scoring a career-high 28 points.

Taylor added that it was a team effort for Wisconsin (14-4, 4-2 Big Ten) to overcome a Hoosiers' team that finished the game shooting 51 percent. But when Indiana (10-9, 1-5) was nailing jump shot after jump shots, UW figured the best way to fight fire was with their own fire of Taylor.

After Taylor drove into the lane, made the bucket and drew the foul (one of the five old fashioned three-point plays UW executed in the second half) to put UW ahead for good, he waited only 90 seconds before taking over for good.

After Verdell Jones' jumper cut the lead the 52-50, Taylor scored six straight UW points over a two-minute span, boosting the lead to 58-52 and keeping it a two-possession game for the duration.

Taylor's 28 points give him four straight games with 20+ points and ninth overall. The three games previous to that stretch saw the junior score 19, 22, 19. He also added eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and just one turnover in 39 minutes.

"He's not only one of the premier guards in the league, that's obvious, he's one of the premier guards in the country," Indiana Coach Tom Crean said. "That's not because he played well tonight. He's an outstanding player. He's got all three faucets of the offense when it comes to scoring: he can get to the rim with anybody, he's got a great shot fake and certainly the 3-point game.

"He's a cut above. No question."

As key as he was late, Taylor was one of the few players to keep pace with an Indiana squad that seemingly couldn't miss in the opening 20 minutes. Wisconsin shot 52 percent in the first half, but trailed for just the 30th time in 158 home games under Ryan.

Indiana shot 60.9 percent (14-for-23), turned the ball over just three times and got production from six different sources.

Taylor shoot 7-for-8 from the floor scored 17 points in the first half, including a 3-pointer with five seconds left to help UW stay within four points.

In one 50-second answer, Ryan mentioned three times that the key to victory when the Hoosiers went up eight early was his team simply ‘staying the course.' Thanks to his junior point guard, Wisconsin keeps finding ways to win games.

Series Notes:

Wisconsin has won seven straight games against Indiana and 13 or the last 16 meetings.

The Badgers have won the last seven contests by an average of 17.9 points per game.

UW's seven-game win streak vs. the Hoosiers is the team's longest vs. IU since winning 11 in a row from 1912-19.

Head coach Bo Ryan is 13-3 all-time vs. Indiana. Ryan also boasts a 9-3 all-time record vs. Tom Crean, with seven of those decisions coming while Crean was at Marquette.

The Badgers beat Indiana, 78-46 in their last trip to Bloomington, marking the school's largest-ever margin of victory in a Big Ten road game.

Taylor and Leuer both reached 20 points in this season's first match-up, a 69-60 Wisconsin win. Taylor led UW with 28 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals while Leuer added 20 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks.

Indiana Notes:

Thursday night's game against Wisconsin will mark for the final home game for senior guard Jeremiah Rivers and senior manager's Josh Mantell, Mike Santa and Will Scott. They will be honored following the conclusion of the game. Rivers was part of Tom Crean's first recruiting class after playing his first two seasons at Georgetown where he was part of a Hoyas team which went to the Final Four in 2007.

Watford has averaged 15.0 points and 6.5 boards in the last two games. He missed three games with a broken left hand he suffered against Michigan State on Jan. 30. He had surgery to repair the break on February 1 and had 14 points off the bench at Michigan. He is the team's leading scorer and is ninth in the conference averaging 16.5 points.

Hulls is that he is shooting 54.1percent from 3-point range at home (40-74).

Wisconsin Notes:

That 19-game home win streak is the secondlongest in the Big Ten (Ohio State - 20) and the the 5th-longest in UW history. It is also tied for the 6thlongest active streak in the nation. Four of the eight longest home win streaks in UW history have come in the Bo Ryan era.

The Badgers currently own the NCAA's most efficient offense, averaging 1.19 points per possession. That figure is just ahead of Kansas, Ohio State, St. Mary's and South Dakota St. (1.18 ppp). During Big Ten play, Wisconsin ranks 4th in the Big Ten averaging 67.6 points per game.

Wisconsin leads the Big Ten and ranks second in the nation, allowing 57.6 points per game. Only Stephen F. Austin (56.0) has a better mark than UW.

In 4 of Wisconsin's last 7 wins, the Badgers have erased 2nd-half deficits. UW fought back from down 4 at Michigan (2/23), 7-point deficits against No. 11 Purdue (2/1) and at Iowa (2/9) and then climbed back from down 15 vs. No. 1 Ohio St. (2/12).

Prediction

On the road this season, there's no denying that Jon Leuer has been the team's catalyst. Leuer is averaging 19.3 points per game, which ranks 3rd in the Big Ten, and his 7.4 rebounds per game rank 5th in the conference. Leuer is shooting 40.5% from deep (49-of-121), which ranks 10th in the Big Ten. He is also 13th in the conference, averaging 1.81 triples per game. Leuer has made a 3-pointer in 25 of 27 games this season.

As for Jordan Taylor, well, Indiana coach Tom Crean will fill you in.

"I'm not sure there is a better point guard than him right now, really not, and I mean anywhere," said Crean, who is 28-62 in his third season at Indiana. "The way I view a point guard, he's fantastic in assist/turnover. He's got the ball in his hands more than anybody else. He's making shots from midrange and at the rim. He's shooting a tremendous percentage from three and he gets to the foul line. He's got the whole package. He's going to play for a very long time, there's no doubt about that."

In the last four games, Indiana has allowed opponents to shoot over 44 percent, including two over 50 percent. I think a lot of people like Wisconsin's chances, but I think this game will be closer than many people think, especially since UW hasn't won a road game by more than three since January.

Consider this one a grind, but one that the Badgers win by 12.

Worgull's Record: 26-2

Points off Prediction: 179 (6.39 per game)


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