Preview: No.16 Indiana at No.25 Wisconsin

Right back in the thick of the Big Ten race after a big road victory on Sunday, No.25 Wisconsin looks to continue its historic streak in its only regular season meeting against No.16 Indiana Thursday night.

No.16 Indiana (16-4, 4-4 Big Ten) vs. No.25 Wisconsin (16-5, 5-3 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Thursday, January 26, 8:00 p.m. Central

Arena – Kohl Center (17,230)

Television - ESPN2 (Dave O'Brien and Stephen Bardo)

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

Series – Indiana leads 93-63 (Indiana leads 40-37 in Madison)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 77-67, on March 3, 2011 in Bloomington, Ind.

Wisconsin Probable Starters

5 Ryan Evans (6-6 Junior Forward, 9.7 ppg)

11 Jordan Taylor (6-1 Senior Guard, 14.1 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 7.7 ppg)

31 Mike Bruesewitz (6-6 Junior Forward, 6.5 ppg)

40 Jared Berggren (6-10 Junior Forward, 11.0 ppg)

Off the Bench

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Sophomore Guard, 9.5 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Freshman Guard, 1.6 ppg)

33 Rob Wilson (6-4 Senior Guard, 2.6 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (6-11 Freshman Forward, 2.4 ppg)

Indiana Probable Starters

1 Jordan Hulls (Junior Guard, 12.4 ppg)

2 Christian Watford (Junior Forward, 12.6 ppg)

4 Victor Oladipo (Sophomore Guard, 10.5 ppg)

12 Verdell Jones III (Senior Guard, 7.7 ppg)

40 Cody Zeller (Freshman Forward, 15.1 ppg)

Off the Bench

10 Will Sheehey (Sophomore Forward, 10.0 ppg)

23 Remy Abell (Freshman Guard, 3.0 ppg)

30 Matt Roth (Junior Guard, 5.3 ppg)

32 Derek Elston (Junior Forward, 4.3 ppg)

Last Time Out

The number of key components to digest following Wisconsin's gritty 67-63 victory over No.22 Illinois Sunday afternoon at Assembly Hall, spoiling Illinois' first sellout of the season, will make any Badgers' fan opinion change drastically from where it was two weeks ago.

After struggling to put the ball in the basket for what seemed like an eternity, Wisconsin has shot 46 percent or better in three of the last four second halves to close out opponents.

After failing to beat a ranked team on the road since beating No.23 Michigan on Dec. 31, 2008, Wisconsin has won at Purdue and Illinois in the same season for the first time since 1918.

More importantly, Wisconsin shook off three straight losses to be a half game out of first place in the Big Ten just two weeks after getting blown out at Michigan that many thought sunk Wisconsin out of the conference race.

"It's a crazy league," said Jared Berggren (18 points). "It was definitely disappointing when we lost three in a row. We got down a little bit, but we tried to stay positive, stay together and keep in mind that it's a long season and everybody is going to take some bumps … We were able to fight and scratch our way into things."

With Jordan Taylor leading the charge, it appears nothing is ever too much for Wisconsin (16-5, 5-3 Big Ten) to overcome. Limited to only five points in the first half, Taylor scored 12 of his points after halftime and seven in the final 32.1 seconds, including a free-throw line jumper to make the score 62-57 and five straight free throws to ice the game.

It was a stark change from the first half when Taylor went 2-for-6 from the field and 0-for-3 from the free throw line, Wisconsin went 2-for-9 from the free throw line and turned the ball over eight times, but stuck with the theme of the Badgers making their free throws late. In the last five minutes of conference games, Wisconsin is shooting 78 percent (32-of-41) from the free throw.

"It's what we expect him to do game in and game out," said Berggren of Taylor's play down the stretch. "That's what he's done for us. He's as clutch as they come down the stretch, knocking down free throws when it really matters, hitting big shots when it really matters."

In a game that featured 11 times and eight lead changes, it was a decisive five-minute stretch in the second half that gave the Badgers the lead for good.

Down 50-46 after a jumper by Meyers Leonard (team-high 16 points), Wisconsin rattled off a 12-3 run that Taylor started with a jumper, but saw production from Berggren, Ben Brust (9 points) and a big three-pointer from the top of the key from Mike Bruesewitz (5 points).

- By Benjamin Worgull, Badgernation.com

Last Meeting

Jordan Taylor saw everything slipping away. Three of his Wisconsin teammates were on the bench with three fouls, and Indiana was charging back from an eight-point deficit. So he took over.

Taylor scored a career-high 39 points and almost single-handedly stopped Indiana's second-half charge, leading No. 10 Wisconsin to a 77-67 victory. The junior guard accounted for all the Badgers' points in a decisive 14-4 run that turned a 46-45 lead into a 60-49 advantage midway through the second half.

''When the game started getting close, he just wasn't going to let us lose or get behind,'' Keaton Nankivil said.

Not a chance.

Taylor, who scored 30 earlier this season against Michigan State and keyed Wisconsin's rally against then-undefeated Ohio State, got the best of Indiana, too.

He went 11 for 19 from the field, including a 7 for 8 night from three-point range, and made all 10 of his free-throw attempts. He fell one point shy of the Assembly Hall record for an opposing player, set by Michigan State's Terry Furlow in 1976 and matched when the Spartans' Shawn Respert scored 40 in 1995. Yet, Taylor still thought he could improve.

''I made some mistakes out there, too,'' he said, pointing to his lone turnover in 39 minutes.

The Badgers (23-6, 13-4 Big Ten) now have won eight straight against Indiana, their longest winning streak in the series since an 11-game run from 1912-19. They will carry a four-game stretch into Sunday's rematch at No. 1 Ohio State.

Indiana, meanwhile, is reeling. Verdell Jones scored 18 points and Jordan Hulls had 15, but the Hoosiers have lost seven straight overall, four in a row at home and dropped a Senior Night game for the second time in four years.

The difference Thursday was one player.

- By Associated Press

Series Notes:

Wisconsin has won 8 straight games against Indiana and 14 of the last 17 meetings. The Badgers have won the last 8 contests by an average of 16.9 points per game.

UW's 8-game win streak vs. the Hoosiers is the team's longest vs. IU since winning 11 in a row from 1912-19. It also ranks as the second-longest active streak of victories over a single opponent in the Big Ten, trailing Ohio State's 16-game winning streak over Penn State.

UW's 8-game win streak over IU is the most consecutive victories against the Hoosiers by any team since 1935.

Wisconsin has defeated Indiana 10 straight times at the Kohl Center. The Hoosiers have not won in Madison since 1999, prior to Bo Ryan's arrival.

Bo Ryan is 14-3 all-time vs. Indiana. Ryan also boasts a 10-3 all-time record vs. Tom Crean, with 7 of those decisions coming while Crean was at Marquette.

Indiana is the only Big Ten team to own a winning record in games played in Madison (40-37).

Wisconsin Notes

The Badgers are 6-2 record away from the Kohl Center, including 4 wins in true road environments with the only losses coming at No. 5 North Carolina and No. 16 Michigan. Wisconsin is the only team in the Big Ten with at least 6 road/ neutral wins and is tied with Michigan State as the only teams with 4 true road wins.

The Badgers are on a record-setting pace at the defensive end, allowing opponents a nation's-low 49.6 points per game. UW also leads the NCAA in opposing field goal shooting, limiting foes to just 35.9 percent.

Gasser entered the Illinois game ranked third in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting at 51.1 percent. Gasser raised that total to 52 percent after hitting two of his three treys against the Illini and added five rebounds. Gasser had a key offensive rebound followed by an assist for a 3-pointer on the same possession late in Wisconsin's victory over Illinois. Gasser raised his season average to 4.6 rebounds per game.

Indiana Notes:

Indiana entered the rankings for the first time under Tom Crean's tenure after the Hoosiers defeated No. 1 Kentucky 73-72, on Dec. 10 in Bloomington. IU also edged No. 2 Ohio State (74-70) on New Year's Eve. IU is the first Big Ten team since Minnesota in 1952-53 to defeat the top two ranked teams in the same season. This week is the 505th appearance in the AP Poll (seventh all-time among Division I programs). The Hoosiers returned 93.3 percent of their scoring from last year with 2,078 of 2,226 points back.

Indiana has shot 50.0 percent from the field, 44.9 percent from 3-point range and 73.9 percent from the free throw line. The Hoosiers are second in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage, sixth in field goal shooting, 15th in scoring margin (14.8) and 16th in scoring (79.9). The Hoosiers are also averaging 18.0 points per game off of turnovers. IU is second nationally among BCS teams making 18.1 free throws per game.

Senior Matt Roth has hit 22-of-32 long distance shots (68.8) since December 19. He had 22 points off the bench at Penn State and made 5-of-6 triples in that game. He leads the Big Ten making 61.4 percent of his 3-point attempts. He also has shot 68.0 percent from long distance in the Big Ten. Roth is the sixth Hoosier to eclipse the 20-point mark, a Big Ten best.

Junior Jordan Hulls is third in the league hitting on 49.5 percent of his 3-point attempts. He leads the conference in free throw shooting making 89.4 percent of his charity tosses. He is averaging 12.3 points per game and has made 45-of-91 triples. He is the Hoosiers active leader with 61 consecutive starts.

With inclusion in the AP poll this year, every four-year Hoosier player since 1950 will have played on a nationally ranked squad at Indiana.

Prediction

Indiana's loss to Nebraska last week not only put the Hoosier faithful into full-blown panic mode. It also raised some serious questions about the team's leadership. When IU needed it most, nobody stepped up to take charge. Jones III, a senior, and Hulls continued to push the tempo when the Hoosiers needed to slow down its offense and use some clock. Watford suffered through a tough night and wasn't willing or able to get to the free-throw line to interrupt the momentum of the game. Zeller didn't have the experience to take the team under his wing and lead it to victory.

Worst of all, the loss turned a lot of fans toward head coach Tom Crean. Crean failed to settle his team during Nebraska's comeback as well, and that fact magnified a problem that has haunted Crean since arriving at IU prior to the 2008-09 season. Indiana simply has a hard time winning on the road, and although the Hoosiers have scored a couple of victories away from Assembly Hall this season, Crean hasn't been able to instill the same energy in his squad on the road as he has at home.

In some ways, IU's resurgence this season has been a curse for Crean. Heading into the year, expectations for the team were relatively low. An above-.500 record, a trip to the NIT or, if things went just the right way, a trip to the NCAA Tournament was considered the team's ceiling. Then came wins over Kentucky and Ohio State, and a top-10 ranking pushed expectations ever higher.

With IU's recent struggles, Crean is taking some heat since IU clearly has the talent to win big games but not the psychology to keep its poise when the chips are down. IU has already let a nine-point second-half lead slip away in a loss at Michigan State, and the collapse at Nebraska only reinforced the idea that the Hoosiers aren't quite the complete package yet. IU needs more leadership from its older players in the coming weeks to keep the program on the right track.

It helps having a guy like Zeller in the post, as his presence in the post forces opponents to throw double teams at him, often creating open shooters on the floor. As a result, Indiana ranks second in the country in 3-point shooting percentage, at 44.9 percent, and Roth has come off the bench to make 61.4 percent of his long-range tries (27 of 44).

Even so, Wisconsin has the advantage in two areas. The first is bench play. Indiana's Sheehey missed a solid three weeks after suffering an ankle injury during a practice prior to IU's Dec. 22 game vs. UMBC. He finally returned to the lineup Jan. 12 vs. Minnesota, but his minutes have been limited as he works to get back in basketball shape. Wisconsin outscored Illinois' bench, 14-0, Sunday, and have done well when Brust can hit a couple shots early to build his confidence.

The second is that Indiana simply can't figure out how to guard Taylor. In two games last season, Taylor averaged 33.5 points, including a career-high 39 points in a 77-67 win at Indiana last season. Worse yet for the Hoosiers is that he is heating up during Wisconsin's four-game winning streak. Taylor scored 19 points and dished out five assists to lead Wisconsin to an upset at No. 25 Illinois on Jan. 22. Taylor didn't turn the ball over once against the Illini. In 62 career Big Ten games, Taylor has a total of 63 turnovers. I don't expect many tonight.

Badgers are on a roll. Indiana struggles against good team (and some not-so-good teams) on the road. Wisconsin, thanks to another solid second half by Taylor, win this game by 9.

Worgull's Record: 17-4

Points off Prediction: 227 (11.30 per game)


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