Wisconsin started off the game as the aggressor by attacking Cody Zeller right off the bat. Jared Berggren went right after Zeller and he was able to get his second shot of the night to fall against the talented Zeller. During the span of the game, the Hoosiers did a good job of making the Badgers work for their points down low. However, the Badgers eventually found a rhythm and were able to get 26 points in the paint.
The reason they were so effective scoring down low was because Zeller got in to foul trouble and Indiana coach Tom Crean was hesitant to put him back on the floor, especially late in the game with Indiana needing points. With Zeller (19 minutes) riding the bench for most of the night, the Badgers were able to get four scorers in double figures. Ben Brust led the way with 13 points, Ryan Evans chipped in 12 points, and Jordan Taylor and Mike Bruesewitz each had 10 points.
The Badgers did not shoot a high percentage from the floor, going 19-for-48 (39.6 percent) and 4-for-17 (23.5 percent) from distance, but were also able to get to the charity stripe at an impressive rate, finishing 15-for-19 (78.9 percent) from the charity stripe. As the game was close down the stretch, it became important for the Badgers to knock down their free throws, which happened with UW making its final 12 attempts.
Wisconsin did a very good job of not turning the ball over against the Hoosiers. They only had six turnovers against the Hoosiers, a season-low for conference play.
Wisconsin, primarily Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz, did a solid job of making Zeller non-existent, holding the 15.1 points per game Zeller to only five points. Zeller only made one field goal, which was an uncontested dunk after UW failed to rotate causing the lane to be wide open. Zeller was in foul trouble for most of the night but you could tell when he was on the floor that he just wasn't comfortable with the Badgers' post defense.
Berggren started the game off defending Zeller and was able to use his experience that he's gained throughout his career to gain the upper hand. Berggren did a very good job of contesting every shot Zeller took, resulting in a career-high five blocks. Berggren got in to some foul trouble and when he wasn't out on the floor, Bruesewitz did an excellent job of defending Zeller by using his lateral quickness to his strength.
Wisconsin only allowed two Hoosiers to score in double figures - Christian Watford and Verdell Jones III each had 12 points. The Hoosiers went 21-for-46 (45.7 percent) from the floor – 6.1 percentage points higher than UW – but turned the ball over 10 times. Three of the 10 turnovers came off of Badger steals and Indiana also made a couple of errant passes as a result of UW's transition defense.
Wisconsin stuck to its style of basketball and the results showed, as Indiana was held to a season-low 50 points, 29.8 points below its average.
Wisconsin's contribution from across the board helped the Badgers on the night when Jordan Taylor did not shoot the ball terribly well (5-of-14 from the floor, 10 points). We've come to expect Taylor to close out games for the Badgers but it was Evans and Bruesewitz Thursday, a positive sign moving forward. Both juniors came down the stretch making their free throws and grabbing big rebounds to seal the victory.
What can't be overlooked is that the Badgers grabbed the last seven rebounds in the game over the final 3:35. With the game being so close, it was good to see the Badgers get the rebounds, especially with Berggren sitting on the bench. Evans and Bruesewtiz picked up the slack and were able to get the critical rebounds when the Badgers needed them to, including Bruesewitz's board off a Taylor miss that resulted in a pair of made free throws.
Indiana won the rebounding battle, 30-27, but Wisconsin ended up scoring nine points off its eight offensive rebounds while Indiana managed only three points off its eight second opportunities.
The Badgers also did a very good job of not fouling Indiana's perimeter guards. The Badgers ended up having a total of 10 team fouls compared to 19 for Indiana, a difference that Indiana coach Tom Crean was none too happy about afterward and refused to comment on.
Co-Game MVP: Evans and Bruesewitz. The Badgers won because both Evans and Bruesewitz came through the stretch. Bruesewitz had 10 points to go along with four rebounds in 36 minutes of work. He also went 4 of 4 from the charity stripe, all in the final 5:21, and came up with a critical rebound down the stretch, as well.
Evans ended the game with 12 points and nine rebounds. He definitely didn't play his best game – shot 2-of-8 – but, like Bruesewitz, came up with those critical rebounds and make his free throws as well. It seemed as if Evans was determined to get every rebound at the end of game, taking every hustle opportunity away from the Hoosiers.