MADISON - Coming off a double screen near the free throw line, Frank Kaminsky saw the seas part and reveal a wide-open alley to the basket. On his easiest shot of the night, Kaminsky’s rim-rattling dunk caromed off the back iron toward midcourt.
That was about the only thing that went wrong offensively for Kaminsky and No.5 Wisconsin Tuesday night.
The senior All-American scored a game-high 23 points and the Badgers were in control virtually throughout their 92-78 victory over Indiana – the 13th consecutive home victory over the Hoosiers.
Four players reached double figures for Wisconsin (20-2, 8-1 Big Ten), who now hold a two game lead over four teams in the jumbled Big Ten conference and continue to play some of their best basketball of the season.
“We knew we had a size advantage and we knew we had to take advantage of it,” said Kaminsky, as the Badgers are winning by an average of 15.4 points per game on their five game winning streak, four coming against NCAA Tournament teams a year ago. “We did a good job feeding the post.”
Chalk up another Wisconsin opponent who leaves a Badgers game flummoxed as to how to upend the conference’s unanimous favorite. Three days after Iowa shot 64 percent in the first half and was down six at halftime, Indiana (16-7, 6-4) shot 56.0 percent in the first half, including going 8-for-11 from 3-point range, but was staring up at the scoreboard down eight at intermission after the Badgers shot 68 percent.
Indiana entered the night as the highest scoring offense in the Big Ten (80.3), a product of a nonconference schedule that ranked 147th in the country and having quick guards who can hit 3-point jumpers. That equation became problematic against a Wisconsin starting lineup that had a height advantage across the board, a combined 14 inches in all.
The Badgers – the top scoring offense in conference games at 73.6 points per game – pummeled the league’s worst defense inside by scoring 24 of its 44 first-half points in the paint and had its big two – Nigel Hayes (16) and Kaminsky – go a combined 10-for-10.
Thrown Sam Dekker (14) in the mix, Wisconsin’s frontcourt combined to go 19-for-24 (79.2 percent) for 53 points, which included 13-for-16 from the free throw line.
“You still have to finish on the shots, so I thought our guys made some tough shots inside,” said Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan, as UW finished with 40 points in the paint to Indiana’s 24. “We had to have that because we knew they were going to hit some 3s. We made our run in the second half. They made their run. I’m kind of glad ours was first. The game kind of played out the way we thought … We just happened to do a little bit better on our possessions.”
Kaminsky has a lot to do with that. Hitting the 20-point mark for the fifth time in the last six games, Kaminsky is the only player in division 1 averaging at least 17 points, eight rebounds, two assists and one block per game.
He showed a good helping of that with a 3-to-0 assist-to-turnover ratio and two blocks. At one point in the first half Kaminsky scored 10 straight points for Wisconsin with his teammates assisting on the four baskets during the run.
“He’s smart enough and agile enough and astute enough to be able to recognize some things,” said Ryan. “His teammates have done a good job of recognizing of how to get the ball into him, because he’s got to be a part of the offense. He has been all year except the game he wasn’t in.”
The Badgers went 28-for-31 from the free throw line (Indiana went just 9-for-11), had a 6-1 edge in blocks, forced 11 turnovers that led to 16 points and only committed one of their six turnovers in the second half.
Although going 4-for-11 from the field, Bronson Koenig hit 3-for-4 from 3-point range and all four of his free throws for a career-high 15 points. Koenig has now scored in double figured five out of six times as a starter this season, compared to only twice in 16 games as a reserve.
Sophomore Zak Showalter also set a new career high in points, as his nine points were the results of attacking the rim, drawing fouls on made baskets and making free throws.
“I’ve been kind of been waiting for this,” said Showalter. “I’ve just got to bring energy like I always do.”
Just like Iowa, Indiana could not keep up in the second half. The Hoosiers – playing without leading scorer James Blackmon Jr. (16.5 ppg) - watched Wisconsin start the second half on a 16-1 run, missed their first seven shots and didn’t make its first field goal until 13:51 remaining.
“We let them get too comfortable (in the second half),” said Indiana coach Tom Crean, whose team trailed by as many as 32 before fighting back to down 12 with 3:17 remaining. “It’s not necessarily about taking the lead necessarily, but it’s about cutting into it and getting it to where it can be a workable number.
“Being down eight (at halftime), when you’re shooting 3s the way we’re capable of, is not a big deal, but letting them get the looks that they got, that was the problem. Certainly that’s where the game was. We let it snowball on us. They continued to battle and fight but no question the start of the second half did us in.”
The Hoosiers finished 13-for-24 from 3-point range, but Wisconsin shot 60.4 percent – the third time this season UW has shot better than 60 percent from the floor.
“We gave ourselves a nice lead,” said Kaminsky, “and were really push it out to where we were in the driver’s seat the whole game.”