Through the first three games under interim head coach Greg Gard, Wisconsin’s offense started to show some life. But after shooting 47.1 percent from the field during that stretch, that trend ended against Indiana with a 19-for-46 (41.3 percent) night.
It looked like Wisconsin was going to be able to keep its strong shooting alive against Indiana, which was allowing teams to shoot 43.4 percent from the field entering the night. Wisconsin started the game 6-for-8 from the field over the first eight minutes of the game by getting the ball into the paint, which opened up other clean looks for the offense to begin the game.
As has been the case this season, Wisconsin couldn’t sustain the offense’s success. UW closed the last 12 minutes of the first half shooting 4-for-13 from the field and lasted almost the final eight minutes without a field goal. UW went 0-for-5 in that drought before Jordan Hill snapped the streak with a made 3-pointer with four seconds left in the first half.
The poor shooting at the end of the first half carried over into the second. After making its first shot off a dunk by Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin only made two field goals on 14 attempts over the first 12 minutes, 29 seconds, turning a four-point halftime lead into a four-point deficit. In total Wisconsin made nine field goals in the second half - its third time this year of making nine or fewer field goals in the second half.
Three players for Wisconsin finished in double figures: Bronson Koenig and Hayes each registered 15 points but combined to shoot 7-for-25 from the field. Ethan Happ was second with 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting. After scoring a career-high 21 points on 8-for-8 shooting from the field, Zak Showalter came back down to earth with four points on 1-for-5 shooting from the field. Vitto Brown finished with six points on 3-for-5 shooting from the field.
Indiana was able to snap Wisconsin’s two game single-digit-turnover streak by forcing 14 turnovers. There was one point early in the first half where Wisconsin turned the basketball over on three consecutive offensive possessions, as Indiana did a good job of trapping Wisconsin and creating steals. The Hoosiers finished with seven steals and turned the turnovers into 18 points.
It looked like it could be a long day for Wisconsin’s defense considering Indiana came out in rhythm and started 6-for-6, as eight of Indiana’s first 10 points came in the paint. However, the Badgers’ defense started to clamp down and take away the paint away. Once that happened and UW made Indiana work for its shots, the Hoosiers missed their next six shots and fell into a prolonged slump.
Indiana finished the game 21-for-43 (48.8 percent) from the field, and senior Yogi Ferrell led the three IU players in double figures with 19 points on 14 shots. The combination of Wisconsin’s backcourt held Ferrell to four points in the first half but the senior found a rhythm and scored Indiana’s final eight points. OG Anunoby was second with 11 points off the bench, and Thomas Bryant scored 10 points on 5-for-7 from the field.
Other than letting Anunoby go 3-for-3 from 3-point range, Wisconsin’s defense did a decent job disrupting the Hoosiers’ rhythm from the perimeter. Indiana shot 41.2 percent (7-for-17) from 3-point range, holding them to 2-for-6 in the first half and 5-for-11 in the second.
Wisconsin knew entering the game it would have a chance of creating turnovers. UW forced 19 turnovers (nine off of steals) and converted the extra offensive possessions into 24 points. It was the second time Wisconsin has scored at least 20 off of the opposition’s turnovers. Additionally, UW limited Indiana to four offensive rebounds and zero second-chance points, a good sign moving forward.
Wisconsin played Indiana tough and had chances of winning inside of Assembly Hall, but the inconsistencies of the offense eventually erased any chances of registering a road win
Although Wisconsin shot poorly in the second half, they found ways of attacking the rim and got to the free throw line. Unfortunately UW went 16-for-23, and the missed free throws – including a number on the front end of the bonus – hurt, considering the line was Wisconsin’s best offense at times. Hayes attempted a team-high 11 free throws, making eight, and Koenig went 5-for-6. Indiana didn’t get to the free throw line as often but went 10-for-10, all in the second half.
But while UW got to the free throw line, they couldn’t consistently convert in the paint. There were times where Wisconsin failed to make a layup and getting a good shot from 3-point range (4-for-16 25 percent) wasn’t always an option either. Overall Wisconsin finished the game with 26 points in the paint to Indiana’s 22 and turned nine offensive rebounds into 10 points.
The bench for Wisconsin played a combined 36 minutes, as Hill played 20 minutes for the fourth straight game and once again effective in his playing time (seven points on 3-for-4 shooting, two rebounds, one assist and one steal. Khalil Iverson was the only other UW bench player to score, finishing with one point. For the first time this year, Charlie Thomas did not see the floor.
Game MVP: Bronson Koenig. While he didn’t shoot the ball well (4-for-12), Koenig was responsible for 11 straight points in the second half. In that stretch Koenig scored nine of the 11 (including the last seven straight) and registered an assist on the other two. Overall Koenig finished the game with two rebounds, two assists to two turnovers.