Indiana’s offense has not missed a beat with James Blackmon Jr. out for the season with a right knee injury. The Hoosiers come into the Kohl Center riding a 12 game winning streak and are winning by 21.1 points per game, not to mention coming off an impressive week by beating Illinois and Northwestern by an average of 33 points.
How Wisconsin handles such a red hot team remains to be seen. The good news is three weeks ago Wisconsin held Indiana to its lowest point total on the season (59) and is allowing 64.6 points per game. UW will need to deliver another superior defensive effort against Indiana, which averaged 96 points in its two wins last week.
In this Badger Nation feature, we will look at the three keys or questions for Wisconsin (11-9, 3-4 Big Ten) in order to pick up a win against No. 19 Indiana (17-3, 7-0).
Lay up: Forcing the miscue
Part of the reason why Wisconsin held Indiana to 59 points was due to the Badgers finding ways of forcing Indiana’s offense into making mistakes, as the Hoosiers’ 19 turnovers was their second-highest number in conference play. Indiana commits a league-worst 14.6 turnovers per game, committing double-digit turnovers in the last nine games and at least nine in every game this season.
Wisconsin will once again need to find a way of disrupting the offensive rhythm to create extra offensive possessions, which should help Wisconsin’s scoring punch. The Badgers turned the 19 Indiana turnovers into 24 points three weeks ago, their highest number in conference play. Through seven Big Ten games, Wisconsin is forcing 13.4 turnovers a game that has resulted in 14.8 points off them.
The backcourt for Wisconsin did a good job defensively on Yogi Ferrell and Robert Johnson, each forcing five turnovers. Ferrell averages 2.7 turnovers a game, which ranks behind Troy Williams’ 2.9 turnovers per game. However Ferrell has done a better job taking care of the ball as of late, as he has committed a total of five turnovers over the last three games.
In the first matchup with the Hoosiers, Wisconsin displayed good active hands and found ways of cutting off passing lanes to register nine steals. The Badgers are averaging seven steals in conference play but haven’t registered any fast break points over the last three games. If the situation presents itself against Indiana, UW must try and push the tempo and attack the rim.
Mid-range jumper: Can Wisconsin provide enough of a scoring punch?
Indiana has shown how effective it can be on offense, leading the Big Ten in scoring at 86.1 points per game, so the Badgers will need to be able to find balance amongst its scorers and not completely rely on Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes to do the heavy lifting.
A total of six players scored for Wisconsin against Indiana in the first meeting, as Koenig and Hayes each finished the game with 15 points on a combined 7-for-25 shooting from the field. Of the six players who made a field goal for Wisconsin against Indiana, Zak Showalter (four points) was the only player who didn’t make more than one.
Showalter has shown that he can have success scoring this season but there are other times where he simply doesn’t look for his shot. Against Michigan State and Penn State, Showalter didn’t even attempt a shot from the field in the first half and just 1.5 shot attempts overall. This season Showalter is averaging 2.7 shots in the first half and 2.8 shots after halftime. With forward Vitto Brown struggling and his minutes declining, Showalter needs to do a better job of moving without the ball and find ways to attack the basket.
Wisconsin showed glimpses against Indiana that it could find success on offense, starting the game 6-for-8 from the field, but what ultimately hurt Wisconsin was going through untimely scoring droughts. Wisconsin gave itself second chances with nine offensive rebounds but could only manage 10 points off them.
If Wisconsin wants to pull the upset, the Badgers cannot string together empty possessions or struggle getting to the foul line. Considering Indiana’s fire power, the Hoosiers can score in a hurry, and UW is not a team built to dig out of deep holes.
3-pointer: Can Wisconsin limit second chances?
Wisconsin did well in this area in the first matchup by holding Indiana to four offensive rebounds, a result of UW boxing out and preventing the Hoosiers from going on any long scoring runs.
Can Wisconsin limit Indiana once again on the offensive glass? Wisconsin has shown they are capable of doing it but have allowed 11.6 offensive rebounds over the last three game. In that stretch they allowed 15 offensive rebounds to Michigan State, a high for conference play. If Wisconsin wants to have repeat success, the Badgers need to be aggressive and have multiple players crash the boards.
Due to the offensive talent on Indiana, Wisconsin’s defense can’t do the Hoosiers any favors, as the Hoosiers have averaged 11.3 offensive rebounds in Big Ten play. In five of Indiana’s seven conference games they have registered double digit offensive rebounds, including in each of the last four games.
Allowing Ferrell a chance to reset the offense will be dangerous. Indiana has averaged 13.2 points off of second chances in conference play, including 32 points against Ohio State. Much like their offensive rebounding, the Badgers have done well limiting second-chance points, just seven per game, but gave up a season-high 17 points to Michigan State and also allowed 11 to Northwestern.
The more offensive rebounds UW gives up, the more chances Indiana has to hit a 3-point shot. Indiana leads the Big Ten in 3-point shooting (44.4 percent), and while Wisconsin did fine defending the 3-point line in the first half against Indiana (2-for-6, 33.3 percent), the Hoosiers shot 45.5 percent (5-for-11) in the second.
Ferrell leads the team in 3-point attempts (94) and is shooting 44.7 percent from three on the season, but Wisconsin held him to one made three on four attempts three weeks ago. The player Wisconsin will need to be careful of is OG Anunoby, who went 3-for-3 off the bench against the Badgers. Anunoby has only attempted 14 shots from three on the season and he has only made on three since the Wisconsin game. But if Wisconsin doesn’t rotate or can’t rebound on the glass, Anunoby could make Wisconsin pay again.