Max Siker/BadgerNation

Wisconsin looks for its first three game winning streak of the season when it hosts Indiana

Looking to continue trending in the right direction, Wisconsin hosts first-place No.19 Indiana tonight at the Kohl Center. BadgerNation breaks down the matchup.

No.19 Indiana (17-3, 7-0 Big Ten) vs. Wisconsin (11-9, 3-4 Big Ten) 

Date/Time – Tuesday, January 26, 6 p.m. central

Arena – Kohl Center (17,287)

Television – ESPN (Bob Wischusen, Dan Dakich and Allison Williams)

Radio – Badgers Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Indiana leads 95-69 (Series tied 40-40 in Madison)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 59-58, on January 5, 2016, in Bloomington, IN

WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS

3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Junior Guard, 7.9 ppg)

10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Junior Forward, 16.3 ppg)

22 Ethan Happ (6-9 Freshman Forward, 12.0 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Junior Guard, 14.0 ppg)

30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Junior Forward, 8.4 ppg)

OFF THE BENCH

5 Aaron Moesch (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 0.6 ppg)

11 Jordan Hill (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 2.1 ppg)

15 Charlie Thomas (6-8 Freshman Forward, 3.4 ppg)

21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Freshman Forward, 3.1 ppg)

24 Alex Illikainen (6-9 Freshman Forward, 2.5 ppg)

PLAYER TO WATCH

Over the last six games, Bronson Koenig has found his touch, shooting 42.1 percent (16-38) from 3-point range. The junior guard has hit a triple in 31 consecutive games, the fifth-longest streak in the country.

INDIANA PROBABLE STARTERS

Robert Johnson (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 7.8 ppg)

Troy Williams (6-7 Junior Forward, 13.1 ppg)

11 Yogi Ferrell (6-0 Senior Guard, 17.1 ppg)

30 Collin Hartman (6-7 Junior Forward, 5.0 ppg)

31 Thomas Bryant (6-10 Freshman Center, 11.7 ppg)

OFF THE BENCH

0 Max Bielfeldt (6-8 Senior Forward, 8.5 ppg)

Nick Ziesloft (6-4 Senior Guard, 6.6 ppg)

3 OG Anunoby (6-8 Freshman Forward, 3.9 ppg)

PLAYER TO WATCH

Johnson is third in the Big Ten in three-point field goal percentage making 47.2 percent of his shots. Team is 14-0 when he starts, and he forced a game-winning steal in the final seconds against Wisconsin. Last week he had 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists against Illinois and added nine points against Northwestern.

LAST TIME OUT

STATE COLLEGE, PA – After registering its biggest win of the season, the University of Wisconsin almost let a tricky road test spoil its momentum.

In a historically tough arena for the program, the Badgers jumped out to a quick double digit lead and held it for the majority of the game until the final minutes in a 66-60 victory over Penn State at Bryce Jordan Arena Thursday.

Freshman Ethan Happ registered a career-high 20 points and 11 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season for Wisconsin (11-9, 3-4 Big Ten), which led by double digits for the first 15+minutes of the second half to extend its winning streak over Penn State (11-9, 2-5) to eight.

In the last five trips to Penn State, Wisconsin had gone 4-1 in games separated by 5.2 points per contest. Even last year’s Badgers team, the one that was the most efficient offense in the history of the N.C.A.A., struggled to an eight-point win on 39.2 percent shooting.

So with UW cruising out to a 17-point lead with 7:10 to go, a lead the Badgers built by touching the post and playing inside out, Gard knew better, even though UW notched 13 offensive rebounds and outscored Penn State, 24-12 in the paint.

UW’s young team got away from the post touches down the stretch, a problem compounded when Penn State started hitting shots and went on a 15-3 run. After trailing by double digits for 14 minutes, 53 seconds of the second half, Penn State cut the lead to 52-47 with 3:16 remaining.

But Nigel Hayes – who was 3-for-11 at the time – hit a huge 3-pointer to boost the lead back to eight, giving the Badgers their first field goal in 5:38. In the final 2:50, Hayes scored seven of his 15 points.

And while Penn State did cut the lead to three with 30 seconds remaining, the Badgers – who went 2-for-10 from the field the final 8:12 – went 8-for-12 from the line in their final six possessions to preserve the lead.

LAST MEETING

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Despite holding the conference’s best scoring offense in check, Wisconsin’s offense went into one of its usual scoring tailspins, making only three field goals in a 20 minute, 20 second stretch, and couldn’t recover in a 59-58 defeat to Indiana at Assembly Hall Tuesday.

It was the fourth one-possession loss for Wisconsin this season, which couldn’t take advantage of 19 Indiana turnovers and have only themselves to blame for a plethora of missed opportunities.

Bronson Koenig scored seven of his 15 points in a 1:46 stretch in the second half to try to save Wisconsin (9-7, 1-2 Big Ten), but the Badgers shot 9-for-25 from the field and 2-for-10 from 3-point range in the second half.

After back-to-back double-digit scoring games, including a 24-point night against Green Bay when he shot 7-for-8, Hayes again struggled from the field, finishing 3-for-13 from the field, 1-for-5 from the 3-point line and 8-for-11 from the free-throw line. The only 3-pointer he made was at the buzzer.

Hayes has had 11 games this season missing at least eight shots, including six missing at least 10, and is shooting 37.4 percent this season after tweaking his shot.

Indiana (13-2, 3-0) started 6-for-6, but had six turnovers in first 12 possessions, leading to nine UW points and a 14-13 lead at 11:42 in the first half. The Hoosiers didn’t miss a shot until there was 11:32 remaining in the half but the misses started to snowball. IU went 6:39 without scoring, allowing Wisconsin to turn a 6-point deficit into a 9-point lead.

That’s when Wisconsin’s momentum stopped. After taking its 9-point lead – the largest lead of the game -  with 7:58 left to the 7:38 of the second half, Wisconsin made only three baskets and had three shot-clock violations – a recipe for disaster no matter who UW plays and where.

It’s a shame because it wasted another really good defensive effort by a team that continues to improve on that end of the floor. Indiana entered averaging 87.7 points, best in the conference and sixth in the N.C.A.A. The Hoosiers scored only 24 in the first half and their total points were a season low, but made the critical plays to beat UW for only the second time since January 2008.

After Hayes tied the game at 53, bringing UW back to even for the first time since the 13:35 mark of the second half, senior guard Yogi Ferrell took over. He hit a jumper with 37 seconds left to put Indiana back in front and made it a two possession game with 13.7 seconds left on a pair of free throws.

The free throws came after a lengthy review to check a timing issue and after Ethan Happ’s less-than-stellar pass was swiped out Zak Showalter’s hands by Robert Johnson, who made up for a quiet day offensively (3 points, 1-for-4) with the defensive play of the game.

After Happ (10 points, 8 rebounds) post bucket cut the lead back to two, Ferrell made two more free throws to ice the game.

SERIES NOTES

Including a 59-58 Indiana win in Bloomington earlier this season, the Badgers have still defeated the Hoosiers in 14 of the last 16 meetings, overall.

The Badgers have won 13 consecutive games against the Hoosiers in Madison. In fact, Indiana’s last win at the Kohl Center was in 1998. UW’s active home win streak vs. IU is the third-longest ever against the Hoosiers and third-longest active streak against an opponent in the Big Ten.

IU’s 13 straight losses in Madison is by far their longest active streak against Big Ten teams. The Hoosiers’ next longest road losing streak is two straight at Michigan State and Purdue.

Since Tom Crean got to Indiana, Wisconsin owns a 12-2 all-time record vs. the Hoosiers.

WISCONSIN NOTES

According to the RPI, Wisconsin has played the nation’s sixth-toughest schedule and its four Big Ten losses have come by an average 3.8 points. UW has played a total of seven games decided by three points or less, the most among major conference teams.

Averaging 12.0 ppg and 8.3 rpg, freshman Ethan Happ leads the Big Ten with seven double-doubles. After hitting the game-winner vs. MSU, Happ scored a career-high 20 points with 11 boards at Penn State.

Wisconsin has won 28 consecutive games when scoring at least 70 points.

Since the 2001-02 season, the Badgers have compiled a 218-27 (.890) record at the Kohl Center, including a mark of 108-16 (.871) in Big Ten home games.

INDIANA NOTES

In seven conference games, IU’s opponents are turning the ball over at a rate of +4 above their own average.

The Hoosiers lead the Big Ten in scoring (86.1), field goal percentage (52.3), 3-point FG percentage (44.7), steals (7.7) offensive rebound percentage (38.9), and turnovers forced (14.6).

The Hoosiers are third in the country in 3FG percentage and field goal percentage, fourth in scoring, fifth in scoring margin, eighth in three-point field goals made, 17th in assists and 21st in rebound margin.

IU has shot 50 percent or better in 24 of its last 53 games. IU has shot 40 percent or better from three-point range in a national-best 32 contests in that time frame.

PREDICTION

In a league full of top-end point guards, Ferrell might be the best.

Not only is the senior second in the league in scoring in conference games at 18.9, and able to beat players off the dribble in the blink of an eye, Ferrell is fourth in the conference with 6.1 assists per game and is the school’s all-time leader in assists.

“He seems to have a calmness and a presence,” said Gard. “You can just watch him play when he’s on the floor and when he’s not on the floor … He’s like the pied piper with them. He leads and everybody follows. Having the experience at point guard is really big.”

The numbers offensively for Indiana are impressive, and while there’s still a long way to go in the Big Ten season, Indiana has proved to be much better defensively than they were three weeks ago when the Badgers were in town.

According to KenPom.com, IU is ranked first in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency in conference games at 92.5. In conference games only, IU ranks third in scoring defense (64.0) and leads in steals (7.6) and is second in rebound margin (+10.4).

Combined with an offense that can a make a team’s head spin, it’s no surprise Indiana has put up some gaudy numbers.

“Offensively they can make your head spin if you are not careful with how fast they bring it and how many shooters they can put on the floor,” said Gard. “I think Tom has done a great job morphing what he’s doing based on what they have.”

Indiana doesn’t have a true one-two punch in the low post, so the Hoosiers gets teams in trouble by spreading the floor with tremendous spacing, pushing the ball in transition and picking their spots to pressure.

“How they’ve been able to utilize what they have, in terms of the strength of those individuals, is pretty impressive,” said Gard.

Bryant is Indiana’s sole consistent means of a low-post presence and the freshman has started to figure it out. He leads the Big Ten in field goal shooting at 72.2 percent and recently had 19 points and 13 rebounds against Ohio State.

“He complements those other pieces,” said Gard. “You look at their numbers, some of them are astronomical when you look at shooting percentages from 3.”

Indiana is shooting 44.4 percent from 3-point range, including 43.3 percent during Big Ten play.

But here’s the thing with Indiana, who have they played in Big Ten play? Other than Ohio State, Indiana has yet to play any of the other top five teams in the Big Ten. That’s right; the Hoosiers have fatten up their profile playing the cellar dwellers of the league. Wisconsin currently sits ninth in the league – four games back of first place – but the Badgers have started developing an identity over the last 10 days of aggressively touching the post, getting to the free throw line and making smart plays defensively.

Is that enough to get them into the N.C.A.A. tournament? Maybe, but if the Badgers want to be playing meaningful basketball late into March (and no, I don't consider the N.I.T. meaningful), UW has to win games like this.

Based on the Badgers being able to close out two games in crunch time last week, I’ll venture to guess UW – which always matches up well with Indiana – makes the critical plays down the stretch to win by four, giving them its first three game winning streak of the season.

Worgull's Record: 14-6

Points off Prediction: 201 (10.1 per game)


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