Wisconsin entered the game averaging 24.2 points in the paint during Big Ten play. Since Greg Gard has taken over for Bo Ryan, he has made it a point to make sure Wisconsin’s offense runs through the post. Against No. 19 Indiana, the plan on offense didn’t change, and the Badgers were able to consistently get the ball down low to one of their frontcourt players.
Wisconsin finished the game with 36 points in the paint, the most it has scored in the paint in Big Ten play. Redshirt freshman Ethan Happ was one of the main beneficiaries of the post touches by finishing with a career-high 25 points, his second straight game scoring 20 points, on 10-for-15 shooting from the field.
And while Happ played well, Nigel Hayes was outstanding. He scored a game-high 31 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the field (his second 30 point game this season) and was particularly good of drawing contact when he got the ball down low and fighting through contact while attempting shots. Hayes drew numerous 3-point play opportunities against Indiana’s frontcourt and finished 17-for-22 from the charity stripe. Overall Wisconsin shot 28-for-37 (75.7 percent) from the free throw line.
With Wisconsin’s frontcourt consistently drawing fouls against Indiana’s frontcourt, the Hoosiers committed a staggering 31 team fouls and caused forwards Collin Hartman and Max Bielfeldt and starting center Thomas Bryant to foul out. The foul trouble helped soften the interior of the Hoosiers’ defense for Hayes and Happ to take advantage.
Jordan Hill was the only other player for Wisconsin to score in double figures, going 5-for-5 from the field and 1-for-2 from the free throw line to finish with a career-best 13 points after playing a career-high 32 minutes off the bench.
Considering Bronson Koenig (4 points, 1-for-9 shooting) was out of sorts and junior Zak Showalter was scoreless before fouling out, Hill’s contributions were essential. Vitto Brown also put together a nice game with nine points (2-for-2 from the field, hit his lone 3-pointer and went 4-for-4 from the FT line) and had three rebounds. Overall Wisconsin shot 25-for-48 (52.1 percent) from the field.
UW needed to shoot the ball efficiently because it struggled to limit turnovers, as UW finished with a conference season-high of 16. It was the second straight game UW committed double-digit turnovers. Over the first eight minutes of the game, Wisconsin committed five turnovers, including one on three straight possessions, that turned into nine Indiana points. The Hoosiers finished the game with 21 points off of Wisconsin’s miscues.
Point guard Yogi Ferrell hurt Wisconsin in the team’s first matchup and did so again, finishing with 30 points on 12-for-20 shooting from the field. Wisconsin was able to play good defense against him in stretches, as Hill created a few takeaways and Hayes’ length on the last possession of regulation forced a tough off-balanced shot – instead of a drive to the rim - that led to overtime.
But too often Wisconsin allowed Ferrell to attack the hoop or create space to get an open jump shot. Wisconsin had players rotating on him but none could ever find a consistent answer on making sure he couldn’t get into a rhythm. With Wisconsin leading by six points (63-57) with 4:20 to go in regulation, Ferrell ended up scoring seven of Indiana’s final 14 points and was able to assist on one of Indiana’s made field goals in that stretch.
Despite fouling out of the game, Bryant was the second leading scorer for the Hoosiers with 16 points, and Troy Williams finished with 15, although he was 4-for-14 from the field. Overall Indiana shot 28-for-62 (45.2 percent) from the field but went only 2-for-10 in overtime.
Just like the first matchup three weeks ago, Wisconsin forced 19 turnovers by consistently using active hands and cutting off passing lanes. The Badgers registered nine steals and the turnovers led to 19 UW points. Five different players for Wisconsin registered a steal, as Happ led Wisconsin with four and Hayes finished with two.
Going for the steals and playing aggressive sometimes led to overplaying, causing Indiana to get easy shots going to the rim. The Hoosiers finished with 38 points in the paint, the most points Wisconsin allowed in the paint this season and the fourth time in Big Ten play where Wisconsin allowed over 30 points.
After allowing Indiana four offensive rebounds in the first meeting, the Hoosiers attacked the offensive glass much better the second time around off of a miss and finished with 13 offensive rebounds. Although it was the second time in three games UW allowed an opponent to get double-digit offensive rebounds, the Badgers did well of contesting Indiana’s opportunities at point-blank shots. The Hoosiers finished with 14 points.
If you said only five players for Wisconsin were going to score and that UW was still going to win, I would have a hard time believing you, especially when you consider the weapons Indiana has on offense. But Wisconsin was able to find a way to pull out the upset and snap Indiana’s 12 game winning streak. The play of Happ, Hayes and Hill off the bench was what Wisconsin needed to pull off the win giving Wisconsin its first three game winning streak of the year, not to mention knocking off its second top 20 opponent in the last three games.
Over the last four minutes of regulation, Happ, Hayes and Hill all scored for Wisconsin to help send the game into overtime. Happ got it started by making a layup to give Wisconsin a six point lead, but Indiana finished the game shooting 5-for-6, including making two critical 3-pointers over that time helped the Hoosier back in the game. There were two different occasions where Indiana led by two points - once with 1:17 to go in the game and the other with 27 seconds remaining in regulation. Both times Hayes responded by getting the ball into the low post and find a way to draw a foul and connect on all four free throws.
Scoring at least 20 points in a game for the first time this season, the combination of Happ and Hayes was terrific at consistently finding ways of attacking the basket, as the two combined to score nine of Wisconsin’s 11 overtime points. With Indiana’s frontcourt being in foul trouble Happ remained aggressive and finished second on the team in free throw attempts (5-for-7).
But the biggest surprise of the game came from Hill, who had struggled of late with his shot and was 1-for-12 over the last four games. One never would have known it with the way he shot against the Hoosiers but a lot of praise for Hill should be on the defensive end for the way he pestered Ferrell. On one such play he poked the ball out of Ferrell’s grasp that led to a 3-point play by Hayes, a pair of the six fast break points UW scored.
While Hill was the only UW bench player to score, Aaron Moesch and Alex Illikainen combined for three rebounds and a steal each. Moesch’s steal off of Williams was a timely one, leading him to pass the ball up Hill, who finished off the nice defensive play with a reverse layup.
One of the few negatives was Wisconsin was only able to generate eight offensive rebounds, eight second-chance opportunities and lost the rebounding battle 32-26. Happ led Wisconsin with eight rebounds.
Game MVP: Nigel Hayes. Happ played an excellent game around the basket and Hill brought a huge lift off the bench, but it was Hayes who came up big down the stretch to knock down critical free throws to lift UW to victory. Although Hayes leads the team in free throw attempts, he struggled to begin the game, going 6-for-11 from the charity stripe. Despite the poor start, he ended strong by hitting his final 11 free throws, including six in overtime, to help Wisconsin tie the game in regulation and put the game away for good in overtime.