If Wisconsin wanted to leave Indiana with a win, the Badgers needed to be more consistent shooting the basketball than in their conference opener against Rutgers. Wisconsin’s offense accomplished that by shooting 50 percent (28-for-56) from the field - the Badgers’ sixth 50 percent shooting game on their nine game winning streak.
That percentage was in large part to Ethan Happ (19 points), Bronson Koenig (17 points) and Zak Showalter (14 points) all shooting above 62.5 percent from the field. Happ and Koenig both were able to develop an offensive rhythm quickly against Indiana’s defense, as the two shot 72.7 and 71.4 percent from the field, respectively.
Koenig had been struggling with his shot over the last three games but getting a couple early looks to fall was huge for the senior. He finished a perfect 5-for-5 from distance, including 3-for-3 in the first three minutes. Showalter and Vitto Brown (eight points on 3-for-8 shooting) were the only other two Wisconsin players to make at least two 3s (2-for-5).
Showalter was able to continue his strong offensive play, orchestrated by his mini 5-0 run to put Wisconsin up 66-59 and keep them ahead for good. The first bucket was the result of receiving a pass in the corner, utilize a shot fake against his defender from the perimeter and drove past him for an easy two after the defender jumped. On the next possession, Showalter hit a 3-pointer with the defense slow to rotate. Plays like that helped Wisconsin score 32 points in the paint and go 10-for-20 from three.
Wisconsin also did itself a big bonus by not disrupting its offensive flow with turnovers. UW committed only seven turnovers and didn’t commit its first until the 4:23 mark. There were times where Wisconsin got a little careless but at the same time the Badgers won their fair share of 50-50 balls. Koenig and Brown each had three turnovers but the Hoosier only scored nine points off the mistakes.
Outside of taking care of the ball well, the Badgers found ways to come down with an offensive rebound. Of the eight offensive rebounds, which led to five second-chance points, Khalil Iverson grabbed three of them. He only scored two points, but Iverson contributed with five rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal.
Despite Wisconsin’s strong start on offense, the Hoosiers were able to eventually establish a rhythm and chip away at Wisconsin’s lead. The Hoosiers finished the game shooting 26-for-49 (53.1 percent) from the field, a large chunk of that coming from the paint (38 points inside for IU). When Wisconsin was able to take that away, Indiana struggled. One of the best 3-point shooting teams in the conference, Indiana went 3-for-10 in the first half and 5-for-15 (33.3 percent) for the game.
In particular Wisconsin’s defense was able to slow James Blackmon down, holding him scoreless in the second half by taking away his shooting space (he only attempted two field goals in the second half). Blackmon (10 points) was one of four players for Indiana to reach double figures as Juwan Morgan, De’Ron Davis and Robert Johnson all had 12 points for Indiana.
When Wisconsin was able to force Indiana to settle for outside shots, UW had a better command of the offensive glass. Indiana finished with nine offensive rebounds but only three in the second half. To be fair, with the Hoosiers shooting 57.9 percent from the field in the second half, there weren’t as many chances for 50-50 balls off the glass. Indiana turned its nine offensive rebounds into 15 points.
The Badgers helped counter Indiana’s high shooting percentage by forcing 13 turnovers, including four on the first five possessions. Three of those were due to steals, and Wisconsin finished the game with nine. Six different players came up with a steal for Wisconsin (led by Koenig’s three) to help the Badgers score 23 points off turnovers.
A game of runs for Wisconsin helped the Badgers score the first 13 points of the game, 16 points over the first four minutes and go on a 10-2 run to seal the game in the final three minutes. Indiana took the lead three separate times in the second half, but the Badgers were able to regain the lead on the next possession each of those times.
Trailing 57-56 with 7:06 to go, Wisconsin outscored Indiana by eight the rest of the way by getting points from all five starters and finished the game 6-for-9 from the field, 5-for-5 from the free throw line and holding Indiana to 3-for-6 from the floor.
In particular Wisconsin going 5-for-5 from the charity stripe was important to help ice the game. Prior to that, the Badgers were a shaky 1-for-6 from the line in the first half. Including the 5-for-5, UW was 8-for-8 in the second half. Happ led Wisconsin by going 3-for-4 from the line.
Despite Happ and Koenig dealing with foul trouble (Happ played the last three minutes with four and Koenig sat the last nine minutes of the first half with two), the duo found a way to move the ball to help create a good shot. Wisconsin finished the game with 12 assists on 28 made field goals.
Koenig’s foul trouble allowed D'Mitrik Trice to log 20 minutes, his eighth game this year where he has played at least 20 minutes. Just 2-for-8 from the field with five points, Trice registered three assists to zero turnovers. Iverson had two points in 13 minutes and Alex Illikainen logged 10 minutes, his most since the loss to North Carolina (14 minutes).
Game MVP: Ethan Happ. With Koenig responsible for nine of Wisconsin’s first 24 points in the first half, Happ scored six of his eight first-half points once Koenig exited the game with foul trouble. Happ’s strong finish to the first half was a springboard for him, as he led Wisconsin in scoring over the last 20 minutes with 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting. Happ was able to consistently use one of his post moves to generate a good look for himself around the basket, finishing the game 8-for-11 from the field. If Happ felt he couldn’t get a quality shot off he was able to find one of his teammates, who finished with a team-high four assists to zero turnovers. The sophomore also played an important role in making sure to limit Indiana’s offense to one shot per possession, registering six rebounds, one steal and one block.