Date/Time – Friday March 10, 5:30 p.m. central
Arena – Washington D.C.’s Verizon Center (20,356)
Television – Big Ten Network (Brian Anderson, Bill Raftery and Mike Hall)
Radio – Badgers Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – Indiana leads 95-72 (Series tied 2-2 in neutral courts)
Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 65-60, on February 5, 2017, in Madison
WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS
3 Zak Showalter (6-3 Senior Guard, 8.2 ppg)
10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Senior Forward, 13.5 ppg)
22 Ethan Happ (6-10 Sophomore Forward, 13.9 ppg)
24 Bronson Koenig (6-2 Senior Guard, 14.2 ppg)
30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Senior Forward, 6.8 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
0 D'Mitrik Trice (6-0 Freshman Guard, 5.9 ppg)
1 Brevin Pritzl (6-3 Freshman Guard, 2.1 ppg)
21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Sophomore Forward, 3.8 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
A second-team All-Big Ten selection, a first-team All-Big Ten pick and the AP's Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Happ averaged 14.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 3.0 assists, 1.6 blocks and 2.3 steals during Big Ten play.
INDIANA PROBABLE STARTERS
1 James Blackmon Jr. (6-4 Junior Guard, 17.3 ppg)
2 Josh Newkirk (6-2 Junior Guard, 9.2 ppg)
4 Robert Johnson (6-3 Junior Guard, 13.1 ppg)
13 Juwan Morgan (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 7.3 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
0 Curtis Jones (6-4 Freshman Guard, 3.5 ppg)
11 Devonte Green (6-3 Freshman Guard, 4.4 ppg)
20 De'Ron Davis (6-10 Freshman Forward, 6.1 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Blackmon Jr. scored 23 points against Iowa in the Big Ten tournament second round, the junior’s 11th game of at least 20 points this season. Blackmon was held to 10 points in Wisconsin’s victory as Assembly Hall and didn’t play in Madison.
LAST TIME OUT
MADISON – Koenig didn’t let a scoreless first half prevent him from scoring a team-high 17 points, including five 3-pointers, to lift No.22 Wisconsin to 66-49 victory over Minnesota Sunday at the Kohl Center.
The game was critical on many levels for Wisconsin, the most important being putting a three-game losing streak to bed and heading to this week’s Big Ten tournament in Washington D.C. with some momentum.
“We lost damn-near every game in February and still finished second,” senior Nigel Hayes said. “We must be doing something well. When we play well and play together and do what we’re supposed to do, I feel like we can be very good.”
The Badgers again struggled to finish inside, a growing trend and concern considering its one-and-done games from this point forward. UW hit only 14 shots on over 30 attempts in the lane and went just 6-for-16 from the free throw lane. But dropping eight 3-point shots erases a lot of ills.
“Just the togetherness, the grittiness, that was us,” Gard said.
Pressed to define further, Gard said Wisconsin defended aggressively to force tough shots, saying that is in the “pillars of our DNA and the foundation of our program.”
It also helped that scoring on the offensive end allowed Wisconsin to set its defense in the half court, critical in holding Minnesota’s offense – which had put up 80 points in four straight games – to its lowest point total since Jan.11 and shoot only 23.3 percent (7-for-30) after halftime.
Koenig wasn’t alone in having a stellar sendoff. Hayes and Zak Showalter each added 12 points while Brown’s vicious one-handed slam dunk punctuated an 18-2 run in the second half that put Wisconsin up 48-35 with 11:31 remaining.
Wisconsin's four-man senior class combined for 46 of the Badgers' 66 points, including 29 of 39 in second half. The group also added 17 rebounds, seven assists, four steals and three blocks.
“Countless contributions from everybody,” Gard said. “Whether it was rebounds, guys knocking balls loose defensively, guys on the floor, it was fun to watch.”
Brown, Hayes and Showalter scored 17 of Wisconsin’s 27 first-half points, and Ethan Happ led the team in points (eight) and rebounds (seven), but the Badgers still slogged through another poor-shooting first half. After scoring eight points in the first 3:45, UW scored only four in its next 14 possessions, spanning the next nine minutes.
It was the exact problem Showalter complained about Thursday after UW’s 59-57 loss to Iowa, starting strong out of the locker room for quickly petering out of gas.
Only this time Wisconsin had another gear. On its first 12 possessions of the second half Wisconsin missed three two-point shots but drained four 3-pointers – two from Koenig, one from Hayes and one from Showalter. It was just the tip of the iceberg.
A personal 6-0 run by D’Mitrik Trice on consecutive possessions got the Badgers humming and Brown’s dunk helped Wisconsin outscored Minnesota 21-6 over the opening 8:28. UW delivered despite Happ only scoring one point in the second half.
Even when the Gophers tried to make things interesting, cutting the lead to 51-45 with 6:20 remaining, the Badgers closed the game on a 15-4 run, 11 being scored by Koenig over the final five possessions.
UW has won 17 of the last 19 matchups with Indiana, including a sweep of the regular-season series. The Badgers won 75-68 in Bloomington in January and 65-60 at home in February.
Since 2002, Wisconsin is 23-5 (.821) all-time vs. the Hoosiers. Prior to that, UW was 49-90 (.353) all-time vs. Indiana.
The Badgers have won 15 consecutive games against the Hoosiers in Madison, the second-longest home streak ever against IU, and won six of the last eight meetings with Indiana at Assembly Hall.
Since Tom Crean got to Indiana, Wisconsin owns a 15-2 all-time record vs. the Hoosiers.
UW has held Indiana to an average of 62.0 ppg in the 17 meetings of the Crean era. The Hoosiers currently rank second in the Big Ten averaging 80.4 ppg.
MADISON – Happ’s 20 points only told part story in the Badgers’ 65-60 slugfest over Indiana at the Kohl Center, as the sophomore had seven rebounds, contributed team highs in steals (three) and blocks (three) and dished out two assists to help Wisconsin overcame a game in which they shot 39.6 percent.
Even so, the Badgers never trailed in part by holding the Hoosiers 23 points below their average and going 23-for-31 from the line, including 7-for-8 in the final 51 seconds.
“There’s other ways (that) when it doesn’t go your way, we can still find a way,” Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard said, adding it wasn’t the team’s “most intelligent display of basketball” based on giving up defensive lapses and turning the ball over 13 times.
“Getting to the free throw line was a counter to us not shooting the three well (4-for-17). That’s what good, experienced teams will find. Find some other way to scratch and claw to get it done.”
Junior Josh Newkirk scored 22 points to lead Indiana, which extended a losing streak to Madison that dates back to 1998.
While the rest of the starting lineup combined for 9-for-36 from the floor, Wisconsin again leaned on its All-American candidate to provide the lift. Scoring 10 points in each half, Happ was the center of attention for Wisconsin in the opening half.
Of UW’s first 24 points, 21 came inside or from the free throw line, including Happ scoring six of the team’s first eight points. He provided a spark to a quiet crowd in the second half when he registered a dunk off a set inbounds play and a put back off an offensive rebound, the latter making it 35-27 with 14:40 remaining. He also delivered a steal and one-handed flush with 3:33 to go.
In what has been the case, Happ delivered plays outside of putting the ball in the basket. He delivered his third block on Robert Johnson (5-for-15) with 2:35 remaining, and managed to call a 30 second timeout before falling out of bounds.
And when he was doubled in the post, Happ fed to an open Zak Showalter, whose 3-pointer with 1:37 remaining gave the Badgers a 58-50 lead.
Wisconsin is making its 19th appearance in the annual conference tournament, which began in 1998. The Badgers own a 21-16 (.568) overall record in the Big Ten tournament, winning championships in 2004, 2008 and 2015. The Badgers have also advanced to the tournament finals in 2005, 2007 and 2013.
Wisconsin is the No. 2 seed for the fourth time in tournament history. The Badgers are 6-2 when seeded second, winning the 2004 championship.
Wisconsin appears to get stronger as the game unfolds. The Badgers are out-scoring opponents 39.0 to 31.5 in the second half, increasing their offensive production in the final 20 minutes.
The Badgers have scored 288 more points in the paint than their opponents, a margin of +9.3 ppg. UW has only been out-scored in the paint on 5 occasions (1-4 in those games).
Indiana scored 95 points in Thursday’s second round against Iowa, the second-most even by a team at the Big Ten tournament (Maryland had 97 vs. Nebraska last year)
Indiana hit 12 3-pointers against the Hawkeyes, the most ever by the Hoosiers in the Big Ten tournament.
Freshman De’Ron Davis scored a career-high 15 points against the Hawkeyes and reached double figures for the sixth time this season.
Sophomore Thomas Bryant set a new career-high and team-high this season with five blocks. He added 11 points, which marks the 20th time this season he has reached double figures.
Indiana set a school record with 12 3-pointers -- led by Blackmon Jr.'s 4-5 effort -- and 3-point percentage (60.0) in the 95-73 win over Iowa Thursday. That sounds like bad news for Wisconsin.
Although the Badgers have seemingly found themselves again defensively, evident by holding Minnesota to 32.1 percent shooting, the Badgers have been porous this season against defending the 3-point line (ranked 12th in the league allowing teams to shoot 37.8 percent). Teams have actually attempted the second-fewest 3-pointers against Wisconsin (553) of all the Big Ten teams, but 12 teams have made at least seven 3-pointers. In UW’s last seven games (2-5), six opponents made at least seven threes (Minnesota was the only one who didn’t).
Indiana shot 60.3 percent overall against Iowa, assisted on 17 of its 35 buckets and scored a whopping 46 points in the paint.
“We know they're a great team, one of the top teams in our conference,” Blackmon, who hit 4-for-5 from three, said about Wisconsin last night. “We just got to carry out what we see in the film room, what our coaching staff gives to us, just like we did (Thursday) really. Take it one game at a time.”
The key for Wisconsin is if its seniors step up to the play. Nigel Hayes (13.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Bronson Koenig (12.5 ppg, 3.8 apg) have averaged double-digit points in six career Big Ten tournament games, and Hayes was selected to the 2015 All-Big Ten Tournament Team after averaging 17.0 ppg and 6.7 rpg. But maybe this tournament could channel some good vibes for two struggling players.
Vitto Brown has shot 40 percent or less in the last six games, but he scored 16 points (3-4 3FGs) and eight rebounds in last year’s loss to Nebraska. Ethan Happ is 2-for-14 from the line in the last three games, but he went 7-for-8 from the line last year. Happ is 16-for-21 from the field against the Hoosiers this season and averaging 18.5 points in four career meetings against Indiana, so his ability in the low post will be critical.
Can Wisconsin slow Indiana down better than Iowa could? The numbers suggest they can. Can UW afford to get into a shootout with Indiana? Probably not. The Badgers need to play their style of basketball and not allow the game to get into a track meet. Although last year’s ugly performance against Nebraska in the Badgers’ first Big Ten tournament game is seared into my mind, I’ll give Wisconsin the benefit of the doubt that they can come out cold and ice a red-hot shooting Indiana team.
Badgers by four.
Worgull's Record: 25-6
Points off Prediction: 283 (8.7 per game)