Bracey Wright usually possesses one of the more confident, brash personas in the Big Ten. And who can blame him? Wright is one of the most talented players in the conference, a consensus first-team preseason All-Big Ten selection.
So the frustration on Wright's face after going 2-for-15 from the floor in Tuesday's 79-45 loss to Wisconsin was understandable. Wright was visibly perplexed afterward, showing look of a scorer who had connected on just 5 of 38 shots since making his first nine in a 39-point outburst against North Texas Dec. 29
"Going 2-for-15 is something that I'm not accustomed to, it is something that I'm not proud of," Wright said. "Being the leader of this team—I didn't come out and I didn't lead us in the direction that we needed to go to. I let everybody down from that standpoint."
In 11 non-conference contests, Wright was averaging 22.2 points per game, including the career high against North Texas.
Like the rest of Indiana's team, however, Wright had struggled from the floor, hitting just 41 percent of his shots heading into Tuesday night's contest with Wisconsin. The Badgers completely shut down the Hoosier star, holding him to just seven points, the first time in 15 games that he did not reach double figures. Wright also turned it over four times.
As Indiana struggled through a 15-point first half, Wright shot 1-for-10, tallying just four points. It was the fourth time this season that Indiana was held below 20 points in a half.
Boo Wade locked onto Wright from the start and harassed him along the perimeter, fighting through screens to force him to take tough shots.
"I thought Wade and those guys did a great job of being really physical with him," Indiana coach Mike Davis said.
When Wright decided to drive, as he did particularly early in the game and then again in the latter portion of the second half, Wade was there to force him into the Badgers' help defense, where teammates were waiting to give support.
"I was just trying to keep him out of his comfort zone, keep a hand in his face, make him drive to the basket," Wade said. "We had great help defense and I was just trying to keep him out of his rhythm."
"Defensively, I've watched them play and I've watched teams drive them and guys make shots on the drive and tonight when Bracey drove he got by his guy but the second tier was there, even the third guy was there," Davis said.
Wade played 33 minutes Tuesday; when he was out of the game, guard Freddie Owens checked Wright and also played well.
Even on the few occasions when he had open looks, however, Wright struggled to knock down shots and was simply trying to get to the line on many occasions. Wright could not succeed in that venture either, earning only four attempts from the charity stripe.
"I over penetrated a lot. I was able to get past my man and I saw the lane open, but getting all the way to the basket against good teams is going to be really hard," Wright said. "Any time I pulled up the ball was sailing on me. I shot a couple over the basket, I shot one over the backboard. I just struggled and they did a good job of playing fundamentally sound on the defensive end just staying down and getting a hand up."
The Badgers' defensive performance was not reserved to frustrating Wright—Indiana as a team shot 29 percent and, like Wright, had a hard time finding open shots. When they did get a crease, the shots were falling every direction but into the rim.