The Badgers, though, could not take full advantage of Indiana's first-half malaise. That left the door wide open for the Hoosiers, who ran right through it and over their cold-shooting opponent, blitzing Wisconsin behind 64 percent second-half shooting.
Indiana led 10-2 early in the game, and was up 10-4 with 11:22 left in the first half, when UW junior forward Alando Tucker, the Big Ten's leading scorer, left the game with two personal fouls.
The Hoosiers' lead was 10-6, 9:07 before halftime, when Badger junior point guard Kammron Taylor picked up his second foul and took a seat on the bench.
With Tucker and Taylor sidelined until the second half, the Badgers were poised for a breakdown. Instead, it was Indiana that fell apart. The Hoosiers' offensive game became a disaster, and Wisconsin—led by freshman walk-on Kevin Gullikson's 10 points—rallied to take a 17-10 lead.
Just as Indiana missed an opportunity to put UW away early, however, the Badgers lost a chance to carry momentum into the second half. Gullikson picked up his second foul with 5:38 left in the first half, effectively sapping the life out of UW's offense.
"We needed to have those guys on the floor, while we had Indiana missing shots, and they were struggling for a while, we needed to have our strength out there, some guys that have been proven," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "And then maybe open up, maybe go in (to halftime)… 10-15 points in our favor, knowing that they're going to make a run in the second half."
Despite the Hoosiers' nine turnovers and 32 percent shooting in the first half, the Badgers lead at the break was just 19-15.
And despite scoring just 15 points in 20 moribund minutes of basketball, Indiana felt it had the Badgers right where it wanted them. At halftime, the Hoosiers accentuated the positive, focusing on their defense, which had contributed to the Badgers' 25 percent shooting.
"We turned the basketball over nine times and they got 10 more opportunities than us from the field so we felt good going back out in the second half because of those stats," IU coach Mike Davis said. "I thought the second half we did a better job of screening and cutting and moving the basketball. The first half we just kind of stood around and we didn't move the basketball fast."
Indiana burst out of the gate to start the second half. Killingsworth led the charge, with three buckets in the paint, including an emphatic dunk, as part of a 15-2 run that gave the Hoosiers a 30-21 lead with 15:10 left to play.
Tucker did his best to keep the Badgers in the game, scoring 16 of his team-high 20 points after halftime.
"He tried to put us on his back but he didn't get much help from the rest of the guys," Taylor said.
Forced to play catch-up the rest of the way, Wisconsin had to contend with IU's suddenly proficient shooters. The Hoosiers made just 1 of 10 triples in the first half, but were exceptional after halftime. That was particular true of guards Marshall Strickland and Roderick Wilmont, who were 2-for-2 and 2-for-3, respectively, from beyond the 3-point arc after the break.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin was firing blanks. The Badgers finished 2 of 17 on triples, including an 0-for-9 in the first half. One of its 3s was a trivial Michael Flowers jumper that sliced IU's lead from 61-53 to 61-56 in the closing seconds.
"I look at our 17 threes and I would say… 12 to 14 of them were pretty good looks," Ryan said. "Doggone it. It would be nice if they'd have gone down. I can wish and hope though. Maybe next game."
Flowers, Taylor and senior guard Ray Nixon combined to make just 4 of 27 shots, including 1 of 11 triples.
"That definitely is not going to help get the job done," Taylor said.
Sophomore forward Brian Butch made a big 3 with 9:21 left to play to draw Wisconsin within 44-42. A short while later, Tucker's step-back jumper made it 45-44 IU.
With just less than seven minutes left, the Badgers retook the lead. Flowers went 1-for-2 from the line, missing the second, but Gullikson grabbed the offensive rebound and the ball went back to Flowers, who converted to make it 49-48 UW.
Indiana, though, rattled off a 7-0 run. Strickland made a reverse layup, Killingsworth scored over Butch and Wilmont drilled a triple.
Tucker made two free throws to keep UW close, but the Badgers did not make another field goal until Flowers' late 3, some six minutes, 45 seconds after he had given UW its slim advantage.
"Everything got magnified at the end," Ryan said. "We needed to make hay earlier. We needed to be in a better position down the stretch, and we weren't."
The Badgers had their chances. Indiana went five possessions before it built upon its 55-51 lead. Nixon and Taylor each missed 3s during that time. And Taylor, who played just 21 minutes because of his foul trouble, was called for an offensive foul with 31.9 seconds left and IU up 57-52.
"That turnover there was one of the ones that stifled any kind of momentum we could have picked up by scoring on our end when we got them to not score how many times at 55?" Ryan said.
With Tucker and Taylor off the court for most of the first half, the Badgers had to employ some unique lineups. When Taylor departed with his second foul, UW's five on the floor were Flowers, little-used sophomore Tanner Bronson, Nixon, Gullikson and Butch. The quintet played very well together, sparking the Badgers to a first-half lead.
With Taylor struggling, Flowers played a career-high 37 minutes and commanded the point guard position. It was certainly a different role for the sophomore. A telling moment came with about three-and-a-half minutes left in the first half, when Flowers tugged on his jersey and looked toward the UW bench—the universal sign of a player in need of a breather. Only one problem. With Taylor out with two fouls, Flowers was effectively the team's only available point guard. He played the final 14:52 of the first half.
Patience in the post
When Wisconsin dominated Indiana 72-54 in Madison last month, Killingsworth played just 20 minutes before fouling out. He finished with 14 points in that game, but was not able to establish a consistent presence in the paint. As a result, his teammates ended up with worse looks at the basket.
Friday's performance was much different. UW's Ryan said that the Hoosiers were more patient getting the ball inside to Killingsworth this time around.
"Because he was killing us," Ryan said. "And he was 10-for-15. That's pretty good. And we thought we were making him work. I think we were."
Friday may have actually been one of Butch's best defensive efforts. He was intense and tried to be physical with the stronger Killingsworth. But the latter was smart enough to avoid getting into a pushing match, and stayed out of foul trouble as a result. Killingsworth picked his spots, as exemplified by the odd fact that he never attempted a free throw Friday, despite drawing four fouls during the game.
"A couple times I let Marco catch the ball a little too easy and little too close to the basket," Butch said. "With a good player like him, that's two points. Those are the type of things that we need to cut down on, but overall I thought we did a pretty good job (defensively)."
"It's Big Ten basketball," Butch added. "You just have to keep on battling each other. I knew what he wanted and my goal was to try to stop what he wanted to get. I didn't do a good enough job of it."