Chalk it up to the loudest, most raucous crowd of the season or a dominating defensive performance or the watchful glare of Erin Andrews but, whatever the reason, freshmen phenoms and the Kohl Center are an unhealthy combination.
Just like the Buckeyes' Greg Oden a season ago, if Eric Gordon thought his 5-for-16 shooting performance last Saturday against Connecticut was the low point of his conference season, the Badgers made sure that the rookie set a new low watermark for himself.
Using a combination of 2007 Big Ten All-Defensive team member Michael Flowers and reinforcement known as Trevon Hughes, the Badgers held Gordon, averaging a healthy 21.7 points per game entering the night, to a dismal 6-of-14 shooting, just 2-for-7 in the first half, and 16 points in No.13 Wisconsin's 62-49 besting of No.11 Indiana.
"Our game plan was to play solid Wisconsin defense and we did a good job," said junior Joe Krabbenhoft, who grabbed 12 rebounds. "I don't think there is any way to hold Eric Gordon under double-digit scoring, but I thought we did a great job on him, lead by Mike Flowers – our defensive leader."
Flowers was that and more for the Badgers on Thursday night.
Playing with flu-like symptoms, forcing head coach Bo Ryan to rotate the senior in and out more often than he would have liked, Flowers blanked Gordon throughout the night, forcing the freshman to either take a wild shot attempt or dish the ball off to one of his teammates.
Although the turnover-prone Gordon only coughed the ball up three times, the freshman was forced into repeated precarious situations that forced frustration to be worn all over his face.
"They were physical guarding me," said a soft-spoken Gordon afterwards. "They just played (good) defense on me and I could not do the things that I normally could do. They are just a really good team."
Gordon's head coach, on the other hand, was quick to dish out praise to the Badgers' best defender.
"That Flowers kid is a tough kid," Sampson said. "I thought they really guarded him well. He had a tough time going to his left, obviously, and they kept sitting on his right hand. But I thought Eric played hard, too. He worked to work for just about everything he had."
Part of the reason Gordon struggled against the Badgers was due to a heavily-taped wrist the freshman was sporting Thursday night. Falling awkwardly in practice two days earlier, Gordon injured his non-shooting hand, basically making him, according to his head coach, a ‘one-route player tonight.'
"It's just hurts really bad, but I expect it to get better," Gordon said. "That's why I am playing. If it was really bad I wouldn't be out there."
It wasn't just Gordon the Badgers clamped down on, but all the Hoosiers, excluding senior D.J. White, found the badgering defense of Wisconsin a challenge. Leading the Big Ten in 78.6 points per game, Indiana was held to a season-low 49 points against the best scoring defense in the conference (Wisconsin allows just 54.7 points a game).
Wisconsin registered six steals, two blocks and held the Hoosiers to 33.3 shooting from the field.
Needless to say, their head coach was pleased with their performance.
"They did their job," Ryan said. "We were better on the task then we were in the last game as far as following the rules. Sometimes the way the game is being played, it might be a little tougher against some teams than others, in following the rules. I felt our guys stayed true to the task, helping recover and the rotations were much better."
It was not all doom and gloom for Gordon, who quickly flashed his potential midway through the second half. Showing off his quickness and range, Gordon blew by three Badgers to the bucket, drawing a foul. On Indiana's next possession, Gordon nailed an NBA-range three-pointer right in front of the Hoosier bench.
He did not stop their, scoring 10-straight points for the Hoosiers over a three-minute span to bring Indiana within 46-36 with 9:44 remaining.
"We had to attack during that stretch," Gordon said. "We just needed to make a couple stops to get back in the game and we got it close."
But for all his high-flying acrobatics he's been known to showcase, it was the Badgers' point guard that stole that title away from Gordon for at least one night.
With Wisconsin up 14 and well in control in the early goings of the second half, sophomore Trevon Hughes earned himself a spot at number four on SportsCenter's Top Ten plays of the night. After Hughes missed a three-pointer from the wing, Krabbenhoft, falling out of bounce, saved the ball and managed to get the ball back to Hughes.
With a wide open lane in front of him, Hughes drove the paint, drawing the defense away from Flowers. Connecting on a no-look, sweet-looking behind the back pass, Flowers made the reverse lay up, igniting the arena.
"I have seen him make many plays like that, so I am glad that I got it to the right guy," Krabbenhoft said. "Trevon is one of our best playmakers and it was a great finish by Mike. We made a lot of hustle plays like those tonight that get the crowd energized."
With the students chanting at him all night long, Gordon's 36 minutes on the floor were labeled with frustration, anger and disappointment, as for the second-straight game, the IU freshman forward couldn't figure out a way to get the ball in the hoop, subsequently watching his team struggle offensively.
"The last couple of games, I have not performed the way I should have," Gordon said. "It's a responsibility that I have and I am not doing that. I need to start being more aggressive with the basketball."
In the end, it was another additional win for the Wisconsin basketball squad.
"We played tough tonight, followed our rules and got the job done," Landry said. "We can't ask for much more than that."