No.17 Wisconsin unveiled a brand new starting lineup by intergrading junior Jon Leuer for the first time since breaking a bone in his left wrist Jan.9 with the three-guard lineup that carries the Badgers to a 6-3 record in his absence.
Combine with junior Keaton Nankivil finding his touch again from the perimeter, all five starters finished in double figures for the first time this season, results that wound up crushing Indiana, 78-46, Thursday.
In giving the Hoosiers their largest margin of defeat for the Hoosiers in historic Assembly Hall, Wisconsin (21-7, 11-5 Big Ten) its 12th victory in the last 15 games in this series and its sixth straight win over Indiana, something the Badgers haven't done since the late 1940s.
Throw in the fact that the 32-point victory marked the Badgers' largest road win in Big Ten play since Feb. 9, 1942, a 54-20 (34-point) win at the University of Chicago, and it seems UW is peaking at the right time.
"We definitely were clicking tonight in all phases," said Leuer of Wisconsin who shot 54.7 percent overall (29-of-54) and a season-high 72.7 from 3-point range (8-of-11). "For the most part we played a pretty sound game, were disciplined and didn't let the crowd or all those other factors affect our play. That's a sign that we're maturing and hopefully we can keep improving."
The success that lineup produced for Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan was nothing short of remarkable. In addition to the scoring prowess, the starting five shot a combined 57.8 percent, grab 20 rebounds and notch eight blocks.
"I like the results whenever we play like this," Ryan said. "It doesn't matter who starts."
Senior guard Trevon Hughes broke out of his mini-slump, scoring a game-high 17 points, moving into 13th place on the Badgers' all-time scoring list. Hughes went 6-of-9 from the field, a proficient 3-of-4 from three-point range and only committed one turnover.
"He was opportunistic," Ryan said. "He didn't force things. That shows his maturity. That shows where he is in his game right now. Other than a blip in the second half against Illinois, where he couldn't buy a shot, I think he's shot it pretty well and made pretty good decisions."
Leuer, who started in place of junior forward Tim Jarmusz, scored the most points since returning from his injury (13), and continued to be a presence in the post, grabbing a game-high seven rebounds and tied his college-high with four blocks.
Nankivil had 14 points, tied his career high with four blocks and broke open a once tight game at 20-16 with back-to-back three-pointers, spurring UW on a 19-6 run to end the first half to lead by 17 at the break.
Much like pulling away to begin the second half of last year's contest in Indiana, the Badgers opened up a 9-2 run out of the gates and kept piling on.
"Anytime you get a team down right at the start you don't want to give them any hope," said Leuer. That's what we did."
Freshman Derek Elston had 12 points for the Hoosiers (9-18, 3-12), who have lost nine straight. Indiana shot 35.7 percent (10-of-28) for the game, had almost as many turnovers (nine) as made field goals (10) in the first half and finished the game with 18 turnovers. Hoosiers Coach Tom Crean missed a couple of those turnovers when he decided he has seen enough calls not go his way.
He received his first technical with 10:22 left in the second half when he protested a foul called on freshman forward Bobby Capobianco and Indiana down 56-33. Twenty-nine seconds later, Crean was shown the gate after he protested a non-call on a defensive rebound.
"It happened," Crean said of the technicals. "I don't know really what else to say. I am not going to be evasive, but I am not going to be able to say much more on that."
Crean was escorted from the Indiana bench by assistant coach Tim Buckley, a former UW assistant, and the whole escaped finally gave the dormant Hoosiers fans something to cheer about. It didn't phase Wisconsin, who pushed its lead to as high as 34 points before finally calling off the dogs.
"We're just trying to finish as high as we can in the Big Ten," Ryan said. "I don't think they have awarded anything to anybody yet, so we're still battling in the Big Ten. That was always my goal from day one, trying to compete in the Big Ten at a high level. That's what we're trying to do."