Wisconsin walked into Assembly Hall Tuesday night, smacked Indiana in the mouth and took first place in the Big Ten. The Badgers are undefeated in conference play and unranked. The 64-59 win marked the 11th time in a row that Wisconsin has beaten IU.
The Hoosiers fast-pace offense was brought to a complete halt by a brilliant defensive game from the Badgers. They normally shoot over 50 percent, but Wisconsin managed to hold IU to 37 percent shooting.
Normally when IU struggles on offense its defense is good enough to bail them out of games, but not on Tuesday. Wisconsin has a style of play that forces teams to play defense for all 35 seconds of the shot clock. IU play fantastic defense for 25-30 seconds. Even when it look like everyone was locked down, the Badgers still managed to hit ridiculous shots.
It's the second loss this season for IU and the second time they have lost to an unranked team that will be ranked the following week.
Let's take a look some of the key factors in the game:
- Cody Zeller was amazing, then he wasn't. Zeller's first half was beautiful. He was 8-for-8 and doing whatever he wanted to the Wisconsin defense in the first half. The second half? Zeller hit just one field goal. One. Yes, he had a double-double, but it was all for naught if you got 1-for-7 in a half. Zeller has to be more aggressive in calling for and demanding the ball. He scored most of his points on cuts and driving to the lane, but in the second half he needed to post up more and get physical.
- The bench failed to show up, again. Will Sheehey, Remy Abell, Jeremy Hollowell, and Hanner Mosquera-Perea all managed just two points in a combined 42 minutes. That's beyond pathetic. Sheehey has to find his shot or has to stop taking shots because he is hurting the team at an alarming rate. Hollowell, who scored the two points, hasn't progressed as we thought he would. He was an excellent shooter in high school, but simply can't find his shot in college. Perea maybe the biggest disappointment so far. We predicted that he would be an x-factor for the team, but might not be the case anymore. He doesn't seem to play like he's 6-8 and that really needs to change.
- Christian Watford doesn't seem interested game to game. Maybe he's really difficult to motivate or only shows up for ranked opponents, but he was a near non-factor Tuesday. Yes he had 11 points, but it came off 3-for-8 shooting. He is too often content to take a bad jumper or dribble into the lane and then attempt to shoot over the defender. If he's going to be aggressive, then he HAS to get the ball closer to the rim. He was solid on defense, but he has the potential to take over on offense and IU needs to see more of that.
- Is Victor Oladipo in a slump? Last week we talked about him being the team's MVP. After Wisconsin, not so much. He failed to make the typical big impact on the game like he's done in so many others. He scored just 10 points off 3-for-7 shooting. He is the kind of player who could live at the free throw line. I hate that drawing fouls is a skill set, but Oladipo doesn't have it. He was solid defensively, but the players he guarded still managed to hit shots over him, despite being so close he could kiss them.
- Where was the ball movement? IU managed just seven assists. It was a season low for the Hoosiers. It wasn't Wisconsin was so all over the place that they couldn't move the ball, it just didn't happen.
- The ball just didn't like IU. There were a number of plays that simply didn't bounce IU's way. It was a game full of unlucky breaks for the Hoosiers. From two players on the same team bumping into each other and failing to get the rebound to Wisconsin getting insane, circus-style Kobe-esque shots to drop. It simply wasn't IU's night.
- Once again, the Big Ten referees were an enigma. I just received word that Wisconsin traveled again, and the refs missed the call. We counted at least 10 missed travel calls by Wisconsin, and even the announcers noticed the trend. Additionally, we have no idea what constitutes a foul anymore. Not even a little bit. Late in the game, Oladipo was called for a holding foul on Mike Bruesewitz as Bruesewitz was attempting to screen Oladipo. Sorry, but Bruesewitz should have been called for the offensive foul there. He threw his chest into Oladipo and then kept moving forward as Oladipo tried to break the screen. It was a bad call in a series of bad calls.
The last three halves of basketball have been horrible for IU. The Hoosiers were lucky to escape with a win against Minnesota, but failed to learn anything from that atrocious second half and paid for it against Wisconsin.
If we've learned anything from the losses to Butler and Wisconsin, it's that IU doesn't know how to force its style of play on another team and is susceptible to a more physical team.
IU needs to toughen up if it wants to win the Big Ten and get a decent seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Indiana will be at Northwestern on Sunday.
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