MADISON- Following the craziest day of college hoops this season, which included six top ten teams losing on the same day, the No. 10 Wisconsin Badgers played host to the Indiana Hoosiers, as Wisconsin looked to move up in the national ranks, and IU looked to gain some ground in the Big Ten. The Badgers were successful, winning their seventh game in a row, 65-60.
With the Hoosiers sitting at just 5-5 in the Big Ten, this nationally televised showdown didn’t mean quite as much as people thought it would before the season. Nevertheless, these two teams have built up a pretty nice rivalry, and looked to get after it on this Super Bowl Sunday.
A battle it was, as both teams got off to a slow start, especially the Hoosiers, opening the game with seven straight empty possessions.
Nigel Hayes was very aggressive early, putting up eight shots in his first 12 minutes of play. With the Badgers leading 22-10, Hayes and Ethan Happ had already combined for 17 of those 22.
In the first half, Thomas Bryant led the Hoosiers with nine points to go along with three boards. Both teams shot less than 35% from the floor, so it was a defensive battle, to say the least.
The second half of this Big Ten battle started off very much like the first, with the two teams combining for six points in four minutes. At the 15:51 mark, the Badgers led 31-26, while shooting just 30% for the game and 14% in the half.
In a game that needed a highlight after the break, Wisconsin provided one. Off an inbounds play, D’Mitrik Trice threw up a perfect alley-oop to Happ for the slam to extend the lead, 33-27.
Both teams woke up offensively, turning the score to 47-40 at the next media timeout. The Badgers had a 5-5 stretch for scoring, including a beautiful display of ball movement.
Brevin Pritzl also checked into the game, which helped space the floor and created a little inside-out game for Hayes and Happ as well. After not being in the rotation most of the season, Pritzl was getting some big-time minutes, and put up four points with 3:49 left to go and Wisconsin leading 52-48.
With about 3:00 to go, Happ made yet another incredible play. After poking it away on the wing, the big man took it coast to coast and threw it down with one hand.
When he checked out with a minute to go, Happ had 20 points, seven rebounds, three blocks, three steals and two assists.
After a foul fest by Indiana to close out the game, the Badgers finished off the Hoosiers, 65-60. Newkirk led the Hoosiers with 22 points, while Happ put up 20 for the Badgers, who move to 20-3 overall and 9-1 in Big Ten play.
Although this was the Badgers’ seventh win in a row, the offense has been in a bit of a rut, while Indiana came in having scored at least 70 in its past five games. Wisconsin only put up 65, but still came out with the win.
“That’s the only reason we won,” said Nigel Hayes, referring to keeping the high-scoring Hoosiers at just 60 and ending their streak.
Hayes was also asked to look forward a bit after the game, talking about the difficulty of winning in college basketball and specifically the Big Ten.
“That’s the scary thing. As the number (of remaining games) gets smaller, the bullseye gets bigger.”
This contest was not pretty, and was a pretty even battle throughout. IU coach Tom Crean tried to explain some of the differences that gave the Badgers the W.
“Everyone Greg puts on the floor can pass, which sets them apart. This year especially.”
Through nice passing and tough defense, the Badgers came out with the victory.