Something had to give. Unfortunately for IU, it was the latter that gave.
IU’s (25-8, 11-7) inability to stop Wisconsin’s (24-8, 12-6) long-range attack resulted in a 79-71 loss in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“It’s difficult,” IU junior forward Christian Watford said. “But we did some crazy stuff. We just weren’t playing intelligent on the defensive end, and they hit some shots.”
Though it was Wisconsin senior guard Rob Wilson’s seven 3-pointers off the bench that helped sink IU, the Badgers got it cooking from deep early.
The Badgers knocked down six 3-pointers in the first eight minutes and 17 seconds to put the Hoosiers in an early 10-point deficit.
“I thought our guys moved the ball extremely well,” Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan said. “It wasn’t that Indiana wasn’t play good defense, we just made the extra pass several times."
IU junior guard Jordan Hulls said there was no excuse to let Wisconsin shoot over the top of them.
“Whether it was switching, whether it was closing out with the hand lower than it needs to be, they were just rising up and hitting shots that were pretty much open,” Hulls said. “We’ve just got to communicate a lot better and that’s just part of being intelligent.”
Despite the Badgers seven 3-pointers in the first half, IU went into the break within two possessions. Freshman forward Cody Zeller and Watford kept IU within striking distance with nine and eight points, respectively.
But Zeller went into the half without a rebound and finished the game with a career-low one rebound. With Wisconsin forward Jared Berggren establishing position on the interior, Zeller said he struggled on the glass.
“Some of it has to do with them shooting three's, but a lot of it has to do with me,” Zeller said. “I didn’t get low enough. I’ve got to crash offensive boards harder. I’ve got to give a better effort.”
The momentum didn’t change in the second half.
Though IU narrowed the deficit to one on multiple occasions, the Hoosiers failed to get over the hump. Crean said the Hoosiers did not have an answer for Wisconsin’s 3-point attack.
“As far as us scoring, we weren’t having a lot of trouble scoring ourselves,” Crean said. “We should’ve made it a little harder for them.”
Wisconsin scored 39 of its points from beyond the arc compared to IU’s six. IU didn’t even attempt a 3-pointer in the second half until senior guard Matt Roth had one blocked with 27 seconds to go.
“As far as Matt or anybody else, that’s partially my fault too for not driving and kicking enough and finding the open man on the 3-point line,” Hulls said.
IU will now await its NCAA Tournament fate that will be determined at 6 p.m. Selection Sunday. Though the loss means IU will not have to play four games in four days in the Big Ten Tournament, Watford said it was a break the Hoosiers didn’t want.
“We definitely didn’t want to lose today,” Watford said. “But we’ll go back home, get ready. We’ll find out where were playing and who were playing, and we’ll be ready.”
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