Wisconsin guard Rob Wilson came into Friday’s Big Ten Quarterfinal having scored in double figures just once this season when he had 11 points against Iowa.
Wilson did more than eclipse that mark with a career-high 30 points in leading No. 12/14 Wisconsin (24-8) to a 79-71 victory against No. 15 Indiana (25-8).
“Needless to say we had a player that was in a zone and his teammates found him,” Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan said. “Rob Wilson was the story of the game as far as our offensive end goes.”
Just like the Hoosiers did Jan. 26 in Madison, Wis., IU held Jordan Taylor in check as the senior battled foul trouble all afternoon in shooting 3-of-12 from the field.
Without the usual production from Taylor, it was Wilson who provided the needed lift in the scoring department.
“It was definitely huge for Rob to step up like that,” Taylor said. “That’s what Coach talks about a lot, when a teammate’s down you’ve got to pick it up. I think everybody really buys into that.”
Ryan put Wilson in the came at the 16:19 mark of the first half and he would play a total of 32 minutes off the bench including the last 17 minutes of the game.
As the Badgers tried to stave off multiple runs by IU in the second half, it was Wilson who hit timely 3-pointers.
IU cut the lead to 42-41 with 15:40 to go in the second half before Wilson hit three straight 3-point field goals.
Looking to make one last stop with less than a minute to go, Wilson’s 3-pointer from the right wing was the dagger stretching the Wisconsin lead to 72-65.
“The weight of the ball felt like it was going in today,” Wilson said. “I don’t remember that feeling.”
During Wilson’s junior season, he scored just 36 points in 23 games, and he almost equaled that mark Friday afternoon.
The senior guard had been playing better of late as he was averaging eight points per game during his last four, which is more than double his season average.
“It’s something that he’s been doing here recently now and I’m just happy for him,” Taylor said of Wilson’s output. “I’m so happy for him that it almost feels like I had 30.”
The 7-of-10 performance from behind the 3-point arch equals the amount of threes Wilson had made during the past five games combined.
“As we told our team, (Wilson) was the most improved player on their team since the first time we played them,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “He had really brought a different dose of energy when he was in the game.”
Wilson’s career-high before Friday was 13 points in his sophomore seaso,n and he had only scored in double figures three times in his four seasons at Wisconsin.
In looking for its first Big Ten Semifinal appearance since 2006, IU’s comeback attempt was halted by the Badgers unsung hero.
“We had some guys play very well and they had guys play really well," Crean said. “The difference though was Rob Wilson played tremendous.”
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