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IU's frontline overshadowed by Wisconsin in loss


Sophomore center Thomas Bryant looks around Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ for a pass during IU's second game of the Big Ten Tournament in Washington, D.C. The Hoosiers lost to the Badgers 70-60. Victor Grossling Buy Photos

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Wisconsin’s sophomore forward Ethan Happ knew exactly where he was.

With the game in the closing minutes, Happ darted along the baseline and easily laid it with ease because IU had little resistance for the Badger big man.

That was the case for most of the second half as IU’s frontline was terrorized by Wisconsin.

IU’s Big Ten Tournament run ended Friday in the quarterfinals as Wisconsin beat IU, 70-60, at the Verizon Center.

While the duo of senior forward Nigel Hayes and Happ combined for 24 points in the game, the biggest thing they did was erase IU’s pair of forwards, sophomore forward Thomas Bryant and freshman forward De’Ron Davis, who combined for only four points.

They struggled throughout the game with finishing inside against Wisconsin’s frontline.

IU Coach Tom Crean said if they make some of those shots, the game would’ve played out differently.

“You have to play through the contact,” Crean said. “When you’re going to play against a Wisconsin team, whether it was when Bo (Ryan) first came into the league or whether it’s now, they’re going to put their chest into you. That’s what it is.”

Davis struggled after having a career-high 15 points just a night prior against Iowa. Against the Badgers, he missed five out of six shots, all of them coming inside the paint.

“Me personally, I didn’t give enough energy off the bench," Davis said.  “So I just have to come in and execute.”

The Badgers had no problem playing through contact on the offensive end, especially Happ.

Happ struggled in the first half, only scoring four points and turning the ball over three times. In the second half, it was a different story.

“He was really using his quickness and just lulling all the defenders on him to sleep,” sophomore forward Juwan Morgan said. “Just getting inside of them and once he was deep into the post, it was just like you couldn’t get around him or it was going to be a foul. He was really using the rim as a good protector to get his layups in.”

Crean didn’t blame his big men solely for the problems defending the post.

“They got the ball deep,” Crean said. “We didn’t have enough good ball pressure at times and we didn’t get down there to go after the ball enough. They do a really good job of keeping dribble going in the post. Our guard, we left the bigs hanging out to dry a little bit at times tonight.”

The only bright spot from IU’s frontcourt was Morgan, who had dealt with a variety of injuries this season, but has been playing in the past few weeks. Morgan had 14 points, many of them coming when IU needed crucial baskets to close the Badgers’ deficit.

Morgan said his strong play started on the defensive end.

“I had to get back to the roots of how well I was doing last year,” Morgan said. “I started on the defensive end locking down, not giving ground on any given possession. My teammates did a tremendous job of finding me in the open slots.”

Making six of eight shots, Morgan was also relentless on the glass, nabbing seven rebounds.

“When Juwan’s playing well, when he’s running, hitting shots, grabbing boards, put backs, it gives our team energy, Davis said.

The energy Morgan provided wasn’t enough as IU saw its Big Ten Tournament run end abruptly.

“It just think it's execution,” Davis said. “It just wasn’t our night."

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