Get the ball inside. Then do it again. Repeat until victory.
After winning the opening tipoff, Wisconsin dumped the ball in to 6-foot-8 forward Nigel Hayes, who scored easily.
On the next two Badger possessions, 7-foot center Frank Kaminsky had little trouble pushing his way to the rim and scoring. Then Wisconsin kicked it out to Hayes, who hit a wide-open 3-pointer.
It was a 9-0 Badger run. No. 5 Wisconsin (20-2, 8-1) found little difficulty throughout the rest of the game on its way to an easy 92-78 win against IU (16-7, 6-4).
“The only issue I have within the game is that we didn’t challenge them with the passing, within the post,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “We know we’re small. We have got to be absolutely scrappy.”
The Hoosiers weren’t scrappy enough.
Possession after possession, Wisconsin pounded the ball inside, using its size to overpower a small IU team. The strategy worked primarily through Kaminsky and Hayes, who combined to score 39 points on 14-of-17 shooting.
Kaminsky — the front-runner for Big Ten Player of the Year and a Wooden Award finalist — scored a game-high 23 points.
The loss was IU’s 13th in a row in Wisconsin’s Kohl Center, a streak dating back to 1998. The Hoosiers have been beaten by an average of 13.7 points per game during that span.
Freshman guard James Blackmon Jr., the Hoosiers’ leading scorer this season, was held out with an ankle injury he suffered late in Saturday’s game against Rutgers. Crean said Blackmon was a ?game-time decision.
“James tried,” Crean said. “He definitely tried. It was a matter of what he could deal with, ?pain-wise.”
Nick Zeisloft started in Blackmon’s place and scored a team-high 17 points. The junior guard shot 5-of-9 from 3-point range.
In the end, it didn’t matter how much the Hoosiers scored. The IU defense simply couldn’t slow down Wisconsin long enough to make it a contest.
IU put together a 30-10 run late in the second half, but it was far too late. Crean said the late run was more frustrating than promising — a glimpse of what could ?have been.
“I know I should probably be more politically correct right now and say, ‘Hey, what a great comeback,’ but that’s not what we’re ?trying to do here,” he said.