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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

After chaotic stoppage, Mgbako and Indiana basketball’s composure seal win over Wisconsin

IUvsWis-final-11.jpg

One after the other, his routine is unchanged. He keeps his eyes fastened on the hoop 15 feet away, takes a deep breath, pounds one dribble on the hardwood and, after bending his knees and hunching to the court, shifts the weight from his feet upward to release his shot. 

Indiana men’s basketball freshman forward Mackenzie Mgbako swiftly exercised this pattern twice to knock down a pair of clutch free throws in the final 30 seconds and cement the Hoosiers’ 74-70 win over Wisconsin on Tuesday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. 

RelatedKel’el Ware scores 27, leads Indiana men’s basketball past Wisconsin 74-70Behind 27 points from Indiana sophomore center Kel’el Ware, Indiana men’s basketball defeated Wisconsin 74-70 Tuesday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. 

Mgbako finished the game with 14 points — tied for second on the team behind sophomore center Kel’el Ware’s 27 — and splashed two of his five attempts from beyond the arc. At just 19 years old, Mgbako is relied on to offer consistent scoring for a Hoosier team that has sorely lacked it. 

And against Wisconsin, his composure spoke volumes. 

“For guys who really haven't played a lot in college basketball, it says a lot for my staff and the work these guys have put in, along with myself, to get these guys playing at a high level,” Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said postgame.  

Those free throws came under the fiercest pressure, but they weren’t Mgbako’s only impactful shots of the night. Roughly five minutes prior, with Indiana trailing 63-60, senior guard Trey Galloway fired a pass toward the left wing that forced Mgbako to acrobatically collect it. 

Wisconsin freshman guard John Blackwell scuttled to guard Mgbako and met him for a brief pause — but it was useless. Mgbako used his 6-foot-8 frame to rise above Blackwell and drain the game-tying triple. 

Before Mgbako’s late-game heroics, the status of the game was in question. Wisconsin erased Indiana’s 15-point lead and knotted the score at 54 with 10:31 remaining when havoc ensued. 

Unbeknownst to the players on the floor, according to Ware, the fire alarms inside Assembly Hall were flashing and continually sounding throughout the arena. Fans were already abruptly ushered outside the building, but the teams traded a couple more possessions before play halted. 

“We was walking to the bench and the ref was saying we have to go inside, and I looked over to my right and seen the little flash going off,” Ware said. “That's all I knew about that.” 

After security cleared the situation shortly thereafter, the fans who’d streamed toward the exits less than 15 minutes beforehand engulfed the entrances in a frenzy. The ordeal — aside from providing unbridled chaos — seemed to slow the Badgers’ momentum. 

“I thought it was a great timeout for whoever from Indiana pulled the fire alarm, for them,” Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard said. “Cause we were making a run." 

While Wisconsin junior guard Chucky Hepburn and sophomore guard AJ Storr continued to jolt the visitors’ offense, Indiana had a response for each punch thrown its way. Woodson expressed gratitude to the fans, who saved their most raucous cheers for the latter part of the second half after the fire alarm fiasco subsided. 

“I want to thank our fan base, the crowd for going through what we all went through and still came back into the game and gave us the support we needed to get over the hump and win the game,” Woodson said. “It's the first time I've ever been a part of something like that as a player and coach.” 

The win was a considerable relief for Woodson. Indiana owned a four-game losing streak prior to Tuesday night, including double-digit defeats to Purdue on Feb. 10 and Nebraska on Feb. 21. It was no secret the Hoosiers’ morale was reeling. 

With hopes of playing meaningful basketball beyond the Big Ten Tournament an afterthought, Indiana came into Tuesday night bearing minimal expectations — especially against a Wisconsin team that has dominated the matchup throughout the last 24 years. 

RelatedCOLUMN: Wisconsin, the monkey Indiana men’s basketball can’t get off its backNo team in the Big Ten has terrorized Indiana men’s basketball in the 21st century quite like Wisconsin.

And still, the Hoosiers displayed what Woodson dubbed “Indiana basketball at its best.” With a trio of games remaining in the regular season, the focus will quickly shift to who Indiana should target to add for the 2024-25 campaign. 

But Tuesday night, after a fire alarm sent tens of thousands of fans out of the building and two teams away from the floor, Mgbako and the Hoosiers remained calm and staved off Wisconsin’s final efforts. 

For that, Indiana could experience a breath of bliss. 

“That locker room is very happy right now,” Woodson said. “When you go through a stretch like that, I don't wish that on anyone. Nobody likes to lose. Me being who I am, I hate losing.” 

Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Press (@MattPress23) and columnist Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season. 

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