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The Indiana Daily Student

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Kel’el Ware’s near-flawless night lifts Indiana men’s basketball past Wisconsin

IUvsWis-final-7.jpg

Indiana men’s basketball sophomore center Kel’el Ware was scorching hot against Wisconsin on Tuesday night. Ware scored 27 points, gathered 11 rebounds and swatted five shots to lift the Hoosiers past the Badgers in a 74-70 win, breaking Indiana’s four-game losing streak. 

“It was unbelievable,” head coach Mike Woodson said postgame. “It was a man’s game. We needed every bit of it to win this game.” 

Ware’s performance was commanding from start to finish en route to his 12th double-double of the season. He affected both sides of the ball, proving how relevant his absence was in Indiana’s 91-79 loss at Wisconsin on Jan. 19. 

“Just my presence on the floor,” Ware said of the difference in the two teams’ matchups. “I was able to get film and see how they played. Even with me and the whole team, we were able to come as one and just come out with the win.” 

Ware stepped up in some of the Hoosiers’ biggest moments in the tight contest. Offensively, he sank high-pressure free throws and converted a layup in one possession moments. Defensively, he provided key contests and blocks to prevent the Badgers from connecting on quality looks. 

However, the 7-footer made his biggest impact in the early stages of the game as Indiana established control of the contest. 

Ware was deep in his bag of tricks from the get-go. While his scoring started on simple layups in the post, his moves evolved into euro step layups from the 3-point line and outside jumpers. He scored 11 points in less than 10 minutes to start the game. 

Indiana rode the wave of momentum Ware created and started to pull away in the first half. Ware expanded his range to the 3-point line and connected, then scored on another jumpshot to increase the Hoosiers’ lead to a game-high 15 points with 6:09 remaining in the frame. The triple marked Ware’s 16th point, surpassing his season average of 15.1 points per contest not even 14 minutes in. 

Kel'el Ware is on fire. ?@KelelWare x @IndianaMBB

?: Peacock pic.twitter.com/zC8c7Jsc5h

 

It wasn’t just his scoring that contributed to the Hoosiers’ strong start. Ware denied three shots at the rim in the first half, both preventing easy Wisconsin baskets in the paint and creating fast break opportunities for the Hoosiers. In addition to the blocks, Ware’s size and persistence in the paint altered several shots. 

Despite Ware’s monstrous first half of 20 points and seven rebounds, the Badgers started to flip the script. They cut the halftime deficit to 5 points and slowed his offensive production down in the second frame as the comeback attempt initiated. 

Ware scored only 2 points in the first 13 minutes of the second half as Wisconsin took its first lead of the game in the process. However, he knew his team needed him and fulfilled his role elsewhere before his scoring picked up again. 

“What got me back in it was just wanting to win,” Ware said. “Even though I wasn’t scoring on offense, I still had to do stuff on defense to make sure we got that win.” 

Ware’s defense remained steadfast throughout the game’s entirety. He emphatically rejected Wisconsin junior forward Stephen Crowl early in the second half and consistently challenged shots. The Badgers missed 12 layups in the game compared to the Hoosiers' five. 

The game became a back-and-forth affair, and Ware and the Hoosiers made the necessary plays down the stretch.  

With a shade over five minutes to go, Ware made the biggest play of the game at that point. Both teams knotted at 63, the shot clock was close to expiring but Wisconsin junior guard Chucky Hepburn seemingly had an open 3-point look. Instead, Ware leapt out and utilized every inch of his lengthy frame to tip the ball, leaving it short and forcing a shot clock violation. 

Nearly two minutes later and tied again, Ware received a lob from senior guard Trey Galloway and converted a near-improbable alley-oop layup while being fouled. He made the free throw to increase the Hoosier lead to 3 points. 

Kel'el Ware is a highlight machine. ?️ @KelelWare x @IndianaMBB

?: Peacock pic.twitter.com/ZbwYBCcBP1

Indiana held a 4-point lead with under 20 seconds to go before Ware capped off his performance with one final stop. Wisconsin graduate student forward Tyler Wahl opted for a quick 2-point attempt, but Ware challenged the shot and forced a miss, securing the Hoosiers’ victory. 

“This win means a lot,” Ware said. “It’s not even just about me. Tonight we finally got over the hump everybody has been talking about.” 

Ware’s performance stamped another strong showing in a consistent sophomore campaign. Woodson said his contributions have been a pleasant surprise since many considered Ware as a wild card in the preseason. 

“When we brought him on board, we didn’t know what we were going to get,” Woodson said. “We knew he was very skilled, and the word was he didn’t work hard. He, Malik and Mack have had really wonderful seasons for us.” 

Next for Indiana is a road bout at Maryland (15-13, 7-10 Big Ten) on March 3. Ware accomplished team-highs of 18 points and 14 rebounds in the Hoosiers’ 65-53 win over the Terrapins on Dec. 1. 

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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