And the streak continues.
For the 11th consecutive time, Wisconsin has beaten Indiana, with Tuesday’s win coming as the unranked Badgers went into Assembly Hall and knocked off No. 2 Indiana, 64-59. All of a sudden, in the loaded Big Ten, the Badgers are sitting alone atop the league standings at 4-0.
Ryan Evans led four players in double figures with 13 points for Bo Ryan’s club, including the biggest bucket of the game. Indiana had cut a 10 point lead down to one, at 54-53, when Evans was being hounded by Victor Oladipo and hit a ridiculous, 17-foot fadeaway with the shot clock winding down.
After a a turnover from Cody Zeller, Traevon Jackson hit a 12-foot pull-up in the lane to put the Badgers up 58-53. The Hoosiers never truly threatened again.
The biggest change in the second half came on the defensive end of the floor for the Badgers. For the first 20 minutes, Jared Berggren and company allowed Cody Zeller, the Preseason National Player of the Year, to look like he was deserving of being on the NBA all-star team. Zeller played undoubtedly his best half of basketball this season, finishing with 18 points on 8-8 shooting in the first 20 minutes, playing as aggressive as he ever has in a Hoosier uniform.
The second half, however, was a completely different story. Zeller’s first field goal came with less than a minute left on a put-back dunk that cut Wisconsin’s lead to seven points. He missed six straight shots in the mean time, including a couple lay-ups and a couple potential and-ones.
In fact, Indiana’s offense, as a whole, was downright horrendous. They shot 37.0% from the floor for the game, a number that’s no where near as impressive once you factor out the 8-8 that Zeller shot in the first half. Without Zeller’s first 20 minutes, Indiana was 12-46 from the floor.
That’s a cool 26.1%, and you’re not going to win many games that way.
But, frankly, the story of this game isn’t Indiana’s offensive struggles. It’s not Zeller’s second half disappearing act. It’s not even the fact that Wisconsin went into Bloomington and knocked off the No. 2 team in the country in the same gym where Minnesota was losing by 23 points after 20 minutes.
Where did this Wisconsin team come from?
The Badgers are coming off of a 74-51 mollywhopping of Illinois on Saturday. That was their sixth-straight win, but it was the first time in that streak they had beaten an opponent better than … Nebraska? Wisconsin-Green Bay?
This Badger team was embarrassed by Florida earlier this year. They were beaten pretty soundly by Creighton and lost to Virginia at home. They looked downright bad in the loss to rival Wisconsin, and certainly didn’t impress with single-digit wins over Penn State and Nebraska. And then, out of nowhere, they’re blowing out Illinois and beating Indiana in Bloomington?
So, again, where did this Wisconsin team come from?
The biggest improvement is offensively. For starters, Traevon Jackson has been terrific the last two games, averaging 12.5 points and making good decisions. Sam Dekker has 23 points in the last two games, which has also helped out the Badger offense. With more weapons they become more balanced, and Bo Ryan’s swing offense sure does like a balanced offensive attack. And since the Badger’s defense has picked up over the last month or so, it’s only understandable that they would start winning games impressively when they start scoring more points.
Because the bottom line is that Wisconsin is currently leading the Big Ten race. They are alone on top of the standings, a game in front of Indiana. And a game in front of Michigan. And a game in front of Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State, too.
I thought I was smarter than to count out Bo Ryan.
There’s a reason he’s never finished worse than fourth in the Big Ten.
(Photo via Getty Images)
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.