Wisconsin's reign of terror over the Indiana Hoosiers is officially over. Yogi Ferrell's 25 points and late heroics sealed an upset in Bloomington, as Indiana pulled out a 75-72 victory.
Both teams started out at a blistering pace, with neither team missing a shot until an IU miss with 16:30 left in the first half. Noah Vonleh knocked down a pair of threes early, but that was matched by Traevon Jackson and Frank Kaminsky's strong inside and outside game. After Indiana's miss, Wisconsin went on an 8-0 run, led by Ben Brust and Sam Dekker. But the star of Wisconsin's success in the first half was clearly Josh Gasser.
Gasser has been the key to Wisconsin's success against larger opposing lineups. This will be the third time in conference play he's been forced to match up against a taller opponent (Aaron White, Rayvonte Rice), but offensively, he's handled whoever guards him well. His ability to post up guys that are 6'6" and 6'7" opens up Wisconsin's offense in a huge way. Gasser ended the first half with 9 points on 4-5 shooting, with 1 steal that came from a questionable decision by the referee. However, the steal came from Gasser's hustling back on defense after a miss, so you could say he was rewarded for his hustle.
Indiana didn't stay dormant for long in the first half. By the 10:32 mark, they went on an 8-0 run of their own. Their offensive success came mostly from around the basket. We knew going into this game that IU is quicker and better at attacking the rim. But in the past, their ability to attack came from scoring in transition. Often, their half-court offense has lacked identity. In the first half, Wisconsin let the Hoosiers drive to the basket with ease in all aspects. 22 of their points in the first half came from layups or dunks, and the Badgers seemed to leave the lane wide open. Indiana did a great job forcing Wisconsin to switch defensively, leaving slower forwards like Kaminsky and Duje Dukan to guard Indiana's quick backcourt.
While Yogi Ferrell only scored 6 points on 2-9 shooting, he was always around the rim. Will Sheehey also attacked the basket throughout the first half, logging 8 points, with 6 of them coming around the rim. As Wisconsin cooled off and Indiana continued to bombard the Badgers in the paint and in transition, the game turned in the Hoosiers' favor. For the last 4 minutes of the first half, the Badgers never held a lead of more than three. Even though Wisconsin maintained a 35-34 lead entering the half, it was clear that Indiana discovered the best way to attack the Badgers.
As the second half began, it became a battle between the two point guards. Traevon Jackson and Yogi Ferrell traded buckets for the first 5 minutes, but Jackson looked very impressive. He looked confident and poised as he scored the first 9 points for the Badgers in the second half. All of his jumpers came off the dribble, and he looked in rhythm on each of them. When Trae is cooking, the Badgers can't be beat. Jackson's hot start and some threes by Brust and Dekker, coupled with Indiana's lack of ability to knock down open jumpers, helped Wisconsin extend their lead.
The Hoosiers started to crawl back around the halfway point in the second half. 6 straight points, including 4 points off layups around the rim, decreased Wisconsin's lead to 52-48. The Badgers didn't help themselves by missing 3 straight from behind the arc. The momentum really shifted after Yogi Ferell was fouled on a jumper off the bank from midrange. While he missed the foul shot, Vonleh grabbed the board and laid it back up. On the Hoosiers' next possession, Vonleh laid it up again to give the Hoosiers their first lead since the 17 minute mark of the first half.
A Sheehey three put the Hoosiers up 59-57 with 7 minutes left. While Wisconsin started to cool off as the half dwindled down, the Hoosiers continued to dominate with a 19-5 run. The Badgers crawled back, but Yogi Ferrell came on extra strong late in the game. His outside shot didn't fall all game until 2:42 left, when he hit a big three to give the Hoosiers a 68-65 lead. A Ferrell jumper stretched the lead to 5, but a Kaminsky putback off a Dekker missed three kept the lead to 3. Yogi Ferrell looked fantastic in the second half. After he was benched earlier in the second half, he responded ever so clearly with an excellent performance in what is becoming a breakout year.
In a strange turn of events, Tom Crean took Vonleh out with just over a minute left. In response, the Badgers went right to Frank Kaminsky, who couldn't be guarded by his smaller opponent. His 3 point play with 1:08 decreased the Hoosier lead to 1. After a goaltend by Kaminsky, he grabbed an offensive board and laid it up with 29 second left to keep it a 1 point game.
Since Wisconsin only had 5 fouls in the second half, they needed two intentional to force the Hoosiers into a 1-and-1. Ferrell knocked down both of those free throws to maintain 75-72 Indiana lead with 18.1 seconds left. Wisconsin missed all their last-chance attempts to tie the game late, and Indiana locked up the upset.
So the Badgers' streak of dominance over the Hoosiers is finished. The Badgers have some work to do defensively with defending quicker guards who attack the basket. But that's not to take away from Traevon Jackson's great performance. He put up a career-high 21 points, and played one of the best games I've seen from him. However, the Hoosiers took care of the ball (only 9 turnovers) and made big shots late. They earned a hard-fought and resume-building victory. But they really messed up their court-storming. I'm no sports curmudgeon, and I love a good court-storm, and couldn't care less about the "pedigree" of Indiana and how they're too good for storming the court. But they didn't commit to it! It's got to be all-in, and the student section's lackadaisical jaunt to the floor seemed improper.
In the grand scheme of things, this isn't the end of the world for Wisconsin. There was no way in hell that Wisconsin was going to run the table, especially in Big Ten play. Wisconsin's schedule doesn't get any easier, as they host the Wolverines on Saturday. If they don't improve their transition defense, that could be an equally tough matchup as well.