This game played out like many expected it would. Low possessions, low scoring, and few turnovers is exactly the type of game Wisconsin plays for. Bo Ryan’s teams have always done three things extremely well:
- They play true “team” defense.
- They take care of the ball.
- They have huge white dudes.
Everybody knew coming into the game that, although IU was the top scoring team in the conference, they wouldn’t be given any easy looks at the rim. That didn’t stop Verdell Jones from taking it right at the Badgers in the first half. He was super-impressive in the first half, to the point where I was screaming at Crean to get him back in the game. For the record, I have never done that in my life. If Oladipo can’t get out of his funk he has been in as of late, Verdell provides the Hoosiers’ only liable penetrator. Verdell played like a senior and was able to turn a lot of his haters to lovers for a brief period. He was shut down in the second half and could easily have been a vital reason for why the Hoosiers came up short Thursday night.
Cody Zeller never got going due to some, quite frankly, horrible calls by the joke they call Big Ten officiating. You could tell he was in no groove and it was never more evident than the air-ball he threw up in the biggest play of the game. After watching this game, Chad Ford may be rethinking about putting Cody so high on his draft board. The Wisconsin bigs, especially Jared Berrgren, stood strong and denied Cody on multiple lay-ups and dunk attempts.
The most impressive thing I found from this game was IU’s defense. Despite some breakdowns late in the game, this was the best team defense I have seen this team play against a team like Wisconsin. The Badgers don’t have the most elite offense, by far, but the Hoosiers showed so much improvement in this game from the Minnesota and Nebraska games. They were rotating so well and made Jordan Taylor’s night one to forget. However, all the positives can be overlooked because of the breakdowns late in the game, like giving Brust open threes or giving up crucial offensive rebounds late in the game.
All-in-all Indiana showed some grit and toughness in a somewhat hostile environment but are still a long way from being a team that can successfully win on the road. The tough part of their conference season is in the rear-view mirror and the rest of the way looks a lot less tough. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to believe this team could win out the rest of their regular season games. Their biggest challenges are gonna be Michigan State at home and Purdue and Michigan on the road, but those are all winnable for this team. The Big Ten is never that giving though, and I don’t expect them to actually win out but the real possibility of it happening is still reassuring.
Team Grade- C+
Looking Forward- Indiana is home Sunday to face the Hawkeyes of Iowa in a game the Hoosiers can’t afford to give away or the wheels may be coming off for this once top-ten team. Iowa is coming off back-to-back close losses to Purdue and Nebraska and I guarantee Melsahn Basabe doesn’t forget the Shee-bagging he got last year.
Photo credit: (AP Photo/Andy Manis)