Image courtesy of The Idaho Statesman
Badgersâ€™ no-name Wilson scorches Hoosier defense
On a night when Wisconsin showcased its traditional, balanced offense, the Badgers were led by the most unlikely of sources. UW had four players score in double figures and was led in scoring by Rob Wilson, who finished with 30 points. For readers asking, â€œWho in the hell is Rob Wilson?â€ Itâ€™s fine; I was doing the same thing throughout the course of the game.
With as many weapons as Wisconsin has, it can sometimes be difficult to account for all of them on the floor at a given time. Tom Crean is fond of saying that the Badgers wonâ€™t put anyone who isnâ€™t capable of making a shot on the floor, but never has that been more apparent than in Wilsonâ€™s coming-out party. Wilson â€“ who had scored 95 points over the course of the season (and actually scored 36 points all of last season) â€“ was effective from the outset, chipping in 10 points in the first half, which more than tripled his 3.1 season scoring average. Wilson though, was nowhere close to finished.
For the next five minutes after the 15:21 mark, Wilson connected on four consecutive three-pointers â€“ each a dagger that answered a Hoosier basket â€“ to help grow the Wisconsin lead from one to seven. Indiana wasnâ€™t deterred, and continued to get good shots from the floor, but they just werenâ€™t able to stop the Badger offense and Wilson in particular.
â€œRob Wilson had his best game Iâ€™ve ever seen him play,â€ Tom Crean said after the game. â€œHeâ€™s their most improved player since weâ€™d played them. But to shoot it like he did todayâ€¦â€ he said as his voice trailed off. â€œWe had guys who played very well and they had guys who played very well but Rob Wilson was tremendous,â€ he continued. â€œEvery time we were close to getting momentum back, they came up with a big play and most of the time it was Rob Wilson.â€
Wilsonâ€™s final stat line: 32 minutes, 11-16 from the floor, 7-10 from beyond the arc for 30 points â€“ all career highs. Sometimes, those nights happen.
Indiana contributors come up short
As outstanding a game as Rob Wilson played, it would be easy for the Hoosiers to shrug their shoulders at a fluky, outstanding individual performance and accept Fridayâ€™s loss as â€˜just one of those things.â€™ To do that though, would excuse too many of IUâ€™s shortcomings that â€“ had they not occurred â€“ would have given the Hoosiers a great chance to win.
Victor Oladipo was expected by most to take on an expanded role in the offense with the absence of Verdell Jones.Â While he did just that, he failed to capitalize on the opportunity as he shot a dismal 2-12 from the floor and scored only seven points â€“ about half of his average since his role expanded after IUâ€™s February loss to Michigan. In fairness to Oladipo, the game seemed to be held hostage to particularly shoddy officiating (one stretch saw three obvious travels on both sides go uncalled, before a Wisconsin player traveled, drew the ire of the crowd and was finally whistled for a violation that had happened three full seconds earlier. Both benches remained livid at the officials throughout the night and Bo Ryan was heard saying that an unnamed official â€œneeded to hang it up.â€ The officiating was deplorable for a conference tournament on both ends of the court. Rant over.), but it seemed that he let the officiating have an obviously detrimental effect on his play, something a mentally tough player cannot do.
Another factor in the harsh loss was Indianaâ€™s uncharacteristic lack of a three-point threat. With less than three minutes to go in the 1st half, Christian Watford buried consecutive threes to cut the Badger lead from nine to three. Those two three-pointers accounted for the entirety of Indianaâ€™s attack from beyond the arc when the game was still in doubt. A Wisconsin team that shot nearly 10 percentage points worse than the Hoosiers from three-point range forced the Hoosiers into attempting 20 fewer threes than the Badgers â€“ a function of UWâ€™s effectiveness and IUâ€™s lack thereof.
â€œAs for me, I was just trying to be aggressive off the pick and roll,â€ Jordan Hulls said after the game. â€œI wasnâ€™t going to shoot threes if they werenâ€™t there. We played hard but need to play a lot smarter too. Switching, closing out with the hand lower than it should be were all problems. We just need to communicate better on the defensive end.â€
Even regularly spectacular freshman center, Cody Zeller, struggled to play a complete game. Zeller tied for the team lead with 17 points, but allowed Jared Berggren to grab nine rebounds and score 16 points of his own. To make matters worse, Zeller grabbed only one rebound of his own.
â€œSome has to do with them shooting threes but a lot to do with me,â€ a disappointed-sounding Zeller said. â€œI have to get lower, crash the offensive boards harder and just give a better effort.â€
They say the first step to improving is acknowledging thereâ€™s a problem, so itâ€™s encouraging to hear Zeller and Hulls acknowledge that the team has things to work on. Losing to Wisconsin in the B1G tournament may have been just what this team needed to remind itself of its weaknesses. Knowing weaknesses and addressing them however, are two entirely different matters and it will be interesting to see if the Hoosiers remain aware of that truth.
Extended rotation requires more contribution, consistency
With the absence of senior Verdell Jones, there was expected to be a void in the Hoosier rotation that multiple players would be called on and have the opportunity to fill. Victor Oladipoâ€™s struggles in this department were documented above, but a few other players were asked to pick up varying degrees of responsibility and took up their tasks with varying degrees of success.
Matt Roth struggled to make a significant statistical contribution mainly because of Wisconsinâ€™s game plan appearing to center on taking away the three-ball. Roth has worked hard to expand his game, but heâ€™s still a fairly one-dimensional player for the most part. Roth has proven himself to be a dangerous weapon this season (even as recently as Thursdayâ€™s contest with Penn State), but one that can be limited with the right amount of defensive planning. If the Hoosiers expect to get much-needed production from Roth in the NCAA tournament, theyâ€™ll need to hope opposing teams donâ€™t plan hard enough for him or make a more concerted effort to get him good looks.
The other main beneficiaries of Jonesâ€™ injury look to be the freshmen Remy Abell and Austin Etherington, both of who saw more of the floor than they had previously. Etherington played only three minutes, allowed a couple of baskets despite strong defensive effort and didnâ€™t make any offensive contribution. Crean said before the game that Etherington would need to be ready though and his lackluster contribution and minimal statistical contribution didnâ€™t exactly inspire confidence. Abell, on the other hand, stepped up to the plate on the offensive end. He knocked down two nice jump shots, drew a couple fouls and made a trip to the line.
He also played out of control at times, and missed a couple of defensive assignments. Even though he is a freshman, heâ€™ll need to clean that up before the NCAA tournament if he really wants to help this team.
All three players detailed above will be asked to fulfill different roles to help the team in postseason play, and will need to play a role if the Hoosiers want to make an impact in the tournament. Consistency is the first step in that journey.