Team basketball has been the hallmark of Wisconsin Badgers basketball for the last 17 years. It paid big dividends on Friday night in the Big Ten tournament as the Badgers beat the Indiana Hoosiers 70-60 in a quarterfinal matchup.
What else would you expect from the Badgers against Indiana and Tom Crean? The win gave UW it’s 18th in the last 21 against the Hoosiers and advanced the Badgers to the semi-final of the Big Ten tournament.
UW had five players go for double figures, led by Bronson Koenig’s 16 points. He got plenty of help along the way, including a double-double from Ethan Happ (14 points, 12 rebounds).
After struggling with early foul trouble, Nigel Hayes poured it on in the second half, ending the game with 10 points and nine rebounds of his own. Those three were joined by two unlikely double-figure scorers, as Zak Showalter (11) and D’Mitrick Trice (13) added key points.
Wisconsin has struggled to get much out of its bench this season. That changed on Friday night in the Big Ten quarterfinals, as freshman point guard D’Mitrick Trice went off. He put up 13 points, hitting three triples in the process.
It was really a game of role-reversal, as the Badgers flipped the script on IU from deep. Wisconsin shot 45 percent from deep (10 of 22) and made more three-pointers than the previously red-hot Hoosiers.
Could Indiana continue its hot shooting from beyond the arc, was one of the big questions entering this game? After hitting 12 triples in a dominating win over Iowa to open its Big Ten tournament journey, the early answer was yes.
The Hoosiers started off the game on fire from deep, hitting 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. It didn’t last though and IU ended the half missing its last four shots from three-point range and made just nine three-pointers for the game.
Much of that came in desperation time, as Wisconsin took full control of the game in the second half.
As the Hoosiers’ three-point shooting cooled, so did the rest of the offense and they ended the first half shooting just 35 percent from the field. Wisconsin countered by shooting 50 percent (13 of 26) and putting forth a huge team effort to get it done.
No Badgers player got to double figures, Nigel Hayes played just four mints thanks to early foul trouble and Indiana had 10 second-chance points — yet UW was up six at the half.
No player was as big a surprise in his importance to this game than Trice was.
With IU up 16-13 with 13:01 to play, he stepped up and hit a triple on the Badgers’ next possession. It was 16-16 and while the Hoosiers re-gained the lead quickly, Trice’s shot from deep opened the flood gates from beyond the arc.
The Badgers hit three of its five made three-pointers in the first half after Trice’s big make, as UW went in to the half up 33-27.
Not much changed early on, except for the emergence of Nigel Hayes, who spent most of his time on the bench in the first half. He had all 10 of his points in the second half and seven of his nine rebounds as well.
That was coupled with the hot hands of Koenig and Trice, who didn’t cool off much from deep.
Wisconsin stretched its lead to as many as 14 points at the 13:52 mark of the second half. However, the Hoosiers weren’t going to go completely away and when they got hot it was Trice who had the big answer once again.
Indiana had cut the Badgers lead to just nine points with 8:55 to play, but Showalter hit a triple to put that lead back to 12 points and Trice put something extra on the lead with another triple on UW’s next possession to make it 57-42 with 8:14 to play.
A combination of bad shooting and good rebounding by the Badgers allowed them to slow the game down, get multiple possessions deep in to the shot clock and ice away the game.
It was only natural that Wisconsin’s Mr. Clutch, Bronson Koenig would provide that moment once again. James Blackmon Jr’s three-pointer with 1:21 to play put the Hoosiers down just four points.
Wisconsin went where it always does for big moments, and Koenig came up huge with a crossover and a lay-in on his off-hand as he went to his left to avoid a blocked shot.
That make pushed the lead to 66-60, and four made free throws in a row from Showalter and Trice iced the game away.
Wisconsin will take on the winner of Maryland-Northwestern in the second semi-final tomorrow at 2:30p.m. CT. The other semi-final will pit Michigan against Minnesota in the first game of the day from the Verizon Center.