WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana rallied back from a 10-point second-half deficit and held on to defeat No. 3 Wisconsin 75-72 in front of 17,472 at Assembly Hall on Tuesday night, ending the Badgers’ streak of 12 straight victories in the series.
The previously unbeaten Badgers fell to 16-1 overall, 3-1 in the Big Ten. Indiana improved to 12-5 overall, 2-2 in the conference.
Indiana fell behind 18-10 early in the first half, but answered with an 8-0 run to tie it. They were down just 35-34 at half and fell behind 52-42 with 13:28 to go, but went on a 12-0 run to erase the deficit and take the lead.
With the score tied 65-65 with 2:53 left, IU sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell hit his first 3-pointer of the night, then followed it with a jumper with 2:05 to go to make it 70-65. The Badgers would cut the deficit to 71-70 with a three-point play by center Frank Kaminsky with 1:08 left, but IU freshman guard Stanford Robinson scored a driving laup to make it 73-70. Kaminsky scored on a putback off a Josh Gasser miss to make it 73-72, but Ferrell knocked down two free throws on the ensuing possession to make it a 75-72 lead. Wisconsin’s Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser both missed clean looks at 3-pointers and Robinson grabbed a rebound to end the game. The IU victory was met by a court storming by the IU students.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Ferrell missed 14 shots including several layups and was frigid away from the rim until the end of the game, but it didn’t much matter. The Badgers couldn’t stop him on the dribble drive and the jumpers he finally did hit were the biggest one of the game. He finished with 25 points and four assists with no turnovers and also hit four of Indiana’s seven made free throws. The Badgers clearly had an off night defensively, but they are still one of the nation’s sturdiest defenses.
Freshman guard Stanford Robinson, who is getting better by the game, simply followed Ferrell’s lead. He was 6-for-10 from the field with 13 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes. The crafty left-hander is getting better with both hands and was almost as hard to stop off the dribble as Ferrell was.
When Ferrell and Robinson weren’t beating the Badgers with the dribble-drive, senior forward Will Sheehey was doing it with back cuts. He finished with 13 points, six rebounds and three assists, hitting an important 3-pointer to give Indiana a 59-57 lead with 7:06 left.
Senior guard Evan Gordon had eight points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals, starting his second straight game in place of sophomore forward Jeremy Hollowell. Sophomore forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea had two points, four rebounds and a block in just six minutes and redshirt sophomore Austin Etherington — aside from a foul on Frank Kaminsky that allowed him a three-point play — was solid in 18 minutes of work.
Wisconsin junior point guard Traevon Jackson scored 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting. Senior guard Ben Brust had 13 points. Junior guard Josh Gasser and junior center Frank Kaminsky had 11 points each and sophomore forward Sam Dekker had 10.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: With Jeremy Hollowell confined to the bench for another night and freshman swingman Troy Williams playing just eight minutes, the Hoosiers became a much-more guard oriented squad. Wisconsin couldn’t keep those guards out of the paint.
Ferrell and Robinson were especially deadly off the dribble, but Gordon was also useful and Sheehey played off of the three of them for backcuts. All of that allowed the Hoosiers to spend almost the entire game there. They scored 52 points in the paint, breaking the 50 mark in that category for the fifth time this season and the first time in conference play. The Hoosiers had scored more than 24 points in the paint in any league game so far this season. The Hoosiers were 4-for-14 from beyond the 3-point arc, but 32-for-62 from the field (51.6 percent). They had just two two-point field goals come from outside the paint.
According to Ferrell, the Badgers for the most part weren’t leaving their men to help off the dribble drive, basically leaving the speedy Ferrell and crafty Robinson one man to beat to get to the rim. They usually beat those men, especially when they forced switches advantageous to their position. Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky switched to guard Ferrell on several possessions early, and Ferrell took him to the rim with impugnity.
After the game, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said that he thought his team played tentative worrying about fouls. It showed. The Badgers only committed 16 fouls and IU only shot 10 free throws. Two of those fouls came in the final minute when Wisconsin had to put Indiana on the free throw line and the Hoosiers weren’t in the bonus yet. Still, they weren’t nearly as physical as Wisconsin teams have a reputation of being.
On the flipside, Indiana wasn’t nearly as careless as they have a tendency to be. The Hoosiers committed a season-low nine turnovers. Wisconsin took advantage of almost all of them, scoring 17 points off turnovers, but Indiana made up for that by not wasting many possessions. It was just the fourth time this season that Indiana had more assists (13) than turnovers (9).
The Hoosiers weren’t great on defense, and Wisconsin got a lot done in the paint as well, scoring 44 points there. The Hoosiers got beat off dribble drives, but more so on backcuts. They overhelped on drives to leave Jackson open, and when they weren’t overhelping, they gave him open looks by going under screens. The Badgers shot 32-for-60 from the field (53.3 percent) and were over 50 percent for both halves. They made their first seven shots of the game.
But Indiana got just enough stops when they needed to have them. They had seven consecutive stops on defense during their 12-0 run to come back from the 52-42 deficit. Evan Gordon got a steal after Ferrell’s 3-pointer to set up the Ferrell jumper that made it a 70-65 game. And, of course, when Wisconsin had the ball with 18.1 seconds left and had all that time to make a game-tying 3-pointer, the Hoosiers fought and defended and eventually got the rebound to clinch it.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: This pretty much changes everything for this team. At the very least it means Indiana coach Tom Crean gets a reprieve from hearing that he can’t beat Bo Ryan. At least until the teams play again on Feb. 25.
If the Hoosiers had not come back from a 15-point deficit against Penn State on Saturday, they could have been facing a downward spiral with the Badgers coming to town and a road trip to Michigan State scheduled for a week from now. The Hoosiers might have been looking at a situation where 1-5 seemed like the best case scenario. Instead, they’re 2-2, they have momentum, they have earned confidence with two double-digit comebacks, and they have a real resume victory. Granted it was at home, but the Badgers were No. 3 in the nation. Whether their ranking was inflated somewhat is hard to tell at this point in the season, but it’s hard to believe they won’t be a Big Ten contender for the rest of the season. If that’s the case, Indiana will be able to point to this game throughout the NCAA Tournament selection process as evidence that they belong in the discussion. And if they can capitalize on this momentum, they could end up with more victories than just this one to point to.
WHO SAID WHAT: From ASAP Sports
Q. I asked the players the same question: What was working for you guys both off the dribble and in play calls and everything getting to the rim? It seemed they couldn’t stop you from getting to the paint and getting to the rim?
COACH CREAN: It was very important we get to the basket. We need to get in the lane whether it’s through the post or the drive. I thought we were good at getting to the basket in the first half, and it was there in the second half and we started to settle. We didn’t come out with five guys having the needed energy defensively that we needed, and we let Jackson get loose after doing a very good job on him in the first half.
Then we started settling for jumpers, and they had sagged their defense some, but that just meant that we needed to reverse it a little bit more.
But we made some changes. We changed our defensive coverages, and when we cut it to 8, I believe, we were playing solid, but with our crowd, went to great. Our crowd was exactly what we’ve become accustomed to them being. We got down, and I know the last couple years we haven’t been in many of those situations. But we got down, and our crowd got us back. I thought that was the absolute turning point in the game because our guys fed off of that.
We had a lot of different lineups out there. It was just a matter of changing the momentum of the game and the crowd did a great job of that in helping us.
Q. You were down 15, at Penn State you were down 10 what’s it mean to your program?
COACH CREAN: To the program? The program has had a lot of big wins. To the team it means a great deal. This is a high‑level winning program long before I came and long after I’m here. To me the team needs this. I mean, we’ve had a long week from Michigan State to Penn State, but we got a lot better. We got a lot better in the last couple days.
It’s just amazing what happens when some real confidence starts to come. It’s still a fight to get them to believe. That’s even because when we got down ten, they’re still not‑‑ they still don’t quite understand. Sometimes they’re down like that when they’re not used to it, and 15 looks like 25 or 10 looks like 20. That’s not true. There are a lot of possessions in the game.
I have great confidence in them, and I hope they looked back and saw that I as a coach and coaching staff we felt like it was just a matter of us stemming the tide. But you’ve got to make moves in the game, see what happens, some work, some don’t. Bottom line is we persevered.
Q. Yogi misses his first seven threes, but as he’s shooting the eighth is there any doubt in your mind that he’s going to make it?
COACH CREAN: I don’t remember that one. I knew that‑‑ I know that he was unguardable getting to the basket. That is the biggest difference there. So the biggest thing is he’s a big‑game player. The last time he didn’t win a championship was his sophomore year. He probably won his conference. He finished as a finalist, right, for the championship at Park Tudor.
So he knows how to win. He’s getting better. I thought he had some carryover on some of the stuff that we wanted to do in this game. Because what we try to keep getting these guys to understand is we’re a concept team, but we’re also very game plan specific. So there are a lot of things that you want to have down that are your concepts, offensively and defensively. But today it was game‑plan specific. And some things for him offensively were game‑plan specific, and he transferred those skills right to the court today after a couple of days. That’s what makes us different.
When he’s attacking and there is no predetermination, when he’s not settling, he’s fantastic, and he made a big, big difference for us tonight.
Q. Stan played a lot of minutes.
COACH CREAN: Yeah, I haven’t really looked at this.
Q. In crunch time it seemed he was attacking the rim.
COACH CREAN: Absolutely, he’s natural at that. He’s got a gift of that, and he’s gotten better with his right‑hand. That’s been a big deal, lot of improvement there. In the beginning he didn’t trust his right hand at all. It wasn’t good enough. Now it’s a lot better, and it’s going to get better.
But he’s got a lot of fight in him. I thought it was a change when we put him in and put him on Jackson. But we didn’t get any momentum because we kept shooting jump shots. We made a couple more substitutions, changed our defense and we took off, so he was a big part of all of that.
Q. How different was this game in terms of the speed, tempo or just overall dynamics from games you’ve had against them in the past and what let you guys get back in when you were down?
COACH CREAN: I think if you look at the numbers going into it there is not a lot different on their time of possession, per se. It’s still around 21, 22 seconds. But they’re so capable. There is nobody on the court. You have to have some risk‑reward. That’s what we did when we got down ten. We had to play the risk‑reward game a little bit with some defense, and fortunately we were rewarded. There are times you can’t‑‑ it’s very hard to double them because they take conventional defense, help and recover, post doubling, and all those things to another level. When you do it, they expose you.
When you look late in the game, and this was one of the biggest things that we showed the team leading up to this game especially last night, how close some teams have been to them and then they give in. They don’t get the switch that they want.
I made a substitution late because we wanted to switch all five with no problem, and they just went right inside to Frank Kaminsky and it hurt us. But the premise was going to be we needed to switch everything. And Austin was playing really well with that and going offense‑defense with Noah.
And after that play I said, Noah, you have to bear down, you have to switch. If they try to iso you, you can’t leave your feet, and they’re good. They force you to change constantly. Unless you are just stellar and having a great night, I don’t think you can beat them one way. I don’t think you can beat them one way on offense, and you certainly can’t beat them one way on defense. Somebody might, but nobody has. We had to mix it up. I think that’s what makes them good, really good.
Q. You come here and your ability to improve in the last four games has been dramatic. You went from 23 to Illinois to 9 tonight. Is that as big an improvement as you’ve seen?
COACH CREAN: Yeah, and they don’t want to turn it over in practice. We’ve changed those consequences a little bit.
Q. Can you share those?
COACH CREAN: No, no, because the moment ‑‑ we’ll take it to another level. No, it’s just there was the elephant in the room was visible for everybody. We were doing pretty good in so many areas, nationally even. Look at how much our shooting had improved over the last few weeks, turnovers were hurting us. We can’t play through them yet.
We’ll get there, but we’re still not going to be good enough to play through them. Look at this: We turned it over nine times and they got 17 points. That’s 11 points off five turnovers. Their numbers ‑‑ and they’re not just doing it to us. They do an unbelievable job turning live ball turnovers into baskets. It’s hard to beat them. They had 12 lay‑ups in the first half; we had 14. They had 11 points off the turnovers, and those are the reasons they capitalize so well.
The bottom line for us is we’ve got to continue to understand that. We’ve moved some people around. We’ve tweaked some sets. We’ve added some things. We’ve deleted some things because this team is just not able to maybe have that freedom at times, certain guys yet. So we had to make some of those adjustments, and you just keep doing that. It’s getting better, and that’s why we’ve won two in a row.
Q. You spoke about confidence and now coming off two Big Ten wins, how do you feel that will transition into the rest of the season?
COACH CREAN: Well, I don’t know. I would hope it helps. It gives you a better understanding. But we’ve got to come back, and if we’ve any different level of feel for Northwestern, they just beat Illinois. I mean any night‑‑ not on any given night, but any night you go into any game anybody can win these games. Home, on the road, it doesn’t make a difference, the league is that good, and that’s why it’s so strong. We’ve got to keep building the confidence of why we’re being successful.
But we’re not going to sit on this tape and sit and watch this tape and have a pizza party and get some ice cream and say, wow, we couldn’t have played any better. We’re not. I’m not upset about it. I think we’ve got a lot of potential, but you coach this game expecting to win it.
I thought, again, I don’t think we get this where we get it without how great our crowd was tonight. I’ve tried to praise the crowd since I’ve been here. I never take them for granted. The crowd’s energy tonight was the best it has been all year, not just opening bell and not just during the‑‑ I’m talking about when we got down, because it won’t be the last time this team gets down. We’ve got to be able to pull through, and the crowd should feel great about what they did tonight.
Q. What’s this say about how far you guys have come in the last few weeks? Not only the wins but the way you’ve played?
COACH CREAN: They’re just getting better. I’m not ready to quantify that and say something miraculous has happened. It hasn’t. There is a lot of room for improvement. When you win them every day, you’re focused on the improvement more than you’re focused on the successes. I think this is great.
The other day really helped change us because two things happened that hadn’t happened. We made a big comeback, okay? 15 points down. We haven’t done that, okay? Then we were phenomenal. I think we executed on ten of our last 11 possessions in the Penn State game whether we scored or got fouled. We hadn’t done that either. So all of a sudden, you get into a game like that, a tough team that everybody has respect for. Our guys have respect for. And you find a way to accomplish two things that you haven’t done. So you can’t quantify that.
But, again, some of that carried over into tonight. Hopefully, we’ll learn more from this and learn more in the next game and continue to have good practices and continue to improve.
Q. You talked about this a little bit with Yogi and obviously people have thought about the young players learning things. But how big was it for him to have those plays down the stretch, considering how much of a role you’ve put on him this year?
COACH CREAN: It was big.
Q. The jumper and the free throws in the end.
COACH CREAN: It was big. Again, we started making a run without him. I think it’s really important that everybody on the team understand that we have to play a certain way. You have to take what the game is giving you. Some nights it’s going to be balanced. I mean, we were ‑‑ Noah had six points at the half. Great example he had 12 the other day right away and everybody was in a post, then he hit a three. And he hits two threes tonight because he was in space. Yet we were getting to the rim and we had 14 lay‑ups. So we didn’t establish the post game because we were driving to the rim, and we had the court spaced. So we were doing good things.
The game is always giving you something no matter who you’re playing, and you’ve got to stay diligent enough to figure that out. Don’t get away from it until it’s not working, then hopefully you have enough other things that you can go to.
That’s what Yogi’s got to continue to grow into, and he is. There is no question about it. Like I said, concept‑wise, and then being game plan specific, without being specific, he did a fantastic job of that tonight. He’s really, really grown as a player, and grown as a leader.
Q. Do you see any parallels between the Penn State win and this win?
COACH CREAN: Oh, man, no, man. I can’t even think like that. It’s so different. This team, like I said in the beginning, the programs have great wins. This team needed this. This team needed Saturday too. The coaches that I heard from the last couple days knew how big a win that is because people know how tough Penn State is. They know how tough it is to go in there and how tough it is to win when you’re down 15, so that was huge. Then coming back and getting this was really good.
I thought they really locked in. You’d like to have more time for Wisconsin, but we didn’t, and it doesn’t matter. You have to come out, and you have to execute. Sometimes you have to make some changes on the fly, and our team is really growing and doing that.
Q. Obviously, Jeremy Hollowell, didn’t play. Is this going to be a long‑term situation?
COACH CREAN: We’ll see. I’ll play him when I put him in. He’s doing a fantastic job. He’s trying to help make sure that he is getting his focused to be prioritized, and then we’ll go from there.
Q. For all three of you, what was working off the rim? They just couldn’t keep you away from the thing?
KEVIN YOGI FERRELL: We just wanted to transition and try to score in the first five, six seconds. Me, Stan, Will, Evan, guys like that bringing the ball up. We just wanted to keep attacking the rim. We noticed they weren’t really helping off. We just wanted to go to the rim.
Q. What was working to cut down on the turnovers?
WILL SHEEHEY: It’s some of the things we work on every day. Just because we had nine tonight doesn’t mean we’re not going to continue to working on it. Really just guys continuing to move the ball, playing smart, and just really playing well here.
Q. What does it mean to finally end the slump you’ve had against Wisconsin from ’07 and to get a big win like this?
WILL SHEEHEY: It’s something we’ve been working for all season. We’ve played some games where we’ve played some tough opponents and haven’t gotten it done. So we knew what it takes. Really we just stuck to our game plan throughout the whole time. Yogi obviously made some big plays. Stanford came off the bench and killed it tonight.
So really if we have guys that are committed to doing what we’ve been doing, committed to the game plan, playing hard, playing smart, we’re going to win games.
Q. Stan, talk about your aggressiveness? It seemed like every time you had the ball you were able to go to the back and it was there for you.
STANFORD ROBINSON: Well, Yogi and Will told me in the beginning of the game that the lanes were open and they told me to just keep going because that’s one of my strong points. So two of my leaders telling me to just keep going, I felt like I had the freedom to just be me.
Q. How much did the energy in the Hall help you guys during the game?
STANFORD ROBINSON: For me, being the first time in Assembly Hall with that atmosphere, I know that helped me personally and then the team as well. It joined us together down the stretch. Because I mean, I’m sure everybody was tired. Just hearing that crowd go crazy like that, I know I got a lot of energy. I wasn’t tired after that one.
Q. What does this performance and the win say about how far you guys have come at the end of the year? What’s it say about what you’ll be able to do in the big dance?
KEVIN YOGI FERRELL: We’ve come very far, had a lot of early losses, but I felt like we learned from that just watching film. We’re going to take this win and be grateful for it. We’ve been working hard in practice, but we’re not going to be content with it. We’ll just be in the gym and practicing because we know we have some tough opponents coming up.
Q. Kind of following that, what’s it mean for this team and what did this team take from Penn State in being able to close that game to what it was able to do tonight make big shots late and free throws late?
WILL SHEEHEY: Yeah, obviously having young guys and getting those games very close and even the way we called it back‑‑ I think we were down 15 twice in that game. Just the way those guys know that you can win games regardless of what the score is really helped us. The more games that they had that are close like that definitely helps those guys.
Yogi and I played in a bunch of games like that, but for the younger guys to know that the game is not over at a certain point really helps.
Q. You missed your first seven threes before you finally hit that eighth one. Any hesitation before you shot that last one?
KEVIN YOGI FERRELL: No, not really. I felt like I was open and pulled it. I felt like most of my threes kind of felt good, just weren’t going in. So if I had to make one three, I was glad it was that last one.
Q. What gave you the confidence that kept you going because for most of the day you were shooting the ball.
KEVIN YOGI FERRELL: I just tried to have an aggressive mindset really. I knew some of my lay‑ups weren’t going to fall early, but I wasn’t going to let that get to me. I was trying to get to the rim and put some points up on the board or kick it out. That’s just the mindset I always have.
Q. The way you played these guys a lot of times, how different was the dynamic and style in any other IU‑Wisconsin game you’ve been in?
WILL SHEEHEY: They’re a talented team. They know what they’re doing, and they stick to their game plan as well. I don’t think the pace of the game was that much different than normal. Maybe they played a little faster, but they really stick to their principles and they do what they do. We stuck to ours today and didn’t try to have one guy take it over or anything. The way the ball moved, it’s tough to be in moving like that.