Johnson’s steal helps IU to 59-58 win over Wisconsin

It was the rarest of victories for this Indiana team — won on a key defensive stop and a string of free throws.

In a forgettable offensive showing from both sides, Indiana used a late steal by Robert Johnson to earn a 59-58 victory over Wisconsin on Tuesday at Assembly Hall.

The win boosts IU to a 3-0 start in Big Ten play — its best since the beginning of the 2012-13 conference season.

With the Hoosiers ahead 55-53 in the final seconds, Johnson snagged the ball away from Wisconsin’s Zak Showalter with 18 seconds left. The steal led to a pair of free throws from Yogi Ferrell and helped the Hoosiers seal the win by a slim margin. Badgers star Nigel Hayes threw in a desperation 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, but it wasn’t enough.

In a poor offensive showing between both teams, Ferrell led three IU scorers in double-figures with 19 points. OG Anunoby added 11 points and freshman classmate Thomas Bryant finished with 10 points and a co-team-high seven rebounds.

After Indiana opened a six-point advantage six minutes into the contest, Wisconsin swung back with a 15-0 run over the next six minutes. It was a span that saw the Hoosiers record more turnovers (eight) than made field goals (six) by the arrival of the under-8 media timeout.

The Badgers rode that critical run all the way to a 28-24 halftime lead, piggybacking on the Hoosiers’ 10 first-half turnovers.

Errors were a problem for Indiana nearly all night, with the Hoosiers squandering possessions and failing to sufficiently overtake Wisconsin due to their 19 tota turnovers. The disparity in foul calls were another source of aggravation for the crowd at Assembly Hall, and by the under-12 timeout in the second half, Indiana had more shot clock violations (one) than it did free throws attempted. The Hoosiers went 10-for-10 at the line, but didn’t attempt their first free throw until the 7:20 mark of the second half.

Indiana trailed from the 12:01 mark of the first half until the 9:51 point of the second, when Ferrell and Anunoby connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to put IU atop 40-34. The Hoosiers carried that advantage forward while the Badgers were mired a stretch of eight minutes without a field goal.

Wisconsin cut IU’s lead to one point on two occasions in the final five minutes, before Nigel Hayes tied the game at 53-all on a pair of free throws with 52 seconds remaining. Ferrell answered with a pull-up on the other end to put Indiana back in front.

And that’s when Johnson emerged with his steal.

With James Blackmon Jr. expected to miss the rest of the season after undergoing right knee surgery Tuesday, Indiana went with the same lineup for the third time in as many Big Ten games — starting Collin Hartman over the injured sophomore guard.

Three days after holding Nebraska standouts Shavon Shields and Andrew White III to modest offensive performances, the Hoosiers watched Wisconsin’s two top options, Hayes and Bronson Koenig, combine to shoot 7-for-25.

This story will be updated.


  1. These kids aren’t playing pretty basketball, but they are holding on to grind out a win. Although they don’t have a real big quality win, they are now 13-3 and 3-0. Starting to get away from the bitterness of the Maui and duke games. They have an extremely favorable conference schedule that would give any team a decent shot. Hopefully they can find a way to build a better chemistry together. I’m sure the conversation will once again turn to a Crean debate, but I’m going to just be content for a win and great record for the kids that chose IU as their school. Good job boys now time to turn it up a notch.

  2. On the Blackmon knee surgery, I haven’t exactly heard what we had repaired and what caused the issue. I may have missed an article on here and I don’t subscribe to the HT. Did I miss something or can someone update me? Thanks in advance. Also, defense showed up tonight while the offense didn’t. I think they are still trying to learn to play without JBJ out there. That may take a few games to get that chemistry figured out.

    1. iuhoosier1992,
      IU has not and will not say what the specific injury is. But Marion Chronicle-Tribune sports editor Matt Wilson tweeted that James Blackmon Sr. told him, “Some people say it might take nine months to recovery from an injury like this, but Vijay was able to recover in five months.”

      Vijay Blackmon had ACL surgery in May of 2014 and returned by the start of high school season in November.

  3. So, they beat Wisconsin @ home…..Yes, it is a win….big deal…give me a break….should have won and been in more control of game….Winning by a point is what IU is suppose to do when Wisconsin has one of its best teams in school history while playing the game at Wisconsin in its arena…..IU is just an average team….

  4. Question to Herald Times sport reporters: Why does Tom Crean walk into the tunnel(where the team comes on and off the floor) when the video prior to I U player introductions is shown??? Did he do this prior to the voice over change?

  5. IU South…Being Wisconsin, maybe that queasy stomach feeling?

    Zero rebounds for Max last night. 24 points scored off 19 IU TO’s. Guess they are missing Blackmon more than I thought they would. Nothing to write home about but seeing some defense shows promise. Having a strong second half is new. Big improvement over the prior 4-5 yrs.

    KenPom #s. IU dropped a couple of places with the win to #26. Wisconsin climbed a couple of places to #53. Based on current standings (KenPom) we beat #’s32, 53, 60, 149 (Nebraska) & 247 (St Johns). IU has won against #’s10, 87 (UNLV) & 91 (Wake Forest). Ohio State currently # 62.

    I believe Nebraska’s coach, Tim Mills (?) can match CTC’s baseline activity. Bobby Hurley may have set the standard. And the IU strength coach on the sidelines, love his energy.

  6. Got to love the high expectations of IU fans when it comes to basketball. Even when we win, many of them are not happy. Even when we begin conference play with three consecutive wins, many are not satisfied. Funny to consider how expectations for IU football are at the opposite end of the spectrum. My guess is that IU will win 21 games this season before the NCAA tournament. If we exceed that, especially now that we’ve lost our top scorer for the season, I’ll be delighted.

  7. The 3 wins are against teams that will finish in the ninth to fourteen in the conference. I guess losing JBJr for the season will be the get out of jail card that CTC needs

  8. IU has started out conference playing the bottom of the barrel. Po, if you’re impressed with double digit wins over these schools, I don’t know what to tell you.

    Rutgers 8 Ls
    Neb 7 Ls
    Wisc 7 Ls

    We’d have more if we didn’t play half our schedule against sub 300 non-conference scrubs.

    21 Wins and getting into the tournament is the new standard for Indiana Basketball? Scott May just threw his new banner at you.

  9. It’s not our fault concerning the “expectations.” It’s not like Wilson could come in and blabber “Because it’s Indiana.” If Wilson says “Because it’s Indiana,” he would have received some very confused faces.

    Crean is the guy selling reunions and humming the ‘Wizard of Oz’. jingle..”because, because, because…..”

    What are we left with now? Nothing but “Because why?” Why so many damn cupcakes? Why huge celebrations and cutting down nets after losses? In the time of “Because” we never did such sacrilegious things for a day at the park….That’s all the sort of “Because” they sell at places like Purdue…

    So blame your own damn ass for the expectations, Mr. Bozo. Why did you sell it if you can’t deliver it?

    And just one other note…We sorta learn from history. Crean’s teams get worse and the season progresses….His ‘Confusion by Design’ begins to get figured out by even the most average of coaches. Losing 6 out of 8 down the stretch last season is the his gold standard….along with not figuring out how to get a team to commit a simple foul in a Wichita State game flushed down the toilet. Why? Because.

  10. Excellent post, Double Down…Loved the Scott May line.

    Did you catch the bit of tension between Abernathy and Buckner with regard to visiting the Hoosiers(at the request of a Crean invitation)…It came shortly after a female reporter asked if any of the ’76 guys were going to the locker room to show their support….My imagination started to get the best of me as I thought of some bizarre possibility of a guy like Podunker being Abernathy’s wife.

    Now I can go to bed happy. Goodnight and good luck.

  11. Part 2…starting around the 4:00 mark. Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s telling. I really don’t know.

    After hearing Buckner’s words at Assembly Hall and in the presser, I came away a much bigger fan of Quinn. Always a fan, of course…But his admiration of Knight and his unashamed devotion, love, and respect sorta got to this old sap. I guess Bobby was not so flawed to ever lose their hearts.

    Still my favorite photo of Hoosier hoops ever.

    Thanks to all for putting up with me.

    Now it’s goodnight and good luck.

  12. From some old timers who saw Buckner play live, they said that if they scored assists in his day like they do now, he’d have assist records that would never be broken.

  13. Double Down, who said I was impressed? I didn’t say I was impressed. I did not even imply that I was impressed. But I’m certainly not upset or disappointed that IU is 3 – 0 in the Big Ten and that this young team defeated Wisconsin for the first time in years. Reading the posts after IU’s win the other night made me look forward to the hysterical vitriol that will explode after this team loses its first Big Ten game. Ironic that I got attacked when I wrote something to the opposite affect after IU Football’s ugly wins over Southern IL and Wake Forest. Double standards thrive in The Hoosier Nation, but the difference in expectations for football relative to basketball is simply amazing! The question is why is that still the case? I mean it’s not like IU basketball has stopped being great in just the last few years. IU basketball has been mediocre for the last 30 years. This year is simply more of the same, so why get so upset after a win?

  14. Starting of 3-0 for the B1G season should have been a no-brainer for a team that was picked to compete for the B1G crown in the preseason. We beat a then 9-6 Wisconsin team at home by 1 point. I’m Jack’s complete lack of enthusiasm.

    While there have been indications of improvement at the defensive end (but hard to tell for sure given the level of competition), this team still has glaring issues that a team with this talent level shouldn’t have. We have some favorable circumstances this year, the schedule and the B1G is generally down. We can sneak by easily. However, I think most people think that with our talent level, we should be smashing through our schedule, instead of single-digit wins versus teams that will probably finish with losing records at the end of the year.

    How are you amazed that the expectations for IU basketball is different than football? If you can’t see the difference in trajectory (one is at a slight uptick and the other is stagnating in the swamp), I’m not sure what I can tell you. I’m not amazed at all.

  15. I’m positive he works for HT. He doesn’t get a chance to watch many games. He’s too busy to understand the difference between football upticks and Crean swamps.

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