Wisconsin’s game against Indiana Thursday night was a tale of two halves.
The Badgers went into the locker room at the half only up 31-30 against a Hoosiers team at the bottom of the Big Ten with a 1-11 conference record. Indiana was able to hang in the game mainly due to a first-half 18-10 advantage in points in the paint. The first nine minutes of the second half consisted of an 18-4 run by Wisconsin. The difference between halves?
“We reiterated what we were trying to accomplish and had better results in the second half,” UW head coach Bo Ryan said.
Better results may be an understatement. UW outscored Indiana 37-21 over the final 20 minutes, in part by improving their first-half field goal percentage from 39.3 percent to 60.9 percent for the second half. Ryan deferred much of the difference between halves to UW’s increased efficiency on the defensive side.
“You know, we really didn’t do anything different,” Ryan said. “We did it better. We’ve got some older guys, so maybe the learning curve with those guys — kind of like maybe they can relate to a game where this happened, that happened, and I know that’s what (Indiana head coach) Tom’s going through with his young team.”
Two of the Badgers’ veterans — junior Trevon Hughes and senior Joe Krabbenhoft — were instrumental in UW’s second-half run. In the first five minutes of the second period, Hughes and Krabbenhoft accounted for six points and three rebounds. Hughes finished with 21 points and Krabbenhoft with 18, showing that the Badgers were able to make the adjustments they needed at halftime.
“We got after each other in the locker room, teammate to teammate,” Krabbenhoft said. “They were getting too many easy shots. … You can’t give a team that kind of confidence, especially early in the game. But we said we’ve got 20 minutes to redeem ourselves, to go out there and not give them anything easy. … In the second half, we did a great job.”
In addition to shooting better themselves, the Badgers forced the Hoosiers to shoot only 27.8 percent from the field in the second half. Indiana head coach Tom Crean believed both factors combined to put the Hoosiers in a hole they couldn’t claw out of.
“I’m sure it was both. I think [the Badgers] did a very good job,” Crean said. “They played like a veteran club, and we played like a bunch of rookies.”
One of Indiana’s rookies — junior college transfer Devan Dumes — was limited to 12 points, which was under his team-leading average of 13.8 points per game. Verdell Jones III, who led the Hoosiers with 10 points in the first half, was limited to only six in the second. The Badgers’ veteran players stepped up and reversed the season trend of going into the break with a lead and watching it fade in the second half.
Letting late leads slip away was a big problem during the Badgers’ earlier six-game losing streak. UW had a 14-point lead late in the game against Minnesota and allowed the Gophers to come back and win in overtime. Against Iowa, they forced overtime on a late 3-pointer by Jordan Taylor, but were unable to capitalize on their momentum in the extra period. Maintaining the lead was something Krabbenhoft thought the Badgers needed to do against a pesky Hoosiers squad.
“I thought we did a good job when we got a nice lead, a comfortable lead [to finish strong],” Krabbenhoft said. “It wasn’t so much on the offensive end, but defensively we stuck to our rules and didn’t let them get any easy ones. Indiana’s great at that, they keep hanging around, they never … quit fighting, and you’ve got to give credit to Indiana because they gave it their best and some of their shots just didn’t fall.”