INDIANAPOLIS – His first Big Ten tournament victory since 2008 wasn’t the only achievement Bo Ryan left the court with Friday, as Wisconsin’s 79-71 win over the Indiana Hoosiers also made him the winningest head coach in program history.
With the victory, the Badgers will square off with Michigan State in Saturday’s Big Ten tournament semifinals.
Despite playing in front of a crowd that recreated the raucous Assembly Hall atmosphere in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Ryan earned his 266th win with the Badgers to pass legendary coach Bud Foster. Though Indiana never built a lead of more than two and were never up in the final 20 minutes, the Hoosiers climbed within three at the 1:55 mark and refused to let Wisconsin’s hot-handed offense take control.
With just under four minutes on the clock, Hoosiers guard Jordan Hulls sunk a jumper that brought his team within one at 63-62, but Jared Berggren and Rob Wilson quieted the run as UW finally built a substantial lead in the game’s closing minute.
“Every time we were close to getting momentum going back our way, they made a big play,” Indiana head coach Tom Crean said. “And it was usually Rob Wilson making that play.”
Senior swingman Wilson turned into the story of the game – finishing with 30 points on his way to sinking seven three-pointers – but strong, team-wide shooting carried the Badgers through both halves. Finishing 50 percent (13 of 26) from beyond the arc and 48 percent from the field, Wisconsin’s ability to build a rhythm from outside allowed them to push away a talented Indiana squad in the game’s most critical moments.
The Hoosiers matched Wilson and co. with similarly strong shooting numbers, but a pair of blocks inside the closing three minutes by Berggren and fellow forward Ryan Evans gave UW the lift it needed to hand Jordan Taylor his first-ever Big Ten tournament win.
“Both of those turned out to be pretty big plays,” Berggren said. “They were kind of chipping away at our lead and trying to make a comeback, so any time you can get a stop when they’re trying to get a little momentum going, trying to get the crowd back into it, things like that – both of them were big.”
Indiana – powered by three 17-point performances from Hulls and forwards Christian Watford and Cody Zeller – began to chip away at the lead after the midway point of the first half. The Hoosiers went into the locker room down by just five with the crowd growing louder, but it was Wilson who refused to let IU capture the lead.
Though the game often turned into the Rob Wilson show, his open looks outside came as a product of Berggren’s success closer to the hoop. The redshirt junior scored 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting and converted all five of his chances from the charity stripe.
“They did a great job of fighting back. Every time we kind of pushed our lead up, they just kind of threw it right back down to two or three,” Taylor, a senior guard, said. “We did just a good enough job, like coach said, to withstand the runs.”
The Badgers surrendered 71 points to Indiana – the second most any opponent has managed against UW’s stingy defense this year – and struggled to slow down Indiana’s success from the field.
Unlike the first matchup between these teams in late January, Big Ten
Freshman of the Year Cody Zeller found success in the paint and
finished with 17 points. Despite the halftime adjustments Ryan made in
an attempt keep the ball out of the post, the freshman forward made more
than half of his shots from the floor and landed Berggren in foul
However, Wisconsin’s combination of timely stops and dynamic shooting proved to be just enough for a nail-biting victory.
As the Badgers worked the ball around the perimeter, Ryan felt his team’s passes and quick ball movement created high percentage shots.
“I thought our guys moved the ball extremely well,” Ryan said. “Wasn’t that Indiana wasn’t playing good defense, I just thought we made the extra pass several times and I thought guys spaced better than we have in some games. I think that allowed for open looks.”
As the Badgers prepare for a matchup with Michigan State on the same floor Saturday, Wisconsin’s new all-time wins leader believes his team’s ability to win on the road could be key to a championship game run.
“We’ve been pretty good on the road, so I wasn’t concerned about that,” Ryan said. “Our guys have confidence away from the Kohl Center … they believe they can get things done.”