INDIANAPOLIS -- Even though Bankers Life Fieldhouse was packed nearly to capacity for No. 4 Wisconsin's showdown with No. 5 Indiana it's unlikely anyone in the stadium could have predicted what they were about to see.
Reserve guard Rob Wilson had a game to remember, carrying the Badgers to a 79-71 victory by pouring in a career-high 30 points and going 7-for-10 from 3-point range. Wilson, a senior, battled injuries and inconsistency for much of his time at Wisconsin, but earned a spot in the rotation in his final year as a Badger thanks to his sweet shooting stroke and smooth athleticism, both of which were on full display Friday.
"You always want to go out with a bang, but it's that time of year when every team in the country steps it up and every player steps it up," Wilson said. "So that's what I did---stepped up as a senior's supposed to."
Wilson's performance was so remarkable, it overshadowed what was an incredibly exciting game from start to finish.
In front of a crowd consisting of at least two-thirds Indiana supporters, both teams got off to quick starts in a first half that featured nine lead changes and plenty of scoring. Centers Jared Berggren and Cody Zeller traded blows throughout the first half, finishing with 10 and nine points respectively. Wilson added 10 of his own before the break, helping hide the lack of production from Jordan Taylor, who was just 2-of-9 in the first half, missing several shots at the rim on his way to a 12-point performance.
Despite a bit of a lull in scoring towards the end of the half, the Badgers held a 36-31 lead at the break and never trailed again thanks to Wilson. Indiana head coach
"Every time we were close to getting momentum going back our way, they made a big play, and it was usually Rob Wilson making that play," Crean said.
With 15:41 left, Indiana guard Victor Oladipo made a free throw, cutting Wisconsin's lead to one. Wilson answered with threes on two straight possessions. With 13:03 left, Jordan Hulls hit a jumper and cut the lead to one again, only to have Wilson hit another three just 17 seconds later. Again and again, Indiana closed the gap, and again and again, Wilson answered.
His last three, which came at the end of the shot clock with less than a minute left in the game, was the final dagger in Indiana and the exclamation point on one of the more memorable performances by a Badger in the Big Ten Tournament.
Wilson and Taylor had never won a game at the Big Ten Tournament in their careers as Badgers before Friday. While the soft-spoken Wilson was mostly reserved in his comments after the game, his fellow senior put Wilson's big game in perspective.
"I think Rob, he's a scorer. He can put it in the hole and he showed that tonight," Taylor said. "I'm just happy for him, so happy it almost feels like I had 30."
Bo Ryan, who is now Wisconsin's all-time wins leader after win No. 266 Friday, also had high praise for Wilson.
"Needless to say, we had a player who was in the zone and his teammates found him and he worked hard to get open," Ryan said. "I think Rob has really stepped into his own here at the end of the year and I know his teammates are thankful."
- Ryan was less complimentary of Wisconsin's defense, saying his team "did just enough to get by" defensively.
- Jared Berggren (16 points, nine rebounds) and Ryan Evans (12 points, six rebounds) also had solid games for Wisconsin
- The Badgers take on No. 1 Michigan State at 12:40 CT tomorrow afternoon.