The Wisconsin Badgers appear to have put aside their late-season struggles.
Despite losing five of their final seven regular-season games, the No. 24 Badgers defeated the Indiana Hoosiers 70-60 Friday night at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. to advance the Big Ten tournament semifinals.
This was the third time Wisconsin defeated Indiana this season and the third time the Badgers held the Big Ten’s highest scoring team at 80.4 points per game under 70 points.
Indiana, the tournament’s No. 10 seed, entered the game after defeating Iowa 95-73 in the quarterfinals. Those 95 points, along with the Hoosiers’ 12 made three-pointers, were Big Ten tournament records.
This was the first game of the tournament for Wisconsin, the No. 2 seed, as the Badgers earned a double-bye.
Wisconsin (23-8, 12-6) used a balanced attack to hold off Indiana (18-15, 7-11) as five players finished in double-digits, led by Bronson Koenig’s 16 points.
Second-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten selection Ethan Happ finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season.
Rounding out Wisconsin’s double-digits scorers were D’Mitrik Trice with 13 points, Zak Showalter with 12 and Nigel Hayes with 10.
James Blackmon Jr. led the way for Indiana, scoring a game-high 17 points following his 23-point effort against Iowa. Juwan Morgan (14 points), Robert Johnson (13) and Devonte Green (10) also scored in double-digits.
Thomas Bryant, who averaged 12.9 points this season, finished with only two for the Hoosiers.
Both teams shot well from the floor, converting over 40 percent of attempts from the field (Indiana 41.1 percent, Wisconsin 47.4 percent) and doing damage from three-point range—Indiana was 9-of-22 (40.9 percent) and Wisconsin finished 10-of-22 (45.5 percent) from outside. For the Badgers, Koenig, Trice and Showalter combined to go 9-of-17 from deep.
Through the first 12 minutes of the game, the Badgers and Hoosiers were locked in a tight matchup featuring eight lead changes and four ties, with neither holding a lead larger than five points.
Over the remaining eight minutes of the half, Wisconsin went on a 14-5 run, heading into halftime with a 33-27 lead. The Badgers started their run scoring nine consecutive points while holding Indiana scoreless for nearly four minutes. The Hoosiers’ 27 points were well short of the 43 they scored in the first half of their win against Iowa.
Wisconsin featured a guard-heavy lineup in the second half with Koenig, Trice and Showalter each playing no fewer than 18 of the final 20 minutes of the game. Trice and Showalter each scored a majority of their points in the second half, with Trice scoring eight of his 13 and Showalter contributing seven of his 12.
However, no Badger was bigger in the second half than Happ, who scored 10 points compared to four and three turnovers in the first half.
Wisconsin went on yet another 9-0 run to push the lead to 47-33 with just under 14 minutes left in the game and later pushed the margin out to 15 points with just over eight minutes remaining.
While Indiana was able to cut into Wisconsin’s lead and pull within four points at 64-60 with 1:22 remaining following a Blackmon three-pointer, the Badgers pushed their lead back up to 10 points where it stayed until the final buzzer.
Wisconsin will next face the winner of Maryland and Northwestern on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CST. The game will be televised on CBS.