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Indiana vs. Wisconsin recap: Remarkable second half spurs Badgers to victory

A 50-point second half erased a pitiful first half, allowing Wisconsin to claim its sixth straight victory.

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

MADISON -- If only the polar vortex was as easy to brush off as Wisconsin's frigid first-half shooting spell apparently was Tuesday night.

A 15-minute break in the locker room was all it took to warm the Badgers up inside the Kohl Center. Trailing 29-19 on the heels of a dreadful 7-of-27 shooting performance in the first half, UW caught fire right out of the gates in the second, erased the 10-point deficit in just over five minutes and never looked back, racking up 50 second-half points en route to a 69-58 win over Indiana (15-12 overall, 5-9 Big Ten).

"They didn't get down, they didn't go haywire," head coach Bo Ryan said of the mood in the locker room between halves. "The halftime talk had nothing to do with threats, violence, none of that."

Whatever was said, the difference in productivity for No. 14 Wisconsin (23-5, 10-5) was stunning.

In the first half, the Badgers shot 25.9 percent and posted their season-low scoring output for any half. They hit 1-of-10 three-point attempts. Late in the half, UW went 7:33 without a field goal in a stretch that saw Indiana go from trailing by one to leading by nine.

Then UW matched its first-half point total in the first 5:53 of the second half. In total, it hit 13-of-21 shots and 6-of-11 threes.

"Shots went down, that's all you can really say," sophomore forward Sam Dekker (16 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and two assists) said. "In the second half we got some good looks and we put them up with confidence."

All but two of Dekker's 16 points came in the second half. Senior guard Ben Brust scored all 12 of his points after the break. After missing his first four attempts from beyond the arc -- a stretch that put the Hawthorn Woods, Ill., native at one of his last 17 -- Brust canned three triples in a span of 2:02 early in the second half.

"I knew it was only a matter of time," Brust said. "I knew it was going to start but I was like, ‘can it just start now?'" It's good to get a couple to go down and I think it kind of ignited this team."

The final second-half damage: a 21-point scoring edge and a sixth straight win for the surging Badgers.

All five Badgers starters scored in double figures by the time it was all said and done.

While UW was a completely different team half to half, Indiana was about the same. After hitting 12-of-29 shots in the first half, the Hoosiers hit 12-of-28 in the second. Freshman forward Noah Vonleh finished with 18 points (8-of-15 overall), but only two came in the final 16 minutes. Conversely, sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell led all scorers with 24, but 11 came in the final 3:12 with the Badgers leading by double digits. After giving up a whopping 52 points in the paint against in Bloomington, Ind., against the Hoosiers Jan. 14, UW allowed just 22 Tuesday.

"It didn't happen just over the last two days, it happened over time by working at it," Brust said.

Wisconsin struggled to contain Vonleh and Indiana's front line early, particularly after UW freshman forward Nigel Hayes picked up his second foul at the 12:05 mark, but redshirt junior center Frank Kaminsky raised his level of play in the second half and made the favorite for Big Ten freshman of the year work for his points.

"If he was going to score in there it's going to have to be a great move and not just an average move," Ryan said of Wisconsin's interior defense. "I thought we had just enough help in there to keep him from getting a lot of easy baskets."

Nobody will catch the Badgers openly looking ahead to post-season play, but UW got some help Tuesday night when Minnesota posted a 95-89 home win against No. 20 Iowa. That loss dropped the Hawkeyes into a tie with the upstart Cornhuskers for fifth place in the league at 8-6 and leaves UW in third place, a full game clear of Ohio State (9-6) and 1.5 games ahead of Iowa and Nebraska.

The most Ryan would concede with three games left on the conference slate: "This is the time of year when it starts to squeeze a little bit."