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Wisconsin defeats Indiana in OT behind Nigel Hayes, Ethan Happ

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The Badgers and Hoosiers engaged in an epic overtime battle on Tuesday at the Kohl Center. Nigel Hayes, Ethan Happ and company made sure Wisconsin was going to emerge victorious.

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Badgers, no stranger to close contests, found themselves in another game that hung in the balance as the game's closing minutes wound down.

Caught in another wild, back-and-forth battle, UW interim head coach Greg Gard opted to keep his game plan simple: Get the rock to your best player.

"Get the ball to Nigel (Hayes) and get out of the way," Gard said. "That was the play call."

The Badgers got the ball to Hayes and ensued to get out of the way.

The result? Hayes scored 31 points and sunk 11 consecutive free throws down the stretch to fuel an 82-79 victory in overtime for the Badgers (12-9, 4-4) over the No. 19 Indiana Hoosiers (17-4, 7-1) Tuesday night at the Kohl Center.

It was Hayes that took over for Wisconsin in the game's waning moments, but he wasn't alone in bullying the Hoosiers. Ethan Happ made 10 of 15 field goals and scored a career-high 25 points while Jordan Hill provided a spark off the bench with 13 points.

Wisconsin has now won 14 consecutive home games against the Hoosiers, a streak that dates back to 1998.

After Hayes tied the game at the free throw line twice in the game's final minute, Yogi Ferrell, noted late-game Wisconsin abuser and scorer of 30 points on this night, missed an off-balance shot at the regulation buzzer to send the game to overtime.

In the extra period, Indiana simply couldn't contain Hayes. Well, they could, but it required committing foul-after-foul.

The junior forward buried six free throws, including two with 3.7 seconds remaining to give Wisconsin a three-point lead. The Hoosiers turned the ball over the ensuing in-bounds pass to secure the Badgers' second consecutive victory over a ranked opponent.

"I try to say this as humbly and respectfully as possible," Hayes said. "I've got this mindset that I feel like I'm the best player on the court and no one can guard me."

It was already a spectacular performance from the duo of Hayes and Happ, but Wisconsin really started to rely on the former's broad shoulders in the final two minutes of the second half.

Up by two points, the Badgers lost Ferrell in a set of off-ball screens and the All-American candidate made them pay by hitting a three pointer with 73 seconds remaining in regulation.

From there, Hayes was fouled with 46.6 seconds to play, calmly stepped to the line and hit both free throws to tie the game at 69.

If Gard's strategy was to get the ball to his best player down the stretch, Indiana head coach Tom Crean was of the same mindset. Predictably, Ferrell got the ball on the other end and beat Happ on a cut to the basket for an easy layup with 22 seconds left.

Likewise, Wisconsin went back to its star. Hayes drove toward the baseline and and drew a foul on Troy Williams with the game clock reading 9.7 seconds. Once again, he buried both free throws to tie the game at 71.

As Ferrell drove the length of the court with a chance to win the game, the Badgers countered with the 6'8 Hayes defensively.

"We switched that intentionally, to get Nigel onto Yogi," Gard said. "That's two really good players in this league going at it.

A ball fake drew Hayes into the air, but the Hoosiers point guard did not draw any contact to merit a foul as his off-balance, one-handed leaner from the baseline was well off.

In overtime, the Badgers made only one field goal: a Happ spin-cycle layup to put them up 74-71. From there, Hayes drained four foul attempts and Wisconsin had a chance to put the game away with Bronson Koenig and Hill at the line.

The pair, however, both split their two free throws and a Ferrell three pointer made the situation tense once again at 80-79 in favor of the Badgers.

No surprise here: the Badgers in-bounded the ball to Hayes, who was fouled and proceeded to hit both free throw attempts. The fate of any desperation shot Indiana could muster with just over three seconds left on the clock, as the in-bounds pass went to Koenig, who cradled the ball until the buzzer sounded.

"They kept fighting, they kept battling away," Gard said of his team's grinding effort.

In the first half, Wisconsin bullied the Hoosiers inside to fuel a 13-2 run that gave them a 35-27 lead. Seven consecutive points from the visitors over the half's final 52 seconds cut the Badgers lead to 35-34 at halftime.

Hayes scored 12 points and Happ added 11 to lead Wisconsin through the game's first 20 minutes. Ferrell led all scorers with 13.

Coming out of the half, the Badgers returned the favor. It truly was a spectacle to behold: first, there was the Happ steal and one-man fast break that ended in a layup. That was followed by a Vitto Brown three pointer off a Zak Showalter offensive rebound to put Wisconsin up 40-34.

The Hoosiers regained the lead at 47-44, but a Hill three gave the Badgers the lead again, 50-49.

Shaky performances from Wisconsin's two starting guards made Hill's 32-minute performance off the bench even more crucial.

Koenig scored four points on 1-for-9 shooting and Showalter played only 20 minutes with foul trouble, failing to score. Hill, meanwhile, hit all five of his field goals, including two threes, and caused issues for the Hoosiers with his defense.

"I just played aggressively, and believed in myself," Hill said. "It's really that simple."

Over their current three-game win streak, the Badgers have attempted 108 free throws. On Tuesday night, they put up a season-high 37 of them.

"They're real committed to going inside, there's no question about that," Crean said.

Gard noted that he hasn't gone to visit Wisconsin football coach Paul Chryst to talk about playing physically, but with the way things are headed for this Badgers team, maybe Chryst could learn a thing or two from his counterpart.

Wisconsin shot 52.1 percent (25-48), with 36 of its 54 points off field goals coming in the paint. Indiana, which came into the game third in the nation in scoring and second in offensive efficiency, went 45.2 percent from the field.

The Badgers scored 1.079 points per possession, compared to the Hoosiers' mark of 1.040.