Badgers ready for raucous road environment at Indiana
MADISON, Wis. — The loudspeakers inside Wisconsin’s Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion worked overtime Sunday night, with fake crowd noise piped into the gymnasium at a migraine-inducing decibel level. A tactic typically reserved for football practice had come to the basketball court, and the message from Badgers coach Bo Ryan was clear.
When No. 3 Wisconsin (16-0, 3-0 Big Ten) travels to face Indiana (11-5, 1-2) at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Assembly Hall, players had better be prepared for one of the loudest venues in college basketball. The arena, which seats 17,472 people, will be filled to the brim for a game that could help define the Hoosiers’ season.
"The idea is to just have the five guys on the floor communicate as best as they can," Badgers forward Duje Dukan said. "Not only that, but you’re not going to be able to hear much. You’re not going to be able to hear each other. So just to keep your head on a swivel and realize that you’ve got to look out for yourself, as well as the team, because it’s going to be tough to communicate with everybody on the floor when it’s so loud."
Rarely in recent memory has Ryan used the noise technique during practice. Dukan, a fourth-year junior, said the only time he recalled Ryan doing the same thing came two years ago before Wisconsin played at North Carolina.
On Sunday, coaches had to stand directly next to players to be heard. The noise played as the team scrimmaged, shot free throws and worked 3-point shooting drills. When a team manager turned the music off near the finish, Ryan ordered the noise to be cranked up before Traevon Jackson’s free throw, which ultimately ended practice.
"A couple of guys said they had headaches," Ryan said.
The atmosphere inside Assembly Hall will be nothing new to most of the team’s regular rotation players. A year ago, unranked Wisconsin upset then-No. 2 Indiana 64-59 to continue a remarkable run of success against the Hoosiers. UW has won 12 straight games against Indiana, equaling the most consecutive wins against IU by any team in its history. Hoosiers coach Tom Crean has never beaten Ryan in 10 tries since he took over the IU program.
Those are just a few morsels of motivation for Indiana.
"They’re a good team," Badgers assistant coach Lamont Paris said. "They’ll be so prepared. They have so many reasons to want to play extremely hard against us. We beat them last year at their place when they were No. 2 in America. We beat them so many times in a row. They need a signature win. They have every reason in the world to play as hard as anyone’s ever played."
Indiana did not begin the season with the same type of expectations as last year’s team. And many college basketball fans likely wrote the Hoosiers off entirely when they barely escaped LIU-Brooklyn by a point in the second game of the season. But IU has steadily improved and is coming off a 79-76 road victory against Penn State in which the Hoosiers trailed by 15 points in the first half.
"Their record might not be the same as it was last year, but teams get better," Ryan said. "Their comeback against Penn State — Penn State’s really tough at home. They didn’t waver. They did what they had to do to come back. So that shows they’ve matured already. It’s not like we have the most experience in the league, that’s for sure. But Indiana’s a good team. We know it, and we know what we’re going into."
Indiana point guard Yogi Ferrell leads the team in scoring (17.5 points per game) and assists (4.2). Freshman Noah Vonleh (12.3 points) and senior Will Sheehey (10.8 points) also average double figures in scoring.
The Hoosiers average nearly nine more possessions per game than the Badgers — 73.1 to 64.4 — and will try to outrun an unusually dynamic Wisconsin team capable of winning games in multiple ways.
Crean said he didn’t think the speed of Wisconsin’s offense was any different from previous years but noted how well this year’s team shared the ball.
"They’re not an above-average passing team," Crean said. "They’re a great passing team. Where they are so efficient and where they have hurt us in the past and where they have hurt so many others is when the game gets into rotation, and you’re constantly helping and over-helping or trying to stop the dribble or stop this or stop that, they are such a great passing team.
"They not only make the next pass but the pass after that and, need be, the pass after that. It’s the old Pete Carril comment that the quality of the shot is directly related to the quality of the pass. And that’s exactly what you see with Wisconsin."
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