Hayes, Badgers close out Indiana in home win
MADISON, Wis. — Staying close to his man on the perimeter, Ethan Happ anticipated Josh Newkirk’s pass and maneuvered his 6-foot-10 frame right around Indiana forward De’Ron Davis for a steal.
A fluid big man, Happ converted the turnover into a layup on the break for one of the few easy looks that No. 10 Wisconsin had down the stretch in a 65-60 win on Sunday over the Hoosiers.
Happ scored 20 points and gave his team a defensive spark, while Nigel Hayes added 15 and 10 rebounds.
“When it gets late in the game, you’re going to dig deep,” Happ said.
Happ was 8 of 10 from the field to help the Badgers (20-3, 9-1 Big Ten) win their seventh straight game and take sole possession of first place in the league. Maryland’s loss to Purdue on Saturday allowed Wisconsin to take a one-game lead in the conference over the Terrapins.
The steal with 3:33 left was one of two critical defensive plays by Happ late in the game. About a minute later, Happ blocked a shot, corralled the rebound and called timeout just before falling out of bounds to save the possession.
“Thank goodness there are two sides of a basketball (game). We were able to make up some things on the defensive end,” Hayes said.
The 6-8 Hayes joined Happ to give Indiana problems up front. But the Badgers were plagued by mistakes or missed foul shots earlier in the game after building a 12-point lead midway through the first half.
“We wanted to be aggressive, there’s no question about that,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said.
Indiana (15-9, 5-6) stayed within two or three possessions of Wisconsin for much of the final 30 minutes. Newkirk’s two foul shots with 28.6 seconds left got Indiana within 60-57, but Wisconsin went 5 of 6 from the foul line from that point to seal the win.
“When it doesn’t go your way, you can still find a way,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “That’s what good, experienced teams will find — find another way to scratch and claw, and get it done.”
Newkirk led the Hoosiers with 22 points. Thomas Bryant tried to provide balance but was plagued by foul trouble. He scored nine of his 11 points in the first half.
Wisconsin muddled through another poor-shooting day, going 39 percent (19 of 48) from the field. It was the third straight game that an opponent held the Badgers to less than 41 percent.
Crean said he wanted his team to stay active defensively against an experienced and balanced team shooting 47 percent coming into the afternoon.
“You just can’t let them pick you apart with their passing,” he said. “They can rebound, they can defend, but they can all pass — that to me is what sets them apart.”
Indiana has lost 17 of its last 19 games to the Badgers, including 15 straight on the road. The Hoosiers last won in Madison in 1998.
Wisconsin is poised to make a jump in the next AP Top 25 poll on Monday after six top 10 squads lost on Saturday.
“We know it’s hard to win,” Hayes said. “The scary thing is, the smaller the number is next to your name, the harder that games get.”
Indiana: Crean’s club got off to a tough start, overwhelmed in the lane on both ends of the floor. Sloppy play by Wisconsin allowed the Hoosiers to stay close in the first half and get within 27-24 at halftime. Indiana was at its best when it could convert quickly to prevent Wisconsin from setting up its tough half-court defense. Still, it was a very respectable showing for a team without two key players in OG Anunoby (right knee) and leading scorer James Blackmon Jr. (lower left leg).
Wisconsin: The Badgers were most effective when the ball went through Happ in the post or Hayes in the lane. Sloppy ball-handling and a cold stretch from 3-point range helped Indiana get back in the game. Shooting 35 percent from 3-point range for the season entering the afternoon, Wisconsin was held to 24 percent (4 of 17) from behind the arc.
Indiana: Starts two-game home stretch on Thursday with a visit from No. 23 Purdue.
Wisconsin: Visits Nebraska on Thursday.