Tom Crean and Indiana upset third-ranked Wisconsin Tuesday, silencing the critics that said Crean could not beat Bo Ryan.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – Don't let the story of what really happened in Assembly Hall Tuesday night get buried by the righteous critics railing that the Indiana University students were out of their adolescent minds for rushing the court after the Hoosiers toppled third-ranked Wisconsin, 75-72.
Don't miss the real story:
Indiana coach Tom Crean outcoached Bo Ryan as clearly as I've ever seen the Wizard of Wisconsin outmaneuvered. He beat Ryan's best team with an Indiana team still figuring out how to replace four 1,000-point scorers.
Crean isolated his leaner and faster guards against the Badgers' lumbering backcourt and had them attack the rim over and over and over. Ryan did not have an answer. Unless a shrug counts. Indiana shot layups and dunks. Lots of layups and dunks, 14 in the first half before the Hoosiers eventually scored 52 of their 75 points in the paint.
Everybody knows you're supposed to make Indiana shoot jump shots. Evidently Ryan didn't get the memo. Crean aligned his guys to show two things Wisconsin does not have: athleticism and a shot-blocker.
"We noticed they weren't really helping off," said IU point guard Yogi Ferrell, who scored 25 points while taking 24 shots. "We just wanted to go to the rim."
"He was unguardable getting to the basket," Crean said.
Crean wasn't finished. He also shuffled his lineup – and his defenses. He benched the guys who were careless with the basketball or refused to defend. Jeremy Hollowell did not leave the bench for the second straight game. Troy Williams played four minutes in each half. They had been starters.
There's more. Crean sat guys who started settling for jump shots in the second half, including center Noah Vonleh and Ferrell, his best players. He played the guys who were determined to get to the rim. Ryan's guys could not stop them from getting there.
Check the video. You'll see freshman Stanford Robinson (5 of his 13 points) and Ferrell (9 of his 25) blow by Wisconsin for layups or fouls as IU outscored the Badgers 14-11 in the final four minutes after the game was tied at 61.
The exception? A step-back three-pointer that Ferrell made after missing his first seven shots behind the arc.
"I felt like most of my threes kind of felt good," Ferrell said. "They just weren't going in. So if I had to make one three, I was glad it was that last one."
Crean played some crazy lineups. When Indiana was down 10 with about 13 minutes to play, here are the five guys Crean had on the floor: Will Sheehey (the only starter), Hanner Mosquera-Perea (who averages less than 4 points), Evan Gordon (a fifth-year transfer from Arizona State), Jonny Marlin (a 5-foot-10 walk-on) and Austin Etherington (who averages less than 2 points).
"You've got to make moves in the game, see what happens," Crean said. "Some work, some don't (like a last-minute switch of Etherington for Vonleh that annoyed the crowd and resulted in a three-point play). Bottom line is we persevered."
Indiana, now 12-5 and 2-2 in the Big Ten, did more than that. They won a game the wise guys said they had a 25 percent chance of winning. Wisconsin came into Assembly Hall billed as the best team Ryan has coached during his 13 seasons in Madison – and he's had some great teams. Indiana arrived as a team on the outside of NCAA Tournament discussion because the Hoosiers had not beaten anybody better than Washington.
And Indiana won.
On a night when Wisconsin made its first seven shots. A night when the Badgers surged ahead by 10 points more than six minutes into the second half.
You're not supposed to shoot 51.6 percent against a Bo Ryan defense. The Badgers started Big Ten play by beating Northwestern, Iowa and Illinois – and none of those three teams made 40 percent of their shots against the Badgers. Florida, maybe the best team in the SEC, shot 40.4 percent while scoring 53 points in a loss to Wisconsin.
You're always supposed to commit more turnovers than the poised Badgers. But that didn't happen either. Not because the Badgers were careless. They weren't, turning it over only 10 times. But Indiana, a team that threw the ball away 20 times against Kennesaw State, turned it over nine times against Wisconsin.
For months Crean has had to listen to the chirping that he would never beat Bo Ryan – never mind that he had beaten him three times when Crean coached at Marquette and the talent level between the two programs was equal.
That wasn't the case at Indiana. Ryan hammered Indiana and Crean relentlessly – winning 12 straight in the series and 10 against Crean teams.
Make sure you check the fine print. Six of those losses occurred when Crean was trying to put the IU program back together from NCAA probation. Four seasons ago Ryan came into this building and won by 32 points – and had two starters on the floor with less than four minutes to play. That was the night Crean was in the locker room before the final buzzer, dismissed with two technical fouls.
When Wisconsin popped an Indiana team that featured Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo twice last season – once in Assembly Hall and again in the Big Ten Tournament – the whispers became a roar:
Will Indiana ever beat Wisconsin?
This win does not mean that Indiana has arrived or that the Hoosiers will make the NCAA Tournament or that they will beat the Badgers during the rematch in Madison Feb. 25. The Hoosiers are a bubble team. They were always supposed to be a bubble team this season.
It just means this: Indiana is improving. Freshmen like Robinson and Vonleh are starting to play like sophomores. Ferrell looks like the most dynamic point guard in the Big Ten. Sheehey looks like a leader. Crean shook effective minutes out of a dozen guys
Two weeks ago Indiana could not run an entire layup line without kicking the ball into the bleachers. Now Crean has shaken and stirred his lineup, rewarding the guys who understand the value of protecting the basketball.
The Hoosiers have rallied from 15 behind to beat Penn State and from 10 behind to beat Wisconsin. They still have considerable work to do but they have more confidence that they can do it.
"We're not going to sit and watch this tape and have a pizza party and get some ice cream and say, 'Wow, we couldn't have played any better,'" Crean said. "We're not.
"I'm not upset about it. I think we've got a lot of potential, but you coach this game expecting to win it."
And Crean coached it well enough to beat Bo Ryan, the master of the Big Ten, and Wisconsin Tuesday night.