CRAWFORD | The scout: Indiana at Wisconsin, TV, line, 3 things t - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | The scout: Indiana at Wisconsin, TV, line, 3 things to watch

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WDRB photo by Eric Crawford. WDRB photo by Eric Crawford.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- There is no substitute for experience. In some ways, the No. 17-ranked Indiana University basketball team continues to be viewed through the prism of one bad experience -- a 94-74 loss at Duke on Dec. 2.

It was a bad day. Duke was able to do whatever it wanted on offense. Indiana's defense looked as bad as it has looked all season. It happened.

This also has happened -- Indiana hasn't lost a game since.

Who's to say that the Hoosiers didn't need that game, that game video, that hard knock, to learn a lesson, or at least take to heart the things coach Tom Crean was telling them about defense?

In 12 games since -- all victories -- no Indiana opponent has come within even 20 points of the 94 Duke scored that day.

Still, nationally, many seem to still be in a wait-and-see mode with the Hoosiers. Tonight's game at Wisconsin is one they've been waiting for. The Hoosiers haven't won at Wisconsin since Jan. 25, 1998, a run of 13 straight losses.

But at 7-0 in the Big Ten, coming off an historic 103-69 win over Illinois in which they made a Big Ten-record 19 three-pointers, the Hoosiers now are showing off a different kind of streak. Their 12 straight wins give them the second-longest active win streak in NCAA Division I, and the longest in Power 5 conferences. They're a difficult-to-fathom 32 of 64 from three-point range over their past two games.

But it's on defense where the real progress has been made. In Big Ten play, their opponents are averaging four more turnovers than their season averages when they play the Hoosiers.

I want you to think about these numbers: In Big Ten play, Indiana ranks first in the league in defensive efficiency. They rank third in steal percentage. They're second in percentage of turnovers forced. That's leaving aside what they've been doing offensively.

The last frontier for Indiana may well be ball security. The Hoosiers still rank last in the Big Ten in their own turnover percentage, and turnovers helped put them behind by nine in the second half before they rallied late for a 59-58 win in their earlier meeting with Wisconsin.

A closer look at the matchup:

Time: 7 p.m., Kohl Center, Madison, Wisc.

TV: ESPN (Bob Wischusen, Dan Dakich and Allison Williams).

Series: Indiana leads 96-69.

Line: Indiana by 1 1/2, under 141 1/2.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:

1. CAN INDIANA PROTECT THE BALL? Wisconsin, especially at home, is not going to get involved in a game with a ton of possessions, so the possessions you get, you'd better not squander. The Hoosiers need to enter this game with the right mindset, of running good half-court offense, of not reacting to Wisconsin's deliberate style by rushing themselves, and by showing good offensive discipline.

In Big Ten play, Wisconsin's defense leads the league in opponent turnover percentage, so this will be a key.

"We have got to do a much better job with the turnovers than we did the last time against them," Crean said. ". . . They never beat themselves so you have to execute and defend with a real purpose and energy."

2. THE HOOSIER DEFENSE GETS A TEST. Wisconsin won't be sped up by an opposing defense, and the Badgers don't take bad shots. Because Wisconsin has the longest average possession length in the Big Ten, and among the longest in the country (21.1 seconds per possession), great discipline is required for a defense to keep working until the end of the shot clock.

It's something Crean said he's been stressing this week.

"They do a tremendous job getting to the foul line and getting the ball inside," Crean said. "We have to do our work early defensively and be committed to the whole possession. Nigel Hayes can hurt you so many ways and they all play off of each other very well. When you have guys like Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and the other guards who get guys great looks, you can't let them just pick you apart. Our ball pressure and help defense will be really tested."

3. SCOUTING THE BADGERS. It hasn't been the kind of season they've been accustomed to, especially coming off back-to-back Final Fours. The abrupt resignation of Bo Ryan didn't help. But the Badgers have put together back-to-back wins, upsetting Michigan State at home 77-76, and winning at Penn State 66-60. Their record (11-9, 3-4) isn't going to blow anyone away, but according to RPI they've faced the nation's sixth-toughest schedule, and their four Big Ten losses have come by an average of just 3.8 points.

Hayes and Koenig are the major threats to deal with. Hayes is averaging 16 points per game in Big Ten play, and Koenig is a dangerous three-point threat, 16-of-38 from three-point range in his past six games. But freshman Ethan Happ is steadily emerging into a larger role for the Badgers. In Big Ten play, Hayes is being used on 29.05 percent of Wisconsin's possessions, with Happ at 26.84. Their scoring rates per 40 minutes are nearly identical, while Happ is rebounding it better and has more steals and blocks.

Happ hit the game-winner to beat Michigan State, then No. 4 in the nation, then had 20 points and 11 rebounds in the win over Penn State. He's been the Big Ten Freshman of the Week in back-to-back weeks, and leads the conference with 7 double-doubles.

Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said he's expecting to encounter a more confident Indiana team than he saw in the first meeting.

"They're very aggressive to the glass in how they spread you out and obviously they're a threat to shoot threes," Gard said. "The avenues they come to the glass with, you know, what they've done to Illinois, Northwestern and Ohio State there at home; obviously it's just been a landslide, an onslaught. Definitely a more confident team, a team that's grown individually and collectively over the last two or three weeks since we saw them."

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