BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana found themselves leading by nine and holding all of the momentum against No. 24 Wisconsin, but another late collapse by the Hoosiers keeps their NCAA Tournament hopes in the balance.
Indiana gave up a 12-0 run and hit just 1-of-14 field goals over the final 10 minutes leading to a 60-56 loss to Wisconsin, giving the Badgers at least a share of the Big Ten title.
“It’s just a really hard-fought game that’s going to come down to a few plays that you’re going to look back on and wish you had back,” Indiana head coach Archie Miller said. “But in a game of inches, you have to make those winning ones, and Wisconsin did.”
Indiana (19-12, 9-11 B1G) came out the gate looking to prove that they belonged in the big dance. Seniors Devonte Green and De’Ron Davis started the contest and carried the Hoosiers to a 20-13 lead at the second media timeout. Green scored 13 points while shooting 5-of-8 from the field and 2-of-3 from the three-point line.
“I’m always feeding off the energy in our building,” Green said. “Our fans always bring it, they make it easy for us to feed off their energy.”
Green finished with 16 points on the afternoon.
Davis only had four points in his first start of the season, but it was his presence in the paint and hustle that sparked the early lead. The Park Hill, Colo. native’s size matched well against Wisconsin redshirt junior Micah Potter. Davis’ presence and size forced Potter into tough shots around the rim limiting the Badgers’ leading scorer to just five first half points.
Both seniors played limited minutes in the second half and the Hoosiers had to find other sources of offensive production. Green was favoring his left ankle during the second half after he landed awkwardly in the first. Meanwhile, Wisconsin went on the attack around the rim and with their size, were able to disrupt Indiana on both sides of the floor.
Freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis scored just six points on the night on 2-of-8 shooting and junior Justin Smith went 3-of-7 with seven points. However, it was not just those two who struggled, Indiana’s big men went a combined 8-of-25 shooting at 32%. As a unit, the Hoosiers shot 14-of-43 on just two-point shots.
“There’s no magic wand to score on 6-10 or 6-11,” Miller said. “We just couldn’t convert. Inside the paint, the percentage is what it is. We didn’t finish.”
Wisconsin (21-10, 14-6 B1G) not only hurt Indiana inside but outside as well. Redshirt junior Aleem Ford shot 3-of-5 from the three-point line with junior Nate Reuvers adding two shots from deep as well. The Badgers’ balanced attacked brought them back into the contest and left the Hoosiers scrambling to pull out the victory.
“That’s the way Wisconsin has won eight in a row,” Miller said. “They make threes. They got a difficult style to play against and defensively, they keep their bigs back and they make things hard.”
Another second-half collapse to the Badgers now puts Indiana in a difficult position when it comes to NCAA Tournament discussion. Multiple projections have Indiana in the field while others feel they have still not done enough to make it.
The Hoosiers have nine quadrant one and two wins and are ranked 51st in the NET. They have beaten teams who are going to be in the field like Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa. The Hoosiers had the chance at a huge resume win against Maryland, but inconsistencies let that game slip away like on Saturday. A win against Wisconsin may have put Indiana in for sure, but the only thing they can do now is just get wins.
“If you have a strength of record of Top-25, you had a good schedule and you beat good teams, you should be in the tournament,” Miller said.
Indiana is seeded 11th in next week’s Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis and will play Wednesday night against Nebraska. The Hoosiers have struggled recently in the conference tournament as they have not moved past their first game since 2017. History is not on Indiana’s side, but this is their last chance to prove that they belong in the field of 68.
“We got a lot of good wins,” Miller said. “Played in an unprecedented season in the Big Ten in terms of the depth, and when you have that many teams competing for the tournament, 12, most of the year, and you beat each other up, my hope is that they just don’t take it for granted how hard it is to win in the league.”