After a surprisingly successful nonconference run, No. 22 Wisconsin faces a tough challenge in its Big Ten opener when it hosts Indiana on Wednesday night.
Wisconsin (7-1) defeated three previously undefeated teams — including a win over then-12th ranked Houston — to win the Maui Invitational, ground out a gutty 70-66 road win over Georgia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten challenge, and then shot 70.4% in the second half to top in-state rival Marquette 89-76 on Saturday.
“The second half, I thought we did a better job, and even the end of the first half, of slowing down a little bit offensively and finishing better,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said after the Marquette game. “Obviously, we were able to bust the game open and get a good win. I’m proud of our guys. Now we get to get ready to step into league play.”
The Badgers have won five straight since a 63-58 home loss to Providence, in which leading scorer Johnny Davis did not play.
Indiana (7-1, 1-0 Big Ten) is coming off 68-55 victory at home over Nebraska, overcoming an early 10-point deficit in the Big Ten opener. The Hoosiers’ only loss was 112-110 in double overtime at Syracuse on Nov. 30 in the ACC/Big Ten challenge.
The Badgers have won 18 consecutive games at the Kohl Center against the Hoosiers, including 80-73 last season in double overtime.
Davis, the sixth man last season, is the Badgers’ most explosive player, averaging 20.1 points and 5.6 rebounds. The sophomore guard had a game-high 25 points against Marquette and a career-best 30 in the 65-63 win over Houston in the Maui semifinals.
Fifth-year senior guard Brad Davison averages 15.9 points and is 20-for-59 from 3-point range. Seven-foot sophomore center Steven Crowl averages 9.4 points and 5.3 rebounds. Forward Tyler Wahl, the only other returning starter, averages 8.8 points and has a team-high 12 blocks.
Point guard Chucky Hepburn, the first true freshman to start for the Badgers since eventual NBA standout Devin Harris in 2001, has been solid defensively.
The Badgers are holding opponents to just 59.1 points per game and 39.3 percent shooting. Wisconsin averages just 9.1 turnovers per game, seventh-best in the nation.
Indiana averages 80.4 points per game.
Forward Trayce Jackson-Davis leads Indiana with 21.0 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Guard Xavier Johnson averages 10.4 points and has dished out a team-best 32 assists. Forward Race Thompson averages 10.0 points and 8.9 rebounds.
Jackson-Davis had 23 points and 12 rebounds in the loss last season at Wisconsin.
Indiana committed 15 turnovers against Nebraska, but got 26 points from its bench, including 13 from Tamar Bates.
“We came in slow and not really into the game,” Indiana coach Mike Woodson said. “I mean, we were flat, man, and it’s the first time I’ve seen that, and I tried to let them play their way out. You know, we missed some good shots. We had good looks early. But they built I think a 10-point lead at one time, and so I had to change it up, went to the bench and our bench was fantastic tonight coming in.”
–Field Level Media