After earning its first conference win of the season Saturday against Penn State, the Indiana men’s basketball team (11-5, 1-2) will face the No. 3 ranked Wisconsin Badgers (16-0, 3-0) tonight at 7 p.m.
Indiana’s struggles against Wisconsin have been well documented. Last season, the two teams faced each other twice, with the Badgers emerging victorious both times. Wisconsin has won 12 straight games against Indiana, and the last time the Hoosiers defeated the Badgers was Jan. 31, 2007.
In the non-conference portion of their schedule, Wisconsin tallied victories against St. John’s, Florida, Saint Louis and Marquette. In Big Ten play, the Badgers edged out Iowa at home later drubbing Northwestern and Illinois.
In each of its 16 games, Wisconsin has used the same starting lineup of junior guard Traevon Jackson, junior guard Josh Gasser, senior guard Ben Brust, sophomore forward Sam Dekker and junior forward Frank Kaminsky. Wisconsin’s starting five scores almost 80 percent of its team’s points.
IU Associate Head Coach Steve McClain said the Badgers’ experience makes Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan’s players a team poised for success in the Big Ten.
“When you’re in the Big Ten and you put five veterans on the court, who have played in this league and been through the battles, you’re going to have an opportunity to be as good as you can be,” McClain said.
“They’re a tough basketball team that passes the basketball and shares the ball. They’ve got a team that Coach Ryan likes to have.”
Dekker leads the Badgers in points per game with 14.3, as well as rebounds, with 6.3 per contest. The versatile wingman shoots 51.5 percent from the field, and his name has been brought up in NBA Draft talks.
Wisconsin enters tonight’s game making 8.4 3-pointers per game, while limiting its opponents to just 4.5. On average, the Badgers are outscoring their opponents by 15.3 points per game, and by scoring almost 12 more points from beyond the arc than their opponents, the Badgers shoot and defend the 3-pointer well.
Wisconsin has seven players who have taken at least 23 3-pointers on the season, in comparison to the Hoosiers’ four. That includes Dekker and Kaminsky, who shoot 34.6 percent and 47.7 percent from 3-point range, respectively.
Freshman forward Noah Vonleh, who likely will guard Kaminsky, said it will be important not to lose Wisconsin’s big men on defense.
“They have a lot of older guys on their team, Kaminsky and Dekker, they can step out, shoot,” Vonleh said. “We gotta communicate well on defense and stay with those guys.”
In addition to its offensive success this season, which, according to Kenpom.com, ranks fourth in the nation in offensive efficiency, Wisconsin is allowing opponents to score 61.1 points per game against them.
Wisconsin holds its opponents to 40.5 percent shooting from the floor, and 30.9 percent from the arc. The Badgers do this without fouling, as opponents average more than 14 free throws per game. The Hoosiers, in contrast, are averaging almost 31 free throw attempts per game.
Wisconsin’s reputation as a defensive team is matched by its ball protection — for the season, the Badgers turn the ball over on average 8.2 times per game. McClain said it is vital for the Hoosiers to control the basketball and make shots rather than turnovers.
“You can’t have empty possessions against Wisconsin,” McClain said. “They don’t turn it over. It becomes a bigger priority every game that we’ve got to take care of the basketball and we did a better job at Penn State.”
He continued by saying the Hoosiers did a good job of taking care of the basketball against Penn State.
“In the last eight minutes we had one turnover,” he said. “You saw a team starting to understand this is how you win. This is how you come back. We’ll continue to get better at it.”
Follow reporter John Bauernfeind on Twitter @JohnBauernfeind.