When the IU men’s basketball team defeated then-No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers 75-72 on Jan. 14, it was the Badgers’ first loss of the season.
That loss was the first of three straight by Wisconsin, and it began a stretch that saw the Badgers go 1-5 over the course of its next six games.
Since losing to Ohio State at home Feb. 1, Wisconsin has won its last five games, including back-to-back road wins against ranked teams in Michigan and Iowa.
Now, after earning its first victory in nearly three weeks time, IU (15-11, 5-8) will face Wisconsin (22-5, 9-5) at 9 p.m. tonight.
Junior forward Frank Kaminsky has played a pivotal role in Wisconsin’s recent success. He averaged 13.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game this season, but those figures have jumped lately.
During Wisconsin’s five-game winning streak, Kaminsky averaged 15 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
In his two most recent games, he averaged 23 points and nine rebounds per contest.
Kaminsky has proven this season that he has a balanced offensive game, from an ability to post up, shoot 3-pointers and drive to the lane. It’s his driving that has impressed IU Coach Tom Crean.
“He’s literally taking the ball from the 3-point line and getting all the way to the basket,” Crean said on Monday’s Big Ten Coaches Teleconference. “The shooting is there, the post-up is there, without question, but the driving game is something that obviously they are spending a lot of time on.”
In his last five games, Kaminsky has shot a blistering 60 percent from the field, including 82 percent from the foul line, each better than his season averages.
In his first game against the Hoosiers, Kaminsky recorded 11 points and nine rebounds, going 5-of-7 from the field.
In his 29 minutes of action, Kaminsky mostly matched up with freshman forward Noah Vonleh.
Vonleh finished that game with 10 points and five rebounds on 4-of-5 shooting from the field.
Sophomore guard Kevin ‘Yogi’ Ferrell said it has been more than just Kaminsky scoring for Wisconsin during its winning streak.
“No matter who is on the court for Wisconsin, they are a threat to score,” Ferrell said.
“They play hard and rebound. They have shot the ball extremely well, especially from the outside so we have to take away their open jump shots.”
Ferrell is right. During its winning streak, Wisconsin has averaged 73.4 points per game.
When compared to other Big Ten teams in conference play, the Badgers’ scoring output in their last five games would rank second in Big Ten play.
Much of this has stemmed from the maturation and play of Kaminsky, who averaged just more than 10 minutes per game last year.
Crean said Kaminsky has spearheaded Wisconsin’s current hot stretch.
“(Wisconsin) is playing with extreme confidence,” Crean said. “They are shooting the ball at an amazing rate right now, with the way they are shooting it from three.”
“The way they are getting to the foul line and the way Frank Kaminsky is playing, in the sense of getting so much off the dribble and at the rim, not just with his 3-point shooting, which is obviously a big weapon, but also with the way their perimeter is shooting the ball.”