BLOOMINGTON – They booed Wisconsin's Mike Bruesewitz as if he were a movie villain. Even with the game over and the Assembly Hall mystique shattered, the fast-dwindling crowd vented on the Wisconsin senior forward.
Bruesewitz waved with a smile and did his nationally televised interview.
He had earned the spotlight with his 10 points and tough-minded play. So had the Badgers, who now have the Big Ten lead all to themselves at 4-0.
They had beaten surging Indiana in Assembly Hall. Tuesday night's 64-59 victory showcased all the attributes that makes Badgers coach Bo Ryan the most successful Big Ten coach (based on winning percentage) in conference history. They won with defensive consistency, offensive efficiency and an ability to make the No. 2 Hoosiers blink on their home court.
“We try to take away giving up easy baskets,” Ryan said. “Everybody in the country says that, and then you've got to do it. Our guys have bought into that, especially (Tuesday night) because Indiana is that good. They can run it right down your throat. They can get a 100 on you. They have the potential to do that.”
Call it potential unfulfilled.
“They were making tough shots as the game went on,” IU guard Victor Oladipo said. “If that's how it goes, that's how it goes. We just have to bounce back, and work on it.”
Work comes while knowing Wisconsin buckled the Hoosiers' pressure defense with dribble penetration and clutch shooting. The Badgers shot 45.1 percent from the field, including some under extreme defensive pressure.
“In the second half they made some shots, especially at the end of the shot clock,” Crean said. “It reminded me of the McDonald's Michael Jordan/Larry Bird H-O-R-S-E commercials. When you get momentum going, it's amazing what can happen.”
What happened was Wisconsin (13-4) won its seventh straight game. It also has won the last five times it's played at Assembly Hall, and has beaten IU 11 straight times overall in the last six years.
All the Hoosiers (15-2, 3-1) could do was stew.
“We didn't defend the dribble well enough,” sophomore forward Cody Zeller said. “We didn't make enough shots. That's what it boiled down to.”
Indiana was held 28 points below its national-leading average. It shot 37.0 percent for the game, 26.9 percent in the second half.
The Hoosiers won the rebound battle 37-28, and that mattered as much as Kim Kardashian's love life.
For the second straight game they had just one assist in the second half. They had six turnovers in the final 20 minutes, 11 for the game.
Beyond that, the Hoosiers couldn't dictate pace, even when they pressed full court to try to hurry Wisconsin out of its deliberate style.
“You have to bring some fatigue and speed to the game,” Crean said. “They were trying to play a game in the 50s. That's the way it is. That's what works for them. We didn't want to play that way.
“I'm not as concerned about our scoring, but when we missed shots, we didn't have that, 'We're going to get it done.' Because you've got to guard them and guard them for a long time.”
Zeller led the Hoosiers with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Christian Watford had 11 points and five rebounds. Oladipo had 10 points.
Wisconsin slowed down the Hoosiers' full-throttle pace in the first half, but had no answer for Zeller, who was 8-for-8 for 18 points along with three rebounds. The Badgers countered with balance, building leads as large as five points before a late Watford three-pointer gave Indiana a 32-31 halftime lead.
The Hoosiers had a third straight uninspired start to a second half, and Wisconsin made them pay. Zeller missed his first five shots. IU had no assists in the first eight minutes. The Badgers got three-pointers from Sam Dekker and Bruesewitz and surged ahead 47-39.
With less than 10 minutes left, the Hoosiers trailed 51-41.
It was time for a surge of their own. They cut the lead to six points with seven minutes left. It was four with 5:15 remaining. It was one with four minutes to go thanks to a Ferrell three-pointer, and then a pair of Watford free throws.
IU desperately needed a stop. Instead, Wisconsin's Ryan Evans hit a jumper despite fierce defensive pressure from Oladipo. Traevon Jackson, the son of former Ohio State standout Jim Jackson, hit another jumper. Just like that, the lead was five, at 58-53.
Bruesewitz clinched it by hitting three of four crunch-time free throws while the crowd chanted air ball, a reference to his badly missed three-pointer early in the game.
By then it didn't matter. Not for the Hoosiers, anyway.
“We weren't consistent," Crean said. "Some guys played too rushed. Some guys didn't cut and move the way we needed to move. You need to do that just to move the defense.
“I am concerned we're not cutting enough right now, back cutting, just reading in certain situations. Guys like Will (Sheehey), like Victor, like Christian. You have to do a better job of just moving."
IU's next chance comes Sunday at Northwestern.