Defense propels Badgers' victory
Despite going 4 for 17 from three-point range, Wisconsin fell back on its defense to beat No. 16 Indiana, 57-50, on Thursday.
Ben Brust scored 13 points and Ryan Evans added 12 for the Badgers (17-5, 6-3), who have won their past five games—including road victories at Purdue and Illinois.
"We just had to keep believing that we have a good team," forward Jared Berggren said. "We really believe that. Despite the struggles at the start of the Big Ten, we knew what we had here. We knew we had guys that weren't going to give up easy."
Now, Berggren said, the Badgers believe they are back in the Big Ten title race.
"I just like the grit in this group," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.
Verdell Jones and Christian Watford scored 12 points each for the Hoosiers (16-5, 4-5), who have lost four of their past five games. The Hoosiers snapped a three-game losing streak with a victory at Penn State on Sunday.
The Badgers have won nine straight over Indiana.
"They play at a snail's pace, and you've got to steal possessions against them," Hoosiers coach Tom Crean said. "We struggled getting those balls."
Berggren had a career-high five blocks, leading the way in a strong defensive effort against Indiana standout freshman forward Cody Zeller.
"Jared did a great job on Zeller," Taylor said. "He's obviously one of the best players in the country, and what Jared was able to do was impressive."
Zeller scored seven points on 2-for-7 shooting.
"I had to limit his touches, and just try to battle with him," Berggren said. "Just try to make everything difficult for him, and I was able to come up with a couple blocks."
Jones didn't score in the second half.
Mike Bruesewitz and Taylor had 10 points each for the Badgers. Taylor shot 5 for 14 from the field.
"Obviously I didn't shoot the ball that great," Taylor said. "I'm not too worried about that. Like I said, any time you cannot shoot the ball well and go out and get a win against a really good team is always fun, especially a team like that, that has so many scorers, to hold them to 50 points. That's pretty impressive."
With Wisconsin leading 49-48, Josh Gasser found Bruesewitz open inside, and he slammed it home with both hands for a 51-48 lead with 2:47 left.
Then Watford missed two free throws—but he got another chance after Wisconsin lost the ball. He hit a long jumper in transition, cutting the lead to one with 2:05 left.
Evans then came up with a critical rebound and was fouled. He made two free throws to put Wisconsin up by three with 1:04 remaining. Coming out of a timeout, Zeller missed inside for the Hoosiers.
Taylor missed but Bruesewitz came up with a rebound and was fouled. He hit two free throws to put the game away.
Indiana came into Thursday's game shooting 50 percent from the field this season, best in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, has been even more reliant than usual on 3-point shooting. When the Badgers are on, they're tough to beat—and when they're not, they have typically struggled, although they turned that around Thursday.
Indiana played to the scouting report in the first half, shooting 50 percent from the field and taking a 27-25 lead. Wisconsin was 2 of 8 from 3-point range in the first half, with Taylor going 0 for 3.
There was a fair amount of NFL star power in the stands, as Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt and former Green Bay Packers right tackle Mark Tauscher—both former Badgers—attended the game.
Watt probably appreciated the defense.
"When shots aren't going down, you've got to rely on your defense a little bit," Berggren said. "We did a pretty good job of being able to do that tonight."