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Wisconsin 62, Indiana 49.

Here's the box score, and be sure to check out this nice statistical discussion from the Big Ten Chronicle. It's a tough day for Hoosier fans. While I'm trying not to overreact to a loss on the road to one of the best defensive teams (and best homecourt programs) in the country, the nature of the loss is a bigger deal. Certainly, at the beginning of the season, if one were to have predicted a 16-2 conference record, the game at Wisconsin would have been one of the expected losses. So the L itself isn't the concern. I would guess that many conference champions of the last decade have lost in Madison. Still, other than a five minute stretch in the middle of the second half, the Hoosiers were badly outplayed. As BTC notes, this was a slowdown, about 60 possession game, exactly how Wisconsin likes to play. IU managed only .806 points per possession compared to about 1 per for Wisconsin. Wisconsin is a very good defensive team, one of the very best in the country. But IU's .806 offensive efficiency last night is (see Pomeroy) worse than any other Big Ten team's output against Wisconsin (which includes games against Michigan, Iowa, Northwestern, Penn State, and Illinois). IU has the best scoring guard in the conference and the one of the best offensive big men in the conference. Losing at Wisconsin is acceptable, as is IU's 6-1 conference record. But the last two games are a legitimate cause for concern. The Hoosiers are not playing well.
What really nags at me is that we did not see the Badgers' best game. Wisconsin shot only 34 percent from the field and was 3-20 from three point range. The teams shot nearly identically (poorly) from the field. Wisconsin won mostly because they scored from the free throw line and because they took good care of the ball (only 6 turnovers--IU wasn't awful with 12, a hair under 20 percent). The Badgers outrebounded the Hoosiers by percentage 37 to 31, despite excellent individual performances by DJ White and Jamarcus Ellis in that category.
On the individual front:
  • Eric Gordon, playing with a bruised or broken or sprained wrist on his off hand, was awful in the first half but seemed to become more comfortable as the game progressed. He finished with 16 points on 6-14 from the field.
  • DJ White was great. White may well be positioning himself to beat out his teammate for Big Ten MVP. White scored 22 points on 13 shots, including 8-10 from the line, and grabbed 17 rebounds. He did turn the ball over four times.
  • Can't Armon Bassett have an average game just once? Unfortunately, last night Bad Armon made an appearance: 1-7 from the field, 2 points. He did have two assists and no turnovers, at least.
  • Jamarcus Ellis scored only 4 points on 2-6 from the field but managed 13 rebounds, including a tea, high 11 defensive rebounds. His one blocked shot, an out-of-nowhere breakup of a Wisconsin layup, will be a Sportscenter staple for a while.
  • Lance Stemler. 1-6 from the field, 3 points. The reality was even uglier than the stat line. Stemler had some open looks. He not only missed those shots, but on about three of the misses looked about as graceful as a senior citizen pulled out of the crowd for a halfcourt shot promotion.

IU will be back on track with a home win against Northwestern on Sunday, but it's fair to be concerned about this team. Perhaps, given the amount of new blood on this team and a second-year coach, expectations were too high. As I said, losing at Wisconsin is no sin, but we will have to play much better to handle tough-but-winnable road games against Illinois and Ohio State. This season isn't over, and IU can weather a loss on the road against a top program. But this team hasn't shown much growth in recent weeks, and that needs to change before we go to the other Assembly Hall next Thursday.