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Wisconsin 69, Indiana 60: Hoosiers lead for most of the game but can't finish.

Indiana's performance against Wisconsin was encouraging for most of the night, but the end result was the same: a loss that dropped IU to 1-5 in the Big Ten.  Certainly, IU played much more effectively than could reasonably have been expected.  Sixty percent shooting in the first half allowed IU to lead for nearly all of the first half and for much of the second half.  Wisconsin was effective offensively all night, and also was helped by 16-17 from the free throw line, but IU held its own for much of the game.  Jordan Hulls showed some of the aggressiveness that fans have been asking him to show, and with good results.  IU stuck around for the entire game, but Wisconsin never relinquished the lead after retaking it about halfway through the second half. 

The main storyline of the game is that it seemed that every time IU had the momentum, either Jordan Taylor or Jon Leuer hit a big shot that quelled an IU rally or brought the Badgers back within striking distance.   Taylor finished with 28 points on 9-15/3-6/7-7.  Leuer added 20. As one of the commenters in a previous thread pointed out, IU allowed 5 and-ones last night.  I suppose the response to that is the idea that if we are going to foul, we need to FOUL.   On the other hand, I mentioned in the preview that Wisconsin presented a physical mismatch in some respects, and those three point plays probably were a function of that in some degree.

There are some encouraging signs coming from this game.  IU was more aggressive on offense, scored pretty effectively against a very good defense, turned the ball over only 7 times (12.5 percent in a 56 possession game, second best percentage of the season), and played better against Wisconsin than in any game against the Badgers since 2008.  Still, it's a loss, and whether we get to count this game as progress depends on what follows it.  IU plays next on Sunday afternoon, at Iowa.  Iowa is the worst team in the conference by record and by rating.  We won't be favored on the road, but it's a winnable game and one of the few decent opportunities remaining for a road win. If the Hoosiers play the way they have played in the Michigan and Wisconsin games, then they will have an excellence chance to win at Iowa.  If they backslide, then it's back to square one again. 

Individual performances of note:
  • Jordan Hulls scored 16 points on 7-12 from the field, including 2-4 from behind the arc.
  • Verdell Jones III had a similar line, scoring 15 on 6-12 plus 3-4 from the line.  Jones also had 6 rebounds.
  • Tom Pritchard made his only field goal attempt and had 6 rebounds.
  • Christian Watford struggled a bit, scoring 10 points on 4-11 from the field. 
Also, unlike in most games this season, IU didn't go terribly deep into the bench.  All of the starters played at least 26 minutes, and only Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, and Derek Elston played more than 10 minutes off the bench.

Well, it's time to get ready for Iowa.