1. You cannot afford to make mistakes against any Wisconsin team, and Indiana made a few too many of them.
Since the last time that Indiana lost this season, on Dec. 2 to Duke, a Hoosier team with a different attitude has taken the floor. For the most part, that was the case tonight - this did not feel like the same team that took the floor in Durham. That being said, the issues that the Hoosiers dealt with before and even during the 12-game win streak manifested themselves tonight. Defensive pressure, turnovers, letting the opponent get easy buckets, getting outmuscled in the paint, bad inbounds plays late in the game - hearing about the problems with IU basketball in the past two years sounds like a broken record at this point. And we saw all of this more often tonight than we had since early December. But a little of this goes a long way, especially against a Wisconsin team on their home court, where as we all know by now, IU has not won since 1998. In fact, that last win for Indiana in Madison was Wisconsin's first-ever loss in the shiny new Kohl Center.
After the Northwestern game, Tom Crean remarked that the team had cut down on turnovers after he introduced suicide sprint drills called "17s" to practice. Unfortunately, after a 19-turnover performance, it looks like Indiana will once again be running.
2. Yogi Ferrell had a tremendous game, one that should put him on the map nationally. But he can't do it all.
Aside from maybe Providence's Kris Dunn, there is not a better point guard in the country than Yogi Ferrell right now. When IU is in a struggle,Yogi knows when and how to take over a ballgame. Four years as the starting point guard on a B1G program will help a guy do that. And tonight, Yogi came up big for the Hoosiers, with 30 points, including 5-6 from downtown, along with 7 boards. But college basketball is not an individual game - if so LSU would probably be undefeated right now, right, ESPN? - it's a team sport with five players on the court at all times. Troy Williams and Thomas Bryant helped out on the offensive end, making all of their free throws and scoring 15 and 16 points respectively, but on the other side of the ball, they were not as productive (we'll get to that in a moment), whereas Yogi shut down Broson Koenig all evening.
With that being said, Yogi can't be forced to keep playing Kobe-type Heroball games if Indiana wants to keep making a run at the conference title, and the Hoosiers' shooting and defense has to improve outside of the friendly confines of Assembly Hall. Because as good as Yogi is, he can't do everything.
3. Wisconsin played a two-man game in the frontcourt, and the Hoosiers couldn't adjust.
In what might be even more impressive than the 12-game win streak, Indiana played their first seven conference games without giving up over one point per possession on defense. That ended tonight, as the Badgers averaged 1.09 PPP against Indiana. This primarily was due to Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ, who dominated the frontcourt and scored 56 of Wisconsin's 82 points (with 31 and 25, respectively).
Hayes, a starter on last year's team that made the title run and beat undefeated Kentucky, showed how important his experience on a team that made two straight final fours has been for Wisconsin. Hayes took control on offense for Wisconsin, especially in the second half, and found his way to the foul line for a whopping 22 free throws (we'll get to that next).
As for Happ, he has had the unenviable task of replacing Frank the Tank up front, and today, he more than seemed up for this challenge. He worked the offensive glass all night against Thomas Bryant or Max Bielfeldt, and the Hoosiers could not provide any answers for the redshirt freshman.
4. Officiating was a disaster (and it went both ways)
I don't like to comment too much on officiating, especially as a fan of Indiana, whose building has often been nicknamed the Hall of Calls. But I felt compelled to tweet this early on in the game:
Kohl Center? More like the Call Center. As in Wisconsin gets all of them, am I right? Thanks— Crimson Quarry (@crimsonquarry) January 27, 2016
It didn't get much better from there, as IU was called for 31 fouls all evening, while Wisconsin only got 17 called on them. Now I expect a little home cookin' in every home venue - in the first matchup, Wisconsin got 21 foul calls while IU only had 16 on them - but mannnnn, that's a pretty huge margin. On the whole, the Badgers shot 19 more free throws as well. On the other hand, Indiana benefited from some very questionable calls as well - including a phantom foul against Zach Showalter at one point and a possession late in the game in which Ferrell appeared to travel but was not called for it. Overall, this will not be a night that Pat Driscoll and crew remember fondly.
5. Don't listen to the national media - Indiana is fine.
Folks got riled up over this tweet, and rightfully so:
Indiana loses to an 11-9 Wisconsin team that was under .500 in the Big Ten. Jury still out on the Hoosiers.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) January 27, 2016
We know that the author of this tweet likes to troll fanbases - ask any Louisville fan how they feel about Goodman and their responses will not be kind - so he knows exactly what he's doing here, and Twitter is the type of platform to provoke these arguments. But 140 characters can't take into account that Wisconsin has seemingly turned things around right now - they've won three straight after losing to Northwestern, who Indiana beat by 32 just this past weekend - and that they have another good home win under their belts against Michigan State. With their next games against Illinois, Nebraska, and OSU, the Badgers also have a chance to make a little run in conference play as well.
And if the "jury's still out" on 17-4 Indiana, then it has to be out on most teams in the country - Duke lost again last night, Kansas has 3 conference losses already, Sparty is .500 in the conference, Kentucky lost at Auburn - you can go on and on with these arguments. March Madness is several weeks away and every team still has a lot of basketball left on their docket - for IU, that's still 10 more games. A loss in the Kohl Center won't make or break any conference title chances for the Hoosiers.
And hey, check out those B1G standings! Indiana is still in second place at 7-1 in the conference, still in front of every team except for Iowa.
On Saturday, the Hoosiers return home to face a Minnesota team that Indiana struggled against in the Barn, but still has yet to win a conference game. Hopefully it is a get-well game for IU, because after the Gophers, the meat of the conference schedule begins, with Michigan, Iowa, and MSU all coming in a 12-day span in early February.