Indiana is halfway through a crucial four-game stretch that will lead the Hoosiers straight into the teeth of their Big Ten schedule. So far, so good. Sorta. The results have been there — wins over Penn State and Maryland are exactly what IU needed — but the process to claim those victories has been, well, choppy.
Now, Indiana faces what is typically its toughest test of any season: a road trip to Madison, Wis., where IU and No. 8 Wisconsin will meet on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Wisconsin will be playing its first game in seven days after Sunday’s game at Penn State was postponed. So maybe rust will be a factor? The Hoosiers sure hope so! The Badgers are good — really good, which, duhhh. It starts on the defensive end, where Wisconsin is ranked sixth in defensive efficiency, per KenPom. The Badgers are holding opponents to 60.5 points per game, and have only had one true hiccup thus far when they let Maryland get hot in the second half of the Terps’ 71-59 victory at the Kohl Center on Dec. 28.
Wisconsin is one of only two teams in the nation ranked inside the KenPom top 10 for defensive and offensive (No. 8) efficiency. On the latter end, All five Wisconsin starters — D’Mitrik Trice, Aleem Ford, Micah Potter, Brad Davison and Nate Reuvers — are averaging double figures in the scoring column. The Badgers rank eighth nationally in 3-point percentage (41.4%), and they’re averaging 8.7 made shots from beyond the arc per game. Wisconsin also ranks second nationally with 8.3 turnovers per game, and dating back to last season, the program has committed 11 or fewer errors in 29 consecutive games.
Davison is averaging 10.1 points, while shooting 43.2% from 3-point range and 83.3% from the free throw line. Notably, he’s posted a 5.0 assist-to-turnover ratio, dishing 30 helpers against only six errors. At the point, Trice has authored a similar profile thus far, recording 37 assists to just 15 turnovers and posting a 44% mark from 3-point range. He leads the Badgers in points (14.2 pg), rebounds (3.4 pg), and assists (3.4 pg).
Potter is also providing shooting touch, leading the Badgers in field goal percentage (51.1%) and 3-point percentage (44.8%), while averaging 12.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Reuvers recently became Wisconsin’s all-time blocks leader with 160 in his career. He’s averaging 10.0 points and 1.5 blocks per contest, while shooting 45.1% from the floor, 39.1% from 3-point territory and 79.2% from the free throw line. Ford, meanwhile, has scored in double figures in eight of the past 11 games, including five in a row. Ford is 10-for-18 from 3-point range in four career games against IU.
Oh, and as for the series itself:
Wisconsin has won 21 of the last 24 meetings, including seven of the last eight. The Badgers have won 17 straight games against IU at the Kohl Center, the program’s second-longest streak against a Big Ten opponent (Penn State, 19).
Since 2002, Wisconsin is 27-6 against the Hoosiers. Prior to that, IU led the series 90-49.
Things to watch
Playing without Franklin
It doesn’t sound like Armaan Franklin will be available the rest of this week after suffering an ankle injury seven minutes into Monday’s game against Maryland. That leaves a giant hole in Indiana’s lineup, one that won’t be easy for this scoring-challenged offense to fill. As far as the lineup goes, we’re probably looking at Rob Phinisee’s return to big minutes. Phinisee started Monday’s second half and played all 20 minutes of the period.
Free throw success on the rise
Don’t look now but the Hoosiers ... might be getting better from the free throw line? IU is still shooting merely 68 percent from the stripe this season, but the success rate has been markedly better over the three games. Since losing to Northwestern, Indiana is shooting 81% (39-for-48) on free throws. That’s good! Maybe it’ll stay that way. Or maybe it won’t! But it’s worth noting.
Battle on the boards
Wisconsin lost on the glass in its last game against Minnesota, getting outrebounded 39-36. Of those 39 boards for the Gophers, 16 came on the offensive glass. IU, meanwhile, is coming off a game where it overtook Maryland on the glass, grabbing 12 offensive boards and scoring 14 second-chance points.
Game Info / How to Watch
Who? Indiana (7-4, 2-2) at Wisconsin (9-2, 3-1)
Where? Kohl Center, Madison, Wis.
When? Thursday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Channel? FS1 | Adam Amin (p-b-p), Stephen Bardo (analyst)
Radio? IU Radio Network; Sirius 106, XM 196, Internet 958: Don Fischer, Errek Suhr & Joe Smith
Vegas? Wisconsin -6