INDIANAPOLIS—Any time a college basketball player puts up 30 points in a game, he is going to command attention. When that player enters the game averaging 3.1 points per game, attention becomes an understatement.
To be fair, senior UW guard Rob Wilson has averaged eight points over the last four games. Still, even Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan admitted the 11-16 (7-10 3 pt.) shooting performance over 32 minutes came as a bit of a surprise.
“He believes every shot he takes is going to go in,” said Ryan, who became the winningest coach in UW men’s basketball history with his 266th victory in Madison. “But did I see 30? No.”
Aside from Wilson, though, the Badgers impressed in several other aspects in their 79-71 victory over Indiana Friday night at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse.
Wisconsin turned the ball over just seven times, racked up twice as many assists (16) as Indiana and hit 50 percent of their three-point attempts (13-26).
Notably, Indiana freshman sensation Cody Zeller (15.5 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game) managed just one rebound.
Zeller did finish with 17 points, but Ryan thought UW did a good job accounting for the 6’11 rookie.
“Defensively, keep the ball out of the post,” Ryan said. “If you make someone work offensively, they’re not (usually) as effective defensively.”
That trend will have to continue for the Badgers tomorrow, as they face top-seeded Michigan State in the tournament’s first semifinal matchup. The Spartans got 44 points in the paint in a 92-75 dispatching of Iowa Friday afternoon. MSU got 37 points from Adrien Payne (16) and conference player of the year Draymond Green (21). The two combined to go 15-21 from the floor and the Spartans shot 58.8 percent from the floor on the night.
On the wings, the Spartans’ guards penetrated to the paint at will on the perimiter. At times, the Hoosiers did the same, particularly off ball screens, against the Badgers.
“We were a half-step slow several times,” Ryan said of his team’s defensive rotation.
In two meetings this season, neither Michigan State or Wisconsin topped 70 points. Even following the offensive outputs from both teams Friday, Saturday figures to feature more defense. Wisconsin held opponents to 51.9 points per game in the regular season. Michigan State scored 55 in the first half Thursday against the Hawkeyes.
Michigan State has beaten the Badgers twice this season, 63-60 in overtime Jan. 3 at the Kohl Center and 69-55 Feb. 16 in East Lansing, Mich.
Tip off Saturday is set for 12:40 p.m. Central time.