WASHINGTON — The Wisconsin Badgers started strong at the 2017 Big Ten Tournament, defeating the Indiana Hoosiers on Friday night to advance to the semifinals.
Bronson Koenig led five players in double figures with 16 points. Ethan Happ had 14 points and 12 rebounds. The Badgers were efficient, connecting on 10 of 22 shots from beyond the 3-point line while committing only seven turnovers.
Wisconsin (24-8) will play Saturday afternoon against either No. 3 seed Maryland or sixth-seeded Northwestern. The Terps would certainly have a strong home-court advantage, with the game about 10 miles from campus.
The Badgers beat the Terps in Madison on Feb. 20. Nigel Hayes had 21 points and 10 rebounds in a 71-60 victory.
What Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said
Opening statement: “Obviously extremely happy for our guys and proud of ’em. Thought they played for the most part really well tonight. Shared the ball. They had 15 assists on 27 baskets. Really did a terrific job on both ends of the floor defensively, other than a couple breakdowns here or there, to be able to try to keep Indiana under control with what they can do offensively to teams was evident here and yesterday with what they did to Iowa in the second half, Ohio State at the end of the regular season.
“A complete team effort. I thought guys off the bench did a good job, as well. It’s always good to get that first one when you get to this point in the season.”
On what makes teams great in March: “I mean, the terrific teams we’ve had over the years typically have all three. Obviously senior leadership helps. You have to be able to defend, you know, or you’re not going to go very far this time of year. I think having a looseness about us, too, helps. I don’t try to pump any more into the moment than what is, already what comes from the outside sources. I just tell them, Hey, play. March is for players. Go play. This is your time of the year.
“I told them before the game, I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here. There’s probably nothing I’m going to say in this pregame speech that you haven’t heard for the last four or five months.”
— Win against Minnesota relieve pressure? “I think maybe more so than relieving pressure was we got back to our identity. We got back to who we are as a program. Ohio State obviously was not us. It’s credit to Ohio State. They made shots. Once we tried to start to guard them, they were warmed up, everything went their way. Defensively we got refocused on what was important. I think it was that identity coming back, specifically from the defensive end. The energy, how hard we played, those type of things. We fed off of that. That helped us on the other end of the floor, too.”
— Anything different to promote better ball movement? “I think we’ve gotten better at understanding how important it is. We have tweaked a few things and moved some people around a little bit. I think the one thing that’s helped is D’Mitrik (Trice) in the lineup helps us move the ball more, too. It gives us another ball handler on the floor. I probably played three guards more here in the last couple weeks. Just as he’s matured, I’ve watched him in that position. It’s helped to take maybe some of the pressure off the guys that have to do the ball-handling responsibilities. It’s a combination. I think we’re maturing. Teams mature in different areas at different times of the year. But they’re playing very unselfish, which is good to see.”
— Early breakdowns after Indiana’s missed shot? “We didn’t block out. I mean, at one point in time when I called a timeout, we had three guys outside the three-point line. We were in a scramble situation, too. They had to rush to shooters. Basically we weren’t getting bodies on bodies. Once we started to do that, even rebound from the top down, too, that helped. Some guards got in and got their face in the action, too. We just started to play a little more physical in the paint.”