Indiana’s run of futility against Wisconsin ends with an improbable win

It didn't happen last season when Indiana had a top-five ranking and two lottery picks in its starting lineup. It didn't happen the previous season when Indiana was in the midst of a rebirth that culminated with a Sweet 16 appearance.

Only Tuesday, with unbeaten Wisconsin in the midst of its best season under Bo Ryan and rebuilding Indiana merely trying to scrape its way into the NCAA tournament, did the Hoosiers do what they've failed to do so many times before.

Indiana defeated visiting Wisconsin 75-72, snapping a 12-game losing streak against the Badgers that dated back to Jan. 31, 2007 when Kelvin Sampson was still the coach of the Hoosiers and D.J. White was their best player. To break the Badgers' hex, Indiana's young players had to come of age and show the gumption necessary to claw back from a double-digit second-half deficit against an opponent that entered the day as one of only four remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball.

Five different Indiana players scored baskets during a 12-0 second-half run that turned a 52-42 deficit into a two-point lead with nine minutes to play. Sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell and freshman wing Stanford Robinson did all the heavy lifting down the stretch, combining for all of Indiana's final 14 points to help the Hoosiers stave off a late push from the Badgers.

Traevon Jackson scored a career-high 21 points and Wisconsin shot 53.3 percent from the floor against the Hoosiers, but the Jackson and Brust both missed contested potential game-tying threes on the Badgers' final possession. Aside from a brief period early in the second half when Ferrell settled for too many jump shots and eventually got pulled from the game, Indiana survived Wisconsin's torrid shooting by exploiting the Badgers in transition or off the dribble.

There's no overstating the importance of this win for an Indiana team that entered the game 11-5 overall and 1-2 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers previously had lost to the five best opponents they had faced and their best prior win was against a Washington team unlikely to finish in the upper half of the Pac-12.

For Wisconsin, the sting of a narrow road loss shouldn't diminish what this team has accomplished during the first half of the season. In starting 16-0, the Badgers had already beaten Florida, Saint Louis, Marquette, Virginia Iowa and Illinois, six teams with a pretty decent chance of making the NCAA tournament.

Many fans and media members have scolded Indiana students for storming the court when Tuesday's final buzzer sounded. That's fine. A school with five title banners hanging in the rafters probably should act like it's been here before.

But don't let that detract from the significance of beating Wisconsin for this Indiana team. On a night when the Badgers were riding high and the Hoosiers desperately needed a big win, Indiana finally rose up and broke its long losing streak.

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