Losing in front of the last men’s college basketball team to not lose a game in an entire season was not an option for the Indiana Hoosiers. That only made Tuesday’s 59-58 win over the Wisconsin Badgers even more satisfying.
“You just want to go out there and play well and get a win for those guys when they’re here to watch,” said Thomas Bryant, “and just show that you’re representing them to the best of your ability.”
The Hoosiers (13-3, 3-0) suffered a huge offensive drought in the first half, a stretch that has resulted in each of the Hoosiers’ losses this season. However, this time the Indiana defense clamped down and prevented Wisconsin (9-7, 1-2) from generating too big of a lead. The result was a hard-fought defensive win for a team that looked like it was doomed to rely on getting into shootouts to win games.
“We don’t want to go into a game where like it’s only offense carrying us,” said Bryant. “We’re an offensive and defensive team, too.”
The members of the 1976 Hoosiers, watching from behind the Indiana bench, had to feel a little nostalgia watching this year’s Hoosiers refuse to fold when IU fell behind 22-13 with 7:49 left in the first half. The Badgers’ 15-0 run coincided with IU missing six straight shots and turning the ball over four times.
Then the Indiana defense tightened up. The Badgers offense made only one of their six field goal attempts and committed two turnovers during the final eight minutes. By halftime, the Hoosiers had narrowed the gap to just 28-24.
After honoring the 1976 team during halftime, the 2016 Hoosiers proceeded to play their best defensive stretch of the season. From the start of the second half to the time Wisconsin Head Coach Greg Gard called a timeout with 8:50 remaining, the Badgers hit just two of their 13 field goal attempts and committed five more turnovers. Meanwhile Assembly Hall was as loud as it has been all season as they celebrated the Hoosiers’ 40-34 lead.
It was at this point that Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell drove the Hoosiers home.
As the Hoosiers’ starting point guard of the last four seasons, Ferrell will go down as one of the most accomplished basketball players in IU’s storied history after he leaves Bloomington. Halfway through his senior season, Ferrell is 12th on IU’s all-time scoring list with 1,651 points. He’s already scored more points than Scott May or any other member of the 1976 team with the exception of Kent Benson and he’s only 89 points behind him. On IU’s all-time assists list, Ferrell is only 11 behind ’76 point guard Quinn Buckner for second and only needs 15 to grab first place.
Despite what the stats say, Hoosier fans will likely hold Benson, May, and Buckner in higher regard when its all said and done because of their other accomplishments (such as the undefeated national championship run), but Ferrell showed, with those players watching less than 30 feet away, that he too is one of the best to ever wear the candy stripe pants.
Ferrell took over like most great players do down the stretch as he scored 10 of his game-high 19 points in the final eight minutes, including the Hoosiers’ last six points. Those six points consisted of four ice-in-the-veins free throws and one left-to-right, off-balance, mid-range, fadeaway jumpshot. It was the type of shot that you only trust your leaders to make and he made it in a game he will never forget.
“(The win) definitely means a lot, and in my eyes that’s something I’m going to remember,” said Ferrell about playing in front of the 1976 Hoosiers. “To see us get a win in front of them, that definitely means a lot to me and definitely my team.”
These Hoosiers will try to improve to 4-0 in Big Ten play when they host Ohio State this Sunday at 1:30pm. The game will be on CBS for those who aren’t able to make it to Assembly Hall.
Stats From The Boxscore
- O.G. Anunoby again scored 11 points, including three three-pointers. Anunoby is now a perfect 6 for 6 from deep in Big Ten play and is 7 for 9 from long range on the season.
- The Hoosiers didn’t attempt their first free throw until 7:20 left in the second half.
- Indiana didn’t go to the line much (10 free throw attempts) but capitalized when it did, making all 10 of them. Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell made six, Anunoby made two, and Colin Hartman made two.
- Thomas Bryant scored all 10 of his points in the first half, which was huge considering the rest of the Hoosiers only had 14 before halftime.
- Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig led the Badgers with 15 points each. Ethan Happ also added 10 points and eight rebounds for Wisconsin.
- The last time the Hoosiers started the Big Ten season 3-0 was in 2012-2013, when Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo led the Hoosiers to their last Big Ten championship.