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CHICAGO, Ill. – The futility continues. Indiana is, once again, fodder for Wisconsin.
A 12th straight loss to the Badgers came in Saturday's Big Ten tourney semifinals. The 68-56 score once again showed their ability to dictate pace and control tempo and the top-seeded Hoosiers inability to stop it.
"Yes, there's definitely a frustration level," guard Yogi Ferrell said. "The seniors wanted to beat them. We wanted to get that one for them, but we couldn't get it done."
One of those seniors, guard Jordan Hulls, explained why.
"They play smart," he said. "They try not to turn the ball over. We have to do a better job of turning them over. They hit big shots. They got offensive rebounds with the shot clock going down, so we don't get the defensive rebounds after 30 seconds have run off the shot clock. That takes away from what we want to do, which is run."
IU led the Big Ten in scoring at 80.8 points. In two games against Wisconsin it averaged 57.5 points, with Saturday's total a season low. The only other team to hold them to less than 57 points was Ohio State in its 67-58 win earlier this month.
"We played great defense," forward Ryan Evans said. "That forces them to take better shots, or if they want to take bad shots and play fast, that's on them."
Fourth-seeded Wisconsin (23-10) advances to Sunday's title game against Ohio State (25-7), which beat Michigan State in its semifinal. The Buckeyes are the conference's hottest team with seven straight victories.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of the defensive effort against a very good offensive team," Badgers coach Bo Ryan said. "Every guy who went in there stuck to the rules to try to force Indiana to make tough shots. Our guys accomplished that."
The Hoosiers (27-6) will await Sunday night's NCAA tourney selection show to learn of their seed, regional and opponent.
Projections have them as a No. 1 seed, but that's not guaranteed.
"We wanted to win, but we'll learn from it," forward Cody Zeller said. "We'll figure out what we did wrong. We'll make the corrections and get ready for next week because that's what's most important."
IU was led by Christian Watford's 14 points. Zeller had 13 points and 11 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season. Victor Oladipo had 10 points and seven rebounds. His four steals tied Isiah Thomas for the school single-season record for steals, with 74.
Wisconsin was led by Evans' 16 points.
The Badgers shot 51 percent from the field and had a 35-30 rebound edge to overcome their 15 turnovers that IU converted into 22 points.
The Hoosiers suffered their worst loss of the season. Their previous worst was a nine-point loss to Ohio State.
"We had some critical turnovers at key times," coach Tom Crean said. "The biggest story for us is the last six, seven games we defended the three at an incredibly high level level and we didn't do that.
"Wisconsin played well. They shot very well. They made some tough ones. They answered the bell every time we made a comeback."
In the great who's-the-best-coach debate (Ryan won Big Ten coach of the year even though Crean's Hoosiers won the conference title), Ryan now has an 18-3 record against Indiana, 14-3 against Crean.
"They are a very good team, extremely well coached, disciplined, great staffs, inside-outside scoring, great balance," Crean said. "They've been an excellent team for a long tiime. As long as he's the coach there, they will be."
IU dictated with defense right from the start. It attacked and challenged, trapped and disrupted. It got seven points off of four early Badger turnovers and built a six-point lead.
Still, Wisconsin's patience and poise was effective. It worked its way inside near the end of the shot clock with brutal effectiveness. Its first 18 points came from in the paint.
The result – IU packed in its defense a bit, and Wisconsin capitalized with its three-point shooting. Ben Brust and Mike Bruesewitz hit three-pointers to pace a 10-0 Badger run for a 26-22 lead.
Wisconsin pushed ahead 34-26. IU pushed back with a Zeller inside basket and a Watford three-pointer for a 34-31 halftime score.
Wisconsin shot 51.7 percent from the field and had a 17-12 rebound edge to overcome its eight turnovers. IU was at 44.4 percent and six turnovers. It had 12 points off Badger turnovers.
The Badgers' 6-0 second-half start put IU in a nine-point hole, which seemed like double that give Wisconsin's patient approach.
IU didn't flinch. It got four points from Yogi Ferrell, five from Zeller and a Remy Abell free throw to take a 41-40 lead with basically 14 minutes left.
Wisconsin came right back with a 10-3 run of its own to go ahead 50-43 with 11 minutes left. IU responded with a 6-0 run to make it a one-point game.
A Sam Dekker dunk capped an 8-2 Badger response and a 58-51 score.
IU was finished.
"We can play better," Crean said. "We will play better."