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February 25, 2014

Second half troubles continue

Indiana has put a lot of nice first halves together, especially in hostile road environments. Following that up in the second half has often been a different story. Tonight at Wisconsin it was more of the same.

After holding the Badgers to just 19 first half points, Wisconsin exploded out of the gates in the second half, quickly erasing a 10-point deficit. When it was over Bo Ryan's team had amassed 50 second half points with 61.9 percent shooting, earning a 69-58 victory.

"The bottom line is, they got some good looks because we were in rotation a little bit," said Crean. "They got hot. The basket started looking pretty big for them."

Letting a good first half of play go to waste on the road has been a trend of this Indiana team. Of the six road losses the Hoosiers now own, Indiana trailed at the half only one time, the blowout defeat at Purdue. Outside of the win Saturday against a short-handed Northwestern team, second half problems are the norm.

Jan. 30 at Nebraska - After earning leads of up to 16 points and going into the break up 32-19, Indiana gets blitzed in second half, 41-23, and falls to the Huskers, 60-55

Feb. 8 at Minnesota - Building first half leads of as many as 13 points, Indiana lets the Gophers pull within six at the half and then get outscored in second half, 36-24, and fall, 66-60.

Feb. 15 at Purdue - Playing well for the first 15 minutes and buildings leads up to five points, Indiana falls apart beginning late in first half and lets Purdue go on a 19-1 run. The Hoosiers get outscored 44-31 in second half and fall to Boilers, 82-64

Tonight at Madison the main culprit was improved outside shooting by Wisconsin. After hitting just 1-for-10 in the first half, Ryan's team came back to hit 6-for-11 from the distance. The main guy behind those numbers was senior Ben Brust. After missing all four of his 3-pointers in the opening half, Brust proceeded to knock down three straight in just over a three minute stretch early in the second half. The flurry ended a 1-for-17 drought for the veteran guard on 3-point shots.

"It's definitely good to get a couple to go down, and I think it kind of ignited this team," said Brust. "It just kind of trickled down to everyone else."

"He'd been in a struggle, but no one guarded him that way," said IU coach Tom Crean. "He's averaging six more points per game at home than he is on the road. He's a senior that's made big shots his entire career here."

It took just 5:14 into the second half for Wisconsin to completely wipe away the 10 point Indiana halftime lead.

"It's a 40-minute game," said Crean. "There are other teams around the country that lose leads too and unfortunately we've lost a couple of those. But the other teams are pretty good. When they're at home and they have guys that can shoot the ball that way, it becomes an issue."

Yogi Ferrell led all scorers with 24 points and Noah Vonleh added 18.

After the game Ferrell tried to explain another poor second half on the road.

"We don't talk---us getting quiet, that is the biggest thing," said Ferrell. "We just don't bear down and do the things that we know we're capable of doing. That is something we're going to have to just overcome."

While most of the second half blame would have to go to the defense, Indiana didn't play well offensively either in the period. A big problem was balance on offense. After Will Sheehey scored the team's first seven points,  Ferrell and Vonleh scored 42 of the remaining 51 points in the game.

"We got looks, we didn't get as many second shots," said Crean. "We got some offensive boards, but we didn't get the putbacks that we need. And because we weren't getting the stops, our break wasn't as effective in the second half because we were going against the set defense more, which they're very good. And we missed some shots. I think we'll look at the film and see that we missed some shots that we were making."

Seven of Indiana's nine second chance points came in the first half.

Another issue was failure to get to the free throw line. Indiana does this well normally but Wisconsin leads the country in giving up the fewest free throw attempts to opponents. Tonight that measure went clearly to Wisconsin as Indiana only managed three free throws, a season low and the lowest for the program since 1997. In every other game this year Indiana has taken 10 or more attempts from the line.

"We're not going to win games with just a few free throws," said Crean.

Indiana drops to 15-12 on the season and 5-9 in conference play. Wisconsin gets its sixth straight victory to move to 23-5 and are along in third place in the league with a 10-5 record.

The Hoosiers now have another quick turnaround thanks to Thursday night's makeup game at Assembly Hall against Iowa.

"Like I just said to these guys, they all want to play at the next level, three games in a week, that's a slow week at the next level," said Crean. "It is what it is, there's nothing we can do about it."

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