BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Trayce Jackson-Davis knew what Indiana had been missing over the past several weeks.
So Saturday, he made sure the Hoosiers defense got reconnected.
The all-conference forward had 18 points, 12 rebounds and helped Indiana's defense focus on the basics as they snapped a three-game losing streak with a 63-45 victory over No. 18 Wisconsin.
“I don’t really think we overhelp, I just think we weren't in our right spots to begin with and that makes it harder,” Jackson-Davis said. “When we’re in our right spots and do our defense right, it’s a lot different and that’s what you saw today.”
How good was Indiana (12-4, 2-4 Big Ten)?
One of the conference's best 3-point shooting teams in Wisconsin made just five, barely half its season average. Indiana also held the Badgers (11-5, 3-3) to their second-lowest scoring total this season and their second-lowest point total in the series since a 51-44 loss on Feb. 13, 1943.
It was a far cry from the 86.7 points Indiana allowed over the previous three games, and they managed to win for the first time since Dec. 23 despite playing without two injured starters — guard Xavier Johnson (foot) and forward Race Thompson (knee).
The reason was obvious.
“Our defense was solid from start to finish,” coach Mike Woodson said.
Connor Essegian had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Badgers, who have now lost all three games since starting forward Tyler Wahl went down with an injured leg. This one came in a series they've dominated for more than a decade and which included eight wins in its previous 11 trips to Assembly Hall.
After an ugly start, the Hoosiers turned this game with a quick 18-2 second-half flurry and the defense shut down the staggering Badgers.
Jackson-Davis helped the Hoosiers turn the corner.
He opened the second-half scoring with a short hook shot and Jalen Hood-Schifino followed with back-to-back baskets before Trey Galloway's layup turned a 21-20 halftime lead into a 29-20 cushion. Indiana continued the run, closing the 18-2 charge with a 39-22 edge.
Wisconsin answered with six straight to cut the deficit to 10, but couldn't get any closer.
“We didn't really care about our offense (at halftime) because we knew that would come,” said Steven Crowl, who had five points and six rebounds. “In the second half, we got away from it, they got some momentum and we couldn't stop the train after it.”
Wisconsin: This hasn't been the same team without Wahl, but the Badgers still know how to win — by defending without fouling, taking care of the ball and playing ugly when needed. The plan kept Wisconsin close, but it wasn't good enough without Wahl against a motivated foe.
Indiana: Clearly, the Hoosiers spent the past few days working on defense and it paid dividends. Eventually, the offense got going and they finally looked like the kind of team that could deliver on being the conference's preseason pick to win the title.
Wisconsin: The Badgers were 5 of 24 on 3s, were outrebounded 42-32 and outscored 42-22 in the paint. ... Max Klesmit had nine points and Chucky Hepburn finished with eight.
Indiana: Hood-Schifino scored 16 points while Jordan Geronimo had 12 points and 11 rebounds. ... The Hoosiers were 1 of 8 on 3s, barely avoiding their first shutout since March 2001 against Wisconsin.
While it took Wisconsin six weeks to crack the Top 25, another loss will likely end Wisconsin's five week-run in the rankings.
Indiana, meanwhile, is trying to play its way back into the Top 25 after sliding out this week. A home victory over the Badgers helps their cause, but the 19-point loss at Penn State doesn't.
Wisconsin: Returns home Tuesday to face Penn State.
Indiana: Gets a four-day break before traveling to Illinois on Thursday.