By Andy Proffet
BLOOMINGTON — Cody Zeller’s first half Tuesday night was nearly perfect.
Eight-of-eight from the field. Two-for-three from the line. And a one-point halftime lead for his second-ranked Hoosiers.
The second half against Wisconsin? Not so great.
The Badgers held Zeller to one basket in seven shots in the second half, rallying for a 64-59 win to put Wisconsin alone atop the Big Ten standings.
“They were clogging up the middle more,” Zeller said. “Shots just stopped falling.”
The shots weren’t falling much at all for the Hoosiers (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten). Take out Zeller’s perfect performance and his teammates shot just 5-of-20 in the first half.
The nation’s top offense finished just 20-of-54 from the floor for the game.
“Lot of things have to go right if you’re going to miss 34 shots,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said.
Not much has gone right when the Hoosiers face the Badgers. Wisconsin (13-4, 4-0) has won 11 straight against Indiana and five in a row in Bloomington.
Only Purdue, which won 12 straight against Indiana from 1908 through 1914, has won more games in a row against the Hoosiers. Wisconsin also won 11 straight against IU from 1912 through 1919.
And no team had won even four straight against the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall before the Badgers did it in March 2011.
Now the streak is five in a row on Indiana’s home court, and the prize is first place by themselves in the Big Ten.
“The thing is though, in this league, like I told our guys, ‘Let’s enjoy for 24 hours and then we know we got to get ready for Iowa, at Iowa,’” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.
Ryan said there wasn’t “some coaching strategy” that helped the Badgers do a better job of defending Zeller in the second half.
“We just didn’t move our feet (in the first half) and get into the spots and the angles that we normally do, and Zeller is that much better this year and he just destroyed (Jared) Berggen and (Frank Kaminsky),” Ryan said.
“If it took 20 minutes to show our guys that he’s that good, so be it, but we really didn’t change anything with our positioning, we just did it better.”
Indiana went into halftime ahead 32-31 thanks to a Christian Watford 3-pointer — one of just three makes from beyond the arc for the Hoosiers.
Victor Oladipo extended IU’s lead to 35-31 after a layup and free throw, but Wisconsin answered with a 7-0 run. A Watford layup and two Yogi Ferrell free throws gave IU the lead again, 39-38, but Traevon Jackson converted a 3-point play to start a 9-0 Badgers’ run and put Wisconsin ahead to stay.
The Hoosiers pulled within one twice in the final minutes, the last on two Watford free throws with 3:39 to play to cut the score to 54-53. But another 9-0 Wisconsin run iced the victory.
Wisconsin didn’t have a stellar shooting night — 23-of-51 (45.1 percent) from the field — but its shots were falling when Indiana’s weren’t.
“In the second half they made some shots at the shot clock that reminded me of the McDonald’s Michael Jordan/Larry Bird H-O-R-S-E commercials,” Crean said. “I’d like to see them take those again.
“When you get momentum going, it’s amazing what can happen. They played really hard and got the momentum.”
Zeller finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season and ninth of his career. Watford added 11 points and Oladipo scored 10, as the Hoosiers again got little production from their bench. After the reserves scored three points, all on free throws, in Saturday’s win over Minnesota, the bench had just two points Tuesday night, on a layup by Jeremy Hollowell.
“I’m not as concerned about the lack of offense from the bench. I’m concerned about the lack of creating pace of the game, with deflections, defense. We need guys to come in and make plays,” Crean added.
Ryan Evans led Wisconsin with 13 points. Jackson scored 11 and Mike Bruesewitz and Sam Dekker each had 10 points.