Chasing a loose ball moments into the game, Wisconsin’s Ben Brust crashed into the media table, nearly coming chest to metal with a laptop.
No points were scored, no possession gained. A tone, though, was set.
Out-hustling, outmuscling, outexecuting its opponent, No. 22 Wisconsin upset No. 3 Indiana 68-56 in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament Saturday at the United Center.
“We’re trying to do everything possible to win. Any play can make the difference,” said Brust, a junior guard from Mundelein High School who scored 12 points in 39 minutes. “We just battle. That’s not going to change no matter who we’re playing.”
That may be, but it seems to confound Indiana (27-6). Wisconsin’s win was its 12th straight over the Hoosiers, matching Purdue’s streak from 1908-1914 for the most ever against the storied program.
It also put Wisconsin (23-10) in the Big Ten final for the first time since 2008, where the Badgers will meet Ohio State.
“We don’t think about it (the streak),” Wisconsin’s Jared Berggren said. “We came here to win a championship, and Indiana was our next opponent.”
The wit of Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan came out when he was asked why it seems like the Badgers are an opponent no team — especially Indiana — wishes to see this time of year.
“When we had 10 points with a couple minutes left in the first half on Friday, I’m guessing that wouldn’t be a question you would ask,” Ryan said. “There are just things in this game that defy explanation.”
Yes, things like Wisconsin going on a 10-0 first-half run when Berggren went to the bench with 2 fouls, coming back from its biggest deficit at 22-16.
Frank Kaminsky, a sophomore from Benet Academy, subbed for Berggren. His contributions, even without scoring, were key. Kaminsky kept Indiana star Cody Zeller in check, grabbed 3 rebounds, and all 3 went for assists on 3-pointers.
Kaminsky kicked out to Brust for a 3 and a 43-41 lead with 13:11 left to stop a 10-0 Indiana run. Then Kaminsky rebounded a Sam Dekker missed free throw and fed Dekker for a 3 to complete a 5-point possession to put Wisconsin up 48-43.
“When Jared went down it wasn’t an ideal situation for us, but that’s my time to step up,” Kaminsky said. “I’m not trying to do anything that I haven’t done all year long.”
Zeller’s steal and score with 9:45 left closed the gap to 50-49, but Indiana scored just 7 points the rest of the way. Berggren, a 26 percent 3-point shooter, hit a big 3 on a Brust assist to push the margin to 55-49.
“We made a couple comebacks,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said, “but every time we made that comeback with what’s been working for us we got away from it.”
Ryan Evans scored 16 points, Brust 12 and Berggren and Dekker 11 each for Wisconsin, which held Indiana to a season-low point total. The previous low? Wisconsin’s 64-59 win at then No. 1 Indiana on Jan. 15.
Christian Watford scored 14 points, Zeller 13 and Victor Oladipo 10 for the Big Ten regular-season champions, who still could get a No. 1 seed when NCAA pairings are announced Sunday. The Hoosiers might have cost themselves the No. 1 overall seed, though.
Wisconsin’s Mike Bruesewitz, holding court afterward, put in perspective with a mischievous smile the mastery the Badgers seem to have over Indiana, in the context of this unpredictable college basketball season.
“We just have a bunch of guys who play, and play hard,” Bruesewitz said. “Anybody can beat anybody on any given night. We need to be mindful of that, not let our guard down. I don’t think a lot of No. 1 seeds are going to be making the Final Four.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.