MADISON, Wis. – To break out of a shooting slump, the Wisconsin Badgers focused in practice on almost everything other than shooting.
Coach Greg Gard placed an emphasis on better ball movement and creating better spacing on the floor, operating on the assumption that shots would eventually fall for his team.
That moment arrived Saturday, when Kobe King scored a career-high 24 points, and the Badgers shot a season-high 54% to beat Indiana 84-64.
Nate Reuvers added 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range, for the Badgers (5-4, 1-0 Big Ten), who snapped a three-game losing streak while handing Indiana its first loss.
Wisconsin shot 40% from behind the arc (8 of 20) after hitting just 18% from 3 over its three previous games.
“With shooting, you have to be relaxed and confident,” Gard said. “I think we try to focus on the things that we need to do to make shots. ... We didn't spend time on shooting drills. We didn't take 100 jump shots.”
Hot shooting and crisp ball movement helped Wisconsin build a 20-point halftime cushion from which the Hoosiers (8-1, 0-1) never recovered. The Badgers opened the game shooting 3 of 4 from 3-point range over the first four minutes, with Reuvers hitting twice.
Al Durham had 17 points for Indiana, which lost its first game away from Assembly Hall this year. Indiana trailed by 31 with 11:40 left.
“We were searching for that breakout moment early to get two feet back on the ground,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “We never really got there.”
Poor shooting and bad defense set the Hoosiers back. They hit just 33% (10 of 30) in falling behind 47-27 at the half. They were often outhustled for loose balls. They left the Badgers alone for open looks too often.
“Our team did not play well on either of the floor. Sometimes that happens to groups early in the season ... on the road, especially in a conference environment,” Miller said.
Gard's team might have played its best half of basketball all season, shooting 63% from the field and 46% (6 of 13) from 3-point range before halftime. The Badgers had just one turnover in the first half and played well in the paint early, swarming the glass. It was the perfect response for a team looking to snap out of a skid.
“We definitely built off each other with big shots like that, especially as the crowd was getting into it,” Reuvers said.
Miller said players were pleading with each other during timeouts to snap out of the funk. But as the deficit grew, the Hoosiers didn't make much noise on the sideline either. They could have used more of a spark both on and off the court.
“Today it was a quiet group out there at times,” Miller said. “You've got to have a rallying cry at some point.”