MADISON, Wis. (AP)—Wisconsin scored just one basket over the final 9 1/2 minutes Tuesday night. That’s all the Badgers needed.
Alando Tucker’s putback at the buzzer allowed No. 23 Wisconsin to fend off Indiana 62-60.
The Badgers, playing for the third time in six nights, refused to use fatigue as an excuse for blowing a 10-point lead down the stretch—when they missed nine of 10 shots from the field and six of 13 from the free throw line.
But they were thrilled not to have to go to overtime.
“We definitely wanted to end it, we wanted to get it over,” Tucker said.
After a timeout with 10 seconds left, Tucker was short on a 3-pointer and Mike Wilkinson grabbed the rebound but was too far underneath the basket for his follow shot to come close. No matter, Tucker swooped in, grabbed that rebound and put it back up in one motion before being swarmed by his teammates after the ball fell through the net as the backboard’s red light went on.
“Mike got in great position to get the rebound,” Tucker said. “He made a great play by getting it up into the air. He got it up in the air, and it was a spot where I was coming right to, and I grabbed the ball and laid it in.”
It was Wisconsin’s first basket since a jumper by Sharif Chambliss gave the Badgers a 53-43 lead with 9:35 remaining.
“Tucker and Wilkinson stepped up and made plays on the last possession,” Hoosiers coach Mike Davis said. “I thought it was a great game. Our guys grew up again tonight. I thought we gave ourselves opportunities to win, and we came up short.”
Wilkinson scored 28 points to make the Badgers’ senior class the winningest group in school history. He would have eclipsed his career high of 29 points had he not gone 5-of-10 from the free throw line over the final 2:50.
He did, however, make three of four foul shots in the final minute, something Badgers coach Bo Ryan said was a testament to the kind of player Wilkinson is.
“I’ve seen guys who are missing free throws who stay so far away from the basketball, they don’t want to go to the line again,” Ryan said. “How about Mike? He just couldn’t wait to get back up to the line again. And I love that about him.”
Wilkinson scored 19 points in the first half as the Badgers (19-7, 10-5 Big Ten) avenged a 74-61 loss to the Hoosiers (14-12, 9-6) on Jan. 8, in Bloomington. A road win would have been a big boost to Indiana’s now slim chances for an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament.
“That was one we should have won,” said Indiana’s Bracey Wright, whose jumper with 2:23 left capped a 13-2 run that gave the Hoosiers their first lead at 56-55.
Wright’s two free throws with a minute left gave Indiana a 58-57 lead but Wilkinson rediscovered his shooting touch from the stripe and made two for a 59-58 lead with 47 seconds remaining.
After Wright missed a 3-pointer, Wilkinson was fouled and made one free throw for a 60-58 lead. The Hoosiers tied it on Roderick Wilmont’s putback with 15 seconds left.
Tucker, who landed hard on his back midway through the second half but stayed in the game, finished with 17 points.
D.J. White led Indiana with 17 points, while Wright added 13 and Robert Vaden 10.
The Badgers’ five straight wins over Indiana at the Kohl Center is their best home winning streak against the Hoosiers since 1919-26.
The Badgers’ 87 victories since 2000-01 mark the best 4-year stretch in school history. Wilkinson’s class has won at least 10 Big Ten games in each of its four seasons, a school first.
The Badgers took a 37-30 halftime lead thanks to Wilkinson, who was 8-of-9 from the field with his only miss a tip-in at the buzzer that rimmed out.
Indiana, however, knows all about disappointments at the buzzer. They lost consecutive games to Missouri and Charlotte in the closing seconds in December, but none hurt as much as this one.
“It’s a sickening feeling,” A.J. Ratliff said. “You get tired of it. You’d think we’d learn from it.”