Ware, Indiana Basketball beats Wisconsin to snap four-game skid

Kel'el Ware's 27 points helped Indiana defeat Wisconsin in a wild night in Bloomington.

Indiana's Kel'el Ware (1) scores past Wisconsin's Steven Crowl (22) during the first half of the
Indiana's Kel'el Ware (1) scores past Wisconsin's Steven Crowl (22) during the first half of the / Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times / USA TODAY
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The Indiana Hoosiers defeated the Wisconsin Badgers on Tuesday night at Assembly Hall, 74-70.

If there was any chance of Kel'el Ware returning to Bloomington next year, Tuesday night's performance most likely put that to rest.

The Indiana big man put together an NBA-level performance in the Hoosiers' win. Ware was absolutely dominant on the offensive end, finishing with 27 points on 11-12 from the field, 1-1 from three, and 4-4 from the line. He also added 11 rebounds and five blocks, with just one turnover and no personal fouls. Ware played nearly the entire game with 38 minutes. 

"It was unbelievable," Mike Woodson said when asked about Ware's performance. "It was a man's game...maybe we didn't go to him enough. He was fantastic."

Indiana came into this game desperate for a win after four straight losses. The Hoosiers started quickly, leading by as much as 15 with 6:11 left in the first half after a Ware jump shot. Wisconsin fought back, and a Max Klesmit floater with seconds left cut the Indiana lead down to five at the half, 38-33. 

The second half featured unforeseen circumstances that sent Assembly Hall into a frenzy. The Badgers tied the game up at 54 with about 10 minutes left, but the game came to a halt shortly after. A fire alarm was set off inside the arena, forcing players and coaches to retreat to the locker room and thousands of Hoosier fans to evacuate the building. 

After about 20 minutes, players returned to the court and were given five minutes to warm up. Fans scrambled back to their seats, but it was a much more sparse crowd upon the resumption of the game.

This stoppage may have been a blessing in disguise for Indiana, as it occured when momentum was clearly on the Badgers' side. Wisconsin Head Coach Greg Gard believes the incident had a significant impact on the game:

"It was a great timeout for whoever from Indiana pulled the fire alarm cause we were making a run," he said after the game.

After play resumed, there were numerous lead changes down to the final minute. With 1:49 left, Trey Galloway hit a floater to tie the game up at 70. Malik Reneau gave Indiana the lead with a hard-earned layup with 55 seconds to go. Mackenzie Mgbako put on the finishing touches with two free throws with 0:25 left, giving the Hoosiers a 74-70 lead and eventual win. Indiana did not allow a Wisconsin point in the final 2:08. 

Despite fouling out late, Reneau was productive for Indiana, finishing with 14 points on 6-8 from the field, adding eight boards. Mgbako finished with 14 points and had two timely three-point shots in the second half. Although he shot just 3-10 overall, Galloway commanded the offense exceptionally well with 12 assists. Xavier Johnson returned for the Hoosiers but had five turnovers in just 15 minutes. 

After struggling mightily as of late, this was exactly the type of performance Mike Woodson's squad needed. Even though an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament is out of the question, the Hoosiers are continuing to fight in their final games of the regular season. 

"Tonight was Indiana basketball at its best," Woodson said. 

Indiana will head to College Park on Sunday, March 3rd, to take on the Maryland Terrapins.