BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Tom Crean's message is finally resonating with his players.
He can't quibble with the results. Three days after rallying from a 15-point deficit to win at Penn State, the young Hoosiers did it again by overcoming a 10-point second-half deficit to hand No. 3 Wisconsin its first loss of the season — a stunning 75-72 upset that sent fans streaming onto the floor.
"It's just amazing what happens when some real confidence starts to come," Crean said after Indiana's biggest win of the season. "It's still a fight to get them to believe. That's because when we get down 10, they're still not — they still don't quite understand. Sometimes, they're down like that and when they're not used to it, 15 looks like 25 or 10 looks like 20."
That didn't happen Tuesday night. Instead, Indiana (12-5, 2-2 Big Ten) stuck to the game plan and celebrated its biggest win of the season with a crowd that seemed to be every bit as excited as the players, who were flailing their arms when the buzzer sounded.
Why not? Until Saturday, the Hoosiers had beaten only one team from a power conference — Washington — way back in November. Now they have two in a row over conference foes, the second being a signature win that could certainly help their cause with the NCAA tournament selection committee.
Plus, they protected their home court against a foe that had given the Hoosiers nothing but fits over the last seven years. Wisconsin (16-1, 3-1) entered the night as one of the nation's four unbeaten teams, hoping to become the first team to ever win 13 straight over Indiana and the first team in a century to win six straight in Bloomington.
The tale of the tape — one of college basketball's best at taking care of the ball against a team that was averaging more than 16 turnovers per game — appeared to be stacked against the Hoosiers, too.
Instead, Indiana ignored the buildup and played basketball. It committed only nine turnovers, limited Wisconsin to four free throws and immediately responded to the 10-point deficit with a 12-0 run that gave it a 54-52 lead. The Hoosiers never trailed again.
"We've come very far, had a lot of early losses, I felt like we learned from that watching film," Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell said after scoring 25 points that included two free throws with 18.1 seconds left to make it a three-point game. "We're going to take this win and be grateful for it."
It wasn't just Ferrell. Senior Will Sheehey scored 13 points and helped stabilize the Hoosiers when they needed it. Freshmen Stanford Robinson and Noah Vonleh were the only other Hoosiers in double figures. Robinson had a career best 13 points and grabbed the final rebound with 5 seconds to go. Vonleh had 11 points.
Strangely, it was the more experienced Badgers who struggled late. Badgers guard Traevon Jackson scored 16 of his career high 21 points in the second half, but missed a 3 from the top of the key with 12 seconds to go. Josh Gasser grabbed the rebound and flipped the ball out to Ben Brust in the corner. He rushed his shot and missed with 5 seconds left.
All five Badgers starters scored in double figures: Brust had 13, Gasser and Frank Kaminsky had 11 apiece and Sam Dekker finished with 10. But Wisconsin struggled defensively all night, letting Indiana score 52 points in the paint.
"I think our guys were worrying about fouls. The way it was being called, our guys became so tentative," Badgers coach Bo Ryan said after losing to Indiana for the first time since Crean became the Hoosiers' coach. "It really surprised me that our guys were not playing the way we normally play."
And Wisconsin's shooting woes over the final 13 minutes gave Indiana the opening it so desperately needed. Evan Gordon started the rally with a 17-foot jumper. Sheehey and Robinson followed that with consecutive layups. Vonleh finished the 12-0 run with a jumper in the paint to give Indiana a 54-52 lead with 8:58 left and the Hoosiers never trailed again.
But Wisconsin tied the score at 61 and closed to 73-72 on Kaminsky's putback with 28.5 seconds left. Ferrell then made two free throws, the Badgers missed the two 3s — and the crowd went wild over the Hoosiers' biggest win of the season.
"The other day really changed us because two things happened that hadn't happened," Crean said. "We made a big comeback, OK? I think we executed on 10 of our last 11 possessions in the Penn State game. We hadn't done that, either.
"Some of that carried over into tonight. Hopefully, we'll continue to learn more from this."