CHICAGO — Ryan Evans jumps when he shoots free throws. Ben Brust looks as if he just got his driver’s license, and Mike Bruesewitz’s shaggy hair draws snickers every time Wisconsin goes on the road.
The Badgers may not look like a top team, but they sure play like one.
Evans scored 16 points in a terrific all-around performance and No. 22 Wisconsin upset No. 3 Indiana 68-56 in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament Saturday.
“We’re playing our best basketball at the end of the season, and that’s what you want to do,” Bruesewitz said.
The Badgers allowed only seven points after the top-seeded Hoosiers pulled within one with 9:45 left. They earned their 12th consecutive win against Indiana, tying a record for any school against the powerhouse program, and will play No. 10 Ohio State in Sunday’s final.
“There are just things in this game, no matter how you try to explain them, they defy explanation,” Ryan said, shrugging away Wisconsin’s long run against Indiana. “But we have players who are willing to work, to listen, to buy in.”
Brust added 12 points for Wisconsin (23-10), which has won three straight and six of eight. Sam Dekker scored nine of his 11 points in the second half, including seven in a row during one impressive burst.
Christian Watford scored 14 points for Indiana (27-6), and Cody Zeller had 13 points and 11 rebounds. Victor Oladipo scored 10, but was 4 for 12 from the field.
The Hoosiers, who won the regular-season conference title, now have to wait until Sunday to see if they did enough to earn a coveted No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament.
“Obviously we wanted to get this win today,” Zeller said. “We’ll learn from it, we’ll figure out what we did wrong. We’ll make the corrections and be ready for next week.”
Zeller and Oladipo each made a couple of big plays when Wisconsin tried to pull away in the second half. Zeller scored the first five points in a 10-0 run that gave the Hoosiers a 41-40 lead with 13:27 remaining. Oladipo soared in for a big offensive rebound and made a pull-up jumper during a quick six-point burst that got Indiana within one with 9:45 remaining.
The Badgers then ripped off eight of the next 10 points to open a 58-51 lead. Evans had a layup, Brust went 1 for 2 at the line, Jared Berggren made a big 3-pointer and Dekker dunked inside off a nice pass from Jackson.
“Just biding my time, picking my spots,” Berggren said of his only 3-point attempt in a 4-for-4 performance from the field. “I was open a couple times. Coaches told me to be aggressive. I was looking for a great shot, not a good one. It felt good.”
That strong stretch was enough to put away the Hoosiers, who managed just two field goals in the final 5:02. Watford also hurt Indiana’s chances when he missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 2:15 to go and the Badgers up by five.
“We made a couple comebacks this game, and did an excellent job of that,” coach Tom Crean said. “But every time we made that comeback with what was working for us, we got away from it. We had some critical turnovers at key times, we had some critical second shots we gave up at key times.”
Berggren finished with 11 points for the Badgers, who shot 51 percent from the field. Evans had eight rebounds, four assists, four blocked shots and a steal.
Wisconsin joins Purdue as the only schools with 12 straight victories against Indiana. The Boilermakers put together their run from Feb. 26, 1908, to Feb. 9, 1914.
“You take advantage of what you can, try to get good opportunities every time down, and try to limit their opportunities,” Ryan said. “It’s that constant clash. The game never changes. I’ve never outcoached anyone, outmaneuvered anyone, outstrategized anyone.”
With open looks hard to come by on each side of the court, the Hoosiers and Badgers turned to the 3-pointer in the first half to try to make some room for their big men inside.
Watford and Remy Abell made 3-pointers on consecutive Indiana possessions to help the Hoosiers open a 20-14 lead with 9:04 remaining. Wisconsin responded with a 12-2 spurt that included 3s from Brust and Bruesewitz.
Wisconsin was 7 for 18 from long range for the game, compared to 5 for 17 for Indiana.
“The biggest story for us was we’ve been defending the 3 the last six, seven games at an incredibly high level, and today we didn’t,” Crean said. “They got some kick-out 3s and things of that nature, but we got away from what had been making us better.”