Mike Woodson was in Wisconsin the last time it happened.
Just 39-years-old at the time, Woodson was in the second season of his first NBA coaching job as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks, who had a rookie named Ray Allen, were between home games on January 25, 1998 when Indiana, led by Woodson’s former coach Bob Knight, strolled into the Kohl Center and cruised to a 69-59 win.
On the same day as a Super Bowl matchup between Denver’s John Elway and Green Bay’s Brett Favre, recently turned 46-year-old Andrae Patterson led IU with 23 points for that win over Wisconsin and their head coach Dick Bennett, the father of now 52-year old Virginia coach Tony Bennett.
The Kohl Center had opened its doors just eight days prior to that Indiana win, and the Hoosiers haven’t won in the building since. That’s 18-straight losses in Madison over a nearly 24-year span if you are keeping score at home.
In 2002 the Badgers hired Bo Ryan as their head coach, and from day one he had an assistant named Greg Gard, now of course Wisconsin’s head coach. And a series IU once led 87-47 has completely flipped. It is now just 96-78 all-time in favor of the Hoosiers, and that Ryan-Gard continuity is a big reason why.
While Indiana is on its fifth full-time head coach since Knight, little has changed in Madison.
“I see a well put together basketball team,” Woodson said Monday night on his radio show. “They’re well coached, they play well on the offensive end, they’ve got a good defensive system.
“Their offensive motion and how they run some Princeton action and what we call chin action where the ball really doesn’t stick, so we’ve got to play a lot of body movement and ball movement and try to keep bodies on bodies and try to keep them in front of us. That’s gonna be the key.”
Indiana’s 23-year-old Parker Stewart will be the oldest player on the court on Wednesday. He wasn’t born the last time IU won in the building. Although some may believe Wisconsin’s Brad Davison played in that 1998 contest, he wasn’t born yet either. But he is one of three primary Badger contributors on Woodson’s radar.
“The Davison, (Jonathan) Davis kid and (Tyler) Wahl are their three primary guys. They don’t go that deep into the bench, their starters are going to play big minutes, and three of those starters are really good.
“They’ve got a big center who can make shots out on the floor as well as post up and make plays as well.”
7-footer Steven Crowl is that big center. He’s made 30 percent of his 3-pointers on three attempts per game. Davison has been solid at 16 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game. And Wahl and Chucky Hepburn both play 30 minutes per contest and average 8.8 and 7.4 points, respectively.
After losing key players such as D’Mitrik Trice (13.9 ppg), Micah Potter (12.5 ppg), Aleem Ford (8.7 ppg), and Nate Reuvers (8.3 ppg), and with noise about locker room instability, it was reasonable to expect a letdown by the Badgers this year.
But 6-foot-5 sophomore guard Davis has been the real story thus far, averaging 20.1 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the field overall including nearly 41 percent from three. Davis also leads the team in rebounds (5.6), assists (2.4) and steals (1.6) per game.
IU assistant coach Dane Fife has seen Wisconsin plenty, as a player for the Hoosiers and as an assistant for Michigan State. He was still in high school the last time IU won in the Kohl Center, but he has seen enough of Gard and the Badgers to know the scout fairly well.
Woodson relayed what the Indiana staff is seeing as the keys on both ends to finally win again in Madison against No. 22 Wisconsin (7-1).
“We’ve been harping on turnovers, if we can stay away from turnovers and let our defense work for us and rebound with them, we’ll be in the game,” Woodson said.
“They’re very disciplined. It’s not so much turning them over, it’s forcing them to take contested shots, and us when that ball goes up, us blocking out and all five guys having their hand in on rebounding the ball.”
It is a scouting report that hasn’t changed much over a generation. And a road challenge Indiana has been trying unsuccessfully to overcome for nearly 24 years.
“Our starting five is going to have their hands filled and we’re going to have to meet the challenge,” Woodson said.
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