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Indiana players celebrate the 74-70 victory over Wisconsin (HN photo/Danielle Stockwell)
Indiana players celebrate the 74-70 victory over Wisconsin (HN photo/Danielle Stockwell)

'It was unbelievable. He had a man’s game': Kel'el Ware leads the way as Indiana defeats Wisconsin

Ware gathered his 12th double double on the year with 27 points and 11 rebounds

A mid-game evacuation was not enough to slow down Kel’el Ware and the Hoosiers Tuesday night, as Indiana went on to take down the Wisconsin Badgers 74-70 in Assembly Hall. 

Ware was near-perfect -- he finished with 27 points shooting 11-for-12 from the floor, 11 rebounds, five blocks, one turnover, and zero personal fouls. Ware’s performance marked his 12th double-double on the year with three regular season games to go, compared to his zero throughout his 35-game career at Oregon.

“I think when we brought him on board we didn’t know what we were going to get,” head coach Mike Woodson said. “Really didn’t. We knew he was very skilled and the word was that he didn’t work hard. I thought after the first month of us getting after him a little bit that kind of picked up and it was a nice carryover into the season.”

Ware’s play Tuesday evening brought his season averages up to 15.6 points and 9.5 rebounds on 58% shooting. Coach Woodson gave him the game ball after the match. 

Kel'el Ware and Mike Woodson talk during a break in the action (HN photo/Danielle Stockwell)

It was far from a one-man-show, however, as Malik Reneau and Mackenzie Mgbako also had strong games, each posting 14 points. The three five-star recruits accounted for 55 of Indiana’s 74 total points. Reneau contributed eight rebounds as well before fouling out late in the contest. 

“[Ware] and [Reneau] and [Mgbako] have had a really wonderful season for us,” Woodson said. “For guys who really haven’t played a lot in college basketball, it says a lot for my staff and the work these guys have put in, along with myself, to get these guys playing at a high level.”

Though Ware’s versatility and ability to shoot from anywhere presented good opportunities for him to score, a large part of how the 7-foot center was able to get many clean looks was due to captain Trey Galloway’s spacial awareness.

Galloway finished with a career high 12 assists with Ware the recipient on most. Throughout the season, the connection between Galloway and Ware has created a deadly threat from inside the paint, where Galloway has frequently had the option of floating the ball up and in or lobbing it up top to Ware.

“We’re always on the same team in practice, so that helps when it comes to the game,” Ware said. “Just building that chemistry and learning each other and where to pass it and how to pass it and getting the ball to the right spot.”

Tuesday’s win marked the first time since Jan. 30 that Indiana was at full strength since Xavier Johnson went down with a left arm injury he suffered against Iowa. His presence not only allowed for another scoring option, but the Hoosiers as a whole got the leadership and experience they have been missing for more than half the season from their sixth-year captain’s return. 

Indiana's Trey Galloway directs traffic during the Hoosiers' win (HN photo/Danielle Stockwell)

“It’s always great to have our teammates back, and tonight was the first game we had everybody,” Ware said. “I feel like [Johnson] brings speed, and just being able to get the ball, especially going downhill off the pick and rolls. So that helped us a lot tonight.”

Without many regular season games remaining, the Hoosiers are looking to finish the year on a potential win streak before heading to Minneapolis for the Big Ten Tournament beginning on March 13. With performances like this, Ware not only improves the chances of a possible deep tournament run, but also his NBA draft stock if he chooses to go down that path and forgo his remaining college years. Ware is currently projected to be drafted 23rd overall in round one of Bleacher Report’s most recent 2024 mock draft.

“It was unbelievable. He had a man’s game,” Woodson said. “He really did. You get 27 [points], 11 [rebounds], five blocks, one turnover, you know, maybe we didn’t go to him enough, but he was fantastic tonight. We needed every bit of it in order to win this game.”

Indiana will have a four day period of rest before resuming play at Maryland on Sunday. Now 15-13 with just two away games and one home game left, the Hoosiers must scrape together as many wins as possible to finish the season on a high note.

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