BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- It took Wisconsin guard Trevon Hughes 12 minutes to get going Thursday night against Indiana.
Once he did, the Badgers (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) turned a close game into a blowout.
Hughes scored 17 points and Wisconsin rolled to a 78-46 victory over the Hoosiers, who kept it close early, but the Big Ten's best defense was too much for them in their ninth straight loss.
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said Hughes sparked the Badgers (21-7, 11-5 Big Ten) when they needed it. But he did it, Ryan said, by playing within himself and the team's offense.
"He was opportunistic and didn't force things," Ryan said of the senior point guard. "That shows his maturity and where he's at with his game right now. Other than his play in the second half against Illinois when he couldn't buy a shot, he's shot it well and made good decisions."
Nursing a 16-14 lead with about 8 minutes left in the first half, Wisconsin turned to its top scorer and floor leader.
His first basket with 7:57 left in the half started the spurt that gave the Badgers a 39-22 halftime lead. During that stretch, Hughes scored eight points and the Badgers made five 3-pointers. Hughes finished 6 of 9 from the field and the Badgers were 8 of 11 from 3-point rage with Hughes making 3 of 4.
"I thought we had a really good game plan," Hughes said. "We just finally got things worked out."
Teammate Jon Leuer added that he's seen Hughes take over games and ignite the Badgers a few times this season.
"Between him and Jason [Bohannon], they're our senior leaders," said Leuer, who scored 13 points and blocked a career-high four shots. "We know we're going to get great leadership from those two guys. Trevon played a fantastic game. That's how we need him to play all the time."
The Badgers, who moved within 1 1/2 games of first-place Purdue in the Big Ten race, shot 54 percent from the field and had five players score in double figures in their sixth straight win over Indiana.
Derek Elston had 12 points and seven rebounds for the Hoosiers (9-18, 3-12), who were swept by Wisconsin for the third straight season.
With 9:53 to play Indiana coach Tom Crean was ejected for arguing with the officials.
During his postgame news conference, Crean didn't budge. He's trying to instill the same kind of passion in a team that is among the youngest in the nation.
For the Hoosiers to get back to winning, Crean said it comes down to the ability to rebound on both ends and play sound, team defense.
"It isn't a secret," he said. "When this program comes back, it will be synonymous with fight, toughness, aggressiveness. It'll all be there. Is it right now? Not even close. I'm looking for a group of guys who is willing to fight with me."
While the frustration continues to mount for the Hoosiers, the Badgers have their sights set on runs in both the Big Ten tournament and NCAA tournament.
But as far as Ryan sees it, the remaining regular season games offer the Badgers opportunities to get better before the postseason rolls around.
"We're just trying to finish as high as we can in the Big Ten. I don't think they've awarded anything to anybody just yet, so we're still battling," he said.
Indiana missed all five of its 3-point attempts.
The Hoosiers struggled to find the continuity on both ends of the court. Coming off an 81-58 loss at Minnesota on Saturday, Indiana shot 35 percent against Wisconsin. A low shooting percentage, coupled with inexperience and a soft interior has led to Indiana's long losing streak.
Forward Kennedy Meeks, who has averaged 9.4 points and 6.5 rebounds at North Carolina, has pulled out of the NBA draft and will return to the Tar Heels.
Cal big man Ivan Rabb could have been selected in the top 10 of the NBA draft. Instead, he's returning to Berkeley to make himself, and the Golden Bears, stronger.
Devin Williams' decision last month to sign with an agent and enter the NBA draft has left West Virginia in a tough spot.