Senior Day is always supposed to be bittersweet.
But, for the first time ever under head coach Bo Ryan, Wisconsin sent its seniors off the Kohl Center floor for the final time in their careers with a feeling that was just bitter.
Playing the role of spoiler, Purdue (14-15, 7-9) steamrolled back from a five-point halftime deficit, outscoring No. 17 Wisconsin (20-9, 11-5) by 18 points in the second half, propelling the Boilermakers to a 69-56 victory over the Badgers Sunday afternoon.
Purdue’s D.J. Byrd finished the game with 22 points — bolstering his team’s second half surge with a 6-for-9 shooting performance from outside — to lead all scorers, while Wisconsin’s Jared Berggren led his team with a 13-point, eight-rebound effort.
“I’ve been through a lot of these over the years at different places,” Ryan said. “We’ve gone in and knocked people off on their senior days. You just never know.”
“It’s tough,” Berggren said. “For it to come to an end playing at the Kohl Center like this, it’s an emotional moment, especially after a loss. I was probably hurting more about [the loss] to be honest; this is a pretty big loss for us.”
The loss was a crippling blow to the Big Ten title hopes of Wisconsin, who now move to third place in the Big Ten and two games behind first place Indiana with just two games remaining.
The key turning point of the game came with the Badgers up 42-33 with a little more than 17 minutes left to play when Wisconsin redshirt senior forward Ryan Evans picked up his third foul, sending him to the bench.
After that, it was all Boilermakers, as the team went on an 11-0 run with Evans out of the lineup and outrebounded the Badgers 7-0 during the stretch. Terone Johnson, who finished with 16 points, soon found enough space to make a pair of runners in the lane, while Byrd hit two threes to give Purdue their first lead since the 15-minute mark in the first half.
“We did a poor job of defending Byrd,” Berggren said. “He hurt us pretty bad with some of those threes he hit. [Johnson’s] floaters, we gave them a little bit too much space off the screen and rolls. We didn’t do a good enough job of squeezing them.
An 11-0 run soon turned to a 20-2 run, as Johnson continued to terrorize the Badgers inside with his penetration, scoring eight points over the Boilermakers’ scoring outburst.
“We thought if Terone Johnson could get in the lane against them and get deep enough he could be able to make some plays there,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. “We tried to just stay with it.”
Down 52-43, Wisconsin and the Kohl Center crowd got a booster shot in the arm from an alley-oop from Evans to Berggren, sparking five unanswered points for the Badgers, cutting their opponent’s lead to five.
But, Johnson and Byrd had an answer that effectively ended any hopes of a Wisconsin comeback. Johnson got into the paint for another leaner in the lane, while on the next possession Byrd hit a three, this time curling off of a double screen from Rapheal Davis and Terone Johnson, putting Purdue comfortably in control with a 59-50 lead.
The first half saw both teams shoot more than 45 percent from the field, with Wisconsin shooting 51.9 and Purdue converting 46.4 of their shots from the floor.
Evans, who entered the game shooting just 39 percent from the field, started off the game on a tear, converting 4-of-5 shots, all 15-foot jumpers from around the perimeter.
Byrd hit a pull-up three on the left wing off a screen from Travis Carroll to give Purdue an 11-9 lead early in the half, but it would prove to be the last lead the Boilermakers would hold in the game’s first 20 minutes.
A pull-up jumper from Traveon Jackson off an assist from Sam Dekker tied the game, and on the following possession Ben Brust squared up a closing-out Carroll and pulled the string on a deep-three, hitting nothing but net.
The Badgers then benefitted from a bit of a lucky bounce from Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year hopeful Dekker, who banked in a three from the top of the key to extend the Wisconsin lead to 17-13.
The Badgers jumped out in front even further with a 10-0 run thanks to another three from Dekker and two back-to-back jumpers from a red-hot Evans.
But, the Boilermakers found a way to claw back with a 7-0 run of their own, as a three from Byrd and four quick points from Johnson brought the score to a 36-31 Badger lead at half after Purdue trailed at one point by 12.
The momentum and confidence of the Boilermakers proved too much for the Badgers as did their own poor performance from the field, shooting a measly 30 percent in the second half and failing to convert on any of their 12 attempts in the second half from deep.
“It’s tough, just thinking of all the time you’ve put in with these guys and all the memories we’ve made,” Berggren said. “For it to come at an end playing at the Kohl Center, it’s an emotional moment, especially after a loss.”
Notes: Entering Sunday’s game, the Badgers had never lost on Senior Day under Bo Ryan. UW’s streak of 11-straight wins in home finales was the record in the Big Ten. … UW lost to an unranked Big Ten opponent at the Kohl Center for just the third time in Bo Ryan’s 12 seasons, falling to 69-3 in such games. … The Badgers fell to 8-10 against Purdue in the Bo Ryan era. The Boilermakers are the only team in the conference to own a winning record against the Badgers’ head coach during his time with the program.