With 1:20 to play in the game, Alyssa Karel hit a jumper, answering a Lakisha Freeman jumper on the other end and bringing the Kohl Center crowd to its feet.
The Badgers and their fans were beginning to sense victory, even after their lead had slipped from 11 points with 14:27 remaining in the second half.
Unfortunately for the cardinal and white, they struggled over the next 80 seconds, failing to convert at the free-throw line and leaving Purdue guard Brittany Rayburn all alone beyond the arc for the game-winning shot.
“I thought our players played outstanding for 39 minutes, they really did,” UW head coach Lisa Stone said. “They gave tremendous effort, played great defense, executed offensively probably the best we have all year … and I thought we got Purdue’s best.”
Wisconsin failed, however, to finish the game — something that’s been a persistent problem since the beginning of the Big Ten season.
UW has lost seven games in conference play by an average of six points, including four losses by three or fewer points. In recent losses, the Badgers have often led late in the half before letting the game slip away in the final minutes.
“These past couple games we’ve lost it’s just been at our fingertips, and the fact that we can’t close them is a bad feeling in your gut,” Karel said. “I think in the next game we’ve just got to use that bad feeling to fuel us and come out and get a win.”
The loss extended the Badgers’ losing streak to a season-long three games. The streak began on the road at Penn State, where Wisconsin fell at the buzzer in overtime despite having a 17-point lead late in the game.
In spite of coming out on the losing end for their third consecutive game, Wisconsin still impressed Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp.
“Wisconsin is playing great basketball,” Versyp said. “They’re just on the verge of just turning the corner. I have a lot of respect for Lisa and her staff and her team.”
Although the Badgers remain positive and confident they are playing as well as they have all season, they’re closing in on a point in the season where moral victories no longer carry much weight.
Only seven games remain on the schedule for UW prior to the Big Ten Tournament and four of the seven are on the road, a place the Badgers have struggled to win all season.
“We’re right there. We are right there,” Stone said.
Purdue grabs crucial offensive rebounds
Offensive rebounds are not usually the most memorable plays in a basketball game. In fact, it is often a stat that goes overlooked by most people.
For Purdue, however, offensive rebounds made the difference Thursday night.
With the Boilermakers’ size, it came as no surprise that they outrebounded the Badgers 30-28 in the game. What was surprising, though, was Wisconsin’s ability throughout most of the game to keep Purdue off the offensive boards.
Through the first 36 minutes of play, the Boilermakers went without an offensive rebound. Yet, over the next four minutes, Purdue got four crucial rebounds on the offensive end, including one that allowed them to take a 52-51 lead with 7.6 seconds remaining.
Following a miss inside, Danielle Campbell got her own rebound before kicking it out to Rayburn on the wing for the 3-pointer.
“We gave up no offensive rebounds, until, I think, three or four minutes left to go in the ball game,” Stone said. “We gave up four down the stretch and that hurt us.”
Over a stretch in which a defensive stop and rebound could have sealed the game for UW, the Boilermakers found a way to come up with the offensive board and got all five of their second-chance points in the last two minutes of play.
“We talked in the last timeout about one stop and one rebound and it’s ours,” Stone said. “Unfortunately, they came up with four offensive rebounds.”