Coming off a tough loss at No. 11 Michigan State earlier in the week, Wisconsin needed a big win over No. 4 Purdue to salvage a split in its first two games against the Big Ten favorites. With an upset over No. 5 Duke already on their r?sum?, the Badgers knew a second win over a top-five team at the Kohl Center was not out of the question.
Still, most fans and members of the media would tell you they weren’t entirely convinced that Wisconsin could beat Purdue. Not with the way the Badgers had played in their loss at MSU and not with the way the Boilermakers had been playing to start the season.
They were undefeated, after all.
Plus, after senior point guard Trevon Hughes went to the bench with two fouls just over six minutes in, the Badgers’ chances of victory began to look bleak. Could UW really contend with the nation’s fourth-best team with its star point guard riding the bench? But with his team up 10-6, sophomore guard Jordan Taylor stepped in for Hughes, and the Badgers didn’t miss a beat. Taylor’s play, especially in the first half, was the key to the game, according to Purdue head coach Matt Painter.
“Taylor was the difference in the game,” Painter said. “Any time you can bring somebody off the bench and get 23 points on 11 shots, that’s pretty impressive.”
Still, Hughes and fellow senior guard Jason Bohannon didn’t play too poorly either. Hughes scored 14 points in the game, nine of which came in the second half, on a night when he couldn’t miss — 3-for-3 from the floor, 2-for-2 from 3-point range and 6-for-6 at the line. Bohannon added 20 points of his own, which gave the UW guards a total of 57 points on the afternoon, or nearly 80 percent of the Badgers’ offensive output.
Wisconsin led 8-0 to open the game, and the energy in the building never let up over the next 37:36. UW lost its momentum and trailed by as many as four points in the first half, but rallied back and caught fire before holding its largest lead of 14 points just over five minutes into the second half.
Junior forwards Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer — who fractured a bone in his wrist during the game but played through it — combined to go 3-for-20 from the field, scoring six points combined. Wisconsin’s other starter, Tim Jarmusz, did not score in the game.
Taylor scored 13 of his 23 points in the first half, playing 17 minutes while Hughes had to sit after just six. Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan agreed with Painter about Taylor, whose efforts kept them in the ball game at a very crucial moment.
“That could have been a 10-15 point half in their favor,” Ryan said. “You tell me how it was that score at halftime? My answer would be because of Jordan Taylor.”
It was the high point of the season for the Badgers, and the win put them in the conversation for the Big Ten regular season crown.