Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Men’s Basketball: Badgers fall to Edey, No. 5 Purdue in final home contest of 2022-2023

With upcoming Big Dance, Wisconsin’s tournament hopes dwindle
Caroline Hamilton

After failing to complete a double-digit, come-from-behind victory against the Michigan Wolverines, Greg Gard’s Wisconsin Badgers (16-13, 8-11) dropped another nail-biter to Matt Painter’s No. 5 Purdue Boilermakers (25-5, 14-5) 63-61 March 3 at the Kohl Center.

Only a handful of competitors in collegiate hoops history can stake claim to the “I-was-once-the-best-player-alive” status. Whether it be Patrick Ewing commanding the interior at Georgetown during the early 1980s, David Thompson gliding through the air at North Carolina State or Lew Alcindor reinventing how centers operated at UCLA, the most revered college basketball players can alter defensive schemes and wreak havoc against even the most formidable opponents.

The Boilermakers’ 7’4’’ phenom Zach Edey certainly possesses a few of these qualities. As the front runner for consensus National Player of the Year accolades, the Toronto native averages a smooth 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.4 swats per appearance. Given the numerous implications revolving around the conference tournament and the Big Dance, Crowl and company would need to mimic Bill Russell or Hakeem Olajuwon’s defensive dexterity to quell Purdue’s man in the middle. 


“You try to keep the ball out of his hands as much as you can,” said Gard in his postgame press conference. “They move him around and change the angle of the entry… He’s made himself into a really good player.” 

Just one year ago, Chucky Hepburn dropped a then career-high 17 points against the Boilermakers, including the game-winning, buzzer-beating bank shot to seal the deal and deliver UW a share of the 2022 Big Ten regular season title. With Badgers packed into the student section like sardines and Wisconsinites occupying every available seat at the Kohl Center, the atmosphere for Tyler Wahl’s senior night and UW’s final home match of 2023 paralleled last season’s raucous playoff environment. 

Gard’s group immediately recognized Eddy as a threat. The Badgers concentrated their entire defensive focus around Edey and double-teamed him on every touch. Wisconsin clogged passing lanes on looks intended for the post and tipped nearly everything expected to reach the interior.

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Through this stout aggression, UW controlled the game flow early, prompted uncharacteristic Purdue giveaways and forced the black and gold to earn points from the charity stripe.

But with Connor Essegian plagued by early foul trouble, Gard experimented with his bench unit. Luckily, sophomore Isaac Lindsey filled the shooting void while UW’s sniper remained on the bench. The second-year Badger scored eight consecutive points to close the first period for Wisconsin, and in doing so, ignited an anxious Area Red. 

At the break, Purdue established a sizable rebounding advantage, 18-9, and outdueled UW in offensive efficiency (58.3%.) Regardless, Wisconsin’s 45.5% clip from Curry-land kept the 125th-anniversary team afloat. By intermission, Purdue held a four-point edge, 31-27.

At this particular juncture, one would expect either Chucky Hepburn or Connor Essegian to kick-start a second-half scoring barrage. Almost by surprise, Max Klesmit, a lifelong Badger fan, took out his do-it-yourself kit to close the contest. Notwithstanding his 8.3 points per game average, the junior embraced offensive responsibilities during the final 20 minutes of regulation and appeared unfazed by the national spotlight. 

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Out of the gate in the second half, Wisconsin orchestrated an 11-3 scoring spurt to open the frame, courtesy of eight tallies from Klesmit and an Essegian 3-pointer from the right wing. Chucky Hepburn would hit nothing but nylon on a step back 3 just under a minute later to balloon Wisconsin’s edge to five.

Through a number of quality offensive sets, the Boilermakers curbed Wisconsin’s momentum. For the succeeding 10 minutes of action, the conference foes would trade big-time buckets at all three levels. 

Edey, who went 1-6 from the charity stripe in the first half, calmly sank a pair of clutch free throws to pull Purdue ahead, 58-57, at the 1:45 mark. After Hepburn failed to execute his patented baseline fadeaway, Wisconsin’s next offensive possession would prove controversial. Klesmit, the hot hand, absorbed contact on a strong drive to the rim. The referees saved their whistle, and both teams would attempt to extend the contest via the charity stripe. 

In the end, Purdue executed from the line and escaped with a two-tally triumph, 63-61.

“We’ve been there on so many of these games,” said Klesmit after the match. “We’ve been right there… it’s a matter of few plays, possessions, cleaning up some little things. That is the difference maker for us right now.”

For Wisconsin, Klesmit welcomed the Kohl Center to an offensive masterclass. The Neenah native registered a season-best 19 points, including 17 pivotal second-half tallies, and pickpocketed three Boilermakers on the defensive end.

Chucky Hepburn poured in five goals, and Isaac Lindsey, UW’s third-string point guard, nailed all three of his attempts for eight quick points in five minutes on the hardwood. Wisconsin’s 7-footer, Steven Crowl, could not overcome Edey’s Gobert-like size down low–the big man accounted for one score and seized just six rebounds in the painted area.

On the opposite side, Zach Edey channeled his inner Tim Duncan on the low block. The National Player of the Year favorite drilled seven high-percentage looks for 17 tallies and snagged a Rodman-esque 19 boards, six of which arrived on the offensive glass. Former Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year Fletcher Loyer canned six field goals for 13 total points, and Braden Smith, Purdue’s sharpshooting marksman, scored nine points and distributed a pair of dimes in 26 minutes of action. 

Wisconsin, in must-win mode, ventures to Minneapolis this Sunday, March 5 for its final regular season match to face off against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at 6:30 p.m.

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