Wisconsin students camped out overnight and lined up by the hundreds to watch the fifth-ever matchup between top-10 teams at the Kohl Center on Sunday. Though the Badgers fell short of the victory and lost first place in the Big Ten, they went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the country and delivered 40 minutes of high-level basketball.
Anchored by 7-foot-4, 300-pound reigning National Player of the Year Zach Edey, the Boilermakers dominated Wisconsin on the glass, out-rebounding UW 42–29 on the day and racking up 21 second-chance points on 13 offensive rebounds. Edey’s presence also dissuaded the Badgers from attacking the basket from the perimeter, resulting in plenty of mid-range jumpers and three-point attempts — many of which were ill-timed.
Wisconsin finished three-for-19 from beyond the arc and failed to connect on any of their 11 attempts from range in the second half. Similarly to Thursday’s loss to Nebraska, the offense fell out of rhythm in the closing period, finishing the second 13-for-36 from the field with just five assists after shooting 14-for-29 in the first half on 10 assists.
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Post-game, Coach Greg Gard acknowledged the poor shot selection and the team’s reliance on jumpers. “We have to do a better job of attacking and not settling for pull-up jump shots and early threes,” Gard said. “At times we did it very well … but also at times, I thought we got jump shot happy … it’s great when they’re going in, but it’s fool’s gold.”
While Gard and Steven Crowl emphasized that the poor shot selection wasn’t a consequence of one or two players, AJ Storr was kept on the sidelines for all but 34 seconds of the closing six minutes of the contest.
A consistent member of the closing lineup, Storr was subbed out with 6:23 to play directly after missing a contested off-the-dribble three-pointer with 15 seconds on the shot clock. He then re-took the court at the 3:48 mark and on Wisconsin’s first offensive possession, took a contested step-back mid-range jumper that landed short with 20 seconds on the shot clock and was sent back to the bench at the next dead ball.
Though Storr finished with 14 points on 4-of-15 shooting from the field, he was the only Badger to reach the free throw line via shooting foul until there were 17 seconds left in the game, when Chucky Hepburn got fouled on a putback attempt.
While Wisconsin’s tentativeness to challenge Edey at the rim resulted in just two free throw attempts in the first half, UW ended up besting Purdue in points in the paint 44–34.
Wahl was one of the few Badgers to consistently go after Edey on the offensive end, utilizing several shot fakes and nifty footwork to create enough separation to get shots up. He tied for the game-high with 20 points and led UW in rebounds with seven (six offensive) and assists with five.
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After racking up 10 points (4-4 FG, 2-2 3Pt), Max Klesmit went scoreless in the second half and Connor Essegian delivered six points on 3-7 FG with each make coming at very opportune times.
For Purdue, Edey finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks despite only tallying five points and five rebounds in the first half. Southern Illinois transfer Lance Jones notched 20 points and six rebounds while Braden Smith delivered 19 points, six rebounds and a pair of steals.
The Badgers now sit firmly behind Purdue in the Big Ten standings with an 8-3 conference record and are 16-6 overall.
Despite dropping both games this week, Crowl said postgame that the team isn’t going to overreact to the losses.
“We remember what happened after we lost two games last time,” Crowl said. “We went on a pretty good run.”
The Badgers will certainly have a chance to bounce back, as their next three games will come at Michigan, at Rutgers and at home against Ohio State. The three teams own a combined conference record of 8-24 and sit at the bottom of the Big Ten standings.