Purdue's big men take down Wisconsin

Wisconsin suffered its first Big Ten setback Sunday. 

Image By: Jessi Schoville

In the midst of a nine-game winning streak and following a big road win over then-No. 25 Indiana, the Wisconsin Badgers were finally starting to look like the top-flight team they were predicted to be. They were scoring at will, dominating on the boards and having fun doing it. Then, they ran into Purdue.

The No. 17 Boilermakers (3-1 Big Ten, 14-3 overall) shut down the No. 18 Badgers’ (2-1, 13-3) offense to claim a 66-55 win, one that could have major implications down the stretch of the conference season.

After averaging 82.6 points per game during their winning streak, the Badgers failed to break 60 points in West Lafayette and were held to miserable shooting percentages all around. UW made just 39 percent of its field goals and an abysmal 14 percent of its 3-point attempts. For only the fourth time this decade, the Badgers made two or fewer 3-pointers.

The marquee matchup between sophomore powerhouse forwards Caleb Swanigan and Ethan Happ lived up to the billing, but Swanigan ultimately got the best of his less-highly touted counterpart. He finished the game with 18 points and 13 rebounds to Happ’s 17 and five, though he did turn the ball over an astounding eight times.

Many of those turnovers came by way of Happ’s quick hands, as he recorded six steals in a game for the second time this year. Badger players have now recorded six steals in a game three times this season, a feat that hasn’t happened at UW in at least five years.

All told, the Boilermakers turned the ball over 18 times, twice as often as UW, giving the Badgers a litany of extra possessions. But the Badgers couldn’t capitalize, even though they took 13 more shots than Purdue on the night.

Swanigan and fellow big man Isaac Haas terrorized UW, going a combined 11-for-16 from the field and 7-for-8 from the free-throw line. The gigantic duo nearly outrebounded UW on their own, collecting 18 total rebounds.

The Badgers, normally a dominant rebounding team, grabbed just 22 total rebounds in the game. That’s their lowest total since March of 2016—when they traveled to West Lafayette and lost to Purdue.

Despite an intimidating matchup with Swanigan, Happ managed to stuff the stat sheet, again showcasing his multifaceted skill set. His 17 points, five rebounds, four assists and six steals are a marvel of versatility, and he may very well be on his way to a 5-by-5 game. It would be just the second such game in the country since at least 2010.

The Badgers’ schedule lightens up a little in the coming days, as they head back home to the Kohl Center to welcome Ohio State and Michigan before another road trip to Minnesota. OSU is a wildcard, and UW will have to regain its prior confidence to avoid back-to-back losses early in the conference season.

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