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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, August 15, 2022
Ethan Happ

Ethan Happ led the way for the Badgers as they won their first true conference test of the season.

Wisconsin, Purdue square off in regular-season finale

With its final regular season game remaining, Wisconsin (12-5 Big Ten, 20-10 overall) has to feel pretty good about the situation they are currently in.

After throttling Minnesota Wednesday, the Badgers clinched at least a fourth place finish in the Big Ten for the 15th consecutive year and secured a seventh consecutive season with at least 12 Big Ten conference wins.

Now, the Badgers rest comfortably as a projected No. 6 seed according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and are preparing for what could be another wild March Madness season.

But before the team looks too far ahead, they will have to take care of its regular season business with an away matchup against No. 15 Purdue (11-6, 23-7) this Sunday in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Despite Wisconsin winning 11 of its last 12 games with wins over No. 2 Michigan State, No. 12 Indiana, No. 14 Maryland, and No. 16 Iowa, the Boilermakers will be one of the most difficult matchups the Badgers see this season.

Flying under the radar this year, Purdue has stayed in the AP top 25 all season and has defeated nearly every top opponent in the Big Ten.

In fact, in late December, the Boilermakers came into Madison and edged Wisconsin 61-55, which started a horrendous 1-4 conference skid for the Badgers.

But it is clear the UW team playing in December is simply not the same team that is playing today. The loss to Purdue on December 29th was Greg Gard’s first conference game as interim head coach and junior Vitto Brown and redshirt freshman Ethan Happ, who combined average nearly 22 points per game, were limited to just 3-of-14 shooting.

Come Sunday, Purdue will experience a brand new Badger squad.

Led by its 3-point attack, Wisconsin has thrived from its ability to shoot from beyond the arc in recent weeks. The team is 7-1 in its last eight games when hitting six or more threes. Juniors Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown will be the core of the deep ball, but redshirt sophomore Jordan Hill will always be an x factor that can provide a couple threes in crucial moments.

UW will need to make sure its 3-point game is on point as Purdue comes into Sunday’s matchup boasting a stout defense that ranks in the top three statistically in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers only allow 64.4 points per game and boast two seven footers that limit any dribble-penetration drives.

Center AJ Hammons, who is marked as 7 feet tall and 261 pounds, will be the anchor for Purdue as he averages 14.8 ppg, 7.8 boards and 2.6 blocks per game.

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Certainly, this could be a game where Happ struggles in the post simply due to his lack of size compared to Hammons. Hammons puts on at least three more inches and 30 more pounds than Happ.

Size differences will also affect the Badgers as whole. Purdue comes in with a very deep roster that plays four starters that are over 6’5. The team has cruised to a +11 rebounding margin this season which could be a major issue for Wisconsin.

The Badgers have only outrebounded opposing teams twice in its last six games. Without owning the rebounding margin, the Badgers are more susceptible to lose as second-chance point opportunities will be limited.

With both teams playing for tournament seeding, the matchup will certainly be one that won’t be a cakewalk. With a win, the Badgers earn a double bye into the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals Friday. If they lose, they’ll have just a single bye and will begin play Thursday in Indianapolis.

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