In a matchup of bona fide superstars, the Purdue Boilermakers (3-2 Big Ten, 10-6 overall) and junior guard Carsen Edwards bested senior forward Ethan Happ and the Wisconsin Badgers (3-2, 11-5). In need of a win to keep pace in the Big Ten race, the Badgers instead turned in a sloppy performance, falling 84-80 in overtime despite late heroics at the end of regulation. Here are the key takeaways from the disappointing result.
Faulty fundamentals doom UW
Wisconsin’s basketball program has long been known for its discipline and fundamentals. In an alarming development, these Badgers failed to live up to that reputation.
While Wisconsin only averaged nine turnovers per game, ranking second in the nation, they coughed the ball up at inopportune times against Purdue, as they had 17 on the night, highlighted by a turnover on the first possession by Happ. Wisconsin interrupted its own offensive flow and rhythm by making sloppy passes time and again. This helped Purdue overcome a disadvantage in field goal percentage; while they shot 44 percent to UW’s 56 percent, they attempted 10 more shots, including nine more from three-point range.
Purdue was also able to feast on the offensive boards, compiling an astounding 17 offensive rebounds. The Boilermakers won the total rebounding battle 39-32, but that advantage was even more pronounced on the offensive glass as the Badgers only grabbed eight offensive boards.
Add all that with the Badgers’ free throw woes, Wisconsin went 11-for-19 from the charity stripe. While Purdue actually shot a lower percentage, making 17 of their 30, they had more attempts and makes. For several years, fans and commentators have bemoaned Wisconsin’s poor performance from the line. One can only wonder how several close losses could have gone differently with even a marginal improvement in this category.
Second half takes away emphasis on paint
Happ absolutely dominated in the first half. Scoring 18 points on 9-of-10 shooting, the senior center also grabbed nine rebounds as Purdue had no answer for the dominant big man. Consequently, the first 18 points of the game for the Badgers came from inside the paint.
In the second half, however, the game changed. Both offenses opened up and tried more three-point shots. The two teams, who had combined to shoot only 11 three-point attempts in the first 20 minutes, put up 29 in the second half. This shift benefited Purdue, who were more content to get into a shooting contest while denying Happ the ball. Wisconsin shot a higher percentage from beyond the arc but had two fewer triples. Happ scored 13 points between the second half and overtime, underscoring a shift in strategy that ultimately benefited the Boilermakers.
Kohl Center no longer a fortress
The days of domination in Madison seem long gone. They have already dropped conference games to Minnesota and Purdue this season with tougher matchups against No. 2 Michigan and No. 6 Michigan State still to come.
The Kohl Center crowd was in full force on Friday, and the Badgers rode the noise continually throughout the game as they played from behind and erased a seven-point deficit late to force overtime. Still, they couldn’t beat the Boilermakers, who earned their first away win against Wisconsin since the 2015-'16 season.
Bench nonexistent for Wisconsin
In a game that was lost by just by a couple of buckets, the Badgers could have desperately used a little more help from their bench.
In 58 combined bench minutes between junior guard Brevin Priztl, sophomore forward Aleem Ford and freshman guard Kobe King, the Badgers got a measly seven points on 2-for-6 shooting. And frankly, the six shot attempts look worse than the two makes: Wisconsin needs more from its bench players, but they seemed hesitant to take shots.
Ford is averaging a disappointing 3.0 points per game, while Pritzl has gone into double-digits just once — with 12 points against Iowa back in November — in conference play. The difference between Wisconsin winning and losing games right now is the lack of help Happ is getting.