The No. 25 Wisconsin Badgers (16-10 overall, 10-9 Big Ten) dropped their seventh straight game against a ranked team, this time in West Lafayette against No. 23 Purdue (17-8 overall, 12-7 Big Ten) by a score of 73-69.
The Badgers looked like their typical selves in the first half, and that shouldn’t encourage Badger fans. They saw two scoring droughts of three minutes or more. Their defense was stout as usual with a handful of turnovers forced, but they simply couldn’t get anything going offensively. Aleem Ford managed a buzzer-beating layup at the end of the half, but the Badgers went into the locker room down 30-28.
The first half was ugly for sure, but it wasn’t the basketball root canal that the second half was.
Once again, for much of the second half, the Badgers could not score. Brad Davison started off 2-3 from the field, but ended the game shooting 4-12 from the field and 3-8 from deep. Davison still led the Badgers in scoring with 15 points.
A little more than halfway through the second half, the Badgers and Boilermakers teamed up to score zero field goals in over four minutes of game time.
Once each team remembered to put the ball in the hoop, Purdue used that newfound knowledge to their advantage by feeding their 7’4” freshman Zach Edey. The Badgers’ bigs folded against Edey, who ended the game with 21 points on 8/11 shooting along with seven rebounds.
“Edey was a handful,” said head coach Greg Gard postgame. “They do such a good job spacing around him and Williams… Edey, obviously at his size, there’s some things there that are harder to combat. They put him in good positions.”
While Edey’s huge game may have come as a surprise to the Badgers, they should have expected high scoring numbers from freshman guard Jordan Ivey. The South Bend, In. native has scored in double figures in four of his last five games, and continued his streak today with 18 points. Ivey shot 9-10 from the free throw line, good for more made free throws than all Badger guards combined.
Despite the absence of the infamous Bo Boroski, the Big Ten referees put their grubby hands all over the game. Twenty-four fouls were called in the first 16 minutes of the second half. The Badgers were in the double bonus with over 12 minutes left, and Purdue made it to the double bonus shortly after. The Badgers finished the game shooting 16-21 from the stripe while Purdue shot 20-26.
Towards the end of the game, the Badgers had a chance to bring the game within reach down by four points with 15 seconds left. Instead of taking a drive to the rim, Davison missed a contested jump shot to give the Boilermakers the ball back. Despite a layup from Ford, Ivey made two free throws to ice the game.
“He was trying to get off a ball screen,” said Gard. “They iced him and forced him into some traffic. I thought at that point of time we could’ve attacked the rim and not settled for that quick a shot.”
Wisconsin’s three-point shooting continued to be abysmal. The team shot 7-29 from distance including 2-8 shooting from star point guard D’Mitrik Trice, who ended with just 10 points.
To make matters worse, the Badgers’ struggles inside the arc continued as they were outscored 36-20 in the paint and were outrebounded 37-27. However, the Badgers believe that there are positives to take away from this game.
“I felt we played with a lot of energy as a team, playing for one another,” said Nate Reuvers. “Some shots didn’t go down, and that happens. We keep playing like that, we’ll give our team a chance to win games down the stretch… can’t get down after this loss.”
Prior to this loss, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had the Badgers as a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament, while other networks had them as low as a 7-seed. Without a win before the Big Ten tournament, they could potentially drop to an 8-seed that would have them play a 1-seed in the Round of 32 if they made it there.
The Badgers close out the regular season on Sunday as they travel to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes.