The No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team fell to the No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers 69-75 Sunday at the Kohl Center despite Tyler Wahl’s 20 points and seven rebounds.
Wisconsin entered the Kohl Center Friday after a tough road loss last week against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Before tipoff even started, UW-Madison students lined up outside the Kohl Center for up to nearly three blocks from the arena.
With the Wisconsin student section up on their feet at tipoff, the Badgers came out of the floodgates strong, earning an early five-point first-half lead in the first six minutes of the game. However, the Boilermakers battled back thanks to guards Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith, who combined for 18 points in the first half.
Purdue’s most dangerous weapon Sunday was 7-foot-4, 300-pound Canadian forward Zach Edey, who rallied the Boilermakers with his 18 points and 13 rebounds. Guarding Edey proved to be demanding for the Badgers. Despite Edey’s mere five points in the first half, his presence and stature alone forced the Badgers to throw multiple bodies his way to keep him out of the paint.
Every Wisconsin player who got minutes in the first half picked up at least one foul, which led to a first-half free throw disparity of 10 attempts for Purdue to just two attempts for the Badgers. Even with this gap, Wisconsin trailed by two points at halftime thanks in part to Badgers forward Tyler Wahl, who found success in the paint and finished the game with a team-high 20 points.
The Boilermakers’ lead only grew coming out of halftime as Purdue led by 10 points six minutes into the second half. The lead became insurmountable for Wisconsin as Badgers forward Steven Crowl got his fourth foul halfway through the second half, forcing Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard to substitute freshman forward Nolan Winter in for Crowl.
Foul discrepancy became apparent when Badgers guard Chucky Hepburn got called for a reach-in foul on Smith with 27 seconds left in the game despite Smith stepping out of bounds with the ball before Hepburn made contact. This thwarted Wisconsin’s late-game comeback and ended the game with a free-throw shootout.
Gard praised Purdue’s roster and did not shy away from acknowledging Edey’s impact.
“They're really complete,” Gard said. “They've got a lot of pieces. We have a lot of pieces. But the difference maker obviously is Zach. You can't replicate or simulate that.”
Wisconsin has not lost two games in a row since November.
The Badgers move to 16-6 overall on the season and 8-3 in Big Ten play. Wisconsin will head on the road for their next two games, with their first stop Wednesday in Ann Arbor against the Michigan Wolverines, who are at the bottom of the Big Ten standings.