It's a cautionary loss for the Badgers, who couldn't solve the Boilermakers last year either. But on the other hand, it's probably good to get a realistic idea of how hard it will be to repeat as Big Ten champs.
Once again, Wisconsin did a fine job of limiting an opponent's top option. E'Twaun Moore shot just 1-of-12 from the floor and finished with four points. But Purdue is the most balanced Big Ten team the Badgers have seen, which meant 6-foot-10 sophomore JaJuan Johnson, who wasn't a factor last year, stepped forward with 20 points and 10 rebounds while Hummel (16 points) forced the Badgers' packed-in man-to-man to stretch with four 3-pointers.
Maybe there's no great lesson other than this: Wisconsin remains on the border between being a Top 25 team and being one that deserves to be just outside the polls.
The Badgers' four losses have come to teams that last week ranked No. 5 (Connecticut), No. 7 (Texas), No. 14 (Purdue) and No. 18 (Marquette) in the Associated Press poll. Meanwhile, their 12 wins have come against teams currently outside the Top 25. Only Michigan, which leads the "others receiving votes," received any votes.
This theory will be tested over the next four games as Wisconsin hosts ranked Big Ten teams Minnesota and Purdue while traveling to Iowa and Illinois.
Trevon Hughes and Marcus Landry (16 points apiece) shared scoring honors at Michigan, Landry (career-high-tying 23) led against Penn State, Jason Bohannon (career-high 20) led the way against Northwestern and Joe Krabbenhoft (13) paced the Badgers in their 65-52 loss at Purdue.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual starters — PG Trevon Hughes, SG Jason Bohannon, SF Joe Krabbenhoft, PF Keaton Nankivil, C Marcus Landry. Key Subs — G/F Tim Jarmusz, F Jon Leuer, G Jordan Taylor, G Rob Wilson, F Kevin Gullikson.
IN FOCUS: Wisconsin hasn't lost back-to-back games since Feb. 20-25, 2007, which coincided with the Badgers' first appearance at No. 1 in the national polls. The polls aren't an issue this year after Sunday's loss at Purdue, but the Badgers must figure out a way to get its offense back on track against Minnesota. Wisconsin shot just 38 percent at Purdue. Coincidentally, Minnesota's opponents shoot about 38 percent and Tubby Smith has 11 players he mixes and matches in order to get the matchups he wants.
On the plus side for Wisconsin, the Gophers have six new players in their rotation who have never played in front of a hostile crowd of 10,000 fans or more. With Wisconsin's students due back on campus, the Kohl Center could be a rude awakening for Minnesota's newbies.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know you will find this hard to believe, but I'll be able to find 20-30 things we did not do well on some of those possessions when we didn't cover well and handle those screens." — Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan after his Badgers drilled Northwestern 74-45 on Jan. 7 and forced the Wildcats into season-lows for points and field-goal shooting (31.4 percent).
Wisconsin 65, Penn State 61
Wisconsin 74, Northwestern 45
Purdue 65, Wisconsin 52
vs. Minnesota, Thursday, Jan. 15
at Iowa, Wednesday, Jan. 21
at Illinois, Saturday, Jan. 24