Ryan Evans played the best game of his life. No exaggeration. He threw down an alley-oop to spark the Badgers comeback run. He hit what proved to be the game-winning shot with less than a minute left. Then he added a jump-ball turnover and victory-cigar dunk to top it off.
That's right, two dunks in one night for a UW player in one night.
While the Badgers giving up a 9-for-9 shooting run for 20 points to start the second half is troubling, coming back from such a huge momentum swing is all the more impressive. After a dull/uninspired/just-plain-bad first half to start the Big Ten battle for second place, both Purdue and Wisconsin brought their 'A' games for the final 20 minutes.
As the 66-59 final score showed, UW's 'A' game is better.
This was a Wisconsin win.
UW went 13-for-16 from the free throw line. Purdue went 8-for-9. The Badgers pulled down 12 offensive rebounds off 32 missed shots. The Boilermakers got just four offensive boards on 25 missed shots. And of course, UW turned the ball over just seven times, PU gave it away 13 times.
With Keaton Nankivil absolutely killing Purdue twice last season, PU coach Matt Painter made sure his guys knew to get out on Nanks when he was open for three — though he still managed to knock down 2-for-4 in the game.
As a result of the special attention to Nankivil, Leuer was given (some) room to operate and responded with his ninth 20-point game of the season. Leuer also pulled down a career high 13 boards (four offensive). He made himself a physical presence in the second half, knocking down all six free throws he attempted.
Josh Gasser went to prove his triple-double wasn't an aberration, scoring 11 points on (four-of-four shooting) with his second and third threes of the conference season.
And of course, Evans had the best game of his life, finishing with 10 points on five-of-nine shooting.
Wisconsin finished shooting just 42 percent but also carried a respectable 1.17 points per possession.
Save for one five minute run and this grade would be an 'A'
But that was one killer five minute run.
Purdue managed just 19 points in the entire 20-minute first half. They scored that many in the first five minutes of the second half. It was a combination of sloppy defense by Wisconsin — deep post catches and a dunk for JaJuan Johnson — while Purdue just shot the eyes out of the ball.
On the plus side, Gasser held up well against E'Twaun Moore, limiting him to 15 points on 15 shots and Lewis Jackson was never able to get going in the transition game, attempting just one shot all day.
UW forced 10 turnovers in the first half and finished with eight steals for the game.
Maybe I am a sucker for momentum swings, but coming back from 20 straight points scored on you to start the final 20 minutes is a pretty damn impressive accomplishment.
Senior walk-on W'Quinton Smith played a huge role as well in his six minutes of play, getting into a "tussle" with Purdue's Jackson. The scuffle lit up the bench and gave UW some energy for the final five minutes of play.
The win makes 19 straight for Wisconsin the game after a loss.