When senior Jon Leuer, who did his best to will the tenth-ranked Badgers into a game it seemingly shot itself out of, hurled up a desperation 3-point air ball in the closing minute, he finally fell into the 3-point doldrums that his teammates had been living in throughout the 40 minutes.
No qualms about it; it was certainly live by the three, die by the three.
"You can't beat a Purdue, you can't beat anybody in the Big Ten without completing some of those," said a flabbergasted UW Coach Bo Ryan, whose team rattled shots out from all angles in a 70-62 defeat to No.11 Purdue Wednesday night.
"If you can't hit some of those threes, it's going to be a long night."
After raising the bar so high last Saturday, the night was long and demoralizing, especially after one 3-point shot at a crucial time would have changed the game's entire complex. Instead, the Badgers' 15.8 percent 3-point shooting (3-for-19) was a season worst and their 1-for-12 performance in the second half prevented them from getting over the hump, as seven different players missed a 3-point attempt at some point on the night.
It was a heavy dose of reality after the Badgers' hot perimeter shooting gave them national headlines in erasing a 15-point deficit to beat then-No.1 Ohio State on Saturday.
"Anytime we step on the court, we're looking to win and if we don't, we're disappointed," said Leuer, who led all scorers with 23. "To come out with a loss after a hard-fought game like that is definitely disappointing."
The victory anoints Purdue (21-5, 10-3 Big Ten) as the sole challenger to No.2 Ohio State, as the Boilermakers are two games back of the Buckeyes with five to play, including a meeting between the two schools Sunday at Mackey, after beating Wisconsin here for the 37th time in 39 games.
Even with things blowing up in their faces, the resiliency and moxie Wisconsin (19-6, 9-4) tends to show came out when Purdue's lead ballooned to 13, its largest of the game, as the Badgers tried to pull off another great escape.
When Leuer nailed what had been a rare 3-pointer from the elbow to start chipping into the lead, it almost seemed to bring the flashbacks of Saturday's second half. The ensuring 9-2 run, seven of the points coming from Leuer, to cut the lead to 53-47 seemed to validate those beliefs, especially when the Boilermakers went nearly six minutes between field goals.
When the lead was final cut to two, the Boilermakers responded with a 7-0 run, highlighted by Moore hitting an open 3-pointer off an in-bound play at 2:07 and three miss UW shots, to push the lead to nine.
The Badgers never got the lead below five again.
"Coming back from 13 down in that stretch, I found some things out about some of our guys," Ryan said. "I like that. I thought we could turn that corner and get to 60 before they did, but we didn't."
Four days after bursting on to the national spotlight with his 27-point, 7-assist performance against Ohio State, Taylor, who was quietly added as the 11th Bob Cousy finalist Wednesday, was hounded from the opening tipoff by Jackson and his teammates, a reason he was limited to nine shots and was subbed for after failing to box out on a couple occurrences.
"There effort was better than ours," Taylor said. "I think I could have done more … (on) both sides."
Still, Taylor's dribble penetration put Wisconsin in position for a big shot after he kicked out the pass to a wide-open player on the perimeter. After Mike Bruesewitz and Josh Gasser knocked down all their threes against Ohio State, the duo was a combined 0-for-5 from three and 2-for-12 from the floor.
It's not like the Boilermakers shot the lights out either, shooting 42.9 percent from the floor and 31.2 percent from 3-point range. The Badgers also made life difficult on seniors JaJuan Johnson (20 points) and E'Twaun Moore (19), the No. 3 scoring tandem in the nation at 38.5 ppg, holding Johnson to only eight second-half points and Moore to 8 of 19 shooting.
But just like Wisconsin has seen role players step into big roles in crucial games, the Boilermakers got 18 points, five assists and no turnovers from junior Lewis Jackson, who scored only a single point when UW won by seven at Madison Feb.1.
"He got to the rim a couple times, which we immediately subbed for the person that didn't stop dribble penetration," Ryan said. "I thought we made Johnson and Moore work extremely hard, but it's just like how we've won some games getting contributions from some guys that hit some shots and make some plays."
The Badgers' first 10 points came from the low block, but Purdue eventually started crowding the paint and got its shot to drop on a 14-4 run that was spurred by Johnson and Moore scoring 11, giving Purdue a 18-14 lead it never relinquished.
The lack production in the post turned so frustrating that the Badgers could only managed 11 points off 14 offensive rebounds, another helping of the lethal combination in a historically lethal building.
"You can look at plays down the stretch, but it was more than that," said Leuer. "We just made too many mistakes and we have to learn to correct those … You have got to give them a lot of the credit, but we definitely feel like we could have made more plays."
Added Ryan: "In order to come in and get Purdue in (its) place, certain things have to fall into place and none of them did."