Title Hopes Wrestled Away

With an opportunity to stay one game behind first place in the Big Ten with one week to go, No.17 Wisconsin took a crucial misstep, shooting only 29.6 percent in the second half to lose 69-56 to Purdue Sunday.

MADISON - The senior day magic finally dissipated for the University of Wisconsin, and it likely took the Badgers' Big Ten conference title hopes with it.

After winning three consecutive conference games by at least 20 points for the first time since 1911-12, No.17 Wisconsin imploded in the second half, allowing Purdue to roll to a 69-56 victory at the Kohl Center.

"This is a pretty big loss for us," said senior Jared Berggren, as Wisconsin fell to 11-1 on Senior Day under Coach Bo Ryan. "This hurts."

The conference title hopes for Wisconsin (20-9, 11-5 Big Ten) are now on life support, dropping two games behind No.1 Indiana in a crowded Big Ten standings with the top five teams separated by two games with one week to go.

And just like how the Badgers failed to close their game at Minneapolis a little more than two weeks ago, Wisconsin will regret this one for shooting itself out of a victory.

After Wisconsin shot 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent (6-for-15) from 3-point range in the first half, the Badgers shot 8-for-27 (29.6 percent) from the floor after halftime and missed their last 18 3-point attempts. Wisconsin's last 3-pointer came from junior Ben Brust at the 6:59 mark of the first half, as five UW players missed at least three 3-pointers.

"Obviously when we don't make any it looks kind of bad," said Berggren, who shot 1-for-6 from 3-point range as UW finished 6-for-28 (21.4 percent) from behind the arc. "For the most part they were pretty good looks and we didn't knock them down."

With Wisconsin's offense was spinning its wheels, Purdue (14-15, 7-9) took control for good with a 21-3 run, as senior D.J. Byrd scoring nine of his game-high 22 points and junior Terone Johnson scoring of his 16 points during that stretch.

During the7:31 Purdue run, Wisconsin went 1-for-6 from the floor, committed four turnovers and allowed the Boilermakers to score 12 points in the paint by executing floaters and getting looks off pick-and-rolls.

The Boilermakers, who came in eighth in the Big Ten in field-goal shooting in league play at 40.6 percent, hit 13 of 28 shots (46.4 percent) in the first half and finished 45.6 percent overall.

"They just hit tough shots," said senior Ryan Evans. "Teams that are hitting floaters, those are shots that we like teams to take. That's one of the toughest shots in the game and they happened to be good at it."

Wisconsin battled back to cut the lead to four with 7:30 remaining, but Purdue went on an 11-2 run in a 6:25 span to lead 65-52 with 1:05 to go to ice the game.

"We couldn't get into rhythm," said freshman Sam Dekker. "We didn't have a flow. Hats off to Purdue for taking us out of our comfort zone and exploiting things we struggled with."

Berggren led Wisconsin with 13 points, but it took him 12 shots to get there. Two days removed from suffering a right knee strain, Evans got 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting. Ben Brust scored eight points – ending his streak of seven straight games in double figures – and finished 3-for-10 from the field.

"In the second half we knew we needed to guard Brust," said Byrd. "He only needs a little bit of space to get his shot off. He's one of the best shooters in the Big Ten, so we knew we had to be there. It was just activity. We were there, had a hand and rebounded well. They had one-shot possessions most of the time, and that was huge for us."

Purdue hadn't beaten a ranked team since January 2 and was 1-7 against ranked teams, but continued its success against Wisconsin. The Boilermakers are the only team to own a winning record against Ryan (10-8) and earned this one by out hustling the home team, much to the delight of the approximately 35 Purdue students loudly chanting from the rafters.

Out rebounding Wisconsin 39-27, Purdue's 12 offensive rebounds doubled up Wisconsin, and its hustling opportunities resulted in 11 turnovers that led to 18 Boilermakers points.

"We felt we had to have a balance," said Purdue coach Matt Painter. "For us it really starts with our effort. If we can do other things well, it helps us be efficient offensively. For the group that we have if we can play hard, we can hustle, we can battle, it gives them more confidence to play well."

Averaging 37 points in the first half over its past three games, Wisconsin built a 12-point lead early in the game, but finished the half with five straight empty possessions. That was foreshadowing of what was to come, and a loss that all but ends UW's hopes of winning its first conference title since 2008.

"We had them down, and we just didn't step on their throats like we needed to," said senior Mike Bruesewitz, who finished 1-for-6 from the field. "They closed it half better than us, giving them momentum. We gave them life. That was the biggest thing."

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