The slow starts have hurt Wisconsin over the first two Big Ten tournament games, causing the Badgers to trail for a good portions of the first half in each outing. Even so, Wisconsin has been able to respond with an offensive run to begin the second half to take control of the game.
Down five against Purdue, the Badgers were able to start strong after halftime by scoring the first 10 points over the first five minutes and needed only the first 3:31 to take the lead for good. It was a combination on offense for Wisconsin that helped spur the run, as Frank Kaminsky knocked down a jump shot before Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig hit 3-pointers on back-to-back offensive possessions.
Overall Wisconsin shot 26-for-55 (47.3 percent) from the field and raised its shooting percentage dramatically in the second half, going from 37 percent (10-for-21) in the first half to 57.1 percent (16-for-28) in the second.
Koenig registered a new career high of 19 points, which also led the team, on 7-for-14 shooting. Sam Dekker and Hayes each had 15 points. Kaminsky was fourth with 12 points. Duje Dukan and Zak Showalter finished the game with three and two points, respectively.
Wisconsin continues to take care of the ball well through two tournament games, as its three turnovers were its fewest since February 15. Break the number down farther, all three came in the second half and two came in the final 73 seconds by the reserves.
Josh Gasser (five points) and Koenig each went turnover free in the game, as the Badgers finished with 18 assists.
With Wisconsin getting A.J. Hammons into foul trouble, it helped the Badgers collect 12 offensive rebounds (Hayes led the way with three critical boards in the second half) that created 13 points off of second chances.
It was critical coming into the game to make sure Hammons couldn’t sustain success on offense, especially after coming off a 23-point performance against Penn State and had reached double figures in three of his last four games. After Hammons scored 10 points in the first half, he battled through foul trouble throughout the second half, which hurt Purdue from sustaining the same kind of success.
It also helped that Kaminsky was able to get the better of Hammons in the second half, consistently getting the better positioning underneath the basket and limit his touches to only four shots.
“We really didn’t attack him any different, I think we just executed a little better,” said Gasser. “I think we played a little harder, brought a little more. You never want a guy like Hammons to catch the ball under the rim. He’s too big, he’s too good, so we were able to limit his touches and make it hard on him.”
Even without Hammons, Wisconsin still had to be ready for Isaac Haas, who was able to score 11 points in the two team’s first matchup. Like Hammons, Haas didn’t find as much success on offense as he only finished the game with two points on 1-for-4 shooting from the field.
Hammons was the lone Purdue player to reach double figures. Kendall Stephens and P.J. Thompson tied for second on the team with nine points on a combined 6-for-10 shooting. Rapheal Davis had eight points on 4-for-14 from the field. Overall Wisconsin held Purdue to 19-for-51 (37.3 percent) shooting.
Like Wisconsin in the first half, Purdue did a good job of taking care of the basketball, only committing two turnovers, but the Badgers were able to force seven in the second half after ramping up the defensive intensity. Thompson and Hammons were responsible for five of the team’s seven second-half turnovers. Overall, Wisconsin finished the game with 18 points off of Purdue’s nine turnovers.Having Hammons on the bench for the final eight-plus minutes of the second half helped Wisconsin win the rebounding battle 35-27 and limit the Boilermakers to only three points off their nine offensive rebounds.
The second half Wisconsin played was likely the best half of basketball to date for the Badgers. After letting Purdue shoot 50 percent from the field in the first half, the Badgers’ defense limited Purdue to make only six field goals on 25 attempts.
“We just needed to get stops on defense,” Kaminsky said. “If you stop a team as good as Purdue from scoring the ball … we just played with energy, we ran in transition, we were getting stops (and) we got the crowd into it. It was just one of those games in the second half where we got everything going and we just rode the momentum.”
The momentum was definitely on the side for Wisconsin. They scored 41 points in the second half on 16-for-28 shooting and struck a balance by going 4-for-12 from 3-point range, 12-for-16 from 2-point range and 5-for-5 from the free throw line.
Koenig (3-for-5) and Hayes (3-for-7) were responsible for six of Wisconsin’s eight perimeter shots. Hayes’ ability to knock down the 3-pointer helped stretch out Purdue’s defense and give Wisconsin post feeds down low, resulting in the Badgers scoring 14 of their 26 points in the paint in the second half.
Most importantly, Wisconsin made sure they didn’t take its foot off the gas pedal until the clock read zero.
“We wanted to push it out because you don’t want a team like Purdue to stay close with you,” Kaminsky said. “If you have a lead you have to keep pushing it because with their three point shooting ability and ability to get hot like they were early in the first half they can come back at any point.”
Game MVP: Frank Kaminsky. It easily could have gone to Koenig, who was 6-for-8 shooting in the second half, or Hayes for his 10-point first half and timely offensive rebounding, but the work Kaminsky did on the defensive end in the second half against Hammons was impressive. He consistently got the better of him on the block, contest his shots and have active hands. Kaminsky also had three blocks and registered two of them on back-to-back defensive possessions against two Hammons layups. Kaminsky’s defensive work caused Hammons to start thinking twice about what he was going to do on offense.
“You could just see the difference in energy level between the two teams,” said Kaminsky. “We were going at them. They had some things that didn’t go well for them. We just tried to take advantage of whatever we could out there. Luckily it went really well in our favor.”