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Wisconsin opens the Big Ten season against No.14 Purdue - one of the favorites in the Big Ten

After an tumultuous nonconference season, which included five losses and the retirement of head coach Bo Ryan, Wisconsin wipes the slate clean and opens Big Ten action at home against No.14 Purdue, a team that always seems to give them fits. BadgerNation analyzes the matchup.

No.14 Purdue (12-1, 0-0 Big Ten) vs. Wisconsin (8-5, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time – Tuesday, December 29, 6 p.m. central

Arena – Kohl Center (17,287)

Television – Big Ten Network (Brian Anderson and John Crispin)

Radio – Badgers Radio Network (Phil Dawson and Andy North)

Series – Purdue leads 104-70 (Wisconsin leads 49-36 in Madison)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 71-51, on March 4, 2015, in Chicago

WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS

3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Junior Guard, 7.7 ppg)

10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Junior Forward, 16.2 ppg)

22 Ethan Happ (6-9 Freshman Forward, 11.5 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Junior Guard, 14.4 ppg)

30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Junior Forward, 10.4 ppg)

OFF THE BENCH

11 Jordan Hill (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 1.3 ppg)

15 Charlie Thomas (6-8 Freshman Forward, 4.0 ppg)

21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Freshman Forward, 3.5 ppg)

24 Alex Illikainen (6-9 Freshman Forward, 1.8 ppg)

PLAYER TO WATCH

Jordan Hill played a career-high 22 minutes off the bench in Wednesday’s win over Green Bay, posting career highs with 10 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Hill entered the game with zero points in 27 minutes this season.

PURDUE PROBABLE STARTERS

3 P.J. Thompson (5-10 Sophomore Guard, 5.2 ppg)

12 Vince Edwards (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 8.9 ppg)

35 Rapheal Davis (6-6 Senior Forward, 10.8 ppg)

44 Isaac Haas (7-2 Sophomore Center, 12.2 ppg)

50 Caleb Swanigan (6-9 Freshman Forward, 11.3 ppg)

OFF THE BENCH

1 Johnny Hill (6-3 Senior Guard, 5.8 ppg)

20 A.J. Hammons (7-0 Senior Center, 13.3 ppg)

21 Kendall Stephens (6-7 Junior Guard, 8.3 ppg)

31 Dakota Mathias (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 4.5 ppg)

PLAYER TO WATCH

Hammons leads the Boilermakers in scoring (13.3) while ranking first in the Big Ten in blocked shots (2.9) and fifth in rebounding (8.2) in just 21.3 minutes per contest. Over the last three games, Hammons is averaging 16.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.0 blocks in just 23.3 minutes per game while shooting 19-of-35 (.543) from the field.

LAST TIME OUT

MADISON – Leading by 30 points in the second half and on cruise control, the Badgers suddenly found themselves in a one possession game in the final minutes against a mid-major opponent, an all-too-common occurrence through the first two months of the season.

But after already faltering in three late game situations at home, Wisconsin scraped together enough plays to notch an 84-79 victory over Green Bay, making Greg Gard the eighth coach in program history to win his debut and just the third since 1934.

Four players scored in double figures for Wisconsin (8-5), which salvaged a win in the in-state round-robin despite coming 26 turnovers and many questionable decisions late that almost put a damper on the party.

Hayes provided the biggest lift with his scoring, including five points on consecutive possessions with less than two minutes to go that kept Green Bay at bay, and his 4-to-2 assist-to-turnover ratio. After shooting below 40 percent in six of UW’s last seven games, Hayes started 6-for-6 from the field and 6-for-6 from the free throw line and didn’t miss until the 4:58 mark in the second half.

But while Wisconsin fans started heading for the exits after Hayes’ free throws put UW up 68-38 with 13:01 to play, Gard knew better.

Green Bay (6-5) has made a living on pressuring opponents full court and using a variety of traps. Anybody who didn’t know better knew after the Phoenix went on a 33-6 run that made the Badgers look like keystone cops

Two of the ugliest stretches came when Wisconsin committed back-to-back turnovers within 15 feet of Green Bay’s basket early in the second half and another stretch where it committed turnovers on eight straight possessions.

Three of those came off the hands of Koenig, who committed a career-high eight turnovers. A year ago, Koenig committed a turnover every 32.1 minutes (26 turnovers in 835 minutes). This year it’s one every 18.4 (25 turnovers in 459 minutes).

“We did not play well,” said forward Ethan Happ, referring to the last 10 minutes. “It was embarrassing to our program. It was embarrassing to us. I know it made me sick. I’m sure it made the other guys sick as well. We cannot play like that in the Big Ten season and expect to win at any point in the game.”

Green Bay scored 93 and 108 points its previous two games but was all out of sorts against Wisconsin. After Carrington Love made a free throw at 13:50 to give the Phoenix a 16-15 lead, Green Bay spent the next 9:27 missing shots, committing seven turnovers and registering nine fouls.

The scoreless drought for the Phoenix equaled a 17-0 run for Wisconsin and a commanding lead that stayed at double digits for the next 23+ minutes.

LAST MEETING

CHICAGO - After trailing at halftime for only the fourth time this season, No.6 Wisconsin tightened up defensively and exploded offensively, resulting in an opening 29-9 run that gave the top-seeded Badgers a 71-51 victory over fourth-seeded Purdue Saturday in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.

Bronson Koenig’s career-high 19 points led the four players in double figures for Wisconsin, which played a stretch of basketball in the second half that was as good as it has played all year, highlighted by crisp passing, timely offensive rebounds and a couple of Dekker dunks that caused the pro-Wisconsin crowd to explode and Purdue to become unglued.

A different team after halftime, Wisconsin scored nine points from the 3-point line, eight points in the paint, eight points off jumpers and four points from the free throw line on their game-changing run, a balance that was missing in the first half when UW settled for jumpers instead of attacking Purdue’s bigs in the paint.

More importantly Wisconsin started pushing the ball, gassing the Boilermakers (21-12) in the process.

“When we do that, we’re definitely one of the best teams in the country,” said Koenig.

The deflating moments were countless on the run that went the first 13:42 of the second half, a handful of them created by the energy of Hayes and Showalter. Hayes grabbed three offensive boards, leading to a Koenig 3-pointer to tie the game in the opening minutes and a Josh Gasser 3-pointer to give UW its first double-digit lead.

Showalter grabbed three rebounds (two offensive) in seven minutes off the bench and capped the run with a pair of free throws off a miss.

 “That’s a back breaker,” said associate head coach Gary Close. “When you play as hard as they do defensively, you get a miss, you get an offensive rebound and score, that’s debilitating.”

After going 1-for-6 in the first half, Koenig went 6-for-8 in the second half, including a pair of buckets with the shot clock about to expire on the scoring binge. He also had a stretch where he scored seven straight UW points via a jumper, 3-pointer and a layup.

SERIES NOTES

UW has won the last 4 meetings overall including a pair of wins last season. The skid for Purdue is tied for the sixth-longest active losing streak to a single opponent

In the two meetings last season, the Boilers averaged just 53.0 ppg as UW went 36-for-43 at the FT line while PU was 9-for-13

In the Bo Ryan era, UW held a slim 12-10 (.545) lead over the Boilermakers, the Badgers’ lowest win pct. vs. any Big Ten foe (min. 5 meetings).

Overall, UW has won 11 of the last 14 Kohl Center meetings between the Badgers and Boilermakers.

Purdue is one of just three teams to have won three games against the Badgers at the Kohl Center since the 2001-02 season, joining Illinois and Marquette.

The last time UW opened the Big Ten schedule against Purdue, the Badgers posted a 77-68 win in West Lafayette, Ind. on Jan. 5, 2005.

WISCONSIN NOTES

From an RPI standpoint, the Badgers have faced one of the tougher schedules in the Big Ten. A total of 9 of UW’s 13 non-conference games came against RPI top-150 foes. Among Big Ten team, only Illinois (10) faced more top-150 teams.

UW leads the Big Ten and rank 25th in the NCAA with 14.6 offensive rebounds per game. Overall, the Badgers have grabbed 69 more offensive boards than their opponents (190-121).

Wisconsin’s freshman have played 31.8 percent of the team’s minutes this season.

The Badgers are 1-1 against teams ranked in the AP poll this season, after going 5-3 against the top-25 last season. That included a pair of top-5 wins over Arizona [5] and Kentucky [1] in the NCAA tournament.

PURDUE NOTES

Since the start of the 2009-10 season, Purdue is 5-1 in Big Ten openers. Under Matt Painter, the Boilermakers are 6-4 in league openers, including 2-2 on the road.

In each of Purdue’s last five starts of 7-0 or better, the Boilermakers’ first loss came to a top-20 foe

Purdue has played 11 straight Big Ten road games decided by 10 or fewer points, dating to a 19-point loss at Nebraska on Feb. 23, 2014.

Purdue ranks 18th in the country in assists per game at 18.5 per contest. The Boilermakers have dished out at least 20 assists in a game six different times this year, including in three of the last fi ve games

PREDICTION

Any time a team has spacing and movement, uses angles, cuts hard, moves away from the ball, works in tandems and play inside-out by touching the post, the offense is usually flowing and scoring in a consistent manner. Through the first 12 games of the season, Wisconsin was nowhere close to consistently doing that. So head coach Greg Gard dusted off a familiar face to Badgers fans to get his team into the “swing” of things.

UW needed to improve on working its way into high percentage shots, not to mention build some confidence in younger players by running a scheme that had simpler concepts. Playing a Green Bay team that likes to pressure but lacks size inside, Gard installed the basic elements of the swing offense to emphasize spacing and movement while hoping to prevent UW from being stagnate.

He admits he was expecting a disaster, but the work UW did in its five-point win over Green Bay gives him hope that this will help the Badgers turn a corner towards consistency.

“It gives them a base to go back to,” said Gard. “We can still run a lot of the same sets that we were doing, but we have something to flow into and go to next. That was something I thought this group needed to have. What was going to be next? We still ended up in a lot of the same things. We ran it before and flowed into it, sometimes we came down and ran straight swing. We’ve added a couple specials here and there, wrinkles to get into it … We’ve mixed and matched for 15 years.”

It’s still very elementary right now for Wisconsin, having had the early parts of the offense in for less than two weeks. It helps that some of UW’s younger players, namely Iverson and Thomas, ran some hybrid of the swing offense in high school. But for things really to click, UW needs Koenig and Showalter on the floor.

Koenig has gone through a complete shift this season in his role on the team and how people defend him. That’s caused his shooting percentage to go down and his turnovers to skyrocket. Showalter’s minutes have dramatically increased, which has seen him rack up fouls and take himself out of games. In the last seven games, Showalter has committed at least four fouls six times.

Gard said Koenig has done film work on angles and fundamentals, as well as rep things on the court on both ends of the court to hopeful make the team better and sounder.

“It’s a work in progress,” said Gard. “We’re nowhere where we need to be … but I like the direction they’re going. They’ve stayed hungry and eager.”

Unfortunately for Wisconsin, its Big Ten opener comes against one of the worst possible teams. No team in the conference has given the Badgers more problems over the last 15 years than Purdue, as the Boilers’ size, physicality and low-post presence is tough to matchup against.

Not only does Purdue have size this year (four rotation players above 6-8), the Boilermakers have complimented themselves with good players around them.

Swanigan is averaging 11.3 points and 9.2 rebounds in a starting role alongside 7-foot-2 leading scorer Haas and forward Edwards. Hammons started for the majority of his first three seasons, but he's having his most productive year coming off the bench.

Gard said Purdue’s front reminds him of Wisconsin’s 2008 team with Brian Butch, Greg Stiemsma and Marcus Landry. That team swept the Big Ten that year with only two conference losses, ironically both to Purdue.

Wisconsin has struggled standing toe-to-toe against bigger, tougher teams, especially in the low post where the Badgers are inexperienced and lacking height. Purdue is also fairly efficient with the 3-point shot, and the Badgers are one of the worst 3-point defenses in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers follow the Badgers’ blueprint by making more free throws (221) than their opponent’s attempt (212).

The Badgers have won 12 consecutive Big Ten openers dating back to 2003-04. That streak – likely along with many other streaks this season – ends tonight. Purdue by 14.

Worgull's Record: 8-5

Points off Prediction: 154 (12.3 per game)


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