Wisconsin drops its Big Ten opener, 61-55, to No.14 Purdue at the Kohl Center

BadgerNation hands out the grades and analyzes Wisconsin's 61-55 defeat to No.14 Purdue Tuesday.

Offense: C

Despite the struggles on offense against Purdue, Wisconsin was able to keep the game competitive in the first half and early into the second half. But with the game tied at 31 going into the 16 minute media timeout, Wisconsin suffered through a scoring drought that allowed Purdue to get momentum on its side.

After starting the second half 3-for-6, Wisconsin went 9-for-20 from the field after the 16 minute media timeout. Although Wisconsin shot 45 percent over the last 16 minutes in the second half, there was one stretch starting at the 9:33 mark where Wisconsin missed five straight shots, as Purdue turned a 40-37 lead into an 11-point edge with 5:59 to go in the game. Alex Illikainen was able to snap Purdue’s scoring run with a 3-pointer, as Illikainen scored 10 of Wisconsin’s last 18 points.

Illikainen was one of two Badgers to reach double figures, as Nigel Hayes led Wisconsin with 17 points on 6-for-14 shooting from the field. Zak Showalter chipped in eight points on 4-for-6 shooting from the field and Bronson Koenig had a disappointed seven points, the third time over the last four games where he has scored in single digits. Overall Wisconsin shot 22-for-57 (38.6 percent) from the field.

Despite forcing Isaac Haas into foul trouble in the first half, Wisconsin struggled to score in the paint, as Purdue’s frontcourt only allowed Wisconsin 20 points in the paint. Wisconsin at times was able to find success when they attacked the hoop but the length by Purdue and its ability to alter and block shots proved to be too much.

With the post shut down, Wisconsin didn’t generate many points from the free throw line (6-for-8) and couldn’t counter Purdue by hitting perimeter shots (5-for-17).

For the second straight game Wisconsin got nice bench production and finished with 17 points. Outside of Illikainen, Jordan Hill scored four points and Charlie Thomas scored three points. The bench also collected seven rebounds, while Hill and Illikainen each registered an assist.

Defense: C

Purdue entered Tuesday’s conference opener with four players averaging in double figures, but Wisconsin’s defense only allowed Hammons (24 points on 9-for-14 shooting) to break single digits. Haas - the second-leading scorer for Purdue - finished the game with six points in 10 minutes of work while freshman Caleb Swanigan was scoreless on five shots.

Hammons was able to slow Wisconsin’s frontcourt down on offense and carry the load for Purdue’s offense in the paint, as 34 of Purdue’s 61 points came down low. When Hammons wasn’t able to convert on the block, he drew fouls against Wisconsin’s interior defense and went 6-for-6 from the free throw line. Hammons’ height and size were just too much, as he even found a way to covert when Wisconsin limited his space and played him aggressively. Simply put, Hammons just had better offense than Wisconsin’s post defense. Purdue shot 50 percent in the second half and finished 22-for-50 (44 percent) from the field.

Wisconsin’s defense was fairly efficient of limiting the Boilermakers to one shot per possession, grabbing only eight offensive rebounds that turned into nine second-chance points.

When Wisconsin was able to be aggressive without fouling, they were able to force Purdue into 16 turnovers, the fourth straight game – and 10th time this season – UW forced double-digit miscues. Ten of the turnovers came in the first half, including five off steals, but the Badgers converted them into only six points. Wisconsin finished with 16 points off turnovers for the game.

Overall: C

Wisconsin kept fighting despite finding itself down by as many as 11 points with 5:56 to go in the game and was able to come alive late, closing the gap to within three points with 1:49 to go. However, Purdue consistently had an answer for Wisconsin, including a pair of Dakota Mathis 3-pointers that came off made UW field goals. The Boilermakers were able to get him open off of screens as he was able to attempt his three in rhythm.

Wisconsin was able to hold a lead three different times but could never go on a run to extend a lead beyond six points. Wisconsin was down 16-11 in the first half before going on a 9-0 run to give them a lead at the 7:18 mark. But like throughout the game, Wisconsin couldn’t sustain that spark and went 2-for-12 the rest of the first half.

Purdue’s size advantage allowed them to dominate Wisconsin in rebounds, 36-26, the first time this season UW didn’t win the rebounding battle. Purdue didn’t allow Wisconsin many second-chance opportunities, as Swanigan and Hammons finished the game with seven and six defensive rebounds, respectively. UW turned seven offensive rebounds into only five second-chance points.

Committing only seven turnovers, the Badgers did a better job of being where they were supposed to be on offense and didn’t allow the Boilers’ defense to speed them up. Purdue was able to register four steals and seven points off the turnovers. Although Hayes had four of the turnovers, Koenig finished with a 3-to-0 assist-to-turnover ratio after committing eight turnovers against Green Bay.    

Game MVP: Nigel Hayes. Hayes had a strong first half helping Wisconsin stay close by scoring nine of the team’s first 17 points. Purdue defended him better in the second half and was able to keep him off the glass (2 of his 7 rebounds after halftime). But like in the first half, Hayes scored seven of the team’s first 13 points in the second half. He didn’t make a field goal after the 9:33 mark but got to the free throw line and finished 4-for-6 from the stripe. He and Illikainen were the only two Badgers to attempt a free throw.


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