Date/Time – Sunday, March 6, 6:30 p.m. central
Arena – Mackey Arena (14,846)
Television – Big Ten Network (Kevin Kugler and Jon Crispin)
Radio – Badgers Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – Purdue leads 105-70 (Purdue leads 68-18 in West Lafayette, Ind.)
Last Meeting – Purdue won, 61-55, on December 29, 2014, in Madison
WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS
3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Junior Guard, 7.6 ppg)
10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Junior Forward, 16.1 ppg)
22 Ethan Happ (6-9 Freshman Forward, 11.9 ppg)
24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Junior Guard, 13.7 ppg)
30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Junior Forward, 9.5 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
11 Jordan Hill (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 3.1 ppg)
15 Charlie Thomas (6-8 Freshman Forward, 2.6 ppg)
21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Freshman Forward, 2.9 ppg)
24 Alex Illikainen (6-9 Freshman Forward, 2.5 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Over the last 10 games, Brown is averaging 11.6 ppg and shooting 17-for-39 (.436) from 3-point range.
PURDUE PROBABLE STARTERS
3 P.J. Thompson (5-10 Sophomore Guard, 5.3 ppg)
12 Vince Edwards (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 10.5 ppg)
20 A.J. Hammons (7-0 Senior Center, 14.8 ppg)
35 Rapheal Davis (6-6 Senior Forward, 8.7 ppg)
50 Caleb Swanigan (6-9 Freshman Forward, 9.9 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
1 Johnny Hill (6-3 Senior Guard, 5.3 ppg)
14 Ryan Cline (6-5 Freshman Guard, 4.2 ppg)
21 Kendall Stephens (6-7 Junior Guard, 6.2 ppg)
31 Dakota Mathias (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 5.4 ppg)
44 Isaac Haas (7-2 Sophomore Center, 9.9 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Scoring in double figures in each of the last 11 games, Hammons is the only player in the league to rank in the top 12 in scoring (12th), rebounding (third) and field goal percentage (third) in conference games. He also ranks second in the league in blocked shots.
LAST TIME OUT
MINNEAPOLIS – While at times making things tougher on themselves than it needed to be, Wisconsin led by as many as 21 points and easily took care of business with a 62-49 victory over undermanned Minnesota Wednesday night.
Although Indiana won the outright conference title Tuesday, eliminating Wisconsin and three other teams in the process, the Badgers (20-10, 12-5 Big Ten) won for the 11th time in 12 games, won at least 20 games for the 10th straight season and clinched a top four finish in the conference for a 15th consecutive year, extending their Big Ten record.
Three players scored in double figures for Wisconsin, which shot a blistering 55.2 percent in the first half and never trailed by fewer than 11 points despite shooting 34.8 percent (8-for-23) from the field in the second half.
Wisconsin asserted its dominance from the opening tip. The Badgers scored eight of their first 14 points in the paint, hit a pair of 3-pointers off touches in the post and saw Koenig score seven points with a pair of assists.
And after a slight lull, UW scored on 10 straight possessions, resulting in 25 points and a 25-9 run to give the Badgers a 20-point lead. Koenig scored 12 of his team-high 14 points in the first half and the rout was on.
After suspending three players for the remainder of the season Tuesday, Minnesota (8-21, 2-15) suited up only six scholarship players and never mounted much of a challenge, especially with senior Joey King out of rhythm. The lone senior on the Gophers’ roster, King finished with six points on 1-for-9 shooting, including 0-for-5 from 3-point range.
Stephon Sharp scored 16 points to lead Minnesota, which shot 33.3 percent from the field and were held to a season-low 49 points. Wisconsin has now held 10 teams to season-low point totals.
While being sharp at times, Wisconsin also showed a lack of cohesion when the game appearing to be well in hand, making things interesting by scoring one point in 10 possessions as Minnesota went on an 11-1 run to cut the lead to 52-41 with 7:57 remaining.
But after Ahmad Gilbert missed two free throws that would have cut the lead to 10, Happ made one of two free throws and Vitto Brown hit a 3-pointer to boost the lead to 56-41. UW didn’t led by fewer than 13 the rest of the way.
MADISON – Possessing a frontcourt full of behemoths, Purdue’s ability to pound the paint offensively and alter countless shots against an undersized Wisconsin was the difference in a 61-55 victory for the Boilermakers at the Kohl Center.
Nigel Hayes scored 17 points to lead Wisconsin (8-6, 0-1 Big Ten), which saw its streak of 12 straight conference-opening wins snapped. But at least the Badgers went down fighting, giving a small sense of accomplishment for a young team trying to build a foundation.
“Were we going to be in position to do what the upper echelon teams in the Big Ten do?” Gard said. “That’s a 12-round, rock-fight-type of game. I thought for the most part … that we battled, and that was the biggest thing that I wanted to see. How was this group going to respond, and they went toe-to-toe with a really good team.”
Six days after 26 turnovers nearly blew a 30-point lead for Wisconsin in a home game against Green Bay, Wisconsin overcame a height – and arguably a talent gap – to push a Purdue (13-1, 1-0) team picked to compete with Maryland and Michigan State for the 2016 Big Ten title by bringing a large helping of grit and tenacity.
Problem was the Badgers couldn’t sustain their success, especially in the low post.
With no experienced low post player outside Hayes in the rotation, Purdue’s persistence to work the ball inside paid off big in the second half. Purdue scored 18 second-half points in the paint (10 in the first 6:48) and got the Badgers into the double bonus at 7:32. That led to Purdue making more free throws (12) than UW attempted (eight).
Purdue finished with 34 points in the paint and out rebounded Wisconsin, 36-26, the first time this season the Badgers have been beaten on the glass.
Averaging 12.2 points and 7.1 rebounds through his first 62 Big Ten games, A.J. Hammons scored a game-high 24 points and was the only Purdue player in double figures. Purdue did get eight points from 6-8 forward Vince Edwards, nine rebounds from freshman Caleb Swanigan and four assists from P.J. Thompson, who fed Hammons on post touches on consecutive possessions to help Purdue build a 48-37 lead – the largest of the game- with 5:56 remaining.
But despite the problems, and scoring droughts still creeping into the offense, the Badgers didn’t fold.
One of the players tasked with trying to muscle the 7-0, 250-pound A.J. Hammons, Illikainen scored eight of his career-high 10 points in a 3:09 stretch in the second half, production that came with his first 3-pointers since Nov.17 and a jumper from the corner that cut the lead to 52-49 with 1:40 to go.
The enjoyment was short lived, as guard Dakota Mathias – averaging 4.5 points off the bench – hit a 3-pointer in the corner in front of a charging Zak Showalter. One possession later he hit another one from the Purdue bench to silence the crowd, and UW never got closer than five.
Wisconsin has won four of the last five meetings.
Wisconsin has allowed Purdue to hit the 70-point mark just twice in the teams’ last 13 meetings.
UW has won 11 of its last 14 regular-season ?nales, including a mark of 5-2 when the ?nal game is on the road. UW won at OSU, 72-48, in the last game of the 2015-16 regular season.
The Badgers have also reached 12 Big Ten wins for the seventh consecutive season (the longest active streak in the league) and the 11th time in the last 15 seasons. Prior to Bo Ryan’s arrival in 2001, UW had won at least 12 Big Ten games just twice in 103 years of basketball. Michigan State (five) has the next-longest active streak of consecutive 12-win seasons.
UW travels to No. 15 Purdue looking for its fourth road win over a ranked team. Kansas (three) is the nation’s only other team with at least 3 road takedowns over teams in the AP Top 25.
Leading the Big Ten with 1.8 steals per game, Happ is trying to become just the third freshman to lead the Big Ten in steals since 1990. Happ leads Michigan’s Derrick Walton Jr. and Rutgers’ Corey Sanders by 0.2.
During Big Ten play, Showalter is 17-for-44 from 3-point range, leading UW shooting 38.6 percent.
Purdue is searching for its 24th win of the season. Purdue has won 24 games in a season just 12 times in 117 previous years of basketball. Matt Painter has done it four times in 10 previous seasons.
With a win over Wisconsin, Purdue will win its 17th home game, the most in school history. Purdue enters Sunday’s game having won seven straight home games by a combined 75 points (10.7 points per game).
Purdue has scored 70 or more points in 12 of its last 15 games and in 22-of-30 games this year (19-3 record).
Purdue is 37-1 when attempting more free throws than its opponent (19-1 this year). The lone loss came on Feb. 20 against Indiana (loss, 77-73). Purdue is 21-0 this year when attempting at least 17 free throws.
I wrote a big feature on Happ’s and Wisconsin’s improvement since the last time the Badgers meet Purdue, which will serve as my breakdown piece that usually goes here. If you missed it, you can read it here.
I’ve flipped and flopped my opinion on this game for the last several days. This Wisconsin team can compete against anybody anywhere, evidence by what we saw in the month of February with a couple of top-10 road wins. However, Purdue has always been a thorn in UW’s side and Mackey Arena is no picnic for young teams. I worry about the Badgers being able to slow down Purdue’s length and strength inside, as the lack of depth will be easily exposed with foul trouble.
I’m expecting a competitive game, but I believe the Boilermakers make just enough plays down the stretch in front of their home crowd to win by four – finally making UW realize the Big Ten tournament starts on Thursday.
Worgull's Record: 22-8
Points off Prediction: 262 (8.7 per game)