Wisconsin played as well as they could have in the first half - finding ways of scoring in the paint and hitting shots from the perimeter. That wasn’t the case in the second half, as the Badgers’ efficiency dropped when shots stopped falling.
After Wisconsin shot 57.1 percent (16-for-28) in the first half, those numbers dipped to 31.2 percent (10-for-32) in the second half, finishing the game at 43.3 percent. Wisconsin was hurt by the slow start coming out of halftime, not scoring until the 16:49 mark and going 4-for-14 from the field over the first 10 minutes.
All five starters scored at least five points in the first half and Wisconsin’s frontcourt of Vitto Brown, Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes all had at least eight points. That balance was gone in the second half, as Hayes was the only player to attack the rim, hit his jumpers and make it to the free throw line with considerable success. Hayes scored 18 points in the second half and finished with 30 points on 8-for-16 shooting from the floor and 11-for-13 from the free throw line.
After finishing with only two points against Purdue in the first meeting, Happ scored 14 points on 50 percent shooting from the field. Showalter was the only other player for Wisconsin to score in double figures with 13 points (5-for-9), as Brown scored all nine of his points in the first half and Bronson Koenig registered eight.
Wisconsin’s bench got just six points and all from Jordan Hill, including a meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer. With head coach Greg Gard choosing to go with more experience against a physical Purdue roster, the bench was limited to only 33 minutes. The group of Hill, Alex Illikainen, Khalil Iverson and Charlie Thomas combined for three rebounds, one assist and one block.
Despite the inconsistent shooting and struggling to deal with Purdue’s interior size, Wisconsin only committed six turnovers, leading to only eight Purdue points.
An undersized Wisconsin really struggled to slow down and match the physicality of Purdue’s frontcourt, as the Badgers were worn down as the game progressed. Purdue’s starting frontcourt combined to score 54 of Purdue’s 91 points and finished the game with 28 points in the paint. Caleb Swanigan led Purdue with a career-high 27 points on 6-for-7 shooting and 14-for-17 from the free-throw line. A.J. Hammons had 16 points and Vince Edwards scored 11 points.
But outside of not being able to slow Purdue’s frontcourt, Wisconsin struggled preventing Purdue from establishing an inside-outside game, as the Boilermakers always found a way to make Wisconsin pay, even when Wisconsin was able to find ways of forcing a pass back out to the perimeter. P.J. Thompson in particular was feeling it from three, as 18 of his career-high 22 points came from beyond the arc (6-for-8). His other four were from the free throw line. Overall Purdue shot 10-for-19 (52.6 percent) from three and 62.2 percent (28-for-45) from the field.
In particular Wisconsin couldn’t stay out of foul trouble in the second half, as the size of Purdue eventually was too much to handle. UW committed 18 of its 23 fouls in the second half, putting Purdue in the bonus by the 9:47 mark. Swanigan was the beneficiary of Wisconsin’s foul trouble, and Purdue shot 25-for-33 (75.8 percent) from the line.
With Purdue shooting above 60 percent in both halves, there wasn’t many opportunities for Purdue to grab an offensive rebound. Wisconsin did battle in the low post, limiting Purdue to three points off its five second chances, but the Boilermakers won the rebounding battle.
The one bright spot for Wisconsin’s defense was they forced Purdue 11 turnovers, six coming off steals. Happ and Koenig each registered two steals, as four of the steals came in the first half. Overall Wisconsin was able to register 12 points off of Purdue’s turnovers.
Wisconsin simply couldn’t pick up where it left off in the first half, as Purdue capitalized by scoring the first seven points while Wisconsin struggled to make its first shot. The quickly resulted in a double-digit lead for Purdue that the Badgers could never cut below seven in the second half. And when Wisconsin got that close, Purdue was always able to answer with a 3-pointer or free throws. Even with Hammons playing 11 minutes in the second half because of foul trouble, Wisconsin couldn’t capitalize against Purdue’s defensive pressure.
No UW player made more than three field goals in the second half and only two players (Hill and Showalter) shot above 50 percent. However, each only attempted four shots. Wisconsin’s best form of offense in the second half was from the free throw line, as UW went 15-for-19 after going 0-for-1 in the first half. Like he has all season, Hayes was Wisconsin’s best asset in getting to the line. Despite shooting 3-for-9 from the field in the second half, he went 11-for-12 from the free throw line. Happ was the only other player to attempt free throws, going 4-for-7.
With Wisconsin able to get to the free throw line they were able to find success around the rim at times but could scratch out 22 points in the lane. Happ was able to use a couple of his post moves to get around the size of Purdue in the first half (going 4-for-6) but the length of Purdue started to do a better job of contesting shots in the second, as he went 1-for-4 from the field.
Although Wisconsin lost the rebounding battle, the Badgers were able to register eight offensive rebounds, seven of which came in the second half. Wisconsin was able to convert the second chances into 12 points.
Game MVP: Nigel Hayes. The only player for Wisconsin who could find some kind of success on offense, there was one point where Hayes scored 13 straight UW points. Sunday was Hayes’ third 30-point game of the season, and he did his best to keep Wisconsin in the game by getting to the free throw line and attacking the glass. Of UW’s 15 rebounds in the second half, Hayes had six of them, including four on the offensive glass. He also registered three assists and one steal.