WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A chance to cut the lead to two points went awry for No.13 Wisconsin, which cost itself a feat not accomplished in the Big Ten for 60 years.
A missed layup by guard D'Mitrik Trice from a tough angle opened up the offense for No.20 Purdue, which didn’t need much help hitting shots during its 66-55 victory at Mackey Arena Sunday that ended the Badgers’ nine game winning streak.
Sophomore Caleb Swanigan delivered his 14th double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds and center Isaac Haas added 13 to help the Boilermakers (14-3, 3-1 Big Ten) shoot 52.5 percent and beat the Badgers for a third straight time in what will be the two team’s only regular season match-up.
Forward Ethan Happ scored 17 points for Wisconsin (13-3, 2-1 Big Ten), which was trying to win at Indiana and at Purdue in the same season for the first time since 1971-72. UW was also trying to be the first team to beat both teams on the road in consecutive games since Illinois did it in 1956.
It was just one of 65 possessions but there’s no question that Trice’s missed layup was a critical turning point. After shooting 34.5 percent in the first half, Wisconsin made its first five shots of the second half to crawl back in the game at 38-34.
The Badgers appeared in prime position in inch further when Happ registered one of his six steals and threw the pass to an open Trice. The freshman corralled the pass too far underneath the basket, however, creating a tough angle to the rim.
After a slight hesitation in which he appeared to consider passing back to sophomore Khalil Iverson coming down the lane, Trice’s shot attempt didn’t fall. The Boilermakers made them pay for it, going on a 14-0 run to lead 52-36 with 9:59 left. UW never cut the deficit closer than 11.
“We could never get back up the hill after that little separation took place,” head coach Greg Gard said. “We couldn’t match it. That was enough of an ignition and a spark that they needed to get away from us, when it would have been a two-point game had we converted that layup.”
Even though Wisconsin outscored Purdue, 34-20, in the paint, the Badgers got out muscled on the boards (34-22) and saw Vitto Brown (0-for-3), Nigel Hayes (4-for-12), Bronson Koenig (3-for-8) and Zak Showalter (3-for-8) all struggle to make shots, open and contested.
“We’ve got to score,” Gard said, as UW turned 18 Purdue turnovers into only 14 points. “We’ve got to put the ball in the basket. We had plenty of opportunities where we didn’t finish around the rim.”
The only person who did deliver for Wisconsin was Happ. Given the physically demanding task of battling in the low post with Purdue’s behemoths, Happ led Wisconsin in points (17), steals, rebounds (five) and assists (four).
“He kept playing hard,” Gard said. “He got knocked around. They were alternating defenders on him between the two big guys. It was extremely physical. He would have liked to converted (more) … A lot of things we’ll learn from this, but I liked how he kept battling, kept fighting and sometimes, especially with Haas, at a size disadvantage kept working – defensively and offensively – to try and help our team.”