When: Sunday, February 29, 2004, 1 p.m.
Site: Kohl Center (17,142) Madison, Wis.
Broadcasts: ESPN Plus (WISC TV in Madison), Wisconsin Radio Network
Series Notes: Purdue holds a 97-58 series lead and a 41-34 edge in Madison
More than just revenge will be on the line Sunday afternoon when No. 15 Wisconsin meets up with Purdue at the Kohl Center.
Standing third in the conference standings, the Badgers will play their final home game of the season versus the Boilermakers in search of not only their 28th straight win at home, but also their 10th conference win of the season. This would be the third-straight season with at least 10 wins in the Big Ten for UW, a feet not accomplished since 1912-14.
Wins, however, have been hard to come by as of late for the Badgers. Despite their blowout win over Penn State Wednesday, head coach Bo Ryan's group has still lost three of its last six, a lot of which can be attributed to the increased physical style of play by opponents as of late.
"A lot of our games have been physical," Ryan said. "It has gotten physical, a lot more physical lately, especially against us. We just have to fight through it."
Undoubtedly one of the most physical teams the Badgers have seen this season has been the Boilermakers, as the two teams meet for the second time this season. In the first matchup, Purdue beat up Wisconsin in uncharacteristic fashion. Head coach Gene Keady's Boilermakers were able to not only attempt more free throws than UW, but also make as many free throws as the Badgers attempted.
Although the Badgers made a valiant comeback late and the final score was close, Purdue thoroughly dominated the game with their tempo and their control of UW junior guard Devin Harris.
"We'll take a lot of the things we did in the second half of that game because our defense was much better," Harris said. "We controlled their penetration a lot in the second half and that is the biggest thing we'll have to look at in getting the homecourt advantage here."
Purdue's biggest problem this season, has been offense. In their last eight contests, the Boilermakers have shot less than 46 percent as a team, and in three of the eight, they have shot less than 40 percent.
While the Badgers display one of the best defenses in the conference, the same can be said of the Boilermakers. During conference play this season, the Boilermakers have held opponents to under 40 percent shooting in 8 of 13 games, including five of their last six. Purdue also leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense in conference games, holding teams to 39.0 percent from the field.
"They will pick up the full court pressure and try and wear us down," Harris said. "They are physical team down low as well as on the perimeter—they'll like to use their hands a lot. They are strong with the ball and just tough all-around."
The Badgers will have to keep an eye on senior guard Kenneth Lowe. An all-around go to guy, Lowe leads the team in scoring but his strongest asset is his defense. The Big Ten's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Lowe held Harris to 12 points on 4 of 10 shooting earlier this season, making this match up the one to watch Sunday.
Another thing to watch will be the play of three UW seniors, guard Freddie Owens, center Dave Mader and perhaps little-used walk-on guard Ike Ukawuba, as they close out their home careers at the Kohl Center. Owens and Mader have drastically improved their play recently, especially Mader, who has averaged five rebounds per game over the last four contests. With emotions high and the Badgers needing a win to maintain hopes of a conference title entering the final week of the regular season, the team will need contributions from all guys everyone, including the departing seniors.
"Those guys know as a team that we all need to step up," Harris said. "They may be playing like its their last games, and it seems like its coming down to the end, but we have a lot more basketball to play."
Wisconsin/Purdue by the numbers:
1.62 – Harris' assist-to-turnover ratio in Big Ten games this season.
57.0 – Wisconsin's opponent's scoring average, lowest in the Big Ten.
.749 – Purdue's free-throw percentage as a team, which is second in the Big Ten.
.271 – Purdue's Big Ten-leading 3-point field goal percentage defense.
5.00 – Purdue guard David Teague's defensive rebounds per game, fourth in the conference.
9.2 – UW's victory margin this season, which ranks second in the Big Ten.