Wisconsin watched a 21-point halftime lead evaporate as senior forward Mike Wilkinson and sophomore forward Alando Tucker were shutdown in the second half and the Badgers struggled to put the ball in the hoop, shooting a frigid 32 percent.
"They didn't fall in the second half," Wilkinson said.
Tuesday, the Badgers watched Indiana eviscerate a substantial UW lead with tight defense, as Wisconsin failed to score a field goal for nine-and-a-half minutes before Tucker's tip in at the buzzer won it, 62-60.
Saturday's second-half drought, a 12-minute stretch during which the Badgers made two field goals, was deja vu all over again.
"It just seemed like we couldn't get it going again in the second half," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "I'm not saying they became complacent because that would take away what Purdue did. Purdue just got physical and got after us and said, ‘We're going to make a run here, you'd better get ready for it.'"
In the second half the Boilermakers' zone defense and a stagnant Badger offense resulted in Gene Keady's group slowly crawling back into the game. Purdue's David Teague and Gary Ware combined for 20 second-half points and cut the lead to nine on Teague's 3-pointer with 3:34 left to play.
"We played the second half like we can play," Keady said. "I don't know what the points difference was but we played more like we can play. Took good shots, set good screens. We played right. We played good ‘D', got some rebounds like we should and just played harder."
Taylor fills void
Cleary, Wisconsin's go-to guys all season have been Tucker and Wilkinson. That reality played out again Saturday as Wilkinson scored seven of the Badgers' first 13 points and Tucker came off the bench to score 14 of 25 UW points in a nine-minute first-half stretch.
In the second half, though, Purdue did a good job of taking away Wilkinson and Tucker. With UW struggling to find a third option, sophomore guard Kammron Taylor stepped up for the Badgers. Taylor scored five points in response to the Boilermaker run and ended the game with 11.
Senior guard Clayton Hanson also gave UW an offensive boost with nine points, though six came in the first half.
Ryan said that part of the offensive woes may have been the result of a substitution pattern that was a little off kilter. Eight players finished the game with double-figure minutes.
"The way we were subbing and moving guys in and out, I probably took our guys out of some rhythm," Ryan said. "[Tucker] really was limited in his shots in the second half, but he knows how to find them."
Tucker credited Hanson and Taylor for keeping the Badgers in the game and said that those two, along with the rest of the Badgers' supporting cast, are going to need to contribute as the tournament season approaches.
"Clayton was knocking down shots tonight," Tucker said. "Kam hit some big shots tonight. That's what we're going to need to see out of a lot of guys. We're going to have to see guys come in and give us productive minutes. Me and Mike are going to do the same thing. These guys have done a great job of getting us the ball, we're just going to try and produce when we get it."
The Badgers had only six field goals on 32 percent shooting in the second half.
For the game, Purdue scored 18 points off of 14 UW turnovers, including 11 points off eight second-half miscues. Wilkinson and Taylor had three turnovers each for the Badgers.
Anyone want to start?
Keady, in his final regular season game as Purdue's head coach, was rather disappointed with his team's first-half performance.
"We got after them [at halftime] about just not doing our one-line layup drill hard," Keady said. "You just got to go hard. We weren't doing anything hard [in the first half]. They weren't setting screens good. They weren't playing with intensity. Just get their heads down, feeling sorry for themselves."
With that in mind, Keady put together his second-half starting lineup in an unusual way.
"We asked them who wanted to start and five guys put their hands up and the first five guys got to start," Keady said. "You don't get that opportunity very much. Probably the first time in 47 years I've ever done that…The five slow guys didn't get to start."
Gary Ware, Matt Kiefer, David Teague, Chris Hartley and Brandon McKnight started the game for the Boilermakers. McKnight, Ware, Adam Liddell, Xavier Price and Charles Davis put their hands up the quickest at halftime.
The victory over Purdue gives the Badgers (20-7 overall) 20 wins for the third straight year, the first time this has happened in school history.
"I'm proud of these guys," Ryan said. "That's all anything like that ever means to a coach. It's a number, and people can evaluate numbers. My feeling is that we didn't go into any of those 27 games without a plan to be on the left-hand side. …20 out of the 27 times so far the guys got it done."
"So I'm proud of them for that. I thought our guys have done a very good of job hiding some weaknesses and covering up for one another, helping each other out. If somebody would have said, ‘We'll give you 20 right now,' back in November, all those people that wouldn't have taken it, get on this side of the room, and all those people that would, get on this side, and then we'll see how many honest people there are in America."
When Purdue's Charles Davis came onto the floor in the first half (and nearly every time he did anything of consequence during the game) he was greeted by a smattering of boos from the Kohl Center crowd.
Most Badger fans remember Davis from the football season. A tight end on the gridiron, it was Davis' chop block that resulted in UW defensive end Erasmus James suffering a sprained ankle. It was an injury that hobbled the senior for the rest of the Badgers' football season.
On the hardcourt Saturday, Davis played 16 minutes and had two points.