Without questions, Wisconsin's calling card under head coach Bo Ryan is tough, physical defense to go along with timely shooting. On Sunday, the Badgers watched Purdue take UW's game and shove it down their throats.
"They're good at what they do, and what they do is try to take teams out of their comfort zone," senior Joe Krabbenhoft said. "Ours is to get the ball in the post, work things inside out. When they take us out of that, we're not executing the way we want to, and that's what happens. We got our tails worked."
While Wisconsin held Purdue's leading scorer, E'Twaun Moore, to a season-low four points, the Boilermakers got huge production from forwards JaJuan Johnson (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Robbie Hummel (16 points after missing one game with a back injury).
But the real story was how Purdue absolutely smothered UW's offense, holding it to 52 points on 37 percent shooting. UW's top two scorers, Marcus Landry and Trevon Hughes, combined to make just 6-of-26 shots.
"It all started with guarding Trevon Hughes, especially because he is their primary ball handler," Purdue guard Chris Kramer said. "Then our bigs were great, denying them down low. When they catch it, we made them shoot tough shots over us. It all started by pressuring the ball, and keeping the ball in front of us."
While the final rebounding margin was only 34-29 for Purdue, the Boilers effectively put the game away early when they continually dominated the glass and never let Wisconsin get comfortable handling the basketball.
"When you take care of the basketball and you out-rebound your opponents, you're giving yourself a better chance to win," said Kramer, who along with Hummel returned after one game's absence with a foot sprain. "It's just more possessions that we get and they don't. That could come down to the difference between a win and a loss."
The way Purdue out-muscled and out-hustled Wisconsin is not going to sit well with a hard-hat caliber team like the Badgers.
"We've talked about that a lot over the last couple of years, what it means to Wisconsin basketball to rebound, and they beat us on the boards," Krabbenhoft said. "It's pretty plain and simple; they outworked us on the boards."
The other way in which Purdue took Wisconsin out of its own game came not only with tough, pressuring defense, but smart defense. The Badgers, who thrive off parading to the free throw line, did not attempt a foul shot until 4:23 left in the game and were just 4-of-6 from that point.
"You just got to get to the line, you have to put people in position where you can earn it," Ryan said. "You've got to make plays to the point where the other team has to be out of position. We were a little late on some passes, some reads, the timing was off. The defense from the other side has something to do with that." v Wisconsin obviously did not bring its best game to Mackey Arena, where it has now won just twice in 37 tries since it was built in 1967. But to look at it positively, the Badgers simply ran into a buzz saw; playing the victims to a desperate Purdue team in need of a win after being humiliated at Penn State.
"I think one of the things that helped us, with it being a must-win," Kramer said, "was how much of a bad taste we had after getting embarrassed at Penn State rebounding the basketball, so we came here with a defensive mindset."