When I was in grade school, I played NBA Jam on my Super Nintendo. My strategy to win was to hold the ball until the final seconds of the shot clock and then drive for a layup or shoot a 3. This resulted in low-scoring games, but my possession controlling strategy worked and I would almost always win.
Similarly, Wisconsin’s head coach, Bo Ryan, uses a patient swing motion offense until the Badgers finds a mismatch late in the shot clock. When Wisconsin finds the right shots and knocks them down, they’re tough to beat because they’re difficult to score against. And when Wisconsin builds a 9 point lead, it feels more like a 15 point lead because Wisconsin controls the clock and makes scoring very difficult.
Thursday night in Mackey Arena played out just like Bo Ryan wanted. His team worked hard to find great shots and knocked them down while controlling the tempo. Purdue, conversely, could not find its shooting rhythm and fell flat on offense.
The result was a 67-62 Badger victory that snapped the Boilers’ 26 game win streak at Mackey Arena. Wisconsin started the game red hot making 5 of their first 6 attempts from behind the arc. Purdue was fortunate to only be down 34-22 at halftime because Wisconsin had led 20-4 at one point in the first half.
While the Badgers’ shot lights out at times, Purdue just couldn’t consistently create offense. The Boilermakers only shot 34.4% including 8 of 24 from behind the 3-point line. Terone Johnson led the way with 16 points, but he only shot 4-13 from the field and made just 2-6 from three (note: he did improve his free throw shooting to 6 of 8 though). Robbie Hummel’s struggles continued and he shot only 5-17 for 13 points.
Wisconsin had a balanced scoring attack with five players in double figures. They held a rebounding advantage over Purdue, but did commit an uncharacteristic 11 turnovers (the Badgers average even fewer turnovers). Strangely, Purdue only turned over the ball 3 times and still lost. Then again, it’s not easy to win when shooting just 34.4%.
The Boilers now stand at 3-2 in the Big Ten and will face Iowa at home next Tuesday. One thing is for certain in the murky, but fiercely competitive Big Ten: anyone can beat anyone. Purdue will have to show up and play well at home if they want to start a new home winning streak.