Different Approach Still Doesn't Work on Road for Boilers
MADISON, Wis. — For the past week and change, Purdue has been looking up at opponents, exhausting enormous energy to just to catch up, and not to win. It happened again Tuesday night in a bitter 69-65 loss to Wisconsin.
Purdue led for only 16 seconds all night, but still had a chance to pull off the upset late. Instead, Wisconsin kept hitting one free throw after another to maintain its lead. The Badgers made 19-of-20 free throws on the night (95 percent), and made all 10 in the final two minutes.
It was a tough loss for Purdue (14-13 overall, 7-9 in the Big Ten), which could have benefited from a rare Big Ten road win to improve its NCAA tournament resume.
Purdue, which never led in recent losses to Penn State and Ohio State, needed a spark in Madison, and Purdue coach Matt Painter thought a lineup shuffle might provide that spark.
Painter opted to start Matt Haarms and Evan Boudreaux up front and put Trevion Williams on the bench. It didn't work, and Purdue got off to another slow start on the road, falling behind 7-2 before Williams, who had started 19 of 26 games this season, finally got in the game.
If Painter was sending a message to Williams, who had scored in double digits only once in the past four games, it worked. He scored seven first-half points and grabbed six rebounds, helping Purdue erase a nine-point lead with an eight-point run. Purdue trailed only 30-27 at the half.
Somewhat surprisingly, Purdue coach Matt Painter chose to go with that same starting lineup in the second half, and again it was Wisconsin that threw another early haymaker. The Badgers opened the half on a 12-2 run, getting big three-pointers from Nate Reuvers and Brad Davidson to pull ahead 42-29.
Purdue sophomore Sasha Stefanovic, who didn't start either for the second straight game, got a hot hand with a three-pointer and a pair of free throws, and Purdue methodically worked its way back into the game.
Purdue got to within four points at 57-53, but then Wisconsin — which only had two offensive rebounds in the first meeting at Purdue and was outrebounded 42-16 by the Boilermakers on Jan. 24 — got five offensive rebounds in four straight possessions in the final three minutes. It kept Purdue at bay, even with Wisconsin's struggling to convert on each possession.
Stefanovic hit another three-pointer to make it 61-59 with 1:34 to go. Wisconsin again had two chances, but couldn't score.
Stefanovic got two good looks at three-pointers in the final 40 seconds, but missed them both.
Wisconsin inbounded the ball to Davidson, and he was quickly fouled with 28,5 seconds left. He made both to make it 63-59. Williams and Hunter scored on consecutive possession for Purdue, but Wisconsin kept making its free throws.
Wisconsin did a great job of getting the ball inbounds to their best free throw shooters. They made their final eight free throws in a row, and they were 19-for-20 from the line for the game. Brevin Pritzl (8-for-8) and Brad Davison (4-for-4) were perfect. Aleem Ford was Wisconsin's leading scorer with 19 points. He made 5-of-8 three-pointers.
Purdue's bench wound up scoring 45 of its 65 points. Williams finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Stefanovic finished with 11 points. Nojel Eastern had 14. He was the only starter who scored more than two points in the game.