Breaking down WES-consin and Purdue, Part II

We're just a little over 24 hours away from Wisconsin-Purdue Part II and just a quick reminder that we will have live coverage from Mackey Arena tomorrow night. It's traditionally a horrible place for Wisconsin to play basketball -- the Badgers are 16-65 all-time at Purdue -- and a horrible place to cover a game, but it's a huge game so we will be there.

I just want to pass along a couple of links before we start breaking down the game. First, Purdue sophomore point guard Lewis Jackson, who has missed the entire season after foot surgery, is close to a return, but there is still a chance he could red-shirt. Matt Painter says he will leave the decision up to Jackson, but Pete DiPrimio of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel suggests that Jackson could play against Wisconsin. Jackson would give Purdue a boost against Wisconsin's three starting guards who combined for 57 points in the first meeting between these two teams, but personally, I don't think he will play Thursday.

As we do every so often, I exchanged five questions with the Purdue Basketball Blog (very clever name). You can read their answers to my questions after we go over the keys to the game, but if you want to hear more of my thoughts on the game -- seriously, who does? -- check out my answers to their questions here.

Now, on to my keys to Thursday's game. In the first meeting, I offered up four keys and UW executed those pretty well, so I'm going to copy and paste those into this post and edit them just a little bit:

Keys to the game

  • Get JaJuan Johnson in foul trouble. Purdue lacks interior strength and if he is on the bench then Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil should have no problem going to work down low getting open jump shots. Update for this game: More importantly, while Leuer only scored four points in the first meeting, he played 38 minutes, grabbed 10 rebounds and played a major part in Johnson only making 1-of-7 field goals. UW's best defense on Johnson in this game? Keeping him on the bench.
  • Step up on defense. The problem with Purdue is that they are so balanced and have so many weapons on offense. Trevon Hughes will be able to slow down Moore, but it's the guys like Jason Bohannon, Tim Jarmusz and Jordan Taylor who are going to have play sound defense all game long. They can't let guys like Keaton Grant and Chris Kramer beat them late in the game. I could see Ryan Evans playing a lot and sticking Hummel. Purdue's junior forward has a similar game to Duke's Kyle Singler and Evans was the only one who could slow down Singler. Update for this game: Evans did a good job on Hummel in the first game and Tim Jarmusz has been playing better defense as of late.
  • Expose Purdue's lack of depth. Not having point guard Lewis Jackson is really the only thing going wrong for the Boilermakers right now. Outside of their starting five, sophomore guard Ryne Smith is the only one putting up anything close to a solid contribution with 4.9 points per game. Update for this game: I was criticized by Boilermaker fans for writing this the first time, but when Wisconsin won the game and Purdue went on to lose three straight games, the lack of a bench was exposed. It's still a problem and UW needs to exploit that problem.
  • Make more free throws that Purdue attempts. It's one of Bo Ryan's oldest rules for home games and if Wisconsin does this Saturday, it will hand Purdue its first loss of the season. Update for this game: Attack Chris Kramer's ankle. OK, I don't literally mean that the Badgers should attack his ankle, but he's been limping around on his ankle for a few games now and he's a bit slow. Jordan Taylor made Kramer look like a below-average defender in the first meeting as he scored 23 points. I don't see any reason why UW should be shy about attacking the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
  • Prediction

    Purdue 71, Wisconsin 59. Sorry, just being realistic.

    Take Five with Purdue Basketball Blog

    1) So Wisconsin handed Purdue its first loss of the season Jan. 9 and the Boilermakers went on a three-game losing streak. What caused that slide and how did Purdue turn things around?

    PBB: There are two major factors that contributed to Purdue's 3 game slide. The first was JaJuan Johnson's production. He was basically a non-factor in each of their losses, averaging 6 points and just over 5 rebounds in the three games. It's become abundantly clear that Johnson is a major factor of Purdue's success. 


    The second factor is, as you've pointed out, Purdue's depth. They're getting virtually no help from Keaton Grant, Ryne Smith, D.J. Byrd and Patrick Bade. This has shed light on a huge achilles heal, which has made foul trouble a very detrimental problem.
     
    2) Jon Leuer suffered his wrist injury in that win and hasn't played since. He was virtually invisible on offense in that game, but the Badgers still won and the game wasn't really ever in doubt in the second half. Does it worry you that Wisconsin already beat Purdue without Leuer being 100 percent?

    PBB: While I am worried about the mental edge the win gave Wisconsin, I'm not too concerned with any specific match-ups. Each game is different and anyone can have an off or on night. On January 9th Johnson only had 7 points, which is well below his average. 


    While I am not discrediting the Badgers, Purdue made a lot of mistakes that could have potentially changed the game. If Purdue made all their free throws (they were 13-24), or hit more than just 30% from the 3-point line, Purdue could have, at the least,  a better shot a winning the game. If Purdue wants a shot at the Big Ten, they need to execute like an elite team.
     
    3) Wisconsin's historical record against Purdue -- specifically in West Lafayette -- is too horrid to even type out in this question. Obviously there were many years when Purdue was good and Wisconsin was bad, but even in recent years the Badgers have struggled to win at Mackey Arena. What do you attribute that to?

    PBB: The Paint Crew (formerly the Gene Pool) has become the largest student organization at Purdue (Contrary to popular belief, it's not 4H or FFA). It was just as large when Purdue was terrible (and I mean terrible) and they are finally getting their dues! The PC is, clever, loud, and very organized (for the most part). Needless to say, they make Mackey Arena a difficult venue to play in. But considering your record in Madison, I feel like I'm preaching to the choir...

    And the deafening acoustics Mackey Arena's tin roof produces doesn't hurt either...
     
    4) The Boilermakers have the right pieces in the right places (at least in the starting lineup), but who is Purdue's most valuable player? I think the answer is obvious, but I'm curious to hear what you think.

    PBB: When someone asked this question prior to the three-game losing streak, I said Chris Kramer since he's our defensive and emotional leader.


    Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, it's become clear  just how important JaJuan Johnson is to our team. Robbie Hummel and E'Twaun Moore are great players, but their hot and cold streaks don't influence the game like Johnson's does.
     
    5) Finally, I got criticized before the first game against Purdue for accusing the Boilermakers of having a lack of depth. In that game -- and in the two losses following that game -- the bench appeared to be a major problem for Purdue. What do you think of the bench and am I correct in thinking that it is not that impressive?

    PBB: I'll be the first to admit that you could see what us Kool-aide drinkers were too proud to notice. I think it has always been assumed that D.J. Byrd, and Keaton Grant would break out of their slumps and be solid contributors....Unfortunately that has not happened yet.

    We had a bright moment against Illinois when seldom used redshirt freshmen blew up for 14 points (6 more points than his season total). With former starter Keaton Grant coming off the bench, and the future return of Lewis Jackson, Purdue's depth should be marginally improved, unfortunately we need more than just them to step up if we plan on advancing very far in the tournament.


    PBB's Prediction: Another great game, but history doesn't lie. While I think Turner's dribble penetration is going to hurt Purdue, I think JJ redeems himself as he leads Purdue to a 68-64 victory.

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