Hummel and Co. have won last two games in Madison
The hype surrounding Saturday afternoon's contest between No. 17 Wisconsin and No. 4 Purdue took a little bit of a hit with UW's lackluster performance at Michigan State Wednesday night, but with the loss, the importance skyrocketed.
As we talked about so much this week, Wisconsin has to at least split this four-game stretch and if it loses to Purdue tomorrow, that means the Badgers would have to go into Northwestern and Ohio State and win both games. Even if Wisconsin was the No. 1 team in the country, that would not be easy.
There seems to be a lot of confidence among the UW contingent that Wisconsin can win this game, and why not? It already has a win over Duke at home this season and while Purdue is 14-0, this is by far their toughest road game thus far. But that's where Badger fans need to tap into their memory bank. Let's not forget the Boilermakers have won four straight games in this series, including the last two in Madison. Purdue joins Illinois as the only two Big Ten teams to beat Bo Ryan twice at the Kohl Center. And get this: The Boilermakers are the only Big Ten team to have a winning record against Bo Ryan.
That says a lot about Bo Ryan, but it also says a lot about Purdue, which is 7-5 against Ryan.
Even worse, these are the same exact players that upset the Badgers two years ago at the Kohl Center (and they were all freshmen then) and handled them last year in the middle of UW's six-game losing streak. They'll all older, better and playing like one of the best teams in the country.
Personally, I'm in the Boilermakers' corner when it comes to the big picture. I think they can hang with Kansas, Texas and Kentucky. Robbie Hummel is as solid as ever, E'Twaun Moore is leading the team in scoring and can be impossible to guard at times, Chris Kramer continues to be the best defender in the conference and JaJuan Johnson creates matchup problems for almost every team.
But can they be beat? Yes. And if Wisconsin plays the way it is capable of playing then Purdue will be 14-1 by by 2:45 p.m. Saturday.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Purdue knows how to win at the Kohl Center and I'll be the first to say they can hang with the country's best, but every team loses a tough game on the road. The difference between this game and Purdue's previous two at the Kohl Center is that while the Boilermakers' starters are another year older and that much better, they don't have the depth and experience off the bench to carry them on the road.
We all know how Wisconsin wins at home. Control the tempo, get to the free throw line and wear the opponent out. Looking at what Purdue has on the bench, it seems like the perfect opponent for Bo Ryan to impose his will on.
Wisconsin 62, Purdue 58