Finally! Wisconsin has historically struggled at Mackey Arena, but held on to beat Purdue, 72-58, Saturday evening in West Lafayette, Ind. Foul trouble was an issue for both teams early, but Wisconsin took control of the game to start the second half and never looked back.
Wisconsin raced out to a 17-6 advantage, but was unable to maintain that level of play after Frank Kaminsky picked up his second foul with just over 14 minutes left in the half. After starting 7-of-13 from the field, the Badgers finished the first half just 9-of-26.
The officiating was tight through the first half, as a combined 21 fouls were called on both teams. Purdue's A.J. Hammons picked up his second foul early with just under 1:30 expired in the game. He came back in, though, and picedk up his third foul before halftime. Hammons didn't return until 13:43 in the second half.
Even without him, the Boilermakers were able to cut into the Badgers' first-half lead with high-percentage shots. Purdue outscored Wisconsin 20-8 on points in the paint, and for a time it seemed the Badgers' recent defensive struggles would continue. Terone Johnson scored on a variety for acrobatic drives to the hoop and helped tied the game at 27-27 with 2:30 left in the half. Johnson finished the game as Purdue's leading scorer with 10 points.
For Wisconsin, both Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes had two first-half fouls and Evan Anderson was forced into action, though he was was a pleasant surprise in his time on the floor. He was solid on defense, boxed out well and more than held his own in helping the Badgers hold on to a 32-29 halftime lead.
Wisconsin went on the offense in the second half and used a 19-11 run in the first eight minutes to open a double-digit lead. Once again, all five Badger starters scored in double-digits. Kaminsky led with 16 points, while Sam Dekker and Traevon Jackson scored 15 apiece.
Jackson in particular played his best basketball down the stretch in the second half. After a couple of wild drives led to a missed shot and a turnover, Jackson settled down and scored nine straight points to help eliminate any hope of a Boilermaker comeback.
The rims are at Mackey Arena are notoriously tough on shooters, which showed for both teams. Wisconsin managed to finish 41 percent from the field, while Purdue was 35 percent. The difference in the game was free throw shooting. In a throwback to the early Bo Ryan days when Wisconsin would make more foul shots than the other team attempted, the Badgers finished 27-of-33 from the line. Purdue was only 7-of-13.
While it wasn't necessarily a must-win game, the victory will certainly go a long way toward restoring the Badgers' confidence. Three straight losses and largely non-existent defense had much of Badger Nation concerned for the once-16-0 squad. What wonders a 13-point road victory can do to calm those fears.
- Minnesota Duluth vs. Wisconsin recap: Badgers beat Bulldogs, 3-1
- Ohio State vs. Wisconsin recap: Badgers roll Buckeyes in series opener
- Wisconsin football recruiting: A best guess at the Badgers' 2014 board
- Wisconsin football recruiting: CB Cornelius Sturghill becomes Badgers' 26th commit
- Wisconsin football recruiting: CB Derrick Tindal becomes Badgers' 25th commit