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Two to prove it: Wisconsin travels to Purdue

Remember when you played HORSE on the playground and you had to make that last shot twice to prove it was not a fluke? That time is at hand for the Wisconsin Badgers.

The team's perseverance on the road at Iowa was exhilarating. Toppling Ohio State was thrilling. But to win in West Lafayette for the first time in six years? Now that would be an accomplishment. Particularly since UW has won only twice in Mackey Arena ... ever.

Some observers unfairly dismiss Wisconsin's win over Ohio State because it came at the Kohl Center, a place where apparently half the nation feels a voodoo hex is placed on visiting teams. Beating No. 11 Purdue (16-5, 6-3 Big Ten), a team whose accomplishments appear to be very similar to Wisconsin's, will earn the No. 10 Badgers (18-5, 7-3) a lot of respect come NCAA seeding time.

Purdue and Wisconsin are the final two teams that have any hope of catching Ohio State for the conference title. Ken Pomeroy rates UW as the sixth-best team in the land and has Purdue eighth. Both teams have five losses on the season (four away, one neutral site). Both are in need of signature wins to strengthen their postseason résumés.

In terms of schedule, Purdue has a bit more to hang its hat on -- so far at least. The Boilermakers won at both Penn State and Illinois, two places where the Badgers failed to win this season. They are 8-3 against likely NCAA tournament teams and won all five against those out of conference. Meanwhile, Bucky is 7-4 versus the projected tourney field, but only 2-2 in the non-conference tilts. Of course, Purdue did not play anybody like Notre Dame pre-conference and has to face Wisconsin, Ohio State, Illinois and Michigan State once more. The Badgers did not have to go to Minnesota and still must complete trips to Purdue and Ohio State.

Shooting TPPP
Team eFG% 3P% 2P% 3PA/FGA 3Pt 2Pt Differential (%) Status
Wisconsin 52.7 38.3 49.3 41.0 1.149 0.986 0.163 (14%) Smart
Purdue 51.3 38.3 48.5 31.9 1.149 0.970 0.179 (16%) Dumb

I still cannot figure out why the Boilers do not attempt more 3-pointers, since they are even better at shooting them during Big Ten play (40.5%) while ranking last on 2-pointers (47.4%). One thing we know is that Purdue is a much better team when Ryne Smith is hitting treys. Besides the shot distribution, the major difference between Wisconsin and Purdue is preferred pace, with the Badgers holding the edge in turnovers (of course).

Ryan Evans and Josh Gasser both made big contributions against the Boilers in Madison and UW hit the glass effectively. I imagine rebounding will be one of Matt Painter's points of emphasis for his undersized team tonight, and I expect Purdue to get more than three points from its bench this time too.

While Jon Leuer and JaJuan Johnson may serve to cancel each other out again, reigning Big Ten player of the week Jordan Taylor has been red-hot so Lewis Jackson is the key player for Purdue. The Badgers held LewJack to one point at home, but he has played well in the last two Boiler wins. Meanwhile, E`Twaun Moore has been making a living at the free throw line lately, so UW must counter by being aggressive also.