What a night it was! The No. 10 Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team took down the No. 8 Purdue Boilermakers, for the second time this season, on Tuesday night at the Kohl Center. This time, the win gave the Badgers at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title, their second in three years.
There was obviously a lot that stood out from this game, but let’s try and narrow it down to just three and try and focus on the actual game and not all of the broader implications of winning it.
Three things that stood out...
No. 1: the bench contributes
The Wisconsin bench isn’t called on all that much for contributions over the course of any given game. Four of the five starters for UW average over 70% of a game’s minutes and Wisconsin’s “bench minutes percentage” of 23.3 is ranked No. 320 in the country according to enemy of the state, Ken Pomeroy.
Sure Jordan Davis had a great showing against Minnesota last week, but that has been the exception, not the rule, for UW’s bench. At times this year the bench has been shorthanded as well. Reserve guards Jahcobi Neath and Lorne Bowman have both missed considerable time this season.
All that being said, Neath, Ben Carlson and Chris Vogt provided exactly what Wisconsin needed against Purdue. Neath drained a three and had four boards while guarding Jaden Ivey. Carlson had two points and three rebounds in only seven minutes of action. Vogt was the difference maker though. He ended the game with two points, four rebounds (three offensive), two assists, one black and was second on the team with a plus-nine rating.
Chris Vogt has no points but he might be delivering the biggest impact on the game for Wisconsin: 4 rbds (3 offensive), 2 assists, and 1 block. #Badgers— Benjamin Worgull (@TheBadgerNation) March 2, 2022
There are few good clips of his impact here.
It has become quite clear that the Badgers don’t NEED big scoring outputs from the bench unit to win games, but all of the other things they do are extremely important, especially in a three point game.
No. 2: Chucky Hepburn has chutzpah for days
We’ve been fans of Hepburn since before he was even on campus. He just did, and continues to do, things that winning point guards do. His tenacious defense, his intelligent passing and, if you’ll excuse the graphic imagery, his enormous damn balls make him the ideal floor general.
Chucky Hepburn, a freshman with the possible national player of the year on his team, wanted the ball in his hands and hit one of the biggest shots in Wisconsin basketball history. Kid is special.— Curt Hogg (@CyrtHogg) March 2, 2022
Hepburn was already having a great game before Wisconsin’s final possession. He had made three out of five three pointers, had two assists and zero turnovers while also picking up one of UW’s six steals. However, what everyone will remember from this game IS Wisconsin’s final possession and his game-winning (and conference title-winning) shot.
Not only does Hepburn have the balls to take that final shot, he knew it was going in too! On a team with Johnny Davis and Brad Davison, two late-game shot-making experts, the true freshman point guard showed that the team will be in good hands next year after those two depart.
Chucky Hepburn on his game-winning 3-pointer: I knew we were about to be Big Ten champs after I released it.— Benjamin Worgull (@TheBadgerNation) March 2, 2022
No. 3: make your damn free throws
Close games come down to a lot of little things that add up over the course of 40 minutes so it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint ONE thing that caused a team to lose or win. One of the rare exceptions is a team’s free throw percentage. If you have a high one...you probably won, but if you have a low one, you almost definitely lost.
Purdue has the most efficient offense in the country, has the third highest eFG% in the land and is the second-best three point shooting team in the nation. One area of a shooting at which they are not elite? The charity stripe.
They shoot 70.6% from the line as a team, which is good for No. 209 in the nation. The Badgers, a mostly poor shooting team from everywhere on the floor, shoot 74.6% from the line and on Tuesday night they made the same amount of freebies as Purdue did in eight fewer attempts.
After rewatching the game, Purdue played pretty well. Not as many defensive breakdowns, and Wisconsin just hit some tough shots. Missed free throws and 50/50 balls were really what killed Purdue. They had a couple stretches on offense where they could not get anything going— Purdue Basketball Analysis (@PUBBallAnalysis) March 2, 2022
The Boilermakers went 11-of-20 on free throws, leaving nine points off the board in a game they ultimately lost by three. Wisconsin went 11-for-12, with their only miss being the front end of Davison’s one-and-one which led to Ivey making a game-tying three and then Hepburn’s trip to immortality in Madison.
Wisconsin didn’t get to the line nearly as often as Purdue, but they sure as hell made their trips count and now...they are Big Ten champs.
Up next: The Badgers host the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Sunday at 1 p.m. CT to try and clinch an outright conference title. The game will be aired on Big Ten Network.